John Steinbeck depicts Ukrainian women

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Kiev woman John Seinbeck depicts in his 'A Russian Journal'

“On the way to our hotel we noticed, as everyone does, that the Ukrainian girls are very pretty, mostly blond, with fine womanly figures. They have flair, they walk with a swinging stride, and they smile easily. While they were not better dressed than the women of Moscow, they seemed to carry their clothes better.”

“I sat down at our desk, which overlooked the street, and watched the people going by. And there was a girl policeman directing traffic in the street, and she wore boots, and a blue skirt and a white tunic with a military belt, and a cocky little beret on her head. Her nightstick was painted black and white, and she directed traffic with a military snap. She was very pretty.

I watched the women walking in the street, and they moved like dancers. They are light on their feet and they have a beautiful carriage. And many of them are very handsome.”

“We went first to the fields where the women and the children were harvesting cucumbers. They were divided into battalions and were in competition with one another, each group trying to pick the most cucumbers. The lines of women were stretched across the field, laughing and singing and shouting at one another. They were dressed in long skirts and blouses and headcloths, and no one wore shoes, for shoes are still too precious to use in the fields.

There was one woman, with an engaging face and a great laugh, whom Capa picked out for a portrait. She was the village wit. She said, ‘I am not only a great worker, I am twice widowed, and many men are afraid of me now.’ And she shook a cucumber in the lens of Capa’s camera.

And Capa said, ‘Perhaps you’d like to marry me now?’

She rolled back her head and howled with laughter. ‘Now you, look!’ she said. ‘If God had consulted the cucumber before he made man, there would be less unhappy women in the world.’ The whole field roared with laughter at Capa.”

“They were lively, friendly people, and they made us taste the cucumbers and the tomatoes for quality…. And although the women laughed and talked, and called to us, they did not stop working, for this is a good harvest, seventy per cent better than last year, the first really good harvest since 1941, and they have great hopes from it.”

“Little girls came running through the rain, carrying aprons full of small apples and little pears”.

“The stage was set up for a little play that night. There were big pots of flowers on a table, and two chairs, and, upstage, a large portrait of the President of the Ukrainian Republic. The little three-piece orchestra came in, and set up its instruments, and began to play. The young people drifted in, strong girls, their faces washed and shiny. Only a few young men came.”

“The girls danced together. They wore bright print dresses, and head-cloths of colored silk and wool, and their feet were almost invariably bare. And they danced with fury. The music had a rapid beat, accentuated by drum and cymbal. The bare feet beat the floor. The boys stood around and watched. The energy of these girls was unbelievable. All day they had been working in the fields, since daylight in fact, and yet after one hour of sleep they were prepared to dance all night. The men at the chess tables played on, unmoved and unbothered by the noise that went on around them.”

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