A cat and mouse game begins

The day after she reached Moscow, the Foreign Office informed Marguerite Harrison she would be allowed to stay in the city for two weeks. She radioed the Associated Press to report her arrival.

Over the next several days interviewed a number of Bolshevik officials, including Felix Dzerzhinsky, the dreaded head of the Cheka. At the secret police headquarters in Lubyanka Square, she was ushered down a long corridor to a room lined with bookcases. After waiting for a few minutes, she was amazed when a clerk opened one of the bookcases that led to a secret passage and into a room occupied by a little blond   man—Dzerzhinsky.

Marguerite was prepared to ask Dzerzhinsky many questions, but he began to speak immediately, explaining the history and work of Cheka and defending its mass executions as necessary for the cause of revolution. Most of those killed, he told her, had been bandits, speculators, and spies. He gave no explanation for the thousands of arrests made every week, and Marguerite thought it best not to ask.

“Iron Felix” Dzerzhinsky, head of Cheka.

Soon after she interviewed Dzerzhinsky, Marguerite heard from the Foreign Office that she would be allowed to remain in Russia another month. She was thrilled. She never imagined that the Bolsheviks suspected her of being an American spy. She had not communicated with MID, having committed to memory the information she intended to report to Churchill in person once she left Russia. But the Cheka’s spies were everywhere, and she later realized, they were “playing with me like a cat with a mouse.”

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