Samantha Smith dies in plane crash

Samantha Smith dies in plane crash

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Samantha Smith, the 13-year-old “ambassador” to the Soviet Union, dies in a plane crash. Smith was best known for writing to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1982 and visiting the Soviet Union as Andropov’s guest in 1983.

In late 1982, Smith, a fifth-grader at Manchester Elementary School in Manchester, Maine, wrote a plaintive letter to Soviet leader Andropov. She said that she was “worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to have a war or not?” A few months later, Smith’s letter was reprinted in Russia and it was announced that Andropov was writing a response. Smith received his letter in April 1983. Andropov assured Smith that he did not want a nuclear war with the United States or any other country. Calling Smith a “courageous and honest” little girl, Andropov closed the letter with an invitation for her to visit the Soviet Union. In July, accompanied by her parents, Smith embarked on a two-week trip. She was a hit in the Soviet Union, and although she did not get to meet with Andropov, she traveled widely and spoke to numerous groups and people.

In the United States, some people branded her as a patsy for the communists and claimed that Soviet propagandists were merely using her for their own purposes, but Samantha’s enthusiasm and contagious optimism charmed most Americans and millions of other people around the world. During the next two years, Smith became an unofficial U.S. goodwill ambassador, speaking to groups throughout the United States and in foreign nations such as Japan. On August 25, 1985, while traveling with her father, their small plane crashed and both were killed.

Smith’s legacy lived on, however. Her mother began the Samantha Smith Foundation, which has as its goal bringing people from different nations and cultures together to share their experiences. In particular, the foundation established a student exchange program with the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, news of Smith’s death was met with great sadness. The Russian government responded by issuing a stamp in her honor and naming a mountain after the young girl.

Samantha Smith, 13, Author of Letter to Soviet Leader, Killed in Airplane Crash

Samantha Smith, a normally reticent sixth-grader whose letter to then-Soviet President Yuri V. Andropov made her a private missionary for world peace, died with her father in the crash of a commuter plane in Maine, her mother said Monday.

Six others on the Bar Harbor Airlines flight from Boston to Augusta and Auburn, Me., also were killed. The plane crashed Sunday night in a rainstorm, but federal investigators said Monday afternoon that it could take months to determine the cause.

Samantha’s mother, Jane Smith, visited the crash site near the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport and told the Associated Press that the plane was “just a pile of ashes.”

Her husband, an English professor at the University of Maine, and her 13-year-old daughter were returning from a two-week stay in England where the girl had been filming a new weekly TV show “Lime Street.” In it she played the daughter of an insurance investigator, played by Robert Wagner. The program had been scheduled to debut on ABC next month.

Wagner issued a statement from London saying that, “She touched the world, and she touched us too. We are quite simply devastated.”

Two years ago, Samantha wrote Andropov, then the newly elected Soviet leader, expressing her concern for world peace. In her letter she asked Andropov: “Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?”

Andropov denied her contention and invited the girl and her parents to come to the Soviet Union so they could learn more of his country. Although she never met personally with her newfound pen pal, she was taken on a tour of the Soviet Union normally reserved for high-ranking diplomats. Soviet television abandoned its usual diet of interviews with factory workers and gave her prime-time coverage.

The family needed 16 additional suitcases just to bring home her gifts.

On her return to the United States, the normally shy and reserved girl became an overnight celebrity, appearing on talk shows, addressing children’s symposiums in Japan and writing a book about her experiences. She was offered the TV role in February.

No one was more amazed over the clamor that her letter had generated than Samantha herself.

“I never thought it would result in all this,” she said a year after her trip. “I just hope it’s done some good for our country.”

“Samantha couldn’t accept man’s inhumanity to man,” her mother said Monday in a statement. “She stood fast in the belief that peace can be achieved and maintained by mankind.”

Samantha’s death was mourned in her hometown of Manchester, about 25 miles north of the crash site, and in Augusta, the state capital.

