Knowing that Dad was in the Army, where both his time and income were limited, must have been devastating news for my aunts. Their lifeline was disappearing.
I have often thought about conversations I wish I had had with my father about how he felt being stuck in the Army in Georgia while his family was suffering a world away. This is what I would say if I could just talk to him, or perhaps, write him a letter.
What did you know regarding the conditions under which your family was living? Much of the news reports that came out of the Soviet Union was censored, so I am certain that you were aware that it had to have been much worse than what was being reported in the news or sent to you in letters from your sisters.
Because the city of Moscow had been relocated to Kuibyshev, its diplomats, artists, authors, ballerinas and foreign news correspondents were living there. There was even an investigative journalist for Colliers Magazine from Brooklyn, New York–Quentin Reynolds–living at the Grand Hotel. Mr. Reynolds left just before your sisters arrived, but his stories helped me understand the deplorable conditions at the Grand, which were much worse for your sisters since they had no money to buy anything. They were surrounded by so many people, yet I am sure they felt so alone.
I learned from the diary that your sisters had spoken to several of the reporters about getting some assistance in trying to contact you. One was from Sweden, another from Palestine, and the third, from the Daily Herald in Boston. The gentleman from Palestine helped them draft a letter to President Roosevelt. I think they were growing weary and frustrated by the lack of help from the ambassadors at the embassy.
Mr. Reynolds wrote a detailed account of life in Kuibyshev, and he mentioned that the embassy was quite large since it was housed in a former schoolhouse. It made me wonder why they would not let your sisters stay there when they clearly knew they were so desperate for housing. I always believed our embassies were places of refuge for our citizens—even in the Soviet Union—so I just don’t understand why more could not have been done to help them survive.
It must have been so discouraging to receive correspondences from your sisters and from the State Department which omitted any references to either Uncle Pete or your parents. I found a telegram addressed to you that was sent in July—more than one year after you said you farewells to them. That was the first time I saw any references to them. In today’s world of such easy and seemingly instant communication, it is so difficult imagining what it must have been like to have been kept in the dark regarding them. At what point did you know what had happened to them, Dad?
You told us the story of how your father had given his spot inside the train station so a young mother could be with her child. That was an incredible act of generosity and selflessness on his part. You were so far away from all of them, Dad. How did you ever get through the days?