Me and my Russian wife
When this veteran AP correspondent got his ballerina wife out of Russia he made headlines around the world. Here, for the first time, he tells the full and fascinating story and introduces a cast of characters that could have stepped right out of Chekhov
A RUSSIAN expert is someone who has been in the Soviet Union less than two weeks or more than twenty years. I don’t qualify for I was there but eleven years and nine months.
However, in being there that long as a correspondent for the Associated Press I did see and hear a lot of things. More than most, probably, because I married a Russian ballerina and our two children were born in Moscow.
Sometimes I was sure I wrote for the smallest audience in the world that handful of censors who sat there with their blue pencils and ripped my cablegrams apart. Because of the extremely difficult censorship that existed and still exists in the U.S.S.R., I am now getting many of the things I saw to the public for the very first time.
The longer I lived in the Soviet Union the less I realized I knew about what is called Communism. I still don’t know what it means. It was state capitalism to me, rigidly and brutally enforced by the secret police.
Above all, I profess to know very few of the answers about Russia or anything else. I hope this story is reportage for that is what I am, a reporter.
On an icy morning in September 1941—nearly thirteen years ago now— the British tramp steamer that was taking me and a handful of other correspondents to Russia (plus a creaking cargo of tanks, fighter planes, food and clothing) started sailing through that last section of the White Sea to the port of Archangel. The frozen snow-covered land was on either side of the ship now. It was like sailing up a river. Every so often people on the bank.
“How glad they must be to see us,” I thought.
I waved to a group on the bank. They didn’t wave back. They just stared. I waved at the next group and took off my hat. They only stared. The next cluster of Russians I saw I met with q stare. And the people in this group stared back
just as the groups had to whom I’d waved and taken off my hat. Three hours of this and we were alongside the dock.
Two of our seamen threw off a rope and motioned to a group of Russians to grab the other end. They too stared and didn’t move.
Finally the Russian pilot on our bridge shouted something at them through a megaphone. Mechanically they shuffled over and took hold of the rope that had been thrown at their feet a second time.
Years later I understood the complete, almost stunned indifference of these people at Archangel. For what I didn’t know that morning was that these people were political prisoners, banished to the cold hard land above the Arctic Circle.
Crossing the River Dvina between the dock and the city of Archangel we traveled in a woodburning ferry, built to hold, I would say, about a hundred people. At least 300 jammed aboard.
After a great deal of shouting we moved off into the Dvina, which was spotted with large ice blocks. Sometimes they hit us and sometimes we hit them. Then there would be whole islands of them.The ferry would slow down and almost stop, imprisoned in the ice. The pilot would reverse her, give her the gun and charge the ice pack.
We reached a point about a hundred yards from the bank we were trying to get to. Here the ice was too thick. A rope was flung over the side. I noticed a man on crutches swing up to this and, while a friend held his crutches, he let himself down the ladder. Almost solicitously the friend dropped the crutches to him, one by one.
Extremely odd, a cripple going first, I thought. But that was what was happening. The others held back, waiting. They were going to let the cripple test the ice.
The cripple took two steps on his crutches. They flew out from under him and he fell flat, the crutches skidding out from him like oars from a
boat in a storm-tossed sea. A roar of laughter went up from the scores of Russians who’d been watching him. And they kept on laughing as he floundered about the ice trying to pick up his crutches and get to his feet .
Later I was talking with our chief engineer, a doughty old boy from Tyneside. I told him what I’d just seen.
“Ah, lad,” he said, “these Asiatics don’t think like me and you. And you can be bleedin’ thankful they’re on our side.”
In late March 1942 I was aboard a train that was caught by a terrible snowstorm two days out of Moscow. The engine gasped to a walk up a long hill and then, with the snow piled up high in front of it. just, stopped altogether. The engineer tried to reverse. He got a few yards and the snow caught him from behind. We were trapped.
All night we remained on that hill. There were optimistic announcements every few minutes. Another engine had been sent for. A snowplow was coming. About fifty people from a nearby collective farm eventually arrived sleepy-eyed and dug us out with shovels. Most of them were women and girls.
Now the train had run out of fuel. At the next station the engine backed into a siding beside a big woodpile. Here was an engine, in 1942, still burning wood. A Russian explained that it was not strictly a wood burner, but that as coal was very scarce, the railways were turning to wood except for the most essential trains.
The fireman and the engineer were loading the engine by themselves and, obviously, that was going to take a long time. We strolled over, about ten of us, and started helping the two men. They were pleased.
A tortured yell rose from the doorstep of one of the sleeping cars. Gesticulating wildly, one of the press-department officials jumped off the steps and stumbled toward us through the deep snow.
Story continues on next two pages
With these remarkable Russians as his friends
“Stop! Stop! You must not do this!”
“You know what you are doing,” said the pressdepartment man, “you are forbidden to do this.” We told the censor that the engineer and the fireman didn’t seem to mind; that the sooner we got the engine fueled up the quicker we’d he on our way.
“All right,” said the irate official, “but I serve notice on you right now that I will not pass a single story that mentions this incident.”
To have it reported in the Western press that a Soviet train in this day and age was burning wood and that the passengers foreign ones at that —were loading it, why that was unthinkable. A tremendous loss of face. Hadn’t the Russian invented the steam engine? Weren’t the Russians the greatest people in the world? Wasn’t the Soviet economy even under the stresses and strains of war the very best in the world, far exceeding that of any capitalistic nation? Of course, comrades . . .
One warm spring morning I was sitting on the grass down at the Volga watching a group of men working with some small boats. Of course, I said to myself, Volga boatmen! That song that Feodor Chaliapin sang about the boatmen of this famous river came swinging through my mind.
