One of the first things that we did when we arrived in Leningrad was to visit the massed graves of that horrific event, the Siege of Leningrad, from World War II. Our leaders laid a wreath at the Memorial. The drizzle added to the atmosphere. Ironically I realized that the amplified music playing was ‘Traumerei’ by that German composer, Robert Schumann.
We visited St. Vladimir’s Church where a Mass was in progress. It was fun to interact to the parishioners as they exited the church. One of them asked me if I liked Ronald Reagan. I said that I didn’t like his administration very much since I didn’t agree with his party’s positions. I asked him if he liked Bresnev. He laughed a bit and said, “Yes, I have to!”
We saw city buses, and Russian vending machines. One day on the street Burt was approached rather surreptitiously by a man that asked him how much he wanted for his gloves. Burt said that he needed them and didn’t want to sell them. The man persisted, asking several times; Burt finally relented and gave him the gloves for some rubles. The man sidled behind a post to exchange the money—apparently this was an illegal transaction. The exchange concluded, Burt began to move on when the man tapped him on the shoulder and said, “How much for the hat?”
Then finally it was time for the supreme treat of all—The Hermitage! This museum was built by Catherine the Great in 1764 and opened to the public in 1852. There are three million items in the collection with only a small percentage on view at any one time. We especially enjoyed the Impressionists—who doesn’t, but the main stairway sets the stage for this most exquisite art museum.
An evening at the Kirov Ballet rounded out our time in Leningrad. The old European small theaters are so charming. One of our group who seemed to know a lot about ballet didn’t think it was very good! Still we were glad we went.
We were ready to go home. At the airport there was a delay because of the Jewish supporters challenging everyone that interviewed us or interacted with us. There was talk about confiscating the film taken by the TV personality that came with us. After a couple of hours delay, we were finally allowed to leave.
While we were not able to interact directly with many Soviet citizens, it was still fulfilling to have gone behind the Iron Curtain and to have spent some time in Moscow and Leningrad. We exchanged lapel pins with a number of people. We were pleased when Russians accepted lapel pins of the American flag, which they wore with delight! We were very glad we went.