Author: Margarita Gokun Silver

Trading a Favor for Shoes in the Soviet Union

  My toes felt scrunched. The nails I’d forgotten to cut pushed against my white tights and the new, stiff leather. “How are they?” my grandfather asked. He’d just brought over these shoes from his house and the moment he took them out of the box I was in love. The most beautiful things I’d seen in the short, seven years I’d been alive, they were lacquered, a chocolate brown color and had a great big buckle in the middle. They smelled of leather and sported a very small, square heel that to me put them in the same category as my mother’s platforms. And they were made in Japan. For the 1970s Soviet citizen this may as well have been the Manolo Blahnik workshop. Foreign goods — and foreign shoes, in particular — captivated us. We were stuck behind the Iron Wall and forced to wear the ugly, shoddy creations of the planned Communist economy. The few of our citizenry who traveled abroad always came back with their suitcases bursting with goods for both …