We traveled by train from Moscow to Samara. This train was just for Russians and foreigners were not allowed.
As we got seated in a car, Dan, Linda’s 14-year-old son, wandered off. As an American, he stood out, so the KGB woman saw him and questioned him. He spoke no Russian, so she threw him off of the train. The train was about to depart, but Dan realized just how dangerous of a position he was in. He ran along the cars and banged on the windows. Finally, he came to our car and what a surprise it was to see him outside the train. Larry got him aboard and all was well.
Had he not found us and the train left without him, I have no idea how he would have survived.
As we rode along on the train, we came across more than one train wreck. Each wreck was just shoved away from the tracks and left to rust. Some showed several cars and all included the engine.
The distance from the tracks to the fence was often a couple hundred feet. We would call this the right of way. In many places, this land was planted in huge vegetable gardens by private people. Many times we saw people tending the gardens.
Just over the fence were the state farms. I think that once I saw a single person on a state farm. For propaganda reasons, the harvesters were lined up along the fence. I saw trees growing up through the equipment, so they had been there for years and didn’t get used.
Larry explained to us that often the crops got planted, but seldom harvested. There was no storage provided to hold it while waiting for a train. There were no trains to take the grain away. There were no central places to store the grain near a city. The whole thing was a charade. Central planning at its best.
The people could grow enough on the right of way to feed the population. This was what was called the “Black Market” and without it, many would starve.
At one point during the long trip, we were just standing in the aisle that was alongside the car. A KGB woman came along and was very upset to see foreigners on the train. For some humor, Larry covered up the train schedule that was posted next to us with his hands. This was to keep us foreigners from seeing the “secret schedule” but really it was to poke fun at the idiot woman. He also uttered a few words in Russian and she left in a huff. By this time we were used to Larry getting whatever he wanted at any time with just a few words.