The historic meeting of the leaders of the USSR, the USA and Britain - the Big Three Conference - took place in Livadia Palace near Yalta in Crimea 65 years ago, in February of 1945.
In February 1945, a cute medical nurse Eugenia had to replace her white scrubs with a white waitress apron under the command of Russian officials.
“I was 17. I ran away from an orphanage to go to war, to help bandage the injured,” recalls Eugenia Shulgina. “Me and another four nurses were called into the commandant’s office from the hospital where we had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. They told us we would be waiting on a delegation.”
The nurses had no idea how to set tables and serve food. They were instructed by the housekeeper invited from the Kremlin. A day before the conference Eugenia was given a cambric dress and felt-lined shoes.
“We had to keep complete silence. The tables were first covered with thin blanket sheets and only then with a table cloth so the dishes would not make noise,” says Shulgina.
Only on the day of the conference the nurses found out they would be serving the leaders of the UK, the USA and the USSR.
“There were a lot of security guards. The palace and the park were filled with NKVD people. Military ships remained off the harbor. The night before the conference a huge three-meter tall wooden fence was built. “
Every waitress was assigned a delegation to serve. Eugenia was to wait on the Americans. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived to the palace in the evening of February 3. The meetings were held in the official Tsar’s dining room, and Roosevelt was served dinner in the pool room.
The nurse was instructed to come in, greet the guest, take the dishes, and leave without saying a word.
Eugenia saw Stalin at the table only once. The delegations were fed separately and had the only banquet for all participants on the first night. The woman was more interested in the officers guarding the conference.
“Every security point had free officers, one from each delegation. Russian officers looked wonderful wearing dress uniforms and shiny boots. The foreigners wore casual military uniforms, except for a six foot tall black officer who accompanied the US President. He carried the President’s wheelchair up the stairs as if it was as light as a feather. “
By the war time standards, the chefs prepared luxurious treats for the guests. Americans made the only change in the menu, asking to serve them omelets in the morning. They could not eat piroshkies and black caviar for breakfast, while Stalin enjoyed these morning treats.
“For lunch the guest were served broth with croutons, a mandatory shot of vodka, veal steaks and French fries. For snacks they were served tea with pastries, and steamed meatballs were served for dinner. Once the foreigners were offered cabbage soup, and Roosevelt enjoyed it very much. Since then he asked that the “Russian soup” is served every day,” says the nurse.
The waitresses were never told what the leaders were discussing. Right after the conference Livadia Palace was given a status of the state residence, and the former nurse Shulgina was given permanent employment as a housekeeper of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of State Security.