I called to my translator, Sam Gurevich, and told him to ask the rivermen if they knew the Song of the Volga Boatmen. As Sam spoke I could see the boatmen shaking their heads.
“They say they don’t know it,” Sam said.
“But they must,” I insisted, “that song made the Volga famous in the U. S. A. Tell them Chaliapin used to sing it.”
“They say they never heard of Chaliapin,” Sam replied.
“Tell them we in America and the Western world
have always thought the boatmen of the Volga sang this song when they worked.”
A tall, old fellow with a grey beard and no front teeth spoke to the translator.
“He asked you to sing the song.”
“I’ll hum it,” I said. And did.
They shook their heads and one of them said something to Sam.
“He says they never heard it, but asks why did you think the Volga boatmen sing it?”
I told him I understood that they sang it while they worked. When they used to pull the boats and barges up the river in the old days.
The men smiled. Two or three laughed. They spoke rapidly to Sam. “Volga boatmen,” he explained, “don’t sing songs to make themselves work. Only vodka does that.”
The night in Moscow that I met Tamara Kolb-Chernashovaya, the ballerina who was to become my wife, a party of us went to the celebrated Aragvi restaurant. We walked to the head of the line of people at its barred door and knocked. A doorman, whose face I knew, and what’s more important, a man who knew my face, appeared at the crack.
He let us in. How odd, I thought. No protest from the long line of men and women who must have been waiting to get inside. But we were foreigners, as I’ve said before, and the Russians are historically polite to visiting foreigners. Or were until the Cold War hit the freezing point.
I knew just about everyone who had anything to do with running the Aragvi. It’s the one and only restaurant in the world where I am in charge. I would like to say this is because of my magic personality and my way wit h Georgians (the Aragvi is a Georgian restaurant) but I’m afraid it’s simply because I have been identified there with overtipping for so many years. I over-tipped the first
night I ever went to the Aragvi and I did the same thing for more than eleven years. The oftenpronounced theory that over-tipping causes contempt from a waiter is the biggest piece of nonsense I ever heard.
All over this world I have over-tipped and I have yet to find any head waiter, waiter, doorman, wine steward, barman, hat-check girl, porter, taxi driver, sword dancer, barber or gypsy fiddle player
Gilmore saw a Moscow that nobody knows
who showed me the slightest contempt for my over-tipping. On the contrary, they’ve treated me better than most people.
There are two ways to dine at the Aragvi—in the main dining room, which looks like the men’s room in Grand Central Station, New York, or in private rooms. I always chose a private room, especially the one that has a balcony overlooking the main dining room and facing the band. In my time in Russia I have entertained in that room, to mention but a few, John Foster Dulles, Lieut.Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Eddie Rickenbacker, Gen. Lucius Clay, every American ambassador from Averell Harriman to Charles E. Bohlen and foreign envoys from Sir David Kelly to the Chargé d’Aftaires of Greece, Prince Thomas Ypsilanti.
We called the waiter Dostoievsky. He wore a long, braided, claw-tailed coat which must have heen made in the last century. His hair reached the back rim of his high, starched collar. His face was long and thin and he was a brilliant man. He wore nose glasses attached to a thick, black ribbon and cufT links that once belonged to the Tsar. His shoes were very pointed and always polished. He could seat 18 people faster than you can say samovar and he was a great judge of people and grey caviar and satsivi. He once said that if Paris is the city of Magnificent Distance, then Moscow is the city of Distance Magnificiencies. That is the only political remark I ever heard him make. And if he reports to the Secret Police—which he probably does I am sure he gives them no ordinary run-of-the-mill stuff, but a highly imaginative account of what didn’t go on under his long nose last night at the Aragvi.
The night I met Tamara we had caviar, satsivi (hreast of turkey submerged in a cold sauce made with nuts), shashlik, a plate piled high with it, green onions, thick slabs of fresh butter, the halfwarmed, half-toasted bread peculiar to the Aragvi, and Turkish coffee. We drank chilled vodka and
borzhom, the Georgian soda water. Dinner at the Aragvi cost around $100 but it was a good dinner —and anything left on the table we stuffed in our pockets to take back to the hotel.
Of course, I fell in love with Tamara.
☆ ☆ &
Having Tamara fall in love with me wasn’t so easy.
I had much opposition from the British camp and what made it hard on me was the fact that while I still spoke dog, or kitchen, Russian, my rivals could rattle the stuff off as rapidly as they could sing the words to The Queen.
Tamara and I began about like this:
“Maken te the olmo auf, pozhalasta
“Da. Ya budu eef I can.”
In German, Russian and English, scrambled in a horrible polyglot, the above is:
“Open the window, please.”
“Yes, I will if I can.”
Hardly the language of love but, as Tamara once said, you’ve got to get the window open sometimes.
☆ ☆ ☆
The Russians love crooners.
I discovered this soon after I arrived in the Soviet Union. The two most beloved crooners were Vertinsky and Loshinko. When I reached Russia, neither of them was living in the U.S.S.R. Probably aware that their profession didn’t fall within the goals of the Communist revolution, they got out in a hurry. A long time ago.
These two émigrés were frowned upon by the Communist Party cultural bosses and their phonograph records were on sale in no Moscow shop; yet, year after year, the people bootlegged them back home. These two Russian singers, making records in faraway lands, were definitely at the top of the hit parade on the samovar circuit. Nearly
every Russian apartment I visited had a Vertinsky or a Loshinko hidden away for special occasions and special guests. They brought tremendous prices on the black market, selling for 15 and 20 times the price of records by approved Soviet singers.
I met Alexander Nikolaiovich Vertinsky and his beautiful young wife Lela in the Metropole Hotel in Moscow.
