9.06.2016

The night I suddenly thought about Samantha Reed Smith; the little girl who became famous for writing a letter to Yuri Andropov in 1982

I love learning and reading... perhaps more than anything. So it's quite typical for me to think of a random topic and then spend the next hour (or 4 or even a couple days) researching it for fun - never needing the information, but enjoying just for the sake of learning.

Tonight for some reason I suddenly thought about the little girl who wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov of Russia.

WHAT I REMEMBERED:

1982
Little Girl
Letter to Russia regarding peace

My thought was: Whatever happened to her anyway?

And because I was just a little kid myself at that time I am a little surprised I remembered that much.

So off to the internet I went..... and unfortunately realized she died in a plane crash just 3 years after her famous letter.


Samantha Smith

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Smith



BornSamantha Reed Smith
June 29, 1972
Houlton, Maine, U.S.
Died August 25, 1985 (aged 13)
Resting place Estabrook Cemetery, Aroostook County, Maine, U.S.
Occupation Peace activist, child actress
Years active 1982–1985



Samantha Reed Smith (June 29, 1972 – August 25, 1985) was an American schoolgirl, peace activist and child actress from Manchester, Maine, who became famous in the Cold War era United States and Soviet Union. In 1982, Smith wrote a letter to the newly appointed CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov, and received a personal reply which included a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union, which she accepted.

Smith attracted extensive media attention in both countries as a "Goodwill Ambassador", and became known as "America's Youngest Ambassador" participating in peacemaking activities in Japan. She wrote a book about her visit to the Soviet Union and co-starred in the television series Lime Street, before her death at the age of 13 in the Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 plane crash.

When Yuri Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union in November 1982, the mainstream Western newspapers and magazines ran numerous front-page photographs and articles about him. Most coverage was negative and tended to give a perception of a new threat to the stability of the Western world. Andropov had been the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the Chairman of the KGB from 1967 to 1982; during his tenure, he was known in the West for crushing the Prague Spring and the brutal suppression of dissidents, such as Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He began his tenure as Soviet leader by strengthening the powers of the KGB, and by suppressing dissidents. Andropov declared, "the struggle for human rights was a part of a wide-ranging imperialist plot to undermine the foundation of the Soviet state." Much international tension surrounded both Soviet and American efforts to develop weapons capable of being launched from satellites in orbit. Both governments had extensive research and development programs to develop such technology. However, both nations were coming under increasing pressure to disband the project. In America, president Ronald Reagan came under pressure from a lobby of U.S. scientists and arms experts, while in Russia the government issued a statement that read, "To prevent the militarization of space is one of the most urgent tasks facing mankind".

During this period, large anti-nuclear protests were taking place across Europe and North America, while the November 20, 1983, screening of ABC's post-nuclear war dramatization The Day After became one of the most anticipated media events of the decade.

The two superpowers had by this point abandoned their strategy of détente and in response to the Soviet deployment of SS-20s, Reagan moved to deploy cruise and Pershing II missiles to Europe. The Soviet Union's involvement in a war in Afghanistan was in its third year, a matter which was also contributing to international tension. In this atmosphere, on November 22, 1982, Time magazine published an issue with Andropov on the cover. When Smith viewed the edition, 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?"

Smith was born on June 29, 1972, in the small town of Houlton, Maine, on the Canada–United States border, to Jane Reed and Arthur Smith. At the age of five, she wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II in order to express her admiration to the monarch. When Smith had finished second grade in the spring of 1980, the family settled in Manchester, Maine, where she attended Manchester Elementary School. Her father served as an instructor at Ricker College in Houlton before teaching literature and writing at the University of Maine at Augusta while her mother worked as a social worker with the Maine Department of Human Services.

In November 1982, when Smith was 10 years old, she wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, seeking to understand why the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were so tense:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. 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.

Sincerely,
Samantha Smith


Her letter was published in the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Samantha was happy to discover that her letter had been published; however, she had not received a reply. She then sent a letter to the Soviet Union's Ambassador to the United States asking if Mr. Andropov intended to respond. On April 26, 1983, she received a response from Andropov:

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

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. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That's precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: 'Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?' We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or 'little' war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children's camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov


Read More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Smith

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________________
I FORGOT ABOUT THIS:

Smith pursued her role as a media celebrity when in 1984, she hosted a children's special for the Disney Channel entitled Samantha Smith Goes To Washington...Campaign '84. The show covered politics, where Smith interviewed several candidates for the 1984 presidential election, including George McGovern and Jesse Jackson. 

THIS WAS NEW TO ME:
  
That same year she guest starred in Charles in Charge as Kim, alongside another celebrity guest star, Julianne McNamara. 

Her fame resulted in Smith becoming the subject of stalker Robert John Bardo, the man who would later go on to stalk and ultimately murder My Sister Sam actress Rebecca Schaeffer. Bardo traveled to Maine in an attempt to meet Smith, but was stopped by police and returned home.

Andropov, however, was unable to meet with her during her visit, although they did speak by telephone. It was later discovered that Andropov had become seriously ill and had withdrawn from the public eye during this time. Smith also received a phone call from Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to orbit the Earth. However, not realizing with whom she was speaking, Samantha mistakenly hung up after only a brief conversation.

A monument to her was built in Moscow; "Samantha Smith Alley" in the Artek Young Pioneer camp was named after her in 1986. The monument built to Smith was stolen by metal thieves in 2003 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

In 2003, Voronezh retiree Valentin Vaulin built a monument to her without any support from the government. The Soviet Union issued a commemorative stamp with her likeness. In 1986, when Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh discovered asteroid 3147, she named it 3147 Samantha. 

In Maine, the first Monday in June of each year is officially designated as Samantha Smith Day by state law. 

There is a bronze statue of Smith near the Maine State Museum in Augusta, which portrays Smith releasing a dove with a bear cub resting at her feet. The bear cub represents both Maine and Russia.


Available to purchase through Amazon:


Journey to the Soviet Union