“A Roll, A Roll, My Kingdom For A Roll!”


I worked on Soviet fishing vessels in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea in the late seventies and early eighties. The Soviets were poor and the ships didn’t have amenities most Americans took for granted, like toilet paper! Ship latrines were open-pit squat toilets and daily visits, especially when the ship pitched and rolled in the waves, were not a pleasant experience.

But Russians, maybe as an expression of their ability to persevere in the face of great hardship, are inventive and find creative solutions to scarcity. They do not have an entitled sense of abundance and can build, modify, and fix anything.

No toilet paper, no problem!

One thing the Soviet Union never had a shortage of was written propaganda. If you’re old enough, you remember the Soviet Union’s main newspaper was called, Pravda, the Russian word for truth. Pravda was everywhere, even at sea. Waxing philosophical, the truth can take many forms.

On Soviet ships, the truth took the form of a triangle. In fact, ship latrines had stacks of triangles cut from Pravda; small, technique requiring triangles. The metaphorical irony of Pravda as toilet paper was not lost on the Russian sailors who frequently joked about the “appropriate use of Pravda.”

As Americans, in their frenzied response to the Coronavirus, sweep into to snatch up extra rolls of toilet paper, I wonder what it says about us that the first thought we have when panicked is to protect out toilet hygiene. Here’s a first, LOL.


What does it tell us about ourselves that in the midst of a pandemic we stock up on toilet paper? (Another LOL thinking about a Freudian analysis of this) I’ll leave that for you to ponder, but one thing I know is that you can’t clean your behind by asking for help from Siri or Alexa.

And that is a little dose of the Damn Pravda!

One thought on ““A Roll, A Roll, My Kingdom For A Roll!”

  1. I remember the era of Pravda and all the great ways Russians used the most published paper in the USSR: from wrapping groceries, packages and flowers to the most common use – the bathroom!
    My attitude to life was strengthen by Pravda (Truth)…and it is not a joke!
    Thank you for this article. It brought so many great memories from my childhood. As I stated earlier, almost everything was wrapped in Pravda. For example, I remember going to the Farmers market as a child and buying some pumpkin seeds to snack, and they were cleverly packaged in small triangle folds made out of Pravda newspaper. In fact, after I post my comment, I will go and try to recreate that special packaging method! Thank you again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *