My Japanese year was the best in all my life. So happy, so well-remembered that I look back on it through the gathering mist of my coming old age with an aching nostalgia.
Arcadi and I were very much in love and enjoyed to the full the great happiness of being at long last together. We were getting to care more and more for one another as we understood one another better and became increasingly intimate both physically and mentally. Life was full of laughter, thanks to his gift of humor and my release for awhile from the nagging money worries of the past. I described what I felt to Mother in sentences I could not improve on today:
“I can realize now the sweetness and joy of your life with Dada and the terrible loneliness afterwards. You, dear, and I think I also, for a time at least-have enjoyed a perfect companionship which simply does not admit of pretenses and squabbles and flirtations, which do in fact come into the life of most people. I waited a very long weary time Mother, and it only came just in time to save me from taking a third or fifth best or, rather, nothing.”
We lived very simply, for although Arcadi was earning £100 a month, we hoped to save enough money to buy an apartment in Moscow when we returned – which meant stringent economizing in view of the dependents we both had to provide for.
In addition to “Mrs. B.” Arcadi had a son in Poland by his first wife whom he was educating, and I had Mother. Besides it hardly seemed worthwhile buying anything but the minimum essentials of furniture and other things since we thought we would be in Japan only a few months. We went on with one table, two chairs, two knives, two glasses and plates, and that was about all. We slept on the floor as the Japanese do on “foutons” but later an old divan was lent to us. It was a Japanese house in which we had two rooms. It was all made of paper and thin wood. No glass and you could put your fingers through the walls in many places. I kept on making holes in the paper so we had plenty of fresh air coming in! There were also plenty of rats which disturbed Arcadi’s sleep but I was too deaf to hear them.
By summer 1929 we had four rooms. We went on existing with two writing tables, one round table and three straight chairs, and were still sleeping on the floor-but had acquired six sets of knives, forks, spoons and china. I could see us going on for years like this, always thinking we were not going to stay put more than a few weeks and then staying months. I didn’t really mind. It made life “very simple” and I was far too happy with Arcadi.
Moreover, as compared with earlier years of my life, and the future which awaited us in Moscow, we were in clover. We had plenty to eat and ample living space and no serious money troubles.
In addition, as rarely afterwards in my life, I did not have to do the cooking or washing up. We had acquired a wonderful servant. Arcadi had been joking for a long time that since he lived with me he was kept starving, and after I had been in bed for a few days with an ulcerated throat, we thought we had better do something. So I got rid of my inefficient charwoman and engaged an Amah. After a week she had become a pearl beyond price. She cooked well and was scrupulously clean. We were living as we had never lived. Three regular meals a day! It was too good to be true. Of course, our living expenses went up but we were eating good wholesome food and enough. It was a great change. It was also rather a joke because we had to live up to our servant. She was used to a “proper household.” We had to use serviettes, but Arcadi had never accustomed himself to doing without them. Best of all, he was beginning to go to bed earlier. He advanced his usual bedtime from 3:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.! We were forced into regular habits. We paid her 50 yen a month ( £5) and she lived in but found her own food. I hoped she would stay for I expected we were in for a lot of lean living again in the future, so we might as well live a bit better while we could. However, we still didn’t buy a bed as it didn’t seem worthwhile.
We surmised that our invaluable Japanese servant was, of necessity, a spy. But she was a very nice one. She became so friendly that she told us she had to report on us daily to the Security Police. This did not worry us since there was actually little or nothing for her to report about either of us.
Arcadi’s mission to Japan was for the purpose of investigating the possibilities of expanding the market for “Santonin,” a medicine extracted from a plant grown only in Turkestan, which cured the worms which afflict and debilitate the people of all rice culture “night soil” fertilizer Asian countries.
Nowadays there are chemically produced synthetics which are equally efficacious, but at this time Russia had a monopoly on the drug and Japan was the largest consumer, because the Chinese and other rice culture countries were too poor to buy Santonin. Arcadi had to study the market situation and decide whether lowering the price would increase sales in Japan and elsewhere, or whether maintenance of the very high Russian monopoly price would be more profitable.
