- Historic Sites
Chickens To Moscow
June/July 1978 | Volume 29, Issue 4
“Who ever heard of sending chickens to Russia?” He had me there.
I walked out and went straight to Lloyds of London. When I asked the clerk, “Do you insure chickens going to Russia?” he replied, without batting an eyelash, “We will. What is their value?”
“Two hundred dollars.”
“Seven dollars a hundred.”
So I paid and wired Howard the good news. I admit that I heaved a sigh of relief to think I wouldn’t hear a “cock-a-doodledoo” all the way across the Atlantic.
In Rome I got word from Howard that the chickens had been shipped and were in fine shape. When I got to Berlin some time later, I became a little anxious and wired the municipal docks at Leningrad, “Have chickens arrived? Answer prepaid. Quakers, Berlin.” The return wire was the only touch of Russian humor I encountered. It said, “Chickens unknown. When, where, why and to whom sent?” I replied, “Sent to me. Water till I come.”
I arrived in Leningrad on Saturday. The chickens arrived on Sunday and we met on Monday. That sounds simple enough, but nothing in Russia is simple. The docks were part of the military, and not even ordinary Russians, much less foreigners, were allowed on them. It was only after all my talking failed that I finally won out by producing the life insurance policy. That stunned them, and I was escorted down to the docks by two tall and well-armed policemen. As we approached the ship, one of my guards said something to the man on the bridge, who replied, “Oh, ze chicken lady is here.”
The voyage had been a quiet one, and no seasickness had been reported among the hens. They had laid eggs all the way over, and the crew was in favor of carrying them every trip. Having just arrived, I wanted to stay on for a week or so to do some sightseeing, but the ship couldn’t keep the chickens, so I said they must be sent to Moscow. An officer in the dock office said he would see about sending them on. “When?” I asked.
“Oh, we’ll get them off in a day or two.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” I replied angrily. “You’ll send them on tonight with a special guard in a special compartment. These are the most valuable chickens you have ever had. Look at this, and this, and this.” I hauled out their pedigrees, health certificate, and life insurance. That clinched it. The coops were put in a single compartment, and a very bored guard was assigned to conduct them to Moscow and the agricultural institute. I know: I went down to the station that evening and saw them off.