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...у Артека на носу

Lyudmila Jackson
The Artek Pioneer Camp.

There was a big all-union pioneer camp in the Soviet Union in the Crimea called 'Artek', where the best pioneers from all the corners of the Soviet Union went and also children from many countries of the world. It was every boy's or girl's dream to be able to go to Artek one day. Only one or two places per year were allocated for all the schools in our town so it felt like winning a lottery when my mother got two places for our school and put forward my name together with another girl's.

I think being a head-mistress and very busy most of the time my mother sometimes felt guilty that she could not do enough for her own children or not to spend more time with us. She did more for the other people's children than for her own and that is why I think she pushed me forward and suggested that it was me who should go.

However nobody objected as I was a good hardworking girl, I had good marks in all the subjects and always participated in all pioneer activities. That was an unforgettable trip that lasted 45 days. It was a very special time and I even saw Yuri Gagarin there.

1st of August 1965

In the morning my mother and I came to the assembly point in the town of Simferopol where the other children were already with their parents. From there we went to Artek by a coach and our parents went home.

We sang pioneer songs all the way. When we were approaching Artek the pioneer leader drew our attention to a big mountain called Aju-dag which in translation from Greek meant a Bear Mountain. It has a shape of a huge bear lying down as if drinking water from the sea.

The leader also told us that Artek consisted of five pioneer camps each of them having a separate name: "Mountain camp", "Sea camp", "Cyprus camp", "Seaside camp' and 'Azure camp'.

I was going to the 'Sea camp'. It was named after Palmiro Tolyatti. When we arrived the principal of the camp Vladimir greeted us and then told us to wash our hands and go straight to breakfast.

After breakfast we all had a medical examination and a shower. Then we were given special Artek uniform: blue shorts ( called terolki), blue T-shirts (shvedki) and white sun caps.

They showed us the rooms where we were going to live. They were big, light and each of them with a huge French window. There were eight children to a room.

In the evening, children from Switzerland gave us a big greeting concert.

4th of August

In the morning there was a Festival of Neptune at the sea. We had boat rides. Later there was a talent Smotr where each of us showed what we could do or what kind of talents we had. We sang, danced, recited poems and so on. Our squad came third.

5th of August

Today we had a labour desant (literally 'military landing') which meant we swept the road to the 'Mountain Camp' and tidied up the beach.

In the evening we had a party with English children from an organisation called 'Forest People'. We sang Russian and English songs. We told them about Siberia. We exchanged souvenirs: postcards and badges. One boy gave me his address.

11th of August

There was a storm on the sea today and we were not allowed to swim but only bathe. We were lying on the shore and the waves covered us all over. I hoped the whistle to come out the water wouldn't be too soon. But the whistle came and we had to come out and let other children have a turn. After the sea we went to the canteen. Appetite was very good after bathing!

12th of August

Today was the day for the English delegation to leave. All the camp except the English children gathered together on the Bonfire Square. Then the Pioneer Leader announced: "English delegation, come in!". The orchestra started to play and the English children came on to the square.

The principle of the camp made a speech and then the leader of the English delegation spoke. The English children were awarded medals and certificates. As a farewell they gave us a little concert. The time to say final good-bye came and everyone moved towards the coach. Nearly all the girls wept, especially English.

When they were in a coach they were still holding hands with the children who were staying in the camp. It was not possible to keep the tears back any longer, they were just pouring down and could not be helped. The coach moved and disappeared behind the canteen. We ran to the road where we knew it was going to be seen again. But it was too late.

Everybody was silent on the way back to the camp. It won't be so nice in the camp without the English children, we thought. Everyone was thinking how nice it would be to meet them again one day!

13th of August

We had a Bonfire tonight "Legends of the Crimea". First we prepared wood for it. The fire was on the shore. We sang songs. Then the pioneer leaders and the principal Vladimir started to tell us legends. We learned the legends about the Black Sea, Bear Mountain, Adalari (two rocks in the sea which were visible from our camp) and many others.

