The story of Samantha and her trip to Artek, followed by hundreds of correspondents and millions of people around the world, tells Currently,.
On August 25, 1985, 13-year-old Samantha Smith, an American schoolgirl from Maine, died in the United States. She became world famous thanks to her correspondence with General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Yuri Andropov and a trip to the USSR, which was then in a state of cold war with the United States: she visited the Soviet camp "Artek" in Crimea and received the unofficial title of "Goodwill Ambassador".
Samantha became a young symbol of peace: with her arrival in both countries there was hope for an end to the arms race and a gradual normalization of relations between the two superpowers.
Samantha believed that her mission was peace and friendship between children from different countries. Teenagers from all over the world wrote to her, especially from the Soviet Union. Therefore, the death of the girl, even almost 36 years later, gives rise to conspiracy theories both in the former USSR and in the United States.
Samantha Smith was born in Houlton, Maine, USA, to Arthur and Jane Smith. Her father taught English language and literature at the University of Maine and her mother was a social worker.
Parents recall that their daughter was an ordinary American child: she played on the school softball team, loved animals, field hockey and piano. Her only difference was her interest in politics: at the age of 5, the girl wrote her first letter to the head of state - British Queen Elizabeth II, when she was on a visit to Canada. And even received an answer to it.
In November 1982, ten-year-old Samantha wrote a letter to the then General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Yuri Andropov.
It was short and straightforward:
“Dear Mr. Andropov. My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I am very worried about a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Are you going to vote to start the war or not? If you are against the war, please tell me how you are going to help prevent the war? You, of course, do not have to answer my question, but I would like to receive an answer. Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country? God created the world so that we can live together and take care of it, and not conquer it. Please, let's do as he wants and everyone will be happy. "
The letter was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR and during a new round of the arms race. Samantha's parents recall that at the end of 1982, Time magazine placed Andropov's portrait on the cover and devoted several articles to him. Samantha read them with her mother and asked: "If everyone is so afraid of Andropov, why don't they write him a letter and ask if he is going to start a war?" To which the parents said: "Why don't you write to him yourself?"
Samantha's letter fell on well-prepared ground. In Europe and the United States, protests against nuclear weapons and the further arms race intensified at that moment. The situation was also fueled by the post-apocalyptic film "The Next Day" directed by Nicholas Meyer, which showed the world after a nuclear war. Its audience was over 100 million, and it was a record for a television movie.
Polls carried out in both the United States and the USSR showed that people were really worried and panicked that a nuclear war could start between the United States and the USSR, which would lead to the destruction of all of humanity.
Samantha sent the letter to the USSR in November 1982, and in April 1983 an excerpt of it was published in the Pravda newspaper along with letters from other Americans: they, as follows from the note, also wrote to Andropov about their concerns about the arms race.
When Samantha found out about the publication in a Soviet newspaper, she wrote another letter to the USSR Ambassador to the United States and asked if Andropov was going to personally answer the question she had asked. A couple of weeks after that, she received a personal letter from Andropov with his signature in Russian, with a literal translation into English.
In the letter, Andropov called Samantha "a brave and honest girl, like Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer's girlfriend from Mark Twain's book." He reported: "Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything to ensure that there is no war between our countries, so that there is no war on Earth at all."
It is still not known whether Andropov personally took part in writing the letter. But the leader of the USSR invited the girl "to come to us, best of all - in the summer."
“You will get to know our country, meet your peers, visit“ Artek ”by the sea. And you will see for yourself: in the Soviet Union everyone is for peace and friendship between peoples, ”he assured in his letter.
Samantha and her parents arrived in the USSR a few months later, in July 1983. First, the American woman was brought to the Artek camp in Crimea, where Samantha was greeted with a traditional loaf and performance. The girl, according to the family, was shocked that an orchestra played for her, and the audience chanted her name.
The girl's parents recall that she was offered two options for accommodation: in the camp itself with the children or in the hotel with her parents, and she did not hesitate to choose the first option, because she wanted to communicate more with her peers.
Samantha lived in the Morskoy camp, where foreign guests were often received and there were many children from abroad. But, as Olga Sakhatova, an employee of the camp, recalls, before Samantha's arrival, the camp was nevertheless put in order and a general cleaning was done in it - in order to make the best impression on the important guest.
Samantha lived according to the Morskoy routine: she went to exercises, wore a uniform. When the trip came to an end, the girl said that she liked the uniform very much and she would like to keep it for herself as a souvenir. Sakhatov's request at first baffled him: all the kits in the camp were registered, and if Samantha kept it for herself, the counselors would have to compensate for the loss from their salary. But in the end, the camp management allowed Samantha to take a set: a white shirt, a skirt, a cap and a tie.
Samantha also wrote that in “Artek” she swam in the sea for the first time: despite the fact that Maine is on the ocean coast, before that she only swam in pools. It was a discovery for her that the water in the sea is salty.
The leaders of "Artek" assigned her contemporary Natasha Kashirina to Samantha: she spoke English well, since her mother was an English teacher. Initially, Natasha was supposed to just help the American get used to it, but the girls quickly became friends and continued to communicate even after Samantha returned home.
The USSR authorities used Samantha's trip for propaganda purposes: during her stay in “Artek” a documentary was filmed about her. In the footage, Smith is participating in swimming competitions, rehearsing a theatrical performance, joking a lot, laughing and singing an anti-war song in English "May there always be sunshine."
“I will miss my friends from another country. We will remain friends in the future. Let our countries be friends too. One day I hope to come back here. I love you, Artek, ”Samantha said as she left the camp.
After the pioneer camp, the Smith family visited Leningrad, where they told her a lot about the blockade: the girl, among other things, was advised to read the diary of Tanya Savicheva.
In “Artek,” Samantha learned that almost everyone with whom she spoke in the camp had relatives killed in World War II: this made a strong impression on her. According to the girl, it was after this that she came to the conclusion that if war can destroy all of humanity, then the most important thing is to make sure that it never starts.
In Moscow, after returning from Leningrad, the American guest visited the Bolshoi Theater, the Circus, the Toy Museum and the Olympic Center in Krylatskoye, where Soviet gymnasts trained.
Andropov did not personally meet with Samantha, referring to being busy: according to some reports, the Secretary General was seriously ill then. But he gave her a business card and many keepsakes, including two photo albums about her journey.
In the United States, Samantha returned to celebrity status. She began to be invited to television, she starred in the Hollywood series "Charles in Response" and "Lime Street", collaborated with the "Disney" channel: she interviewed the US presidential candidates from the Democratic Party.
She died in a plane crash on August 25, 1985: on that day, the girl and her father were returning from the UK from the filming of the series. A small plane of the local airline, on which she got home, flew in bad weather. According to the official version of the investigators, the pilot missed the runway of a small airport while landing. There were six passengers and two pilots on board, none of them managed to survive.
In the USSR, the death of Samantha spawned a conspiracy theory of conspiracy. But an investigation by the US National Transportation Safety Board showed that the pilot was to blame for what happened.