One of the NKVD people went from bench to bench distributing the stamps. “Children,” said our teacher with a voice that resembled the sound of hollowed wood, “these are your leaders.” There were nine of these leaders. They were called Andreyev, Voroshilov, Zhdanov, Kaganovich, Kalinin, Mikoyan, Molotov, Khrushchev. The ninth leader was Stalin. The stamp with his portrait was twice as large as the rest. But that was understandable. The gentleman who wrote a book as thick as Voprosy Leninizma (from which we were learning to read) should have a stamp larger than the others.
We wore the stamps attached with a safety pin on the left, in the place where grown-ups wear medals. But soon a problem arose – there was a shortage of stamps. It was ideal, and perhaps even obligatory, to wear all of the leaders at once, with the large Stalin stamp opening, as it were, the collection. That’s what those from the NKVD also recommended: “You must wear them all!” But meantime, it turned out that somebody had Zhdanov but didn’t have Mikoyan, or somebody had two Kaganovichs but didn’t have a Molotov. One day Janek brought in as many as four Khrushchevs, which he exchanged for one Stalin (somebody had earlier stolen his Stalin). The real Croesus among us was Petrus – he had three Stalins. He would take them out of his pocket, display them, boast about them.
- Ryszard Kapuściński, Imperium