Gov. Joseph E. Brennan said that “all of America has lost a very special girl. . . . Samantha was an inspiration not only to the young, like herself, but to all of us.”

And in Moscow a Soviet commentator said simply: “She lived a short life, but she managed to do much.”

Soviet media hints Samantha was murdered

MOSCOW -- The Soviet media Thursday hinted at a conspiracy in the airplane crash that killed 13-year-old Samantha Smith, the American schoolgirl whose 1983 visit to the Soviet Union symbolized international hopes for peace.

The Communist Party newspaper Pravda followed a sentence saying her plane 'was for some reason directed to another city and crashed,' with a paragraph talking of threats against the young girl.

The Pravda insinuations continued a media line established after the death of Samantha on Sunday night. Stories praising the youngster have ended with suggestions of mystery surrounding her death.

The military newspaper Red Star headlined its story 'due to unknown reasons.' A Soviet population used to reading between the lines knew what to think.

'They keep emphasizing that she was murdered,' a well-educated Russian man said Wednesday. 'I think it is highly possible, they were threatened so many times.'

Samantha became a symbol of international fears of a nuclear holocaust when she wrote the late Soviet leader Yuri Andropov about the danger of war.

Andropov not only answered, but invited the girl, then 11 years old, for a highly publicized two-week tour of the Soviet Union in 1983 that Moscow said proved its peaceful intentions.

'Reactionaries often threatened the young American and her parents, but they failed to make her feel threatened,' the state-television said a day after her death, adding that the plane had been 'diverted for an unspecified reason.'

The television news program Vremya concluded a somber film report on her death Tuesday night by having the commentator repeat a Tass report saying 'the type of plane which crashed in Auburn-Lewiston has a record of being one of the safest types of aircraft.'

The flight, which originated at Logan International Airport in Boston, was scheduled to stop only in Augusta, Waterville and Bangor. A stop in Auburn was added at the request of two passengers, airline officials said.

Crash investigators said the 15-passenger Beechcraft 99 plane was several hundred yards off course when it clipped the tops of some pince trees, plunged into a gully and burst into flames.

According to Pravda's report, Samantha 'became convinced of the Soviet people's ardent striving for peace' during her visit to the Soviet Union.

She pursued the theme of 'mutual understanding between nations' in a subsequent book on her visit, Pravda said, 'and then came a report, transmitted by news agencies, saying that Samantha and her father died in an air crash.'

The Communist Party newspaper said that Samantha's father, Arthur, had told a Pravda correspondent, 'Most of the people warmly support us but there are those who are displeased. Such people call us voluntary agents of Moscow and even sometimes threaten us with punishment.'

Peace activist Samantha Smith dies in plane crash

AUBURN, Maine -- Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl who wrote Soviet President Yuri Andropov about her fear of nuclear war and visited the nation as his guest, died in a fiery plane crash that also killed seven other people.

Smith, 13, who had been filming a television series in London, her father, four other passengers and two crewmembers were killed Sunday night when the Bar Harbour Airlines plane crashed while trying to land at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport Sunday night.

The names of the other victims were to be released today at a news conference in Bangor.

Smith, 13, became an international celebrity with the two-week Soviet trip in 1983 and was to have starred in 'Lime Street,' an ABC situation comedy scheduled for the fall season, with Robert Wagner.

Four episodes of the hour-long series have already been filmed - two in Virginia, one in Washington, D.C., and one in London. The next was to be shot in Switzerland, where Wagner was awaiting the film crew at his home when the crash occurred.

Wagner, through his publicist, said, 'I am completely devastated by the loss.'

Columbia Pictures-Televison, which produces the series, said it will have an annoucement sometime later on what it will do about the future of the show and the four episodes already shot, including major scenes with Samantha as Wagner's eldest daughter.

Bar Harbor Flight 1808, originating in Boston with scheduled stops in Auburn, Augusta and Waterville on its way to Bangor, was trying to land at Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport when it crashed and burned Sunday night.

