National Geographic : 1959 Sep
THOMAST. HAMMOND His smile bridging gaps between nationalities, the author dines with officials of a collective farm at Podbereztsy, near Lvov (page 397). Dr. Hammond, seated between his Intourist guide at left and his host, a worker on the kolkhoz, drank toasts to "peace and friendship" as he interviewed Mayor Stepan Moskva (second from right) and Comrade Silaev (right), farm director. seething mass of people. Peasant women with white scarves over their heads sat among piles of gunny sacks and wicker baskets, while children slept beside them. My sleeper was called a "soft" car, which meant that the compartments were fairly spa cious and the berths had springs. Next to it was a car marked "hard." Each compartment contained four wooden bunks. For an extra charge one could rent a thin mattress, a pillow, and sheets. Farther along was still another type of car, with no closed compartments, only triple wooden tiers for sitting and sleeping. Though Tamara had assured me there were no classes in the Soviet Union, certainly there seemed to be classes of travelers. At Riga I met Janis Vesmanis, a guide, who recited a little of Latvia's history. "We Latvians," he said, "have our own distinct language, completely different from Russian. Germans invaded this area in the Middle Ages, and they dominated us even 380 during the 200 years that Latvia was part of the tsarist Russian empire. In 1918 Latvia won its independence, and in 1940 requested admission to the U.S.S.R." (He failed to men tion that Soviet troops occupied Latvia before this "request" was made.) One afternoon in Riga I was caught in an unexpected summer shower and ducked into an ice-cream parlor. A woman, smiling shyly, spoke to me in English. "Excuse me, please, but maybe you are English or American?" "Yes, I'm American." "I beg your pardon, please, but would you speak with me a little? I teach English in a high school in Kursk, but I never have prac tice in speaking." We had a pleasant chat, during which she asked all sorts of questions about America. "What kind of films does Greta Garbo ap pear in now?" "She has not made any for years. Haven't you seen any recent U. S. films?"