Bread Upon The Waters

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Russian gratitude for America’s help during the crisis of the early twenties has been largely snowed under by the cold war, which makes it difficult for the Communist mind to admit such a tremendous obligation. For there is little doubt that American aid did substantially tide over the shaky Soviet state to a condition and time when it could begin to become viable and self-sufficient—an ironic result for Herbert Hoover, who admittedly had hoped that a Russian people restored to a minimum of health and order would turn toward democracy and free enterprise when the inevitable (as he thought) collapse of the Communist regime occurred. At any rate, there was frank recognition of the Soviet debt at the close of the A.R.A. operations in 1923. Kamenev, speaking at a farewell dinner in Moscow for Haskell and his staff, avowed that “millions of people of all ages were saved from death, and whole villages and even cities were saved from the terrible catastrophe that was threatening them. … The people populating the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics will never forget the help given by the American people through the A.R.A., seeing in that a pledge for the future friendship of both peoples.”

Whatever the vicissitudes of official relations between the United States and the U.S.S.R., there is a certain comfort in the reflection that today, in the towns and villages along the mighty Volga, there are many thousands of ordinary Russian citizens who must remember with deep feeling the days of their youth when American bread brought them life and hope. And there must even be a few, amazingly enough —old men and women in chimney corners—who can tell how the American ships came not once, but twice within their memory, to offer the kind of help that takes no cognizance of creeds or systems.

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shall find it after many days.”

—Ecclesiastes 11:1

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