Saturday, October 02, 2004

A quote from Masha Gessen's grandmothers story:

And then my grandmother got a summons. A phone call, actually, but at that time people could be arrested in many different ways: any time of the day or night, by a single person or a squad, taken away by foot, by car, by bread truck. They telephoned to tell her to report to Lubyanka, the headquarters of the secret police, at ten on the following day.

Everyone cried, no one slept, and her husband promised to raise the boy and care for her mother. They packed the usual basket: dried bread, sugar, soap, a sweater and a change of underwear. She had forgotten all about the JAFC; she thought she was being arrested for the congratulatory telegram she had sent to a Zionist organization in Warsaw on the occasion of the founding of the state of Israel. Decades later, she would learn that hers was the only telegram sent by a private individual from the USSR. She had been unable to restrain herself.

'So I take my basket and go to Lubyanka—oh, pardon me, at that time it was called Dzerzhinsky Square. I go to the entrance door they told me to go to. The guard looks in my bag, laughs like it's very funny, and says, "Young lady, people with these bags go through the other door. But that's all right. Leave it here so you can pick it up when you leave." He calls on the telephone and says, "Someone will take you to Major Ivanova's office."'

And a quote from John Kerry (from The New York Times' transcript of yesterday's debate):

Well, let me just say quickly that I had an extraordinary experience of watching, up close and personal, that transition in Russia because I was there right after the transformation and I was probably one of the first senators, along with Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, former senator, to go down into the K.G.B. underneath Treblinka Square and see reams of files with names in them. And it sort of brought home the transition to democracy that Russia was trying to make.

I couldn't believe he actually said "Treblinka" instead of "Lubyanka" when I was watching the debate live yesterday morning, and sometimes you can't really trust the people who do those transcripts - but this one seems credible.

Both Bush and Kerry have managed to squeeze quite a bit of Russia into their statements: stray nuclear materials, Beslan, Putin and the war on terror. I hope Kerry wins.

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