John Steinbeck and Robert Capa wrestle with their status in seeking some Soviet organization which would be willing to adopt and care for them during their month-long trip in the 1940s. Clearly, they fell through the cracks, being neither sponsored by the Writer’s Union nor taken on board by the foreign tourist board. Ultimately, they managed to latch on to Voks on the grounds of being a ‘cultural relation’.
A delightful account of venturing into unknown terrain at the height of the Cold War. Loved that closing comment on the availability of hotel rooms in Moscow.
‘But we still didn’t know who was sponsoring us. It would be either the Writer’s Union, we thought, or Voks, which is the cultural relations organization of the Soviet Union. And we liked to think of ourselves as a cultural relation …
The next morning we telephoned Intourist, which is the organization that takes care of foreigners. And we found that as far as Intourist was concerned, we had no status, we didn’t exist, and there were no rooms. And so we called Voks. Voks said they knew we were coming, but they had no idea we had arrived. They would try to get us rooms. That was very difficult, because all of the hotels in Moscow are full all of the time.’
Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. 18
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