Vertinsky is a remarkable-looking man, about six-feet-two with a long narrow face and high arching eyebrows. His blond hair starts at a widow’s peak on his aristocratic forehead and slopes back unbroken to the nape of his neck. He has long finely shaped fingers. His shoulders are broad and he hasn’t the suggestion of a paunch. Today he must be nearing 70 but he carries himself like a man of 30.
From Lela I gathered that Vertinsky had returned home with special assurances of forgiveness from no less a person than V. M. Molotov. “He will have a concert soon,” she explained. “You must come.”
In about two weeks Lela telephoned and said two tickets would be waiting for us at the box office of a downtown theatre. At the theatre we ran into a thrashing mob.
“It’s like old times,” said a grey-haired woman I knew. “Before the revolution girls and grown women lined up for blocks to hear him. Look what’s happening tonight.”
After a hard struggle, I dragged Tamara through this milling shouting crowd and into the theatre. Every seat was taken even our two seats, but the usher pitched the poachers out. A perfect hush went over the audience as the lights lowered and the curtain parted.
A young man with black hair and a very pale expressionless face walked stiffly out on the stage and sat down at the shiny grand piano. From the opposite wing out walked Vertinsky, dressed in white tie and tails. A large diamond sparkled on his left hand. A roar Continued on page 86
Continued on page 86
Me and My Russian Wife
CONTINUED EROM PAGE 19
of applause greeted him. He bowed coldly.
It was a very strange voice. Not strong, and certainly not the voice of a young man, but it took only a moment’s listening to realize you were in the presence of a real professional. His first song related how he, a singer, was performing in a Paris night club on Christmas Eve. He wanted nothing so much as a good square meal, for he had no money. He’d spent it on women. In fact, he owed money and he hadn’t eaten for a long while. But no one in this night club on Christmas Eve thought of asking him to sit down to a hot supper. No. But they would send him bottle after bottle of champagne. When the last customer had gone and the waiters had finished their dreary work of cleaning up the place, he, the hungry tired singer had no place to go. Loaded with too much champagne, he lay down on the floor between the tables and the upturned chairs and went to sleep. Then a yellow angel woke him and fed and comforted him.
I looked at the people around me. Tears poured down their faces. Women were softly sobbing. Men were crying.
I knew that I had never encountered a singer like Alexander Vertinsky. The Russian people, weary, weary, weary of listening to singers yodel about the new five-year plan, about the tractor factory, about the bright and happy members of the Young Communist League, were simply starved for romance and the sort of stuff Vertinsky was giving them.
His next song was called Without Women.
“How wonderful it is,” he began, “to be without women for once. To sit down with a good male friend and drink pure Scotch whisky.”
I could hardly believe my ears. And it was certainly difficult to believe this man could get away with singing this sort of stuff. Avalanches of applause marked the end of every song. The poor man had to give thirteen encores after he said good night.
I got to know Vertinsky as a real friend. “Life,” he once told me, “is too short to spend it with ugly women. I avoid them.”
When the Cold War got frigid, we lost the Vertinskys as friends. We never called them apd they never called us. He had to tone down his singing and include some five-year plans in the key of C.
They put him in a propaganda movie a few years ago. He wore a scarlet robe and portrayed a wicked cardinal in one of the Iron Curtain countries. Oh, yes, he was spying for the Americans. Vertinsky got the Stalin prize for his acting in that film and I never saw such a hamlike performance.
One spring day in 1943, Tamara was arrested at the market by the Secret Police and held all day. They told her how she was wasting her time with a foreigner. How I didn’t love her and how it was unpatriotic to be in love with any foreigner. Particularly an American, representative of the foulest capitalistic system in the world.
Tamara showed me an official document. Signed and sealed, it gave her “permission” to establish residence in a certain section of western Siberia. She had just 48 hours to leave Moscow!
At my urgent prompting her mother wrote a letter to the authorities, explaining that they had relatives near Ryazan, about 150 miles away. Tamara was given another paper, giving her “permission” to establish residence in the village where her relatives lived. At least this wasn’t Siberia.
The heartless things that the Soviet Government does to its citizens often have an odd angle. I have seen this happen again and again. A man or a woman is arrested for some political offense (usually based on nothing more than suspicion) and is given a sentence of, say, ten years. Then, after special pleading, the sentence is changed to eight years. Everyone concerned becomes thankful to the Soviet officials for lightening the sentence. Thankful instead of burning with resentment at the unfairness of the original charge and sentence.
I chose this time to tell Tamara that I wanted to marry her. She stared at me, bewildered.
The chief of the police precinct in which Tamara lived was given the joh of seeing to it that she left the city as ordered. She asked him for advice. What she should do when there was no railway ticket to be had?
“I have no interest in how you leave Moscow,” said the police chief.
“But, please,” asked Tamara, “what do I do? How do I leave when I can buy no ticket? Please, help me!”
He looked at her coldly.
“You can walk, can’t you?” he said.
“For 150 miles?”
“That is no business of mine,” he answered. “Good-by. Please go. I am busy.”
Finally I scrounged enough gasoline to have her driven to her banishment by my chauffeur.
A wire from Wendell Willkie and Stalin gave his blessing
I decided that I’d have more chance of straightening things out if I accepted a proferred leave in the U. S. I flew home and a few days later I was sitting with Wendell Willkie, having lunch in his office. I told him the whole story of Tamara.
“Do you feel that you could take this matter up with Stalin?” I asked.
“Of course I can,” he said, “what do you want me to say?”
I said I thought he should send Stalin a telegram.
“Write out what you want me to say,” Willkie told me, “and I’ll be glad to send it.”
He did send my telegram and Stalin replied through Àndrei Gromyko that an exception would be made in Tamara’s case. Three days later Tamara wired joyfully that she was back in Moscow with her mother.
