MAY 31, 1957
HYDE PARK—I noticed the other day a report of the death of Mrs. Anna M. Pankratova, a Soviet historian. Her specialty was the history of the Soviet working class and she was an active member of the Communist party's Central Committee.
I met her last September in Geneva, when for the first time the Soviet Union sent a delegation to the World Federation of United Nations Associations.
They had just formed a U.N. Association in the Soviet Union, and there was some discussion as to whether the federation, which is composed of voluntary membership organizations, could accept an association that undoubtedly was controlled by the Soviet government. It was finally decided that as long as the Soviets were members of the U.N. their Association For The U.N. had a right to be a part of the world federation.
Mrs. Pankratova headed the delegation and proved to be an able leader. I had several opportunities to talk with her at some length and I liked her personally very much. She was simple and very human.
When someone expressed the hope that there could be more harmony between the ladies of the United States and the Soviet Union than there had been between their two countries, I told her that I feared one reason for the lack of harmony was that when she and I used the same words we did not always mean the same thing. For instance, to us in America freedom meant freedom of the individual to think and act as he pleased as long as he did not hurt other individuals or his country, and to us government must serve the needs of individuals and individuals must not be pawns of the state.
She did not answer me directly, but started to tell me the story of her life—how she had been a poor child from a rural area, how a teacher had helped her and urged her on and made her work for the opportunity which finally gave her an advanced education. She said her government had given her this education free and that every advantage she had ever enjoyed had come from her government. How, she asked me, could she separate freedom which she might have as an individual from the freedom which her government gave her?
She did not realize that she was proving the very thing that I had said, that our concept of individual freedom is very difficult for anyone with a Soviet background to understand.
I was grieved to learn of her death, for I felt that it might be possible to talk with her more freely in the future and that perhaps both of us might gain in understanding.
There seems, on the whole, to be a sense that we are moving forward to some kind of accomplishments in the Near East. But when I try to define in my own mind why we have this feeling, I am unable to see that we have taken one single real step forward.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser is still recalcitrant, though perhaps a bit less sure of himself. Agreement on the canal is not yet reached. And, so far as one can see, no Arab state has yet achieved sufficient security at home to be willing to accept Israel as a neighbor and to sit down and discuss their mutual difficulties. I hope for more concrete basic steps toward settlement soon.
(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 31, 1957
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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