Marguerite Harrison spent two months in Poland trying to figure out a way to enter Russia. The two countries were at war, which heightened both the risks and opportunities. Occasionally prisoner exchanges took place along the border at Minsk and a shady characters ran a brisk contraband trade.
In December, Marguerite sent a cryptic message to her superiors in Washington — “Dear Friend, I have been in Warsaw nearly four weeks and have at last perfected my plan for going further.” Yet the message did not elaborate on the plan and for unknown reasons she remained another month in Poland.
Although Marguerite continued to study Russian, she was not proficient enough to attempt entry into Russia without a translator. Luckily, she happened upon a Dr. Anna Karlin, a Russian Jew who had lived for a time in Chicago. Karlin, had gone to Russia to work as a physician in the Red Army, but she was captured by the Poles. Claiming American citizenship, Karlin was allowed to go to Warsaw, but she was unable to obtain a U.S. passport to return to America. Karlin was stranded without a country when Marguerite saw her in the waiting room of the American consulate.
Marguerite describe her as a “a funny little soul, fat and dumpy, with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes that seemed to express perpetual astonishment and a head covered with tight reddish curls.” Marguerite asked Karlin to accompany her to Russia as her interpreter. “She was so simple and straightforward that she never suspected me of being anything but a newspaper correspondent,” Marguerite wrote.
In late January, Marguerite and Karlin set out for Minsk where they would attempt to cross the border into Russia.