“Monopolistic capitalist” or “Soviet imperialist” as Arcadi’s business activities undoubtedly were, they were no more subversive than my investigations of the Japanese cotton industry.
It was, however, the fixed belief of the Japanese authorities that all Soviet employees must be doubling as Communist agents. So much so that when Arcadi was seeking a Japanese assistant in his Santonin promotion and advertising campaign, a well qualified young Japanese who applied for the job said to him, “I cannot do both.” “Both what?’ Arcadi asked, “Both business and Communist propaganda,” he replied.
Wonderfully naive Japanese, I used to think. But they were perhaps no more naive or misguided than Americans today who imagine that every Soviet technician or specialist abroad is clandestinely or openly engaged in Communist propaganda, whereas the truth in most cases is that he is just too, too, happy to have escaped for awhile from the “Socialist Paradise.”
In Japan in 1929 when life in Russia was not nearly so hard as it became later, the majority of Soviet employees at the Trade Representation and Embassy wanted above all to remain abroad.
Of course, they could not say so openly, but it was all too obvious. Those who dreaded most being recalled to Moscow were the men who suspected that their wives had married them only in order to go abroad and would divorce them if they were sent home. A notable case was that of poor Shubin, the middle-aged Counsellor of the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo whose beautiful young wife was the belle of the diplomatic corps. As only a high grade member of the Communist party could provide her in Russia with the standard of life she had become accustomed to in the capitalist world, she promptly divorced him after they were recalled to Moscow and married Voitinsky, a big shot in the Comintern who later became my “boss” at the Institute of World Economy and Politics in Moscow.
Shubin was a gentle, honorable, and kindly man, a Menshevik who never joined “the Party.” Nevertheless, he did not do at all badly for himself on his return to Moscow. After his lovely young wife had duly divorced him to take a higher place in Soviet society, Shubin married Anna Louise Strong, the foremost female American propagandist for the Soviet Union, whose “passionate stupidity” is described in Malcolm Muggeridge’s satire on the Soviet Union entitled Winter in Moscow. * In Moscow in the 30’s, Shubin, who was a small thin man, would appear like a small tug conveying an ocean liner when he accompanied his massively proportioned wife to Moscow parties.Shubin was purged in the late ’30s and Anna Louise Strong briefly arrested as I learnt on my 1938 lecture tour in America when I met her father, a devout minister, in Seattle, dreadfully worried at his daughter’s arrest. Terrified, or clinging to her Communist faith, Anna Louise Strong made all the necessary confessions and is today, in her 80’s, comfortably installed in Peking as the grand old lady of Western Communist society among a handful of other defectors.
The intrigues, the calumnies, and the factional struggles which went on in the small Russian colony of employees at the Trade Representation and Embassy in Tokyo should have taught us what to expect in the USSR. But we thought, or continued to kid ourselves, that this was because the Russian colony was composed of “intellectuals” and that in Russia the proletarians ensured a cleaner atmosphere.
Moreover, both the Ambassador, Tryanovsky, and the Trade Representative, Anikeev. were decent men and the same could be said of Ivan Maisky, later to become Ambassador to Britain, but at this time the Counsellor of the Embassy in Tokyo. Maisky’s wife and my friend Madam Anikeev were at daggers drawn and once during Tryanovky’s absence from Tokyo a telegram had to be sent to Moscow to settle the delicate question of precedence at Embassy dinner parties and Japanese state functions: who came first – the wife of Maisky, the Embassy Counsellor, or the wife of Anikeev, the Trade Representative? As far as I remember, the question was settled in Madam Anikeev’s favor. but the whole Russian colony was split into factions by the antagonism between these two women. They were fairly evenly matched, because although Maiskaya was a member of the Party and Anikeeva was not, Maiskaya had not joined the Bolsheviks until 1924, whereas Anikeev was not only an old Bolshevik but was also of proletarian origin, having once been a factory worker in France. Anikeeva being both a beautiful woman and intelligent, became a sort of First Lady, in spite of Maiskaya’s “old Bolshevik” qualifications. Tryanovsky”s wife, an unassuming lady, played no part in the faction fights of Red society. His first wife had been a Bolshevik when he was a Menshevik, and the story told was that during the civil wars she had condemned her husband to death when he was brought before her as a prisoner. Lenin himself had talked Tryanovsky over into joining the Bolsheviks and saved him from the death sentence imposed by his wife. I cannot vouch for the truth of this story, as whispered to me in Tokyo, but at least it explained Tryanovsky’s choice of a non-political, rather colorless lady as his second wife. It is more pleasant to have a wife not liable to shoot one on account of one’s political beliefs. (Decades later their son became a familiar figure in the West as Khrushchev’s interpreter.)