Four or five days after I returned to Moscow, Tamara and I presented ourselves at the ZAGS (registration) office to be married. A smiling dowdy woman came up to us, shook hands and asked us to follow lier. She led us into a room that seemed to be filled with potted palms, rubber plants and Russians. The Russians were seated in what looked to be two jury boxes facing one another. Three men and two women sat at the end of the room where the judge should be sitting.
“Tovar ich Kolb - C her nasho vaya, stand up,” said one of the voices from the judge’s box. Tamara stood.
“Gospoc/in Eddy Gilmore, stand up.” I stood.
“Your application to register your marriage is in order and it has been approved,” continued the voice from the bench, “Hurrah!”
At this point every Russian in the place stood up and started applauding. Then they came down around us and congratulated us. Another one handed us a piece of paper. It was the marriage certificate.
“That was all because of Stalin,” said Tamara. “Remember, he approved this marriage.”
“Why, the old bastard.”
“Don’t use such language in front of your wife,” she snapped back.
I have been touted by established experts in various parts of the world but nowhere with the grim determination and eternal optimism of Valentin Petrovich, a Russian horse player. He would clutch his throat with his right hand, screw up his face and say, “You can bet this horse, right up to here.”
This self-throat-clutching was the gesture Valentin Petrovich employed to denote a sure thing. One on which you could place all your rubles with a certainty of winning. Like touts everywhere, he ran better than his horses.
Betting on horses in Russia is a hazardous game. Until we revised the system, there were only two ways to bet—“Express” and “Double.”
To bet “Express” you bought a t icket on two horses in the same race. You picked one of them to come in first and the other to come second. If they finished in any other order, you lost, and this was very often.
To bet “Double” you bought a ticket on two horses in two consecutive races. You had to pick both of them to come in first and if they did win their respective races, then you won, too.
“But why,” I complained, “can’t I
bet on a horse to win a single race?” “Because,” explained Valentin Petrovich, who always, summer and winter, wore high black boots, a blue cap with a patent-leather visor and a black trench coat, “the people wouldn’t like it that way. They would not bet.” “I’m sure they would,” I argued. “It’s so much simpler.”
“But the Russians,” he explained,
“are not simple people. They are complex people. They like complex things.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Valentin Petrovich clutched his throat.
“Eddy Eddyovich,” he gasped, “bet 4 and 2 in this coming race right up to here.”
“But.you said that in the third race.”
“And l would have been right, if it had not been for that swine, Morozov, pulling up his horse.”
I gave him 200 rubles and told him to bet it. He did and we won. Get that. He bet my money and we won. I shared the winnings with him, but like every other tout-and-touted deal, he didn’t share in my losses.
From that point on out, Valentin Petrovich could never go wrong this particular race day. I think we won about 4,000 rubles, which is $1,000. I cut him for a good percentage. “Wait here,” he ordered. He marched
“Move this elevator,” said the general loudly, “and I'll crack you one.”
up the steps to the director’s office and in a few minutes descended with a fat, black - bearded man — the director of Moscow’s Hippodrome Race Track. He raised the question of the method of betting with the director.
“Eddy Eddyovich,” he explained, “wants to bet on only one horse. I told him you would never have the authority to set up such a system.” The bearded director drew himself up. “Why shouldn’t I have the authority?” he asked. “Am I not the director?”
Sure enough, the next racing day, the announcer told the crowd that a window had t>een opened whereby players could bet their money on a single horse to win. I played this window and so did several of my foreign friends. But precious few Russians played it.
“You see,” said Valentin Petrovich, after the single-win window had been open for about three weeks, "only you play here. It’s too simple. Don’t you know the Russians are the greatest chess players in the world? This is because chess is a complicated game. We like nothing simple.”
“Marxism, for instance,” I suggested. “Let’s eliminate the politico” said Valentin Petrovich.
“All right. Let’s thank the director and tell him to close the window.” Later in the day Valentin Petrovich called me aside.
“The director,” he explained, “had authority to open the window, but he has no authority to close it.”
“It takes a meeting of the track judges to close any window.”
I laughed out loud.
☆ ☆ ☆
My wife and I stepped into an elevator at the Metropole Hotel one evening soon after the war. We’d been to a cocktail party at the American Embassy and were on our way to a dinner with friends in their Metropole apartment. With us were Arnold Smith, a bright young man from the Canadian External Affairs Department, and his pretty wife, Eve.
Just as the elevator was about to begin its slow trembling journey a Russian officer walked up to the wire grating and glass door and banged on it with a walking stick.
The elevator operator opened the door and let him in. The officer had enough stars on his shoulder boards to tell me that be was a general. “Good evening, general,” I said in Russian.
“You address me as general,” he replied, “but do you know which general I am?”
“If I haven’t made a mistake, you’re General Yeremenko. I was a visitor on your front one time.”
The general swayed a little. I could smell vodka on his breath.
The elevator moved from the ground floor to the second floor where General Yeremenko’s aide indicated his superior wanted to get off. The operator swung the door open.
“Close the door,” commanded the general.
He was a broad man, but not tall. His shoulders were very wide, chest spacious and stomach large. His legs, encased in shining black leather boots, were as thick as fence posts. His face was flat and florid and clean shaven.
“Close the door. Keep it shut until I tell you to open it.”
He gave these orders in an extremely loud voice. The operator looked frightened. Only one elevator—as was usually the case—was running.
“Yes,” said the general with a smile, “I remember when you gentlemen correspondents were on my front. What did you think of my boys?”
“We thought they were splendid.” People started ringing the bell on other floors for the elevator. The operator looked pleadingly at the general.
“Still,” he shouted. “Don’t you move. 1 want to talk to my friends.” The poor operator suffered in silence. “So, you’re Canadians?” Yeremenko addressed the Smiths. “I always wanted to meet some Canadians.”
