Monday, May 9, 2016

TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Preview Years later, the Peace Resource Center--which Mum later established in Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, and which houses her personal library, her own writings and the biggest collection on materials about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, war, peace and nuclear weapons in the country--contacted me. The director wanted to publish To Russia with Love in English. They had an editor and publisher ready to move on it.
     Fortunately I knew where the only extant manuscript was. I got it out and read it for the first time in 50 years, the first time since I'd written it.
     It brought back intense memories. It was a bizarre trip in many ways--a middle-aged American couple with two teenagers, a Japanese-American friend, and two cats confronting the Great Russian Bear in a 50-foot ketch. Our reception was even more surreal, involving legs of mutton and 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel--and a Cold War encounter with real Russians.
     Here's what I wrote in To Russia with Love regarding October 21, the day we approached the Russian coast:


     Skipper wanted to sail into the harbor at noon, with all our sails up, for everyone on shore to note and question. Ted wanted to sneak in at night, when no one would see us coming and turn us away. “I think it’s better,” Ted had said, “to be there in the morning, already at anchor.”

     We had an inkling just before two o’clock, when a low-flying airplane from the direction of Vladivostok flew over us, turned around, and rushed back to home base, that there would be no sneaking in and being there. I would very much like to have been in the control tower which picked up the message, “A small yacht under the American flag, carrying men, women, and animals, is approaching Nakhodka Harbor at a speed of approximately two miles per hour, and is presently twenty miles offshore. I wish you’d go out there and see what this is all about!”

     “They’ll probably have a story in Pravda tomorrow, about the party of deviationists who tacked their way into Nakhodka,” joked Skipper. “You know, this is the only place in the world where I know I won’t be called a Communist!”

     At two, a dowager ship appeared on the horizon. . . It approached rapidly and we could see that it was a large navy vessel—the Russian reply to the American destroyer, Collett, which escorted us to Kwaj after our arrest in the Pacific test zone in 1958. . . (It) pulled up alongside us. The gun stations were covered, but every one of them was manned. . .

     Darkness closed in at seven. . . 

     It came rapidly, noisily, and in complete, alarming blackness. . . a pilot-boat type a bit bigger than the Phoenix. . . When it was close, we were again washed with light for an instant. Someone yelled what we finally understood was “Stop! Stop”! . . . We turned into the wind, and took down the main and mizzen, while this Russian version of the Coastguard cutter Planetree stood by.

     Until we were under bare poles, and I could tie the tiller, I stood in the cockpit shivering and trying not to. It wasn’t that cold, but even my knee-bones shimmied uncontrollably. Then I went forward to wait.

     Fate, with a steel hull, pulled alongside to starboard. . . Several officers jumped aboard. . and one of the officers. . . asked—in Japanese—if they could go below and talk. . .

     Still shivering, I went aft, where—amid a two-foot stack of letters, telegrams, pleas for peace, and petitions signed by thousands of Japanese people, three armloads and box of symbolic paper crane leis. . .  the Russian officer was saying, in fluent English:
     “I am very sorry, but I cannot take these. I have not the time to read them all; if I pass them out to the people, they would not be interested. They wouldn’t understand. I am only an official—I cannot give these to the government.”
He waited almost pleadingly for one of us to say something, but we had nothing to say. Mum looked sorrowfully into the depths of the table; Skipper, and Ted, who had just come in, studied the floor.
     “Your mission is accomplished, I think,” he said. . .
     In the next silence, the officer reached out as if for reassurance and pulled Miri onto his lap. Mum had already told him her name [Mir i droozba, Peace-and-Friendship], and perhaps he was drawing strength from the significance of it. . .”

    


 
     To Russia with Love can be ordered from the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, c/o Tanya_Maus@wilmington.edu and all proceeds go to them. I thank my talented cousin Gina Sammis for her help with the cover design. Note: Be sure your copy has tucked into it the 1-page foreword, the dramatis personae which was left out by mistake and needs to be included so the reader will know who and what the story is about.

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