Soviet society cannot intelligibly be described without some account of the human element. Russian women are just as prone to social discrimination, pride in their social status, love of fine clothes and admiration, as women in “bourgeois” society. Soviet society has its hierarchies and its jealousies and never was composed of simple-minded, ardent revolutionaries with red cotton handkerchiefs on their heads, intent on constructing socialism regardless of personal advancement and the material comforts such advancement brings. The poorly dressed men and women who march in the demonstrations of the proletariat, to the admiration of foreign tourists, are most of them longing to change places with the “boyars of the bureaucracy”, the term used to describe the Communist aristocracy by Boris Souvarine in his monumental and unequaled book, Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, who watch them from reserved seats in the Red Square.
Despite my mainly political interests, I became interested in Arcadi’s business activities on behalf of the Soviet government. I followed his negotiations learning something about business and realized that it can be fascinating. At least when it is on a big scale such as Arcadi’s work where he had to use so many kinds of knowledge: finance, economics, and psychology. His understanding of people’s characters, motives, and weaknesses was astonishing. At the same time he was amazingly young and happy and sometimes absurdly playful. Even as I write of him now, I smile at memories of his whimsicalities.
Arcadi also taught me chess and was anxious that I should learn to beat him. We doubted that I ever would. Our son was to become a good chess player even as a child without benefit of teaching by his father. Today I often marvel at Jons resemblance to his father in qualities of mind, heart, intelligence, and above all, in understanding of people. Arcadi was a success in private business before he devoted his talents to the service of the first “socialist state,” and thereafter became an invaluable asset to his Communist “bosses.” Jon. following his graduation from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1956 was to achieve financial independence by making a success in business in South America.
Morgan Young, publisher and editor of the Japan Chronicle, had told me that once my connection with Arcadi was discovered I would find myself in difficulties and that the police might confiscate all my notes. Warned by him ahead of time that the Japanese authorities had caught up with me, I took his advice to deliver them for safekeeping to George Sansom, the Commercial Counsellor of the British Embassy to whom he gave me an introduction.
Approaching the British Embassy with some trepidation as a class-conscious Communist, I was met by George Sansom with the disarming remark, “What a lovely coat you have on” – referring to a dark blue Harris tweed coat which was my pride and joy, but which Arcadi and other Russians thought inelegant!
Years later in Moscow I was to discover in selling old clothes to a Tartar trader in order to buy food, that the garments regarded in England as best because made of handspun and woven material, were despised in Russia where only machine-made stuff, however shoddy, was considered valuable.
George Sansom, having already charmed me by his appreciation of my coat, proceeded to win my further confidence by agreeing to take all my precious notes on the Japanese cotton industry into safekeeping until such time as the danger had passed over. He also invited me to have lunch with him and his wife, Katherine, and later they visited Arcadi and me at our home and we gradually became good friends. Years afterwards in England, George (later Sir George) Sansom, internationally recognized as the foremost Western scholar of Japanese history and culture, told me that prior to my coming to see him he had been warned against me as a dangerous Communist agent by the British Foreign Office.
The Sansoms met the Chairman of the Soviet Trade Delegation, Anikeev, and his charming wife at our house, although the Soviet and British Governments and Embassies were not on speaking terms. George and Katherine both became quite attached to my husband, and George and Arcadi were mutually appreciative of each other’s qualities and knowledge. Arcadi was as reserved as any Englishman and made the kind of ironical jokes which appeal to the English but were to get him into trouble in Russia.
