Is it possible to build a road in –64°C? And to treat a sore throat with severe cold? What about eight of us in one room? Sleep 2–4 hours a day? To speak in the upper house of the Russian parliament without cheat sheets?
Hero of Socialist Labor Ivan Varshavskyknows the answer – yes, you can. When you wholeheartedly support your work, you will endure any trials and overcome everything. BAM was built by an inflexible generation, which conquered mountains and taiga. Laying the “golden link” years of hard work, labor excitement and unshakable faith in one's strength preceded. That is why both the highway and its builders are considered legendary.
Ivan Varshavsky. Photo: «Amurskaya Pravda», photo archive
Candies in half with the ground
Our parents had eight children, I'm the last one, scratching. Childhood was difficult, hungry. It took place in Ukraine, in the Odessa region. Surprisingly, I remember the war well. I can clearly see how, as a child, I used to go with my mother and older sisters to the collective farm field. At lunchtime, a large cauldron was brought there, in which kulesh was cooked. Have a sip – and in the stomach it becomes warm and pleasant. But childhood – it is happiness in spite of hunger and deprivation. My head was spinning with hunger, and we ran and played.
I remember for the rest of my life how a store was bombed during the war and my mother brought sticky sweets “cushions” in the hem. halfway with the earth. I have never tasted anything tastier than those sweets in my life.
After seven years, he went to the collective farm to work. Adult men who returned from the front were crippled, wounded and powerless. We teenagers were considered the main labor force. And immediately after the army, he got a job as a track fitter, then became a foreman, graduated from the railway technical school in absentia. And in 1969 he was already the head of a group of workers of the Chisinau railway. An inexplicable detail for me: when I worked in Moldova, I was constantly tormented by tonsillitis. Boils in throat full of pus. Once a surgeon told me: leave here, you don’t have a climate here. And in 1972 I left for the construction of the Abakan-Taishet railway, then decades of life at BAM – and not a single sore throat!
The cars stalled, and the people endured
When I heard about the construction of the BAM, I came here in 1974 for reconnaissance – young, everything was interesting. They immediately told me: “We are taking you.” Came with my wife and two children. A friend had a tiny hut. He and his wife have two children, we are four – and so they began to live.
And around the taiga, mushrooms – scythe. Grouse, capercaillie fly. Instead of roads, the dirt was impassable, and on the dance floors they danced until they dropped. Everywhere laughter, bonfires, guitar. Life at BAM was in full swing. The only thing that was bad, – stokers. Then there were 164 boiler houses in Tynda! Consider that each barrack, trailer, dugout was heated by its own boiler room. And in the morning everyone started warming up the cars – frosts something in 50 degrees. The white light was not visible from the smog.
About frost. Do you believe, “winter” diesel fuel in jelly froze, German "Magirus" deaf from the cold, but people endured. I had a case on Gilyui. I remember the most severe frost – 64°C. All equipment was standing, and we were working. In summer, you drive a crutch into a sleeper in 2–4 strokes, and in cold weather you had to hit it 10–12 times. Well, if you have a crowbar or a sledgehammer in your hands, how can freeze? They took off their short fur coats, it was hard in them. After 10 minutes, the back is covered in a snow jacket, like a polar bear. The order is this: 30 minutes you work, half an hour in the trailer. I took a sip of hot tea, warmed up by the stove – and forward again.
In my brigade, a third of the women were, jokes, jokes. “I will come to you today, will you warm me up?” – the men urged. “Is there something to warm with?” – the women fought back. The language was lively, yeah. There were women who single-handedly lifted sleepers on their shoulders and walked with them without stumbling. I note that when women are nearby, men behave differently: there is less obscenity, more discipline.
“The time was non-conflict”
The formation of teams at BAM was an interesting thing. Different people came from all over the Soviet Union. We had to get used to each other, to understand each other. But there were no conflicts. For a while there was no conflict.