The elevator bell was ringing like a fire alarm.
The general lifted his stick. “Move this elevator while I’m talking to my friends,” he said, “and I’ll crack you one.”
We continued our conversation. Pretty soon the assistant manager of the hotel arrived outside the cage.
“Tovarich General,” he pleaded,
“Tovarich General. Won’t you just move up to your floor? Other people want the elevator.”
“The devil take them,” said Yeremenko through the cage. “I’m talking to friends.”
The hotel man was almost weeping. “Please, Tovarich General, just one little floor more.”
“All right,” snapped Yeremenko. 1 remembered him from the front as a good-natured man.
The elevator let us out at the next floor. The general got off with us, talking a blue streak.
“Look, Arnold,” I said to my Canadian friend, “I’m going to call our hosts and ask them if we can’t bring the general along.”
I called on the house telephone and everybody thought it an excellent idea.
I returned to Yeremenko, Tamara, Eve and Arnold Smith. A hotel floor manager sat at a desk nearby watching all this. As I joined the group I saw her pick up the telephone.
We talked about Russia and Canada and the United States before I could get in a word about the dinner. In less than two minutes I noticed a small man in a blue serge suit, wearing a black fur cap, walking up the staircase.
I can spot detectives anywhere. From a house dick in Dallas, to the MVD in Moscow. The little man walked over and sat down in a chair near our group. As we were speaking entirely in Russian, he could understand everything.
“General Yeremenko,” I broke in, “we are going to dinner. It would give us much pleasure if you could join us.” “Dinner?” he said, “why, of course!” The little man in the blue serge suit, rose from his chair, walked up and stood in front of the general.
“Tovarich General,” said the little man. looking the bearlike Yeremenko straight in the eyes.
The general’s expression changed. He was stunned. He wilted. The secret policeman had said only two words. It was the way he said them. A schoolteacher, sure of her discipline, emphasizing to a little boy that he was not to be naughty, with a slight threat in her voice.
General Yeremenko, commander of an entire front during the war and now headed for a marshal’s baton, turned to me. Continued on page 90
Continued on page 90
“I’m sorry,” lie said in a hollow tone. “It’s impossible for me to have dinner with you.” He turned, walked back to the elevator and rang the bell.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Eve.
“There’s no doubt in my mind who runs the Red Army,” said Arnold.
“None in mine either,” I said.
☆ ☆ ☆
All correspondents in Moscow had chauffeurs. I would have much preferred driving myself, but it did offer difficulties. One’s garage always seemed to be located at least two miles from one’s apartment. During my final two years in Moscow, the garage was all the way across the city, about seven miles distant.
We hired chauffeurs who’d been approved by the Government, which in this case meant the Secret Police. What it amounted to was that we paid a man to help keep tab on us for the Secret Police. Their salaries were high. 'The last, one got $500 a month. Had he been working for a Soviet citizen, his pay would have been around $100 monthly.
To a man almost, they were terrible drivers and had not the slightest feeling for machinery. They drove you nearly crazy the way they pushed the clutch in and out 40 and 50 times in the space of a journey from your apartment house to the peasant market. Others had the habit of throwing the car out of gear in the middle of a block when the road was clear ahead.
“Why do you do that?” I asked.
“To save gasoline,” Anatole replied.
“I doubt if that saves any gasoline and I’m sure it does wear out the clutch.”
He smiled at me indulgently. His look said, “The poor foreign fool. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
An American sergeant-mechanic at the U. S. Embassy became so exasperated over the chauffeur’s practice of throwing the car out of gear in the middle of a block that he began riding next to the drivers armed with a small baseball bat. Every time they unnecessarily touched the gearshift he’d whack their forearms.
I once had a driver named Ilya. Riding in the country with him one morning I detected him going out of his way to run through every horse and cow manure pile on the road.
“Heavenly God,” I said to him in Russian, “why are you doing that?”
“Gaspodin,” he replied, “don’t you know? That stuff is good for the tires.”
☆ ■& ☆
People often ask me if the Russians would fight against us. Yes, I think they would. Not very willingly. All the officers and soldiers I ever talked to in Russia—and I can assure you there were plenty of them—always expressed friendship for the United States and much admiration for the American army, navy and air force.
, As I knew him, the man who makes up the Soviet Army is not a belligerent bloodthirsty man. He doesn’t like war and he doesn’t like being away from his wife, children and relatives. He doesn’t want to conquer any territory for the Communist regime. He wants to be left alone but—if the Soviet Government turns on the old propaganda machine and makes patriotism an issue of war, the Russian will fight again. And probably fight well.
During the war years I often marveled at the way the Russian soldier fought. His main weapon was the standard Soviet rifle—not at all com-
plicated. It would shoot straight and at a good distance. More automaticweapons were put in his hand as the years went by, but the rifle is still the basic weapon and the basic Red Arr y attack is still thousands of these peasant boys marching forward in great waves, the rifle in hand. When the first row gets shot down, the second row takes its place. And when it is mowed down the third and fourth lines move up. They don’t spare manpower.
How big is the Red Army? That is a military secret.
Solomon Lozovsky, when he was a Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, once told me any nation was doing well to mobilize ten percent of its population into an army. That if it did twelve percent it was doing mighty well. Twelve percent of Russia’s 200,000,000 is 24,000,000. Quite an army.
☆ ■ ☆
The Datcha plays a big part in the life of virtually every Russian who lives in a city. The word means “summer house,” and every city dweller believes it’s imperative that he live in a Datcha for at least a few weeks during the summertime.
Tamara insisted that Moscow during the months of June, July and August was no place for a child.