Katherine, who was quite a beauty and was always elegantly attired although not spending much money on clothes, endeavored in Tokyo in 1929 to improve my appearance. She took me to her dressmaker, and, more important, taught me to use cosmetics. I used powder, although not lipstick, and was not unfamiliar with Pond’s cold cream. But it was Katherine Sansom who gave me a pot of lemon complexion cream, took me to the first beauty parlor or hair dresser I had ever gone to, and in general interested me in my appearance – as my mother had tried and singularly failed to do.
Although I was by now living openly in Tokyo with Arcadi as his wife, my marital status was ambiguous. In Temple’s phrase, I had the choice between “sin or citizenship.” My living with Arcadi without any formalization of our marriage became generally known, and, of course, some people were shocked. George Sansom had known for some time, but he realized that it was only to keep my British citizenship and he was extremely decent. Also, Miss Henty, the missonary with whom I stayed before, was “perfectly ripping” about it. She said that I was really married, that it was just the same thing as if I were.
The Japanese police were naturally suspicious of me because of the secrecy of our relationship. I asked George Sansom for his protection. He told me to refer them to him if I had any trouble. Morgan Young had warned me some time before when I told him about my having a husband to whom I was not legally married that anyone who associated with Russians would be suspect in Tokyo.
The Professor at Keio University to whom the School of Economics had given me an introduction was I wrote “a beautiful example of things here.” I didn’t know what he knew about my personal affairs but thought that it was probably a good deal. One day when I went to see him. Bertrand Russell’s name came up and I saw he was anything but persona grata. This Professor had the cheek to say that Russell had shocked the Japanese very much by living there openly with a woman to whom he was not married! This, in a country where divorce for men was as easy as in Russia; where it was common for couples to live together for a year without registering their marriage; and where people who made their fortunes out of brothels were respected members of society. I planned to write and tell Russell about it, so indignant was I at his daring to criticize so great a man. Whether he was getting at me or not, I didn’t know. Anyhow, I looked forward with great joy to telling the School of Economics about it when I got back because he was the Japanese representative on the Economic History Society Committee.
I must here digress to explain my marital status, or lack of it, as also to pay tribute to the British authorities who both then and years later were as helpful as they could be in the circumstances. According to Soviet law at this time, it was sufficient to register as man and wife with the house management of the block in which one lived to be considered married, and this we had done. The further step of recording a marriage with the district Soviet authorities was extremely simple. As I had seen, when Arcadi divorced Anna Abramovna in 1928, there was a clerk at a table on one side of the room to register divorces and another some few feet away at which to marry. But, had we recorded our marriage at the Soviet divorce and marriage office I would have had to surrender my British passport and become a Soviet “citizen.”
Originally, I had wanted to retain my British passport in order not to encounter the difficulties which Soviet citizens experienced in obtaining visas to visit foreign countries. Later it was the fact that I had remained a British “subject” which saved me from being incarcerated forever in the vast prison house which Soviet Russia was to become.
When my son was born in Moscow in March 1934, I registered his birth with the Soviet authorities without giving his father’s name, and the British Embassy did me the great favor of inscribing Jon’s name on my passport with the proviso that he was not a British subject. And in 1940 in America, when applying for United States citizenship for myself and my son, a sympathetic British consul in New York who happened to have known my brother in the South Seas, gave me the precious document reproduced here:
8th November 1940.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
It is hereby certified that the form of marriage which Miss Freda Utley went through in Moscow in the year 1928 is not regarded by His Majesty’s Government as binding. Miss Utley is, therefore, considered officially unmarried and she therefore continues to hold a British passport in her maiden-name.
Miss Utley’s son, John Basil Utley, was included in her passport at His Majesty’s Consulate in Moscow, since she had chosen to register him under her own name, although he is not considered as a British subject for the time being.
This cleverly worded letter enabled me to escape from my old dilemma of “sin or citizenship” without any stigma of illegitimacy on my son.
