|14 Mar 2019|
What a delight it was to recently connect for a phone conversation with the remarkable Colette Schulman who managed AAS Moscow during the academic year of 1955-56, before joining United Press as a journalist in Moscow.
Collette in 1957
AAS: What is your favorite story related to AAS Moscow?
Colette Schulman: The Anglo-American School of Moscow in 1955-56 was located in a modest-size osobniak that had belonged to the high aristocracy family of the “anarchist prince” Pyotr Kropotkin. In the back rooms of the house, a small team of Americans and British translated articles from the daily Soviet press for the US and UK and other embassies. The school occupied the front rooms; we were quiet during class hours, but somewhat rowdy during recess, though the translators never complained. I was tickled that my pupils were studying in the home of an anarchist, not a wild crazy one, but an anarchist steeped in knowledge who believed that independent self-governing communes provided the best environment for human fulfillment. He predicted Bolshevik communism would fail in Russia and be replaced by some form of capitalism. In spite of that, the Soviet leaders named after him an avenue in Moscow, a subway station, and a pereulok.
Students in the Front Yard of AAS Moscow in 1956
AAS: Since leaving AAS, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Colette Schulman: My efforts over many years to inform Americans about life in the Soviet Union and bringing Americans and Russians together for dialogues in times of cold war tension.
Collette at a United Press Moscow staff meeting in 1957
AAS: What do you feel were your life’s most worthwhile investments?
Colette Schulman: Enrolling in a two-year area study program at Columbia University to learn Russian and educate myself about the Soviet system and Russian culture. I took on the job of running the then small AAS and teaching some 10 students without much experience. And the same the following year when I jumped into face-paced reporting in Moscow as a newcomer to journalism. "Occasionally taking risks is a good thing to do."
AAS Grade 3 and 4 students in 1956. Left to right: Skip Mearns, Farouk Tarz, Mona el Kony, Nouchine Ansari, Ulla Antajha
AAS: Do you have a message you would like to share with the AAS alumni community?
Colette Schulman: The American writer, George Saunders, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardos, told a university graduating class in 2013 that what he regretted most in his life “are failures of kindness,” and he urged the graduates “try to be kinder.” It’s hard, he told them. Do all the big things in life you aspire to, “but as you do, to the extent you can, err in the direction of kindness.” That he had the courage to devote most of his talk to young people about kindness, and so eloquently,
was moving to me. I can think of no better message than to echo his words, “Try to be kinder.”
Collette's students in 1956 (Skip Mearns, Farouk Tarz, Mona el Kony, Nouchine Ansari, Ulla Antajha)
Please use the comments below to share your thoughts about the article, and your own memories of AAS Moscow.
Collette in 2012
All of the photos in this article are from Collette's book: "Discovering One Another; I listened with the ear of my heart"