From the personal archive of a Russianist, installment forty-one

Diary notes, 5 September 1992:   Group meeting of UPS Service Partners in E. Europe, taking stock

How wonderful to live two, three lives simultaneously. In effect that is what my crazy travel schedule confers on me. During the past week, there were four days spent in Prague at the UPS general meeting of Service Partners in Eastern Europe followed by three days in Lake Bled, Slovenia talking shop with customs officials from there as well as from Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Europe regarding the needs of the international express industry. 

The general Partners’ meeting was a get-together which I dreamed up and first implemented last year in spite of skepticism from some quarters. Well, we reconvened this year under the aegis of the same senior staff, who now find it very worthwhile, indeed essential.

Thanks to the split up of the ex-USSR and ex-Yugoslavia, and to my persistent efforts to adapt our organization to these new realities by rearranging agency ties, we had nearly double the attendance of one year ago: 12 country delegations and a greater number of district and region staff from the UPS side. A total of 33 participants.

They came from the ends of the earth, and everyone was there. Two Ukrainians (just signed up as agents the week before), one each from Estonia and Latvia, one each from Croatia and Slovenia, two each from Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria. Russia had two from Moscow and one from St Petersburg. Czechoslovakia had the two Bacigal brothers plus the new office manager in Prague, Mr. Hojsak. I am delighted that my colleagues can inspect all the new faces reflecting new contracts.

The team looks good. Everyone speaks English, some quite well. All look reasonably well dressed. There is a decided emphasis on youth. And an unusually high profile for women. Both owners (Kovacs for Hungary; Glab for Poland; Kriuchkov for Ukraine; Bacigals for CSFR) and working level people are present.

The time is divided between formal UPS presentations and workshops focused on the key problems before us: collections from shippers, computerization, rates and selling into competition. We hear a short presentation from each country around themes of macroeconomics, legal environment, competitive challenge, and plans for 93.

Region Manager Gerry McGuire joins us for the first couple of days. His presence gives weight to the proceedings and I know he comes away impressed by the quantity and quality of our E. European team.

In typical corporate fashion we have chosen one of Europe’s most beautiful cities for our venue and then settle ourselves 15 km out of town in a hotel on the highway. However, I do manage to schedule a walking tour of the old city for Monday night. And even the efforts of our unimaginative Gray Line guide (old line Communist) to show us the architecture of the past 20 years and skip the remote past does not prevent our doing the essentials: starting at the Hradciny and descending the Nerudova, where we tarry for a beer, then crossing the Charles Bridge, amidst the horde of American and other youth strumming their guitars and singing, over to the Klimentinum, then to a dinner at the U Fleku.

Yes, this was touristy, with a band playing mostly international tunes and only an occasional Czech piece. But we do get platters of heavy sausages, we do get duck and knedliky and kraut with caraway seeds, and we get the world’s best dark beer. My boss, Wolfgang, comes around and admits it was well worth doing. Tuesday we have his sports evening with bowling and tennis and swimming, and with part of our group stealing away to the town for shopping.

What did we achieve? An enormous amount of detail work. Decisions to extend revenue sharing to those countries still not enjoying it. The decision to introduce computers everywhere in East Europe before the end of the year. The chance to appreciate the talent in our midst. Sergei Kriuchkov from Vneshexpobisness makes an especially strong and positive impression, followed by our guy in Riga. As a result we will now have a separate contract with Riga.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

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