"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memories of MUM - Second protest voyage, USSR

His Scribe, October 11, 2010


     Many Americans steered clear of us when we came back from protesting American nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. "Tell it to the Russians!" they chided in letters to the editor. "They're the reason we have to test weapons."
     "We will," we promised, "if they ever resume atmospheric testing."
     In the autumn of 1961 they did. Ted and I, now students at International Christian University in Tokyo, read the headlines with a sinking feeling in the pits of our stomachs. We didn't have to say anything. We knew we had to do it all again. We took the 11-hour train ride back to Hiroshima and gathered with Skipper and Mum on the Phoenix.
     The nearest military port was Vladivostok but it was iced in at that time of year. We would head instead to Nakhodka. Nick Mikami wasn't going with us this time because the Japanese government wouldn't promise to let him back into his country afterward (they wouldn't promise to let Skipper back in, either). Instead we invited Ted's friend Tom Yoneda, a Japanese-American with American citizenship, to sail with us.
     This trip was harder than the last one. For one thing, it was winter and we had to sail to Russia and back through brutal seas. Also, as unpredictable as the American government had been, the Soviet government was a wholly unknown quantity. There would be no publicity about our trip in the USSR. They could do what they pleased with us--imprison us, sink the Phoenix--and no one need ever know.
     I wrote a book-length account of the trip when we got back to Japan and it was published in 1962 as (my title) To Russia with Love and (publisher's title) Jessica's Journal--which had been the title of my first book. To compound the confusion, they printed a picture of Mum in the front of the book instead of me.
     None of that mattered, though, because it was in Japanese so "no one" could read it anyway and it died quietly.
     NEW NOTE: A Japanese pastor staying with us recently pulled the long out-of-print Japanese volume off our shelves because he recognized the name of the translator. "This man was very well-known in Japan!" he said, impressed. "He translated authors like Hemingway! I read Hemingway in his translation."
     Now I was impressed! 
     This year, the Peace Resource Center which Mum later established in Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, and which houses her personal library, her own writings and the biggest collection on materials about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, war, peace and nuclear weapons in the country, contacted me. The director wanted to publish To Russia with Love in English. They had an editor and publisher ready to move on it.
     Fortunately I knew where the only extant manuscript was. I got it out and read it for the first time in 50 years, the first time since I'd written it.
     It brought back intense memories. It was a bizarre trip in many ways--a middle-aged American couple with two teenagers, a Japanese-American friend, and two cats confronting the Great Russian Bear in a 50-foot ketch. Our reception was even more surreal, involving legs of mutton and 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel--and a Cold War encounter with real Russians.
     I'm telling you this because it sets up the scene for what happened next, about Mum spending Christmas Day praying in the Peace Park and how that led to her turning our failure at reaching the Russian people into two Peace Pilgrimages to the whole world.

     To Russia with Love is now available and can be ordered from the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College, Wilmington, OH for $11.99 (plus postage and handling). All proceeds will go to the Center.

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