* * *
Besides the most useful contacts given me by my missionary friend. Miss Henty, I had introductions from the London School of Economics which opened many doors. And I was fortunate in that on my first visit to Kobe I met and began what was to prove a life-long friendship with Morgan Young, the intrepid editor and publisher of the world renowned liberal weekly, Japan Chronicle, and author of several excellent books on Japan. He knew Russell and admired him. He was interesting,intelligent,and humane and was to remain my friend until his death in England at the beginning of the Second World War.
In general I was afforded a rare opportunity to acquire the information I required to write my book and the articles I had contracted to send to the Manchester Guardian Commercial Supplement on comparative costs of production in the Japanese and Lancashire cotton industries. I was hampered only by my lack of any mechanical or engineering training or of practical knowledge of the production process. I had visited a few cotton textile factories in Lancashire while at the London School of Economics but until I came to Japan I had no opportunity to master the many stages of the productive process which transforms a ball of raw cotton into the yarn which is eventually woven into cloth. So I had to pretend to be an expert until I actually became one. This required hard work and constant vigilance lest I betray my ignorance. While posing the questions, noting the answers, and checking them by my own observations of how many workers were standing at each machine producing so much per hour or day from carding to spinning to weaving, enabling me to calculate labor and other costs, I learnt to distinguish one machine from another in the whole complicated process.
I also had to beware of permitting myself to be overwhelmed by Japanese courtesy and hospitality to the extent of neglecting my primary interest in the condition of the Japanese proletariat. It was quite difficult to prevent myself from relaxing after a luncheon with sake toasts, following a strenuous morning walking through the many departments of a textile mill and cataloging my observations and the replies to my questions. I had to overcome both temporary lethargy and a certain reluctance to embarrass my hosts when I insisted on spending the rest of the day inspecting living conditions, and talking to the indentured girl workers who constituted the bulk of the labor force in the Japanese textile industry.
There were some embarrassing times when, myself treated as an equal by my Japanese hosts, I came up against their attitude to their own women. As when the managing director of a big textile mill in Nagoya invited me to dinner bringing his wife with him to the restaurant. I felt very uncomfortable when she knelt in the background to serve us. Or when I was bowed out of a room first while the Japanese women waited to follow the men.
I have never been much of a feminist since I usually like men better than women but I believe in equality of rights and opportunities for the sexes as well as for races and peoples. So I was outraged at the subordinate status of Japanese women in those days, as well as horrified at the exploitation of the women workers.
I remember one amusing episode: in a conversation with an engineer when responding to the usual Japanese enquiry in making social talk, “How many childs have you?” I dodged the question, not knowing whether it was by now known that I was married, and replied with the same query. Whereupon the Japanese engineer replied. “Two. and one in the course of production.”
Writing to Mother in March 1929, I say: “I believe I have done some good work. I have just sent a long article to the Manchester Guardian on spinning costs. My report goes very much against the Consular Report issued in 1927 and I think it will make a stir. Last Sunday I spent the day with Arno Pearce, the Secretary of the International Master Cotton Spinners whom I got to know in Manchester when the School of Economics sent me there. He was just leaving after three weeks in Japan and although he has not collected nearly so much information as I have-not visited so many mills – his results fit in fairly well with mine. He congratulated me on the work I have done and said it would be a good thing if I could go to India and study the industry there in the same way. I am afraid though that the expense makes this impossible.
“As I gave a good many of my figures to Pearce I am now in a great hurry to get my stuff published, as, although he would be too decent actually to use them, his report will probably be affected by them. So I have already rushed off one article.”
In another sentence in this letter which I read today with wry amusement at my attitude toward life in those distant days I concluded:
“Although I had felt that I had wasted a lot of my time here just being happy, I seem really to have done something.”
My second article, 5,000 words long on weaving, had really entailed a terrific amount of work. I had been working so hard I had “hardly missed Arcadi!” who had been away in Osaka. I asked Mother to telephone Emile Burns at the Labor Research Dept. and tell him that: “my conclusions show Japanese labor costs in spinning to be about one-half English ones and in weaving about one-third.”
