From the American Scene: My Father's Russians
My Father, Herman Bernstein, in his professional life a dignified journalist and editor, was in his spare time a very easy mark for the fly-by-night publishing firms which, in the 200′s, produced numerous imitations of “Who’s Who in America.” And when one of these firms sent him a questionnaire asking for his favorite hobby, after pondering “people” and “travel,” he wrote in the word “Russia.”
My own opinion, even at that time, was that “hobby” was a feeble description for an activity which consumed so many of my father’s waking hours. “Second vocation” would have been a more accurate term. After all, he had been born in Russia, and he had earned much of his income, off and on, because of his knowledge of the language and the country. He had traveled widely in Russia and Europe as a correspondent for such American newspapers as the New York Herald and the New York Times. He had interviewed Leo Tolstoy at the great man’s famous homestead, Yasnaya Polyana, and for six months, in the course of an assignment for the Herald, he had lived in a freight car in Siberia with General Graves’ expeditionary force. He had been refused admittance to Russia by the Tsarist Government before World War I, and by the Soviet Government after it. He had translated many plays and stories by Russian authors, and written many articles about Russian affairs.
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