My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MOSCOW—Our first visit here was with the American ambassador, Llewellyn E. Thompson. He and his wife came here from his previous assignment in Austria, and I think that in some way life must seem different to them.

I met them in the U.S. embassy office building here which was built some four years ago and already shows signs of wear and tear.

I am inclined to think that necessity for speed in building has somewhat reduced its quality, meaning both frequent repair work and an earlier need for replacement. But that is almost an inevitable result of having to bring about great changes very quickly, particularly after the war which here, as in many other countries, brought an enormous amount of devastation.

In our own efforts to catch up with our needs in housing in the United States, which suffered no devastation but simply was forced to curtail the use of building materials during the war, I also have seen certain housing developments which I didn't think lived up to FHA standards.

Therefore, one must admire the tremendous efforts made in building here in Moscow which, I am sure, were duplicated in many other parts of Russia. Nevertheless, I am doubtful as to whether the cost of upkeep and replacement won't come upon the Soviets quicker than is economically desirable.

After our visit with the ambassador, we returned for a long session with the chief of the Intourist Bureau at thy National Hotel. We went over our travel plans and timetables with care, and already I am sure I won't be able to visit as many places as I wanted to see. But I will go to Tashkent in Central Asia next week.

The weather here has been pleasant and warm, and in this respect I think we have been fortunate so far. Women are still wearing light cotton or silk dresses or skirts and blouses in the streets. Practically no women wear hats. Occasionally they tie scarfs around their heads.

The food at the National Hotel, where we are staying, is excellent. Many people told me I would have difficulty adjusting to the different cooking of foods, but so far none of our party seems to have had any trouble.

Dr. David Gurewitsch, who together with my secretary, Miss Maureen Corr, is accompanying me on this trip, and I joined a long queue making its way slowly toward the tomb of Lenin and Stalin. This is one of the real sights of Moscow, I think.

I understand that ever since 1924 thousands and thousands of people have come daily, progress slowly to the door of the tomb, enter and pay their respects, and leave by another entrance.

There is an honor guard at the tomb which is changed periodically, so even when the tomb is closed there is a crowd to watch the changing of the guard.

Pigeons come down to be fed in a corner of Red Square past which the long queue extends, and a woman on the sidewalk sells food for the birds in small envelopes. People break out of the line, particularly small children with their coins, to buy these envelopes of food and feed the pigeons, just as they do in Piazza Di St. Marco in Venice.

But not even the smallest child throws away the empty envelope, but instead they give it back to the woman. This was significant to me because it accounts in part for the cleanliness of this great city.

Women with long-handled brooms, each allocated an area, sweep the streets constantly. Although I have not seen them, I am told that machines hose down the streets in the very early morning. They must be washed in some way, for I have never seen a cleaner city. And the people themselves must cooperate in a most astonishing fashion.

How this cooperation is brought about I don't know. There are militia, as they are called, instead of police in the streets, and they keep strict order. But their efforts alone, I think, could not achieve these results. There must be an element of pride in the city which stimulates the people themselves to greater care than is usually evident in city populations.

We also visited the Kremlin museum and Lenin's apartment. The museum has some wonderful collections of jewels, icons, crosses, plates and goblets. There also are some beautiful collections of silver presented by different countries through their ambassadors in the days of the czars, and some porcelain, chiefly from France.

One showcase of lace made in Russia was outstanding, and the costumes were interesting.

The czars didn't live much in this palace, but they came for coronations and occasional visits. In the apartments which they used were the usual type of furnishings with some beautiful service of china.

Lenin's apartment is a contrast, for though it is in the Kremlin, he wished to live as nearly as possible the way the workers lived and, to some extent, seems to have succeeded.

One thing Lenin could always completely control was his food, and we were told that his meals were frugal. As an example, in the evenings he had only tea with sugar and black bread. If guests came, a little jam would be added.

Despite this frugality, his study and adjacent room, where meetings of his government took place, showed he held the reins of power with a concept of the potential strength of the great nation he was beginning to build, was widely read, and a highly intelligent and cultured man.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Moscow (Russia) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 10, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Nevada State Journal, , SEPTEMBER 10, 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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Transcription created from a published My Day column instance. Nevada State Journal, SEPTEMBER 10, 1957, page 4