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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Adamson visits the Soviet Union

During the mid-1930s, Adamson accompanied her sister and brother-in-law on a tour of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While there, she was very favorably impressed by the Russians, an impression she justifies by explaining that the American visitors never saw the nation without official guides who interpreted and monitored all the information they received.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Could you tell me a little bit about the trip that you went on, what your impression was of the Soviet Union, where you went, what you saw.
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes. We went on the Polish linear, the Batory, which is still in existence I understand. We landed in Copenhagen and stayed there for about a week. Harold had been to a workers' school of some kind outside of Copenhagen, so he was familiar with the set-up and he was an excellent guide to getting acquainted in the first foreign city that I lived in.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He had been at this school earlier?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes, that's right. He had been at this school while he was still in school. He had managed to go to this school, and I have just forgotten exactly what the name of it was and the location. I simply remember that he was an excellent person to introduce me to the first foreign country that I ever was in. We went from Denmark across the-the geography escapes me now; I know quite well. I guess it's the Kattegat.Anyhow, we went over to Sweden and then up to the capital of Sweden . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Stockholm?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Stockholm, yes. My mind, you can see, shows my sixty-seven years. . . . And stayed there, and that was when Stockholm was getting much talked about in this country because of its following what it called the "middle way" of trying to be in between the capitalist and the socialist economy. Again, Harold was informed about it and was a good person to give information about that beautiful city and the country. So this was a very stimulating experience for me. From Stockholm, we went to Helsinki in Finland and stayed there a few days, which was mostly memorable, as far as I was concerned, by the Finnish baths. Something entirely new experience. Then we went by train from Helsinki to Leningrad and stayed in Leningrad for about a week. Leningrad, as you know, is a beautiful city with a tremendous history. Part of the tremendous history is the Russian revolution, the historic sites there. The Hermitage museum was really the best museum I had ever, ever been to-an enormous collection of the French impressionists and of the great artists of all around. There's no sense in my talking about the history of the Hermitage. It's well known. But that was a very stimulating and awarding trip there to Leningrad. Then we went on by train to Moscow, and there again, there were all sorts of things. There was a friend of Mildred's who had worked for the YWCA in Moscow. She had left for reasons I don't quite recall. But anyhow, she left Mildred introductions to some of the people that she had known in Moscow, including a woman who had worked in the office or something or other and had been connected with Lenin. We went to see her in her small apartment where she lived. Remember, I was rather young., and I was uninformed. This was a very stimulating system. Then the Pushkin museum, the modern art museum in Moscow is wonderful. We lived across the Moscow River. We could see the Kremlin across the river, but I never went in the Kremlin. Whether it wasn't possible to get tours; it was not as open in the Soviet Union as it is now. It was not as easy to go to these places. One had to have an in-tourist guide who went with us all the time, someone who could translate for us and arrange the trips that we wanted to make. There was very little of my being able to go out alone, not because of restrictions but because even though I tried hard to learn some Russian before I went, I did not have really enough to manage. I can remember, though, going somewhere or another and written out the name of the place where I wanted to go, and how very kind the people on the streetcar were about being helpful and showing me where to get off, and exactly showing it. So I got a friendliness towards the Russian people because of their friendliness to us. It developed further in the course of that six-weeks tour that we had. We went from Moscow over to the Volga, and there again, my memory falters about the river port on the Volga where we got the steamer and went down the Volga River for about four or five days, down to what was called Stalingrad. I believe it had some other name at that time, but I can assure you in the course of later years, I remembered very well that stay in Stalingrad because it was a developing, industrial city there on the Volga River. It was a most interesting experience to be there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you very much in tune with and aware of different forms of industrial development, of cooperatives being set up? Were you able to see?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I was not. I had a boyfriend in New York who, I think he was probably a Communist. No, I didn't inquire; it was none of my business. But anyhow, as a going-away present, he gave me the Webbs' book. I took with me those two thick volumes in my limited baggage that I had to take their story better. So I tried to study as much as I could before-hand to see what they had to say about the Soviet society. I wanted to learn, and believe me, I had much to learn.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you were in Stalingrad, though, what was involved in being excited about it, being a developing industrial area? What was most memorable about that?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I expressed myself badly. I say I was interested in the industrial city and the development. But because of the later history of Stalingrad, my somewhat short time there and limited experience came back to me vividly when Stalingrad got to be the crucial battle in the war later on.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
As you were traveling, were you aware-this was in the summer of 1936.
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
'36? I'd have to stop to figure. I don't believe it was '36. I think it was '35, but it may have been '36. I would have to count back to be sure about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you aware of Stalin coming into power, of a change in Russian society, or in Europe at large of a growing fascist threat?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes, I was somewhat aware of it. On that same trip, we were routed back to spend one or two nightsin Berlin. I knew a little bit of German because I'd had it in college, so I could talk fairly well. I remember going to a restaurant and striking up a conversation with a woman, and asking her about Hitler. She told me about how I could walk up and see the place where Hitler lived. We were right in the city. I was very much in opposition to the Nazi government. As a matter of fact, I had first learned about that, I remember vividly, from Oscar Coffin in my journalism class at Chapel Hill. One day we had been given the assignment to write a story about what seemed the most significant event that was taking place since we read the newspapers. I've forgotten what I wrote about, but Mr. Coffin pointed out to us that the most significant thing that was in the papers at that time was the Nazi conquest of Germany, the Hitler development. So, I had had not very well informed but some knowledge of what was going on.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you, or were Harold and Mildred very optimistic about what was going on in Russia and the whole possibility of a different kind of social system?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
We were very much interested about it. Harold, particularly, was well informed about it. He's a student of these things, and he was well informed. Mildred also knew a good bit more about it. They will tell you about that. In comparison to me, they were quite well informed.