When traveling from Tbilisi along the Kura towards the Armenian border, after Borjomi a strange Stalin Baroque industrial building appears on the right side. The same oriental version of Stalin Baroque, decorated with high and deep arches, which from the 1930s became dominant in the Caucasus, and which still flourishes in the modern buildings of Yerevan and Baku. Around it, a hamlet of a few houses, its name is Chitakhevi, apparently created to support the power plant.
Although I am in a minibus, I ask the group to wait a few minutes, while I take a picture of the phenomenon. As I approach the building, the guard appears at the gate. “Good morning. What is this facility?” I take over the initiative to prevent his questioning. “The transformer station of the hydroelectric plant.” “When was it built?” “After the war. It started to work in 1949. Where are you from?” “The group from Hungary, I from Germany.” “Well, then it was exactly you who built it.”
The Как воевали плотины project, which documents the history of Soviet hydroelectric plants between 1914 and 1950, devotes a separate article to the large number of Soviet power plants built by German, Japanese, Hungarian and Italian POWs during and immediately after WWII. The article quotes from the memoirs of the German Hubert Deneser, who worked on the construction of the Uglich power plant, also published in Russian. “I worked twenty-two months in Uglich. I had to run up and down a hundred and forty-eight steps with two buckets of water to the cement-mixer. I mastered a lot of construction techniques. When in 1948 I returned from captivity to Germany, I built my house by myself. In the winter, we cut ice from the Volga, in the summer we brought manure out to the fields. There we also met girls, we joked, we laughed.” It must have been an idyllic life.