Harvesting campaign means the world to many Belarusians. Milkmaids, harvester and tractor drivers are the people who make collective farms in Belarus stay afloat.
Let’s spend one hot long day with Aleksey Palchik, aged 26, who works as a tractor driver at Krasnaya Zvyazda plant for 5 years.
The man lives with his wife Alena and daughter Dasha in Kletsk, Minsk region, and believes that his work is “the best in the world”.
Aleksey comes to work a little late. There is a queue in a dispatch office – the agricultural mechanics are waiting for their permits to work. They are rushing to go to fields as quickly as possible until it starts to heat.
After cleaning his 12-year-old Fendt 930, Aleksey backs the machine out of the yard. The mechanism inside the cabin is rotated with one lever. It’s the best way to mow.
Time to fill up the tractor. While an old gas station fills the tanks with fuel, tractor drivers talk about work, family and latest news.
8 kilometers are behind us and we finally make it to the place. Our job for today is to mow the lane between the village and the field.
A few hours of moving and work suddenly stalls, it’s a breakdown. “I stumbled on a pole,” says Aleksey. Power engineers moved the poles and forgot one of them here.
The grass is so tall, there’s hardly a chance to spot it and now one of the mover’s knife is torn off.
Turns out the breakdown is serious and replacing the knife isn’t an option. We should take the tractor back for repairs. Aleksey is genuinely surprised: “This is the first time for five years”.
While the spontaneous “forum” decides what to do next, a mobile kitchen truck arrives. A pea soup, stewed cabbage and cold lemonade are in the menu for today.
During lunch, the drivers talk about salaries. Aleksey says he earns 1,000 BYN (~$500) on average per month. In winter the salary is lower.
It depends on the output, so the fact the tractor has broken down leave the man at a total disadvantage. In summer a tractor driver starts his day at 8 am and works until the end of daylight hours.
In winter the working day is from 9 am to 2 pm or till 5 pm if a collection of manure and delivering of fodder are in the plan.
Aleksey returns to the base to decide whether to stay for repairs or remove the broken part and go back to work. The second option looks more appealing and here we are, back in the cab.
On the way back to the field, another problem arises – a truck got stuck in a puddle.
The chief engineer grumbles: “There is only one puddle all over the field, and we’ve got stuck in it!” Mighty Fendt pulls the truck out of the dirt in a blink of an eye.
To understand how a tractor works without the broken part, Aleksey mows a test strip. The result leaves much to be desired, an uneven relief makes it difficult to mow properly.
Ten minutes later and a more even field has been found for a tractor with an incomplete set of knives.
The after-dinner heat is unbearable. There’s no air conditioner, and the temperature inside of the tractor seems to exceed 50℃.
“The hardest thing is to work in the heat. In winter it’s not that hard. Oh, I wish I was swimming in the river now
The tractor driver returns to the machine and tractor fleet. He has mowed 24 hectares of grass, which is less than usual 35−40 hectares.
Aleksey’s wife and their daughter come to pick him up. The man is proud of his daughter. At present, a young family lives at Aleksey’s parents and builds own apartment on credit in a condominium.
Aleksey returns to the tractor for his workwear. Dasha asks him to sit behind the wheel. To lure the girl out, the dad promises to buy her an ice cream. The man leaves the plant, tomorrow is a new day.