I got a servant, a nice clean German girl from the Volga. Her village had been devastated—no other word can convey my meaning—by the liquidation of the Kulaks. In the German Volga Republic the peasants, who had been settled there two hundred years before to set an example to the Russians, had been better farmers and so enjoyed a higher standard of life than most peasants in Russia. Consequently, the greater part of them were classified as Kulaks and liquidated.
The girls came to the towns to work as servants, and were highly prized, since they were more competent, cleaner, more honest and self-respecting than the Russian peasants. Curiously, they were the most purely Teutonic Germans I had ever seen, Germans like the pictures in Hans Andersen fairy tales, blue-eyed, with long golden plaits and lovely, fair skins. Being Protestants, and regarding the Russians around them as no better than barbarians, they had intermarried little and retained a racial purity which would no doubt have delighted Hitler.
My Hilda seemed a treasure. She could cook, she could read and write, she kept herself and the rooms clean and looked like a pink and flaxen doll. I could treat her as an equal without finding that this led to her stealing my clothes and doing no work.
The servant problem in Moscow for Jane and me lay in our inability to bully and curse and drive, which was the only treatment the Russian servant understood. It was quite natural that this should be so, since Soviet society, like Tsarist society but to a far higher degree, was based on force and cheating.
I was amazed at the outspoken way in which Hilda and Sophie (another German girl who worked for Jane) voiced their hatred and contempt of the Soviet Government. Sophie, one of thirteen children of a bedniak (poor peasant) would shake her fist and say:
“Kulaks! The Kulaks are up there in the Kremlin, not in the village.” Since the word “Kulak” originally signified an exploiter and usurer, her meaning was quite plain.