Investigators returned to the scene at daybreak today to begin the task of removing the bodies and determining the cause of the crash.

Police initially received a report of a fire and found the wreckage in a field about a half-mile from the airport, Auburn Police Lt. Norman Guerette said. The Auburn Fire Department doused the burning wreckage.

Guerette said the Beechcraft 99 twin-engine turboprop crashed at about 10 p.m. EDT.

'We have eight fatalities,' Guerette said. 'We have no report that anyone is alive. The report we have is that there were eight fatalities.'

The state medical examiner, Dr. Henry Ryan, said early today that Samantha and her father, Arthur Smith, were among the six passengers and two crew members killed in the crash.

He said many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. 'I think we're going to have to work in the light and I think we're going to need a dentist -- that's what we're dealing with.'

Gary Linscott, director of airline market planning for Bar Harbor Airlines, said Federal Aviation Administration investigators and an airline operation team were sent to the scene.

Minutes after the crash, Janet Mills, the Androscoggin County district attorney, broke the news to relatives and friends waiting at the airport. Mrs. Smith was among those waiting for the plane to arrive. Mills took the family members into a lounge and told them there were no survivors.

Ryan said relatives of all the victims have been notified.

Smith, of Manchester, Maine, gained celebrity status in 1983 when she wrote Yuri Andropov of her concerns about the possibility of nuclear war between the two countries. The Soviet president replied by inviting her to meet with him in Moscow.

The Kremlin footed the bill for the trip for Smith and her parents, including $10,000 for the family's first-class plane tickets. But the 11-year-old never got to meet Andropov on the two-week visit in July 1983.

Andropov died on Feb. 9, 1984, at the age of 69.

The crash occurred on Christian Hill while the plane was coming in for a landing, but it apparently failed to clear the wooded hill, which is directly in the flight path.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, Guerette said.

Florence Berwick, who lives next to the airport, said the entire incident happened very fast, and afterward, 'Everything was burning and we couldn't get anywhere near it.'

'(The plane) came down through (the pine trees) and one of the engines sounded like it went out and the other engine went into a whine real fast and it hit the ground,' Berwick said. 'I couldn't get from one side of the house to the other before it hit the ground.'

Before crashing, the plane skimmed the top of pine trees in Stan Gallagher's front yard, which is across the street from the airport.

'I was in the front room and I thought it was going to take the house off,' Gallagher said. 'It came within 15 feet of the house. She blew when she hit. The flames were tremendous. It just missed the top of our house.

'I thought for sure it was going to hit the house. I dropped right to my knees on the floor. It was that close.'

Gallagher said he thought the plane was at least 300 feet off course when it crashed.

Andropov’s Pal Samantha Smith Dies in Plane Crash

Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl whose wish for peace led to a highly publicized tour of the Soviet Union in 1983 as the guest of Yuri V. Andropov, was killed Sunday night along with her father and six other people in a plane crash.

The Bar Harbor Airlines Beechcraft 99 turboprop plane crashed and exploded in the rain half a mile from Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, authorities said.

At daybreak today, officials were still trying to make positive identification of the six passengers and two crew members, but the mother of 13-year-old Samantha said her husband and daughter are dead.

“They haven’t showed up anywhere else,” Jane Smith said in a telephone interview from the family’s home in Manchester. She visited the crash site, she said, adding, “It’s just a pile of ashes.”

The cause of the crash has not been determined.

Samantha attracted worldwide attention two years ago when she wrote to then-Soviet leader Andropov expressing concern about the potential for nuclear war. Kremlin leaders responded by inviting the girl and her parents on a two-week, expenses-paid tour of the Soviet Union.

She and her parents got VIP treatment during the tour but she never met Andropov, who died Feb. 9, 1984. She was widely hailed by some as a symbol of hope for peace others criticized her as being exploited.

In an evening broadcast, Soviet television paid tribute to Samantha, a commentator saying, “It is difficult to believe that the voice of this wonderful American girl will not sound again.”