My continuing contributions published in the Manchester Guardian Commercial Supplement in the spring and summer of 1929, for which I was paid £15 each provided some money for Mother, besides winning me recognition as an expert on the cotton industry at home and abroad. And my book Lancashire and the Far East* (although not published until 1931 on account of the refusal of Sir William Beveridge to permit the London School of Economics to sponsor it) was also to win me acclaim as the author of a valuable study even by those who disliked my Socialist and anti-imperialist viewpoint.
Once again I was given the opportunity to take my place as a scholar, economist, or expert in the “capitalist world” with a secure and profitable future. But all my life I could never “stick to one last,” or “cash in” on the successes I have achieved in one or another field of endeavor. My mental bent was toward research and the quest for facts, truth, and more than superficial understanding in every branch of knowledge in which I became interested. But my temperament impelled me to get involved in political fights which tarnished my reputation as a scholar; and to dissipate or spread my energies in too many different directions.
Happy as I was in Japan, I had a deep conviction that it was wrong to be living comfortably while surrounded by poverty, misery and oppression. Japan was giving me my first experience of a police state. It could not be compared to the apparatus of compulsion and terror I was to know in Soviet Russia, but the regime was sufficiently tyrannical and oppressive to keep my revolutionary fervor alive and make me feel guilty because I was enjoying life so much.
I decided I must tear myself away from Arcadi and return to England to work for the Communist Party. My letters to my mother reflect the conflict between what I conceived as my duty to humanity and the desire of my heart to continue the wonderful joy of life in Japan with Arcadi. In a letter dated July 5, 1929 I wrote:
“I suppose I really am coming back (probably by September). Now it is getting so close I dare not think of it. Forgive me, dearest, I want to be with you very much indeed but I can now hardly contemplate life without Arcadi … I feel a fierce desire to stay with Arcadi and seize what life offers in the present. And yet I know I must remain Freda and come home to do some work. I even feel and know I should not keep Arcadi’s love if I became just his wife.”
Two decades later, hearing Marlene Dietrich sing her unforgettable Berlin song with the refrain “Why in this earthly paradise are we in love with pain,” I remembered and wondered why I left Arcadi in Japan instead of enjoying to the full as long as possible the wonderful life we had there together.
Of course, no one knows his real motives. Perhaps it was not really my feeling that one has no right to great personal happiness so long as the majority of mankind starve and toil without joy. It may have been ambition or the desire to make my mark in the world, which is perhaps the same thing as love of power, which impelled me to leave Arcadi and return to work in the Communist Party in England. Or it may have been the feeling I expressed in several of my letters that Arcadi’s love for me was founded upon his conception of me as a revolutionary, an intellectual, an independent woman, not a “mere wife.” I felt that if I lost myself in his love I might lose it, that I must somehow continue being what I had been when he began to love me.
Although he knew he would be terribly lonely when I was gone, Arcadi encouraged me to leave him to go back to England to work for the Communist cause in which I still believed. Arcadi, even as I, believed in what the Webbs called the Vocation of Leadership, meaning the duty of all who long for social justice, to sacrifice personal happiness to political work.
Before tearing myself away from Arcadi to work in England until we could meet again in Moscow, we spent the best holiday we ever had together at Tsuruga on the northwest coast of Japan where we shared lodgings with some Russian friends. It was extremely hot but far better than Tokyo, since we had the sea to cool ourselves in and could go around in the cotton kimonos suitable to the climate. I taught Arcadi to swim and he did his best to improve my chess game.
Arcadi used to call me his ‘swan song’, meaning then, as I understood him, that after his previous unhappy marriages, he saw me as his last best love who gave him all he longed for in his personal life as both wife and comrade, and renewed his hope in the possiblity of creating a world where there should be no more man-made misery and injustice.
After I lost him, some ten years after we had found one another in London, I realized that he had been more prophetic than he knew, since the swan dies in singing its last beautiful song, and it was I who had lured Arcadi to death or slavery in Soviet Russia by renewing his faith that God’s kingdom on earth could be established by adhering to the godless faith of the Marxists.
