A Travellerspoint blog


Mother's account of my father's first trip to Russia -1962

The first time we went to Woods Hole, we didn’t have children. The second time, Rosalie Ann was a toddler, 18 months old.


At that time we stayed in the A house (the first of the Do Re Me house) with Mrs. Smith. We had two of three rooms on the second floor, overlooking the eel pond. Rosalie Ann had very sensitive ears. I would put her to nap on Granny’s porch in Colorado, There was a swallows’ nest under the eaves. When the mother swallow came home with food for the babies, they would stick their heads up out of the nest. We couldn’t hear anything, but it woke RosalieAnn up every time.

So in Woods Hole, when the fellow in the third room came home at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, it woke her up. She screamed bloody murder. The first couple of nights I tried to keep it her quiet. Mrs. Smith said he had complained to her. I said the only way this is going to end is if I don’t pay any attention to her. I let her scream. The third night she didn’t scream that long and the fourth night she didn’t scream at all. [When I heard this story, it was Mrs Smith that told Mother to let me scream]

Mrs. Smith 35 years later

Mrs. Smith 35 years later

That same man, many many years later in 1962, when Daddy went to Moscow for an international cancer meeting — this man ended up being Daddy’s roommate.

Aunty Peg went with me to the Russian embassy to get the visa on Daddy’s passport for the trip to Moscow. They said I could just leave it and just pick it up later. I said very casually, not in any hurry or suspicious way, “Oh no, I have time, I’ll just wait for it.” I had heard that they copied people’s passports so they had extra passports to use in a not too proper manner.

Peg and I sat in a parlor by a fireplace. We both knew the place was probably bugged. We sat there and read the equivalent of Life magazine. I said to Peg, “Look at this article here. It must be a lovely country. We talked very complementarily and said very nice things about the things we saw. How nice it must be there. Looking forward to going some day. We just really laid it on. We were there about three hours when they called my name and said the visa was ready. I went and got the passport.

In Moscow a man the head of NIH happened to see Daddy’s passport, and it had four ones after it. “Figge,” he said, highly indignant, “How did you get that rating. I have only a one rating.”
“My wife got it.”

We went to Europe (they bought a VW and drove up through Norway to the Arctic circle) and George and Barbara met us in Stockholm.
[Sleeping Beauty castle on the way back from Stockholm]

Daddy flew to Moscow from Finland. (I told Daddy don’t you take a sauna which meant he would take a sauna -he used to tell a hilarious story about being hotted and cold and flogged, and iced).

In Moscow in 1962, the man who woke RosalieAnn in Woods Hole in 1939 was his roommate. There was only one key to the door, and in Russia, there was a janitress on the floor, and you left the key with her. But Daddy —is Daddy. He was writing some cards and he wanted to go down and get some stamps, with the key. Of course he saw someone he knew and he got to talking. A half hour later when he got back he got to the janitress’ desk and she said, “Your roommate is !@#%@ mad.” That was the FIRST thing.


While Daddy was in Moscow and George was off in the field, Barbara and I did sightseeing in Vienna.

Barbara said, “Now mother, don’t take Daddy to any of these shops because if he thinks you will want anything he will buy it for you.”

Daddy left Moscow on a very early plane. He had gone through customs and they were most reluctant to exchange him back any money, so he bought me a very good ambergris necklace, which I later gave to Barbara, because it was brownish.

When he was about over Poland, he reached in his pocket and found the key to the room. Daddy gave the key to the airplane hostess to take back to Moscow.
I met Daddy in Vienna and practically had hysterics when I saw him I was so happy. I was crying and laughing and crying and laughing. He was back! I did take him down underground to the shops and that is where he bought me the rope gold necklace and the petit point bag.
Gold necklace

Gold necklace

Posted by greatgrandmaR 01:26 Archived in Russia Comments (2)

My mother's account of her trip to Russia in 1970

The next time we went to Russia I went with Daddy. That was the anatomical meeting in Leningrad. He wanted me to see Moscow.

[They flew to Moscow and then took the train to Leningrad/St. Petersburg. I didn't digitize many of the Moscow photos]

That was the year we went to the Passion Play. We stayed in Oberammegau with the member of the Passion Play who was one of the disciples. Somehow I got a terrible case of diarrhea. They had had heavy rains. Alice Miller had been there ahead of me and the floods had almost rained it out. Everyone was warned not to drink the water. I don't know what I ate but I had the most gosh awful cramps and it grabbed me in the middle of the Passion Play. I didn't think I would be gone that long. We signaled to a Schwester. She took me back underneath and they had little booths underneath the amphitheater. After I got myself cleaned up she took me to the doctor and he gave me a pill and a glass of water. I said, do I drink this water. And he said, of course. I sat there for awhile before I went back to the play. But that night I was up half the night. The next day we had to leave for Moscow. As we got on the plane I saw the headlines that there was a cholera epidemic at the Black Sea. I told Daddy, don't let them take me to the hospital. I managed to make it into Moscow.

My mom's photo of my dad
My dad and the guide who is wearing a bright red dress
My mom standing with the guide

At the hotel, still under construction, the dearest little old man took us up to the room, furnished in the style of Sears Roebuck 1930. He was so proud of it. We have a living room, a bed room, and a bath room. '

My dad reflected in the hotel mirror from the bathroom

He flushed the toilet and looked ecstatic. It was amusing... and pathetic. The first meal that we went to I met the wife of one of the other anatomists. She said, "Mrs. Figge I had always thought that your husband was one of the most intelligent men in the anatomical society. But if this is the second time he has been to Russia I am beginning to doubt it."

Display of Sobotta Atlas of Anatomy - my dad was the American editor - it was published in Germany

We had taken a copy of Sobotta and some magazines through customs to give to the anatomists and never heard a word of thanks and it has probably been plagiarized all through Russia. Our new hotel was on the river and across from the palace which was a museum.

Our guide pointed out that in contrast to this country, the common ordinary people really appreciated and took care of the wonderful things in museums, the things the czars had collected, they appreciated and enjoyed. We saw some marvelous things. But I also saw a beautiful girl on a scaffolding from a plank held with ropes, seven floors up, with her hands red in the wind, and she was putting mortar between bricks.


I decided then they could keep equality to themselves. You'd see old women — they looked old, I'm sure they were not very old laying cobblestones— with some man standing there telling them what to do.


We went to the winter palace on a hydrofoil but we couldn't go in at all.


Posted by greatgrandmaR 00:00 Archived in Russia Comments (6)

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