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A Soviet Reporter in L.A.'s TV-Land

November 26, 1989

I just returned from Sovietland and while there asked a few questions that might have added a little more interest to the report on Svetlana Starodomskaya.

To begin with, when she gets back to the Soviet Union she will be rich. On the black market she can trade her American dollars, each for 10 rubles, where the formal exchange rate is about .63 rubles for a dollar. I don't know her salary here, but the comparison might come from the following. Her salary of 226 rubles is reportedly worth $400 on the regular exchange. The streets of Moscow are full of thousands of people, frequently Foreign Language Institute students who speak English, who will offer you 10 rubles for each dollar.

She can even get more for her dollars. If she brings into the Soviet Union a computer worth $1,000, she can get 50,000 rubles for it, 500 to 1.

Starodomskaya has a dacha with a sauna and swimming pool, undoubtedly state-owned. She loses her job and--poof, no dacha. Apartments in Moscow are hard to come by, allocated by the state, may take as long as 20 years to get one. In the meantime one lives with one's in-laws. The tour guide we spoke to had a three-room apartment, plus kitchen and bathroom. The three rooms had 342 square feet and in it lived the tour guide, her husband, her two grown sons and her parents. And her father was a high officer in the Navy.

I enjoyed the Svetlana article. I hope she enjoys her stay. It ain't anything like back home.

JEROME GREENBLATT

Laguna Hills

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