Jane Smith said her husband and daughter were flying in from Boston after two weeks in England, where Samantha had been filming a part in the weekly ABC-TV action-adventure series “Lime Street,” which was scheduled to begin Sept. 21. She played a daughter of an insurance investigator played by Robert Wagner and had been scheduled to appear in additional episodes.

“Samantha was a special girl. We fell in love with her the first time she walked on the set,” Wagner said in a statement with series producer Jack Kaplan. “She brought a special touch to the work and she touched us.”

After her tour of the Soviet Union, Samantha made dozens of TV appearances, traveled extensively in the United States, went to Japan to address the Children’s International Symposium for the 21st Century and wrote a book about the trip.

Samantha Smith dies in plane crash - HISTORY

Auburn, Maine – August 25, 1985

At 3:30 p.m. on August 25, 1985, Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1793, left Bangor, Maine, for Boston. The aircraft was a Beech BE-99, (N300WP).

The flight was part of a regularly scheduled commuter route between Logan International Airport in Boston, and Bangor International Airport in Maine, with intermediate stops at Auburn, Augusta, and Waterville, Maine.

Flight 1793 arrived safely at Boston, and flew back at Bangor arriving at 6:24 p.m., about twenty-five minutes behind schedule. At this time, weather conditions along the flight route were deteriorating, and continued to do so, causing delays in arrival and departure times.

At 6:40 p.m., the aircraft once again took off from Bangor this time as Flight 1755, and landed at Augusta at 7:05 p.m.

At 7:15 p.m., Flight 1755 departed for Boston and arrived there at 8:15 p.m., twenty-five minutes later than its scheduled arrival time.

The aircraft departed Boston at 9:17 p.m. with six passengers and a crew of two aboard, this time as Flight 1808. Two passengers were flying to Auburn-Lewiston Airport, three to Augusta, and one to Waterville. Two other passengers had been ticketed for the flight, but they were transferred to a non-stop flight to Bangor, and thus their lives were saved.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m. Flight 1808 began an instrument approach to Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, in Auburn, Maine.

At 10:05 p.m. the aircraft crashed and burned in a wooded area about one mile southwest of Runway 4, and all aboard were killed.

The coordinates of the crash site were listed in the NTSB crash report as 44 degrees, 02′ 22″ N. Latitude, 70 degrees, 17′ 30″ W. Longitude, 4,007 feet from the approach end of Runway 4.

Among the passengers who lost their lives, was 13-year-old Samantha Smith, famous for being America’s Good Will Ambassador to the Soviet Union. (More information about Samantha can be found elsewhere on the Internet.)

Bar Harbor Airlines ceased operations in 1991.

National Transportation Safety Board Crash Investigation Report #NTSB/AAR-86/06, Govt. Accession No. PB86-910408.

Lewiston Daily Sun, “Eight Dead In Fiery Auburn Crash”, August 26, 1985

Bangor Daily News, “Nation Grieves For Samantha Smith”, August 27, 1985

Orlando Sentinel, “Samantha Smith Dies In Maine Plane Crash”, August 28, 1985.

Gainsville Sun, “Panel Concludes Pilot Error Caused Crash That Killed Samantha Smith”, October 1, 1986, Page 8B

Samantha Smith

From about 1950 to 1989 the United States went through a period in relation to the Soviet Union (Russia) that was called the Cold War. Neither side fired a shot (which would have meant a hot war), but both sides built more and more nuclear weapons, escalating the number and size of the weapons in response to the perceived threat from the other. Hundreds of millions of people in both countries lived in fear that either by aggression or accident a war would start and everything would be annihilated. Perhaps, the whole world destroyed.

In 1982 Samantha Smith was a frightened 10 year old girl in the small community of Manchester, Maine. One day she asked her mother, Jane, if she would write Yuri Andropov, the Premier of the Soviet Union, and ask him whether the Soviet Union intended to start a war. Samantha's mother answered, "Why don't you." Samantha did, and Premier Andropov wrote her back inviting her to come to the Soviet Union to meet Russian people and see that they were peace loving with no desire to start a war.

