Moscow and Cheka await

The winter of 1920 was brutal in Moscow. An economic blockade imposed by Western countries and the upheavals of revolution and civil war left the people cold and starving.

Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva placed her children in an orphanage because she was unable to feed them, but the younger child, not yet three, died of hunger the month Marguerite Harrison arrived in the capital.

Horses pulling sleighs collapsed and died in the street. Abandoned railroad cars littered the countryside because there was no fuel for them to run. The dreaded Cheka secret police had only recently ended one of its periodic purges an estimated 10,000 dissidents in its Red Terror.

Yet Harrison later wrote that her first impression of Russia was that of a people on the move. She described the colorful banners that hung from the buildings and sleigh bells jingling in the streets. “The winter sun shone bright and the city had an almost festive appearance for it was the second anniversary of the founding of the Red army and all Moscow was in gala attire,” she wrote.

The representative of the foreign office took her to a guesthouse that once had been the residence of a rich merchant. In the coming months she would learn the place was known by another name: The House of Suspicion.

The residence at No. 10 Malyy Kharitonyevskiy Pereulok where Marguerite Harrison stayed is now a wedding palace.

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