In 1940 when I wrote The Dream We Lost* the only letter I possessed from my husband was one quoted at the beginning of the previous chapter. But while writing these Memoirs I found among my Mother’s papers a letter from Tsuruga Arcadi wrote to me in London a few days after we parted and I was on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to Moscow on my way home to England: My darling Fredochka,
I spent nearly a week in Tsuruga since you left and I have already a slight foretaste of what it will be like in the future. The most important is that however hard I try to adapt myself to the human milieu I find it nearly impossible. Humbug, cowardice and lack of culture, not to say refinement, seem to be all pervading with a few very rare exceptions. It is evident that the only way is seclusion, just as we secluded ourselves from all the world when you were here. This mode of living will secure at least that I shall not feel provoked by stupidity or cowardice to say unpleasant truths which are of no earthly use to anyone. I never had such a clear conception of how much the set habits and conceptions mean in the life of any community, as I learned here.
I shall miss terribly my darling comrade but I hope that you will make it worth while by attending to your hearing and preparing for our future life together. At the same time don’t neglect to create for yourself a proper footing in the things that interest you and are essential for you. Your personality should not get dissolved in the small family interests, it would have been too shortsighted, however great may be the temptation to do so.
My darling wife is really very much different from the other women I know, and I cherish that you are so different. I cannot help making mental comparisons and they are all in your favour. My swan song is bound to remain my swan song, however long the separation, and I only hope that you will not forget me. I am with you in my thoughts. I know each day your approximate whereabouts and it gives me some strange pleasure to know which point you have passed already and how far the train has carried you away to a place which will fill you with new joys and pleasure. I love you so very, very much. Yours, Arcadi In reading this letter so many years after, I recall with wonder that I was once so greatly loved by a man with such exceptional qualities of mind and heart as my long lost husband.
Today I regret nothing more in my life than not having savored my happiness to the full and lived out the brief periods Arcadi and I might have had together before we were incarcerated in a purgatory of our own choosing in Soviet Russia. Today, I not only know that the gods are jealous of human happiness but the way to cheat them is not to be afraid of them. To be alive at all is wonderful, and to have known, even for only a short while, the greatest happiness which life can give – to love and be loved utterly – gives life a savor even after it has all vanished with the snows of yesteryear.
To Arcadi, who did not live to see the transformation of the “capitalist system” in the West into a society of greater abundance and opportunities for all than had ever been known anywhere on earth, socialism, even as practised in Russia, still seemed to offer the only hope for the emancipation of mankind from want. He continued to believe, during the worst years in Russia that were to follow our honeymoon year in Japan, that men of good will, even under Stalin’s terrible tyranny, could eventually ameliorate the condition of the Russian people and show mankind the way to a better order of society.
Maybe Arcadi with his acute intelligence, sensitivity and lack of illusions would have been as unhappy in any society as he was in Japan after I left him there alone. He needed the sustenance of love and comradeship and faith that somewhere, somehow life can be good and beautiful, which I had given him while I was still young and full of illusions.
Several years later in Moscow he used to say that the position and perquisites of a Communist in the ruling hierarchy depended mainly on how much he had “invested” in the revolution before the Bolsheviks came to power. It is also true that the greater one’s commitment to the ideas in which one has staked all of one’s heart and mind, the harder it is to cut one’s losses. In spite of doubts, I could not let myself believe that the cause to which we wanted to devote our lives was a mirage. Neither I nor Arcadi could quickly cut loose and, by abandoning our tarnished hopes of helping to establish a better world in Soviet Russia, save ourselves.
We had to learn the hard way by bitter personal experience that bad means cannot establish good ends, but by that time it was too late to save ourselves. At various points in our lives it would have been easy for both of us to cut our ideological losses, pursue our personal happiness, and enjoy prosperity and security in the “capitalist world.” Particularly so in 1930 when he, still in the Far East, and I in England were both free to go wherever we wished. But like moths attracted to a flame which, considering that we both had better brains and more experience than most moths, we ought to have had the sense not to be destroyed by, Arcadi and I flew back to Moscow’s brilliant red light and to his ultimate destruction.