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Muscovites Stuff Cupboards Preparing for Winter

September 18, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ Galina Pavlova isn’t too concerned the coming winter will be hard. She has stowed away 44 pounds of rice and buckwheat, 11 pounds of macaroni and enough tins of preserved meat and fish to last through the cold months.

″My husband and I made a deal to go outside Moscow and buy two sacks of potatoes, but we simply have no place to keep them at home,″ the sales clerk said.

Expectations that this winter will be especially harsh worry many people, who believe the empty store shelves are proof the moribund economy won’t be able to provide enough food.

The harvest is expected to produce only 180 million to 190 million tons of grain this year, compared to 237 million last year, according to the weekly Moscow News. Wet weather, chronically poor distribution systems for all kinds of food and bad storage facilities have exacerbated the situation.

But the empty shelves are misleading. Anticipating the worst, many Muscovites have spent the summer stocking their refrigerators and larders with home-preserved fruits and vegetables and combing the shops to fill their cupboards with dry goods.

Raya, a 50-year-old collective farm worker who declined to give her last name, said that even though she has better access to fresh produce than most people, she has spent the last few months preparing for the winter.

In her backyard, Raya has buried 110 pounds of butter that she specially salted and prepared in special containers so it won’t spoil.

Inside, she has more than 100 jars of preserved beef and ham that she bought in bulk at government stores and then cooked and seasoned. In her pantry, bags of store-bought rice and dried peas sit next to jars of marinated cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers from her garden.

″A good hostess always has an extra supply,″ Raya said. ″This winter won’t be bad because I’m ready. I have two kids and two grandkids; I won’t let them go hungry.″

Pyotr Zenkin, a 37-year-old railway worker, doesn’t think the winter will be especially difficult. But even though he has no special food supplies at home, he periodically buys staple items in bulk from habit.

″We’ll get by. I don’t have my own garden so I have to buy everything in the stores,″ he said. ″But I have a good salary.″

Lyubov Savrasinkova, 52, has worked hard to get ready for the winter. Like many city dwellers, she has her own private garden plot outside Moscow where she raises tomatoes, beets, cucumbers and potatoes.

″I have enough vegetables to guarantee that my husband, son and I get through the winter,″ the retired teacher said proudly. She added that she also put away rice and macaroni bought in the state stores.

Raisa Popova, 70, supplements her government pension by selling hand-knit scarves on the street. She thinks the food situation is dire.

″Those who made the coup are responsible,″ she said. ″Meat is rotting in train cars because the leaders are disorganized.″

Popova thinks nothing can be done to improve the country’s plight. She predicts foreign food aid will fall into the wrong hands.

″I haven’t prepared anything for the winter,″ she said defiantly. ″Whatever God gives us, we’ll eat.″

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