“I’m a foreigner, you know,” 1 observed. “People are not going to be very happy about renting me a Datcha, or even a half Datcha.”
We found a very pretty Datcha about fifteen miles east of Moscow. The occupant and his wife were “agriculturists” and they said they’d be glad to rent us the upstairs three rooms for the summer.
“You know from my accent,” I explained, “that I’m a foreigner. I’m an American.”
“It makes no difference,” they chorused.
We gave them a down payment, told them we’d move in in a week, shook hands, left them our telephone number and departed.
The next day the wife called. She was terribly sorry but she couldn’t lef us have the Datcha. She sounded very frightened. We asked why she had changed her mind.
“I’m sorry,” she replied, “I must say good-by. Please don’t try to see us any more.”
The Secret Police had, of course, been onto that family. I suppose our chauffeur tipped them off.
We appealed to Burobin, the place we appealed for everything. This adjunct of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was set up, theoretically, to deal with the foreigner’s every need. It was one of the most impossible and bureaucratic organizations I have ever encountered anywhere.
When we asked them for a Datcha they replied they had none and had no possibilities of securing any. Two weeks later they phoned and said they had a Datcha we might like and asked us to look at it.
It was a two-story wooden house located in Mamontovka, 25 miles northeast of Moscow. It had a glassedin porch, two rooms, a kitchen and a back porch downstairs and two rooms and a small glassed-in balcony upstairs. It was surrounded by pine trees in a fenced lot about 100 yards long by 50 yards wide. The stove burned wood. There was electricity, thank goodness, but no running water.
We moved in before the week was out and there began ore of the most happy phases of my long stay in Russia.
Down at the Datcha I discovered that Canadian seeds grow extremely well in Russian soil. I don’t know that
“The Kremlin Krows, the best (and only) American jazz band in Russia, were shot down in diplomatic flames"
this piece of intelligence will ever do anyone any good, but there it is. A Canadian friend, Geoffrey Govier, of Montreal, sent me packets of seed every year and every summer we had wonderful peas, string beans, turnips, carrots and radishes.
Radio reception at the Datcha was splendid. One cannot hear the Voice of America, or Radio Free Europe, in the Russian-language broadcasts in Moscow, for the jamming is so good that these programs are completely blocked out. At the Datcha, 25 miles from Moscow, I could hear them almost around the clock.
I was the only foreigner living in the village of Mamontovka for several summers and I was completely surrounded by Russians. We got to know many of them and they never showed us anything but kindness. I have many good friends in that village and throughout the years, even during the period when the Hate America campaign was at its height, I never heard any of those villagers express anything hut nice sentiments about my country.
“Gaspodin,” said a woman one night. “In the last war your country sent us many things. It sent us food. I know because my three children ate it and I ate it. It kept us from going hungry and I shall always thank your country for this. Now, if we should have a war with you (she crossed herself) you won’t be sending us food, you’ll be dropping bombs on us. God of Mine, we’ll all die.”
A lot of things were lacking in Moscow in the winter of 1944-45 and one of them, we decided, was American jazz. A few of us got up a band called the Kremlin Krows, after the thick swarms of black squawkers that wheel over the Kremlin at sundown every winter evening. We felt there was something in our music that sounded like the crows.
General Lucius Clay sent me my drum from Berlin and Eddie Condon dispatched me my wire brushes from New York. When people used to ask me, “How are you able to stand it over here year after year? How are you able to keep sane, not knowing if you’ll ever get your wife and children out?” I would always smile, beat out a riff and reply, “By playing the drums. Russia occupies one sixth of the earth’s surface. I am the best American jazz drummer in all that territory, for 1 am the only one.”
One evening, we were asked to play at the Egyptian Legation. A number of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present, including Andrei Vyshinsky, Jacob Malik and the then Chief of Protocol, F. F. Molochkov, a thin, blond young man with stomach ulcers and an uncertain disposition.
Vyshinsky was late and, as it was a
buffet supper, the guests just stood around drinking cocktails and listening to the Kremlin Krows until the great man arrived. When Vyshinsky entered the room the Egyptian minister, Bindari Pasha, invited him to have something to eat. An Egyptian first secretary officially extended an invitation to Malik and something must have gone wrong, for Molochkov was left to fend for himself.
Soviet officials can be terribly formal. Molochkov gazed around the room and saw that no one from the Egyptian ! Legation was going to officially invite him to have dinner. I saw him frown and take an extra long draw from his cigarette. Then his eyes settled on me. j “Mr. Gilmore,” said the slighted Chief of Protocol, pointing to the bass Í drum, “just what does that mean?”
I looked at the drum. It was the same old picture that we had used for a long time—a black silhouette of the Spasski Tower at the Kremlin and a lot of crows flitting around it. The big, printed letters Kremlin Krows, I thought should have told * the story. Sensing that Molochkov was irritated I explained very carefully.
The Chief of Protocol frowned. “I’m not sure,” he said very solemnly, “that this shows proper respect for our Government.”
He studied the bass drum for at least a minute. “No, Mr. Gilmore. You are showing disrespect.”
The Pasha arrived on the scene. “My dear Mr. Molochkov,” he said in French, “do excuse me. Through some stupidity, we neglected to invite you to dinner. Won’t you do me the honor to come and have some food?”
Molochkov glared at him. “Thank you,” he said, “I am not hungry.”
The rebuffed minister tried again to ! get Molochkov to come and have | supper and when the slighted official once more refused, the Pasha could only retire with more profuse apologies.
I left Molochkov still staring at the drum. I wanted to find Tamara because I knew she and the Chief of Protocol liked one another and Tamara had a way with him, as she has with most men. I found her at last. She was seated at a big table, the dinner partner of Jacob Malik. I interrupted them and led my wife from the table. I explained the situation to her.
