OCTOBER 10, 1957
NEW YORK—I promised the Committee of Soviet Women, with whom I met in Moscow, to find out if it is possible to arrange an invitation to that group to visit the United States.
I told them I would try to get a group of people together, starting with the National Council of Women of the U.S., to go through the preliminaries of such a visit with the State Department.
Women on this Soviet committee had asked me why it is so difficult for them to get into the U.S. They said they had been trying to arrange a visit through a woman in the State Department for two years and had failed miserably. I asked them if they were sure they would be granted permission to leave the Soviet Union and they told me unequivocally that they were certain they could come.
Their great desire is to see the U.S. and to know the women of our country better. And I am convinced that one of the things that will benefit us is to have a greater interchange between the people of the Soviet Union and our own.
They need to know about us, just as we need to know about them. They live in a country where news of the outside world is difficult to acquire. Only by coming and seeing will they ever understand what this country is really like and what we mean by democracy and freedom.
Our backgrounds are completely different; our lives are completely different. We have to see to understand. Quite possibly they may prefer their own ways of life, but such interchanges may lead us to sufficient understanding so that we may be able to work out the kind of peaceful coexistence that our leaders talk about but seem completely unable to bring about.
There was one person in this group of women whom I had met back in the early days of World War II. Ludmilla Pavlichenko had come over with two young men to a student conference.
She was in uniform then, a sharpshooter in the Soviet army. Today her hair is graying, she is fairly stout and was dressed in a suit and blouse with the pin and star denoting that she was a hero of the Soviet Union. She is also chairman of former Army men of the Committee of War Veterans.
When we met, I did not recognize her until she spoke. She seemed happy to see me again. We talked of the days spent at the student conference and of the weekend some of the delegates spent with me at Hyde Park. She asked me to meet with her Committee of War Veterans and invited me to her home.
She and her husband are particularly well off, since they have a four-room apartment and only her mother lives with them. When I went to see her, her mother greeted me with great warmth. Retired at 60, she is in charge of the social welfare of a whole group of apartment houses.
One wall of their living room was lined with books. Ludmilla told me that she managed the household's finances and always set aside a certain amount for buying books. A hero of the Soviet Union is entitled to special consideration, and I imagine that is why she had such exceptional comfort in her living room.
She told me they spend a large part of their income on food and eat very well, spending about 350 rubles ($35) a week for the three of them. She told me they have an abundance of fruit, meat and borsch every day. Of course, they also have substantial quantities of tea and bread. On occasions they have caviar and elaborate cakes.
When I met with the war veterans I found that a great many of them still suffered from war disabilities. As the committee crowded around the table to talk with me, the first questions were as to what my government did for war veterans.
They were quick to tell me that their government gave all war veterans who had difficulty in walking some kind of vehicle for transportation, and they seemed to feel that their government was granting as much in the way of benefits as was ours.
They, too, said they would like above everything else to have an opportunity of meeting with U.S. war veterans. I confess that I wondered whether the American Legion would invite a group of Soviet war veterans to visit them. I still feel, however, that it would be advantageous if all of our veterans groups would get together and arrange for such a visit. They assured me that they would be delighted to invite any American veterans to the Soviet Union.