On this day in 1983 Samantha Smith, an 11-year-old Maine schoolgirl, departed with her parents for a two-week goodwill visit to the Soviet Union, at Soviet leader Yuri Andropov’s invitation.
At the time, the Soviet military incursion into the Afghan civil war was in its third year. Amid rising tensions, Time put Andropov on its cover. When Samantha saw the magazine, she asked her mother, “If people are so afraid of him, why doesn’t someone write a letter asking whether he wants to have a war or not?” Her mother replied, “Why don’t you?”
The girl’s letter read in part, “This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country? God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.”
After Pravda, a Soviet newspaper, published her letter, Andropov responded: “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants.”
Andropov’s letter and invitation triggered a media frenzy in both countries.
At a Moscow press conference, Smith said the Russians were “just like us.” Asked whether she would like to live in Russia, she praised her hosts but said that she would “rather live in my own country.”
Upon her return, Samantha was dubbed “America’s Youngest Ambassador.” After participating in peace rallies in Japan, she wrote a book about her trip and co-starred in a television series. She died in 1985 at age 13 when the commuter plane carrying her and her father crashed while trying to land in bad weather in Auburn, Maine.
SOURCE: “Samantha Smith: A Journey for Peace,” by Anne Galicich (1987)
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.