Samantha's trip to the Soviet Union was a great success. She made lasting friendships with Russian children. She was so inspired her that she became an international spokesperson for peace, traveling as far as Japan to talk with people about the necessity for stopping the Cold War and finding a way to live together. The stakes were too high not to find a way to peace.

Tragically, in 1985 at the age of 13, Samantha was killed along with her father in a plane crash as the plane attempted to land at Maine's Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport. Smith, who had become something of a celebrity after her trip to the Soviet Union, was returning from filming a television program. More than 1,000 people attended her funeral and Mikhail Gorbachev sent a personal message: "Everyone in the Soviet Union who has known Samantha Smith will forever remember the image of the American girl who, like millions of Soviet young men and women, dreamt about peace, and about friendship between the peoples of the United States and the Soviet Union."

Ronald Reagan also sent his condolences, writing, "Perhaps you can take some measure of comfort in the knowledge that millions of Americans, indeed millions of people, share the burden of your grief. They also will cherish and remember Samantha, her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit."

A life-sized bronze statue of her stands outside the State House in Augusta, Maine. The statue features Samantha's warm smile as she reaches out to release a dove of peace. Samantha made a huge difference in the way Russians and Americans thought about the Cold War, the humanity of each other, and the possibility of peace.


Samantha Smith, the quiet sixth-grader whose letter to then-Soviet President Yuri Andropov made her a private missionary for world peace, was killed with her father in the crash of a commuter plane in Maine.

Six others on the Bar Harbor Airlines flight from Boston to Augusta and Auburn, Maine, also were killed in the crash, which happened late Sunday.

Samantha's mother, Jane Smith, visited the crash site near the Auburn- Lewiston Municipal Airport and was quoted as saying the plane was "just a pile of ashes."

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the crash and the identity of the other victims.

Samantha, 13, and her father, Arthur Smith, an English professor at the University of Maine, were returning from a two-week stay in England, where the girl had been filming a new weekly TV show, Lime Street. In it she played the daughter of an insurance investigator, Robert Wagner. The program had been scheduled to premiere on ABC next month. No decision on the show was made Monday.

Two years ago Samantha wrote Andropov, then the newly elected Soviet leader, expressing her concern for world peace. In her letter she asked Andropov, "Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?"

Andropov denied her contention and invited the girl and her parents to come to Russia so they could learn more of his country. Although she never met personally with her newfound pen pal, she was taken on a tour of the Soviet Union normally reserved for high-ranking diplomats. Soviet television abandoned its usual diet of interviews with factory workers and gave her prime-time coverage.

She was welcomed by Soviet children at youth camps, given a private tour of Red Square and placed flowers on the grave of Yuri Gagarin, the world's first man in space.

The family needed 16 additional suitcases just to bring home her gifts.

On her return to the United States the normally shy and reserved girl became an overnight celebrity, appearing on talk shows, addressing children's symposiums in Japan and writing a book about her experiences. She was offered the TV role in February.

No one was more amazed by the clamor her letter generated than Samantha herself.

"I never thought it would result in all this," she said a year after her trip. "I just hope it has done some good for our country."

"Samantha couldn't accept man's inhumanity to man," her mother said Monday in a statement. "She stood fast in the belief that peace can be achieved and maintained by mankind."

Accolades to her daughter came from such disparate capital cities as Augusta, Maine, and Moscow.

Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan said that "all of America has a lost a very special girl. . . . Samantha was an inspiration not only to the young, like herself, but to all of us."

And a Soviet news commentator said simply: "She lived a short life but she managed to do much."

