Our Past | 1960: Local girl has a look behind the iron curtain

Selected by Karen Larsen

The following excerpts are from a letter published in the Aug. 18, 1960 edition of the Waterville Empire-Press. Marion Koluda, the writer of the letter, was a Waterville girl who spent four months in Russia that year. According to the editor’s introduction, Koluda was in the country with her husband, Paul, on a Yale University research grant. The scholarship gave them the chance to “study, travel and make a survey of Russian schools and colleges.”

Koluda was the daughter of Frank and Isabel Malloy and the sister of Waterville resident Alice Ruud. Ruud said that Koluda, who passed away within the past few years, learned to speak Russian at the University of Washington.


Marion Koluda writes from Moscow

We have been twice to the Kremlin; then there is the Metro, Moscow University, and GUM — the government department store. Last night we saw a Siberian troupe perform at the Bolshoi Theater — a magnificent thing. Russian theater is absolutely perfect, and the affinity of the audience with the performers makes each show a real experience.

We talk to everyone and today it was students at the cafeteria of Moscow University. They are vastly interested in every word we say and, conversely, we are more than anxious to hear their story. We find people here, like people everywhere, curious about their neighbors. It depends upon what educational or vocational level you are dealing with (as to) what their interests are.

We spend a lot of time with a family from Centralia, the Niles Churchills. This does much to brighten things — meal times and the like. It is not unusual to spend two hours over a meal, so good company is vital.

We leave Thursday for the Crimea. I am anxious to see this area since it is the USSR’s vacation spot. I can see why they migrate south; Moscow is cold and rainy at the moment.

Much waiting is done here. One gets used to it and, with a sense of humor, gains from it. We attract attention here because of our knowledge of the language, our car, the length of our stay, and our photography.

We attended the Puppet Show which was exquisite — perfection in performance and stage craft. The theater specializes in parody, and carries it off with finesse. The building is located in a large park which houses other buildings dedicated to sports, cinema, and a carnival form of entertainment.