“Get him to eat,” I said, “and maybe he won’t shoot the Kremlin Krows down in diplomatic flames.”
I don’t know what she said, but pretty soon Tamara entered the crowded dining room on the arm of F. F. Molochkov, filled his plate and sat him at the table with Malik.
“Comrade Molochkov,” Malik asked, “what’s the matter? Are you sick?”
“It’s my stomach,” Molochkov said, “it’s not well.”
“Then put some vodka in it,” suggested Malik.
Molochkov held up his hand. “I would like some fruit juice,” he said.
I felt the Kremlin Krows might be doomed. And they were, too, for in just a few days the ambassador gave an | order to have the painting of the j Kremlin and Krows eliminated from the band’s bass drum.
I wrote a story about this entire incident, sent it in to the censor and waited. I waited for 24 hours and then it was returned to me. My story had begun:
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“Molotov raised his «¿lass above liis head, turned it upside down . , . it wasn't quite empty"
Moscow, March G — (AP) — The Kremlin Krows—the only American jazz band in Russia — were in full flight today trying to get away from a purging paint brush.
What the censor left of that was:
Moscow, March 6 — (AP> — The Krows were in full flight today.
The Dean of Canterbury, somet imes referred to as the Red Dean because of his undisguised sympathy for the Soviet Union, arrived in town just before the German surrender and be was walking through crowded Red Square the night that Colonel Napoleon Rrinckman, DSO (Distinguished Service Order), MG (Military Cross) and Rddy Gilmore, AP (Associated Press),
! decided to converge on the area.
We encountered a rare sight.
Our eyes lit on the dean, dressed in his habitual long frock coat and black gaiters, trying to make his way past Lenin’s tomb. Some Soviet citizen saw him, too, for we witnessed a large mob take out after the dean and capture him.
I don’t know what the dean thought,
I but from where I sat he looked frightened almost to death. The Russians i didn’t deal with him harshly, but they laid hands on him firmly and before you could say Thomas à Recket, they tossed the gesticulating prelate into the air.
The dean screamed once and then submitted with comparative calm. Up he went again, gaiters over frock and frock over gaiters. He has a shiny pink bald head, fringed with long snowy-white hair, and he was a singular sight, twisting and turning in the night air, highlighted by the many searchlights that were wheeling over Red Square.
1 watched Col. Rrinckman, Grenadier Guards, as be looked at the Dean of Canterbury, his fellow-countryman, being tossed into the air, time after time, by the happy Russian mob. 1 saw be was struggling with two conflicting thoughts—rescue the Red Dean, or leave him to the mob.
“Take the wheel,” be said finally. “He’s a bloody man, but he’s an Englishman.”
For the first postwar anniversary of the October Revolution, Molotov threw a big party. Late in the evening he bore down on a group with which I was standing. As the group included two ambassadors, a general and one minister, I gave ground.
“Oh, no, Mr. Gilmore,” he said in Russian, “1 want you.”
Slightly amazed, 1 stood my ground.
“You don’t like censorship, do you?”
I he asked.
“No,” I said, “no correspondent j does.”
“Then,” said Molotov, “what do you I say if 1 propose reciprocity?”
That still didn’t mean much to me, j hut 1 didn’t want to haggle in public I with the Foreign Minister. By now we : were surrounded by nearly a hundred j people. I had to say something.
I “1 think that would be fine,” 1 said.
“Then,” said Molotov, “it shall be done. Let’s drink a toast on it!”
A waiter handed me a full glass of the national firewater. I touched glasses with the Foreign Minister. We knocked back the contents at a gulp.
The Foreign Minister raised his glass, Russian style, above his head and turned it upside down. This is to show that you have drunk to the bottom. The only trouble was Molotov hadn’t drunk to the bottom. A heeltap splashed his massive forehead and trickled down his famous nose glasses.
The Foreign Minister smiled, shook my hand and stalked away, his wine bearers following.
U. S. Ambassador Averell Harriman drew me aside.
“Reciprocity,” he told me, “that's the word Molotov uses when he thinks he’s giving you something. Maybe he has.”
The next day we saw with amazement. that the Soviet censor was not censoring any of our telegrams. As fast as we sent them in to him, he returned them for transmission to the United States. This kept up for nearly thirty beautiful days and then the old blue pencil began cutting our hearts out again.
vAr ☆ ☆
Tt’s my belief that Georgi Malenkov had to make a deal with the armed forces to ever get L. P. Beria, the late Chief of the Secret Police. That was an amazing achievement on Malenkov’s part. The quick and deadly elimination of his closest rival. To bring this off, 1 believe he got in debt to the armed forces. He may have to pay that debt some day. And when the armed forces backed Malenkov against Beria, the armed forces—for the first time in a very long while—became stronger than the Secret Police. This, I think, has been one of the most important developments in the Soviet Union for many years.
☆ ☆ ☆
Tn 1946 I won the Pulitzer Prize for an interview with Stalin—and I won an exit visa for Tamara and our first daughter, Victoria. After we spent three happy months in the U. S., the Associated Press asked me to go back to Moscow and—against the advice of many friends—I went and took my family with me. By the time our second daughter, Susanna, was horn the Cold War was blowing very frigid, and I was once more trying to get my Russianborn wife and our family out of the* Soviet Union.
Admiral Alan G. Kirk, when he was U. S. Ambassador, raised the question with Andrei Gromyko, when he was Deputy Foreign Minister. I wrote letters to Stalin. The general manager of the Associated Press wrote letters to Stalin. My mother appealed to him. Silence. Which, of course, was the same as saying “No.”
I wasn’t the only American in Russia with a Russian wife. Some of the Americans who had been forced to leave loved their wives and their wives loved them. They just wanted to he together. But the husbands were not in a position to remain on in the Soviet Union.