Samantha Smith’s worldwide legacy is remembered in her hometown

HOULTON, Maine — Thirty-five years after her passing, family and friends reflected on Houlton native Samantha Smith, who became one of the first American civilians to visit the Soviet Union as part of a diplomatic trip to foster peace between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Smith, who was born in Houlton in 1972 and later moved to Manchester in 1980, became known worldwide when in 1982 at the age of 10 she wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In her letter she asked him whether the two countries were going to have a nuclear war, and expressed her hope there would be peace.

“God made the world for us to share and take care of,” she wrote. “Not fight over or have one group of people own it all.”

But to Smith’s and her family’s surprise, Andropov responded that the USSR also desired peace, and invited her and her family to visit the Soviet Union. They accepted, visiting Moscow, Leningrad and the Artek Youth Pioneer Camp.

Smith’s life was tragically cut short on Aug. 25, 1985, when she and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash while flying from Bar Harbor to Lewiston. Four other passengers and the pilot also perished in the crash.

Hammond resident Diane Hines, who along with her husband Glenn were close friends of the Smith family when Samantha’s father taught at the now defunct Ricker College in Houlton. Hines recalled how the family was forever transformed after their trip.

“The Smiths just felt like they were a regular family,” said Hines. “They never felt the same after the trip to Russia.”

The family’s trip received wide media coverage in both countries. Smith became widely known as a peace activist and a budding child actress in the television show, Lime Street, appearing alongside Robert Wagner.

Under a new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union instituted reforms and went on to meet with President Ronald Reagan in several diplomatic talks. By the end of the decade, the Cold War between the two nations was all but over.

Regarding Smith, who would have turned 48 in late June, Hines said: “If they could find the perfect girl to go and represent the United States, she was pretty much there. She had the looks, and the smile and the delight.”

The Cold War ended more than 30 years ago, but looking at headlines today, it would be easy to think that tensions between the United States and Russia never dissipated — with economic sanctions , allegations that Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and now recent reports by American intelligence officials claiming Russian spies paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers — a revelation which is likely to further worsen relations. Russia has also recently sparked controversy by claiming to have developed a vaccine for COVID-29, despite not having completed all the clinical trials for it.

While the two nations have many disputes today, the beginning of the 1980s also saw the United States and Soviet Union as two nations that seemed they would never reconcile their differences.

Asked what she thought Smith would think of the current tensions between the United States and Russia, Hines said the situation is different than it was in the 1980s.

“President Reagan was hawkish to the Soviet Union. Trump seems to admire Putin. Very different relationship,” she said. “ I doubt Putin would invite a little girl and her family to visit for weeks and wine and dine them.”

“I think her main point was that we need to realize that people around the world are people, and we all have a lot of the same wishes,” said Jane Smith, Samantha’s mother, regarding her daughter’s legacy. “We desire to live a happy life, have a family that’s healthy and happy and be kind to one another.”

She also cautioned that even though the Cold War may be over, the threat of nuclear war remains very real, with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists setting the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight — a sign that relations between nuclear-weapon countries are eroding.

“People have kind of forgotten about the nuclear problem because we have all these other problems right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of scary stuff going on.”

How Soviet girl Katya Lycheva met Reagan and helped end the Cold War

11-year-old Katya Lycheva was chosen to be a Soviet Goodwill Ambassador to the U.S.

Viktor Velikzhanin and Valentin Kuzmin/TASS

In the 1980s, relations between the USSR and the US were at near breaking point. The arms race was peaking, Europe was a stationing ground for hundreds of nuclear missiles pointing in either direction, and US President Ronald Reagan openly described the Soviet Union as an &ldquoevil empire.&rdquo It seemed that full-scale war was a heartbeat away.

It was then that 10-year-old American Samantha Smith helped break the ice between Moscow and Washington. In a heartfelt letter to General Secretary Yuri Andropov, she asked: &ldquoAre you going to vote to have a war or not?&rdquo The world sat up and took note. Andropov answered Samantha, assuring her that no one in the USSR wanted war, and invited her to visit the country. She accepted the offer, and the whole world followed her journey across the USSR with her parents. Along the way, Samantha understood that the USSR was full of kind, peaceful people, and she made many new friends. Her youthful idealism became a symbol of hope for a better future for all.

