Crowds — and old friends–greet Marguerite

Marguerite stepped off the train in Riga still dressed in the clothes she had worn in prison—the crumpled khaki suit she had on the night she was arrested, a man’s shirt that a Jewish aid worker had given her, a cap she had fashioned from a shirt, and men’s shoes that were many sizes too large. The newspapers reported that she looked thin and pale.

She was met by U.S. military attaché Colonel Col. Worthington Hollyday and his wife who immediately took Marguerite to their apartment, gave her new clothes, and showed her to a bedroom. Marguerite reveled in a long, hot bath in a porcelain tub and lunch served on china plates, although she had little appetite. The first night she could scarcely sleep in the soft bed.

The next day, she was inundated with congratulatory telegrams. Her son, Tommy, messaged that he would be sailing to London to meet her. Her father-in-law, Joseph Ames, and old friend Albert Ritchie  offered to wire her money. The Associated Press clamored for a story. Local and foreign reporters waited to interview her—the only American woman to survive a Bolshevik prison.

The commotion overwhelmed her. After months of trying to find ways to occupy herself, she suddenly had too many things to think about and too much to do. Later that day did she realized the effect imprisonment had on her nerves when she ventured out to go shopping. Suddenly overwhelmed by the city’s noise and traffic, she froze on the curb, afraid to cross the street.

After four days in Riga, Marguerite continued her trip home, passing through Berlin. There, to her surprise, Merian Cooper met her the train station. Although she had provided him aid packages, she had seen Cooper only once, at the dance at the Adlon Hotel in Warsaw more than a year earlier.

Hollyday had told her Cooper had escaped from Russia, but she had no idea that he would travel so many miles to see her. Cooper, a Southerner with a deep sense of honor and duty, believed she had saved his life by providing him aid packages. “I would have gone around the world to see you,” he told her.  Newspaper reporters who heard this, speculated that Cooper and Marguerite were lovers, but she later denied they had any romantic involvement.

Also meeting her at the Berlin station was an old friend, Johns Hopkins physician Hugh Young, who had been in France when he heard news of her release. He and a German doctor examined Marguerite and concluded she was in remarkably good health, aside from nervousness brought on by insomnia and lack of appetite. The Baltimore Sun, which published the findings, noted that these symptoms were normal for someone who had gone so long without proper nourishment.

That evening, Cooper, France, Marguerite, and another former Russian prisoner, Albert Boni, ate dinner together, no doubt reminiscing about what they had experienced.

In Berlin, Marguerite once again flashed her wry sense of humor. She marched into the clothing store closest to her hotel and walked out fifteen minutes later with dresses, shoes, and other necessities. The men who accompanied her told a reporter that they had never seen a woman make up her mind so quickly, whereupon Marguerite replied: “They probably had never seen a woman escape from jail with so few clothes, and those a year old.”  She explained that she was getting ready to meet Tommy in London. “So I must shake off my Russian appearance before then.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: