A year ago last December my wife and I journeyed to Moscow. I was going as a specialist for the United States Information Service [sic — actually the U.S. Information Agency]. My job was to work with our half of an exchange exhibit of graphic art.
I had a project. This of course, was in addition to my work with the graphic show.
My project was to illustrate with a picture, or pictures, the elementary schools of Russia. Look magazine was definitely interested so I made my inquiries among our personnel at the exhibit and also at the American embassy. They, in turn, put in a request that I meet the minister of education in Moscow.
Things move slowly in Moscow — at least for an American with a project. Not only is there a vast bureaucracy, but there is an amazingly devious procedure that just can not be cut short. Then, too, there’s an atmosphere of mutual distrust.
After some weeks I was given an interview with the assistant minister and stated what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to paint a small country school, and its students, that would be comparable to just such a school in America, and that I wanted to do it honestly and fairly, as a way toward mutual understanding. His associates were most smiling and amiable, and said that there were no small country schools near Moscow, but that they would arrange that I should visit an elementary school. I was very happy, we all bowed, and I left the massive building which was just off “Red Square.” Two or three weeks later I hadn’t heard. Then I talked to my embassy and exhibition friends and they laughed and said, “You’ll never hear from them.” But I was sure they were wrong because the officials had been so amiable and cooperative. Then another week went by and I began to get a bit restless.