The deceasedMisha Zadornovvenomously said that BAM was built by prisoners and soldiers, and the Komsomol only watched and led. When I heard this, I choked. I think you are an asshole! To say that… But God bless him, he is no longer in the world.
And salaries – yes, they were good, I received 700 rubles, and the explosives guys earned 1 thousand a month. Those Soviet rubles. Every month he sent money to his mother, she then had a collective farm pension of 7 rubles. From the heroine mother who raised eight children! Then I came home on vacation, she handed me a whole bundle of my money: “Here, son, take it, you will need it. I'm used to living on my pension. I almost fell. I went to the store, and with all this money I got her outfits
But they worked like animals, it's true. Slept four hours a day. The farther the residential trailers were placed from the highway, the better. The farther the trailer, the longer they take you on a shift, which means that there are extra minutes to take a nap in the car.
“Our Victory Day”
“Golden Docking” BAM took place on September 28, 1984 at the Balbukhta junction of the Kalar district of the Chita region. My colleague Sasha Bondar was crying for real. Photos scattered around the world, where his face is covered in tears. I still remember the string of tearful faces of young men when we docked this “golden link” BAM. It was our Victory Day! Now sometimes I start to remember it all, I cry myself. I attribute everything to age.
Sasha Bondar and I agreed that when we docked, our brigades would definitely cover the “glade”. Below, under the canvas, they built a long table sewn with a shalyovka. They wrote out a bonus for this case, they got some of the money out of their pockets. There were no glasses. He took off his helmet, mixed vodka with champagne in it, and this “glass” let go in a circle. Then many began to take off their helmets and pour vodka and champagne into them. This fenced «ruff» we washed the main victory of BAM.
When the secretary of the Central Committee Vladimir Dolgikhattached me the star of the hero, my throat was intercepted with excitement. I remember that the whole Hall of Columns was standing. And how people clapped! (Waves his hand, is silent.) It was amazing: did I really deserve it? Thousands and thousands of people like me were eligible to receive such an award. And when, after the award, I came to my homeland in the village of Zagnitkovo, they met me there with the whole collective farm, they organized a special meeting. The club was full of people. Here it was to tears. It was a shame that my mother did not live to see that day.
In the summer of 2019, they tell me: “Ivan Nikolaevich, I have to fly to Moscow. Speak at the Federation Council, ask for help for Tynda.
I did not write any abstracts for the speech. All my BAM life – in my head. And the head, thank God, is still light. Then, in 2019, planes did not fly to Tynda, the train to Blagoveshchensk ran every other day. Branded train with “branded” prices. Well, I listed it all.
He spoke about the BAM temporary houses, in which thousands of people still live. About the hospital, where for 40 years there was no normal repair. About the forest – that for 45 years it has been cut down mercilessly. Around Tynda, all the hills are already bald, and in Tynda there is not even a simple sawmill, not to mention a timber processing factory. Isn't that businesslike?
I never gave a hint in that podium, I just wiped my snot. The trunk is long, the condensate is leaking (laughs).
But the result turned out: planes are now flying, the surgical building of the Tyndinsky city hospital has been beautifully renovated. The soul rejoices!
What is happiness for me? Fishing! No wonder they say: a day of fishing prolongs life by three days.
Do I think about death? The more you think about it, the faster it will come. And if I ever meet God, I will be very surprised and ask for forgiveness for not believing in him. I always think: if there is a God, then why are there so many punishments for innocent people and little children? I will never understand this. Why does God allow wars?
What do I want from life? Peace of mind! She's kind of restless right now. And I still want to live. I want it!
BAM in facts and figures
The length of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which stretches from Taishet station to Sovetskaya Gavan, – 4324 km. The railway, most of which was built from 1972 to 1984, was laid by workers and engineers of 108 nationalities, 60% were under 30 years old. The population of the construction region by the time it was completed was 1 million people. During the construction of the road, 63 new settlements appeared. 17.7 billion Soviet rubles were spent on BAM.