We sat and admired what was around us: quiet sound of the sea and the moon light on the water. The moon itself watched us from the Bear Mountain as if wondering what we were doing there.

14th of August

Today everybody got up at five o'clock in the morning. Our otryad (detachment) went to Sevastopol. I had just been there with my mother and did not want to go again. Instead I chose the excursion to the South Coast of Crimea.

We went by coach and I had a headache. I never had headaches on coaches before. We visited the former palace of Russian Duke Vorontsov in the town of Alupka. It was beautiful! The furniture was nice and there was a lot of wonderful porcelain in the rooms.

When we came back to the camp we were disappointed to find out that famous Soviet stand-up comedian Arkadi Raikin had been to our camp. As there was nobody there he had left for Yalta. We were very upset. Everybody would have loved to meet Arkadi Raikin in real life.

Later the girls of my otryad came back from Sevastopol. They were very pleased with their trip and brought a lot souvenirs. I wished I had gone with them but it was too late.

16th of August

Straight after breakfast we had sport competitions with the Cuban children. They say Yuri Gagarin - the first cosmonaut - is going to come and visit us soon.

18th of August

Lida Blinov and I are on duty today. We had to tidy up and wipe the floor in our room.

We had an assembly today where we congratulated Olga Nosirev on her birthday. We gave her flowers, cards and a box of pencils.

Today there was a special big assembly because the Cuban delegation was going home. The children from Cuba were all wearing the same black suits. They were given medals and flowers.

We wanted to see them to the coach and wave goodbye but our pioneer leader said it was time to go on a boat excursion around the camps. We obeyed but were in low spirits because of the missed opportunity of saying good-bye to the Cuban children. The excursion started from the Cyprus camp which is very beautiful. There are lots of flowers, verdure and cypresses grow there. The camp works all year round and they have winter accommodations as well as summer ones.

We saw Azure camp which is also very beautiful. We went to the House of Pioneers and played games there.

In the evening they showed us a film. It was Tchaikovsky's opera "Iolanta".

19th of August

We were on duty in the canteen today. We laid the tables, washed up, wiped the floor. We are resting now.

21st of August

Yesterday they told us that we were going fishing. Today they said there won't be fishing because of the big storm. Instead we were all going to Yalta after breakfast.

All the way to Yalta we sang songs on the coach. On arrival we went to see the house where the famous Russian writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov lived the last five years of his life.

Everything in the house was preserved exactly as it had been when Chekhov lived there. We saw his personal things behind glass: raincoat, gloves, hat, shoes. Later we saw monuments to Chekhov, Gorky and Lenin.

We went to the sea in Yalta. The storm there was even bigger than in our camp because they did not have any breakwaters there.

I was very pleased with this trip!

24th of August

In the morning we went up the Bear Mountain - Aju-dag. The climbing was easy in the beginning but the higher we went the more difficult it appeared to be. My legs were very tired by the end.

We came to a big glade with a sacred oak in it. We left a message in its hole where we wrote that on the 24th of August 1965 otryad 9 of Sea Camp was here. We wrote our names on the stones. I also wrote my home address on a big stone and the motto of Artek which is: "Artekovets today, Artekovets for ever" (which means that whatever we learned or experienced in Artek will be with us always).

26th of August

The end of our stay in Artek. There was a big concert and then a bonfire. Yuri Gagarin was present at the assembly and he spoke to us. Gagarin wished us all the best in our future lives, success in studies and be good sons and daughters of our beloved country.

We burnt a big figure "2" in the fire. The idea was if we burn it we would never get bad marks at school any more.

Alexandra Pakhmutova, a famous soviet composer was at our farewell concert and we sang many of her songs. There were many songs, dances and poems performed at the concert. Suddenly the light was switched off everywhere and the fireworks started. Everything was bright and beautiful around.