Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Hans N. Tuch
TUCH: At any rate, these four years in working with the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, making frequent trips there. I remember one particular trip in October 1962. I wanted to get back to the Soviet Union and I wanted to travel, and I felt that one of the best ways that I could do that without much attention being directed towards me by the KGB, was to accompany the New York City Ballet as the USIA-State Department escort officer. So I went with them and we went to Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tbilisi in Georgia, and Baku the capital of Azerbaijan. We were in Leningrad right in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis. It turned out afterwards, I didn't know it at the time, that I was actually the only American diplomat who was outside of Moscow during that time. They did not permit anybody else to leave Moscow, but I was with the ballet and they didn't stop me.
I was in Leningrad during the worst part of the missile crisis, being, however, absolutely oblivious of what was going on. I didn't know anything until the embassy called me, and they very circumspect asked me, “How are things going in Leningrad?”
I said, “Fine. Ballet's having a big success, cheers and applause every night.”
“What is the atmosphere like?” I was asked.
“Oh, it's fine, great, we had no problems.”
They said, “Have you been listening to the Voice of America? Have you been listening to the radio?”
I had a radio with me and I said, “No, I haven't been listening. The batteries are dead and I haven't really been able to listen to the Voice of america. Besides, I've been very busy with the ballet.”
They said, “You listen to the Voice of America.” So that night I made a point of listening and I found out what was going on. Of course, by that time the crisis was over, it had passed.
Q: Had any information filtered out?
TUCH: No. No, people in Leningrad, to the best of my knowledge, were absolutely unaware of what was going on. That compared to the American reaction of the missile crisis—I had a letter from my wife about two weeks later, written right at the worst point of the crisis, and she was obviously very concerned about me and didn't know what was going to be happening to me. But I was completely unaware of it, which is also one of the interesting experiences.