When they left, the MVD went to work. Several of the Russian wives wrote letters that appeared in the Moscow papers. They denounced the United States and their husbands and asked for divorces. One of the girls who hadn’t seen her husband in a long time told me about her case. “They just brought me the letter and told me
to sign,” she said. “There was nothing else for me to do.”
Several of the wives disappeared, arrested by the Secret Police.
One afternoon Tamara entered our apartment in tears. “I was taken off the street today,” she said, “on the way to market. They took me to an apartment. They were nice. Oh, so very nice. And they told me I should divorce you.”
“And what did you tell them?”
“I told them they could do with me what they wanted to but I’d never divorce the man I lov and the father of my two children.”
The last years were rough on Tamara and the other Russian wives. They had no Russian friends. Tamara’s mother, sister and brother were forbidden to visit our apartment. “It’s a dangerous house,” they were told. Tamara was allowed to go to see them in their apartment, but I didn’t see them for three years.
I went back to the States again, alone, in the winter of 1950-51 and began moving heaven and earth to achieve two things: First, a re-entry visa so that I could go back to Moscow; second, an exit visa for Tamara and the children so that we could all get out again.
I waited with mounting impatience in the States for my visa—it had been promised to me in Moscow before I left -and finally the AP reassigned me temporarily to Paris. 1 sweated it out there, never knowing for sure whether I’d ever be allowed to see my family
Sometimes Tamara would take Vicki and Susanna to the Moscow Central Telegraph to call me on the longdistance phone. They wouldn’t let her talk to me from the apartment. The sounds of the little girls’ voices begging me to come back to them were almost more than I could stand.
I recall only with agony those telephone conversations with Tamara in Moscow, “Hoaney, when are you coming back to us?”
I dared not tell her the dreadful truth, that it might be never.
“Pretty soon now, Tomka. You just wait, darling. Everything’s going to be all right.”
“But, Hoaney, Vicki and Susanna and I, we wahnt to see you so much—.” “1 know it, Tomka, and I want to see you all very much. I’m doing everything I can. Now, listen, whatever you do, don’t lose hope. I’ve always come back to you and I’ll do it this time.”
“1 beleef you, Hoaney. Gudbye. I luf you.”
How did I get the return visa?
The American Embassy in Moscow and the State Department in Washington worked out a plan.
The Soviets applied for a visa for a Russian correspondent to go to New York. The U.S.S.R.’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was allowed to understand that there would be no American visa for this Russian correspondent, or any other one, until there was a Russian visa for Gilmore.
Mine was forthcoming in about ten days. Ten of the longest days I ever spent.
I took a plane to Moscow on the night of May 18, 1951, and was reunited with Tamara and the children. Tamara met me at the airport in the old Russian manner—with an armful of flowers.
“And now,” I said to her, “let’s start thinking about how to get out of here.” “Do you really think there’s any chance?” she asked.
“Frankly, as long as Stalin is alive, I just don’t know. But this I do know. Something can happen in world affairs that can completely change the situation. It can change overnight.”
Lady Kelly, wife of the British Ambassador, told Tamara one night that any time she wanted to she could move with her children into the British Embassy. “There,” she said, “you will be safe.”
☆ ☆ ☆
The Hate America campaign was now in the stretch and I realized that any more pressure by me in Moscow toward getting that all-important exit visa was foredoomed. I took up my work again as George Kennan arrived to replace Admiral Kirk as U. S. Ambassador.
“I bring you a message from your friend, Eddie Condon,” said Kennan, whom I’d known for nine years. “He asks why you didn’t tell him that I, the new Ambassador, was a pork-chop man.” A pork chop man is a guitar player.
“Because,” I told George, “I thought you were an ambassador now.”
“Yes, but still a pork-chop man. Have we still got one at the embassy?”
I thought that a good beginning for an ambassador.
Kennan, the Communists knew, was the author of the “containment plan,” the basis of the then foreign policy of the U. S. They didn’t like it and they didn’t like him. They announced that they didn’t want him as ambassador any more when, in reply to a question, Kennan replied that life for an American in Moscow was much like it was for an American during the time he was interned in Germany.
President Eisenhower’s appointment for the difficult post was Charles E. (Chip) Bohlen and it was a happy day for me when he stepped off the plane.
“Eddy,” he said, “I want you and Tamara to know that one of the first things I’m going to do over here is to try to get her out.”
He was as good as his word. One day after we had played deck tennis at the Netherlands Embassy, Bohlen phoned me at home.
“Is it bad news, Charles?” I asked.
He seemed to wait an eternity.
“It ain’t bad, kid,” he said at last.
I ran for my hat and then for a cab. At Spaso House, the American Residence, the ambassador greeted me and said: “I’ve just come back from seeing Vyacheslav.” (Vyacheslav is Molotov’s first name.)
“Well, boy, you’re sprung. Tamara gets her visa.”
You could have knocked me over with the Kremlin cannon. I tried to thank him.
“Don’t thank me,” laughed Chip. “A wooden Indian could have done what I did. Thank whatever it was that took Joe Stalin away.”
☆ ☆ ☆
On our last night in Moscow, Tamara and I broke away from a farewell party and went to say good-by to the nice kind people, whom I must have caused a great deal of trouble by marrying their daughter. But, if I did, they never referred to it and they never showed me anything but loving kindness.
I hadn’t seen them for three years until I stood before Tamara’s mother that night. She held an ikon in one hand and blessed us with it.
“You have my blessing, my son,” she said in Russian. “I give you my daughter and my granddaughters. Go with them and may God be with you all.” ★
In expanded form Eddy Gilmore's report on Russia will be published later by Doubleday und Co., New York.