West London Humanists and Secularists

"Growing Up In The Soviet Union"
A talk by Linda Veasey - Meeting 16/02/12

Linda Veasey lived in Estonia under the Soviet system for all her childhood and teenage years. She worked there as an operating theatre nurse for ten years and later studied Linguistics. She has been living in London since 2001 but it was not until her daughter was born in 2008 that she realised how many of the things she took for granted, when she was growing up, were painfully absent in the UK. The high cost and poor quality of childcare here have made it very difficult for her to develop her career. This contrasts sharply with the experience of her mother who was able to pursue her career as an architect, when Linda was small, because she was given total support by the state. This prompted Linda to look more carefully at her childhood and the system in which she grew up.

Her presentation covered many aspects of life such as: Maternity Care, Nurseries, Schools, Summer Camps, Holidays, Healthcare, Family Life, Morals, Housing, Civil Defence and Transport. A number of surprising and interesting facts were revealed such as:
  • Children could be left in a nursery between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from age 2-7
  • Fees for nurseries were nominal and well within the means of everyone. Schools were free.
  • School summer holidays were for 3 months but parents could place children in Summer Camps for up to two months of this.
  • Although there was a great sense of security in that people frequently left their doors unlocked, and no one worried about paedophiles, there was real anxiety about the possibility of nuclear attack. Unlike in UK, the government built massive public nuclear shelters with space for everyone and gave thorough training to everyone in how to reach safety in the event of an attack.
  • Healthcare was free. No shortage of GPs, nurses, or midwives and home visits encouraged.
  • Teenage pregnancy was almost unheard of, mostly due to abstinence.
Some of what Linda said reminded the older ones in the audience of life in UK before the 60's but some of it was clear evidence of a social system that put people first. It sounded idyllic in many ways but one should remember that this was about a time when much of the building of the USSR had been completed and the benefits of it were being reaped. Still one can't help wondering what we have lost with the passing of the USSR and whether it might have been able to evolve into a better model for living if it had not been under so much pressure from those at the top of the capitalist pile. The cost of the arms race with the West was clearly unsustainable.
P.V. - 28 Feb 2012