LIFE IN SOVIET RUSSIA
later the ambulance, or some other conveyance, calls to take your
dearest one to a place, damp, cold and foodless. In June of this year
the hospitals of Moscow were refusing patients unless they could
bring their own food.
On the other hand, there is a brighter side to the picture. The
speculator, the communist and the bandit with money can get what
he wants by more direct methods. Apparently the communist system
broke down, because now physicians are allowed to work in private
practice after giving a portion of their time to the Soviet under the
Thus you can see there are more rules and regulations in Russia,
on paper, than in any other country in the world, and very few of
them are actually lived up to. The consequence is that if you are
wise—and have money—government regulations mean little. No one
with roubles follows the government routine. If you want to procure
a suit of clothes in Moscow, first you apply. A full suit of clothes
for a man costs about one and a half million roubles, and a woman's
suit about two million roubles. This sounds pretty big, but the day
I left Moscow five million roubles equaled about a hundred dollars.
I was a billionaire in Russia, and I left Russia in a pair of old cavalry
trousers and no socks. Those, of course, are prices charged by the
speculators and are, therefore, illegal. Practically there are no clothes
in Russia to be obtained legally, except by the commissars and a few
of their friends.
The surgeon in charge of the barracks, where I was an inmate,
was a very hard-working, able man. The operations were confined
largely to patients suffering from hernia, appendicitis, and gun-shot
wounds in bandits. Scarcely ever was a clean operation carried out
without infection, except in isolated cases where the liberal use of
bribe money obtained better work from the attendants. In connection
with the operating room there was only one out of five sterilizers in
order when I was there. Consequently the field of work was distinctly
limtied, especially in view of the fact that the chief surgeon had no
assistant. There were a few nurses who had lost their enthusiasm and
morale. One of the chief assistants was an ex-cavalry officer from
Wrangle's Army, himself a prisoner.
At times there was no water in the operating room, and such
as could be obtained was poured out of a pitcher to "scrub up."
Many times there was no soap. I never saw but one or two towels
in the operating room. The field of operation was never covered with
sterile cloths, and yet all of the infections apparently occurred after
the patients reached the wards, where it was simply impossible to
carry out any degree of sterility in dressing wounds.
Many men died in the ward. They never received any helpful
attention. Never once did I see a laboratory diagnosis attempted. In
fact, there was no laboratory. If there was str-ychnine in the hospital
I never saw it, and I do not believe there was any. On rare occasions
camphor was used as a stimulant, but the supply was small. On one
occasion I did see an infusion of normal salt solution. But the deaths
in the ward were harrowing because of the lack of opiates and anodynes, so relief from pain was almost impossible. Men died like
sheep, with no more self-consciousness than an animal would have.
In fact, animals in America are better treated than men in Soviet
Russian hospitals and in prisons.
Those who survived likewise manifested those attributes of ani-