Tragically, in 1985, just two years after her trip, Samantha was killed in a plane crash. Soon, however, another girl assumed the mantle of &ldquoglobal peace ambassador&rdquo &ndash Katya Lycheva from the Soviet Union. In her homeland, however, she was far less loved than Samantha.

Why the USSR didn't embrace Katya

New York, USA. Soviet school girl Katya Lycheva during her visit to the USA as a Soviet Goodwill Ambassador.

When Katya was first sent to the US in 1986, rumors circulated that &ldquoshe was a relative of Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and could not even speak English. A lot of dirt was poured over Katya. It's completely unjustified in my view,&rdquo says Lyubov Mikhailova, who worked as a TASS journalist in the 1980s.

In fact, the idea for ​​Katya&rsquos trip came from the Americans, not the Soviets. After the death of Samantha Smith and her father in a plane crash, her mother Jane and the Children as Peacemakers organization, which she founded, suggested that the USSR arrange for a Soviet schoolgirl to visit the U.S. in continuation of Samantha&rsquos mission.

Katya Lycheva (L) and her new American friend Star Rowe during Katya's visit.

The Soviet Union agreed, and promptly held &ldquoauditions&rdquo &ndash attended by around 6,000 hopefuls. The chosen one was Katya Lycheva. It is now known for sure that she did not have family inside the Communist Party. Her parents were academics, and she studied at a special English school in Moscow. What&rsquos more, she had quite a bit of acting experience, having appeared in three films. The girl&rsquos appearance was also important. With her fair curls and blue eyes, Katya was sure to be liked by the American public.

Katya meets Ronald

Katya Lycheva together with actors of Broadway theatre.

During Katya&rsquos trip to the US, her diary notes were serialized in the Soviet media, and later published in the collected volume Katya Lycheva Tells. In it, she describes meeting the US president:

&ldquoAfter five minutes, Mr. Reagan appeared, stretched out his hand, and said he was very pleased to see me in the White House. I gave him a toy and explained it had been made by Soviet children, who, like all of our people, want peace. Mr. Reagan replied that although he was no longer a child, he too dreamed of peace, and promised me that he would do everything to ensure there were no nuclear weapons left on Earth. He wished my mother and me a good time in America, and said he envied us because we&rsquod been to the circus the day before, while he didn&rsquot time to go there.&rdquo

Katya meets the other Ronald

When Katya went to McDonald&rsquos for the first time, the press coverage reached fever pitch. The sight of a Soviet girl feasting on a Big Mac and fries in America caused no less a sensation than her meeting with Reagan.

&ldquoWe had lunch that day at McDonald&rsquos. I&rsquod already heard it was a well-known chain of small restaurants. At the entrance, we were met by a smiling clown in a huge red wig. I immediately thought I was back at the circus. But everything there was really tasty. They brought us an appetizing sandwich called a Big Mac and crunchy slices of potato. I wanted to eat the sandwich, but every time I raised it to my mouth, there was such a flash of cameras that it was impossible to tuck in.&rdquo

Back in the USSR, no one had a clue what McDonald&rsquos was. It would be another four years after Katya&rsquos trip before the fast-food empire opened its first outlet there. For the first few months of its existence, the McDonald&rsquos restaurant at Pushkinskaya was a kind of pilgrimage site, with endless lines of people snaking around the streets.

Katya floors Rocky

Katya Lycheva and her American friend Star Raw strolling in Moscow.

Katya&rsquos impressions from her American adventure were not all positive. Above all, she was shocked by the movie Rocky IV, in which Sylvester Stallone&rsquos title character faces the Soviet machine Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren). She wrote in her notes: &ldquoWhen [Drago] killed [Creed], I ran into the bedroom, threw myself on the bed, and burst into tears. I was hurt by how our country was so falsely and cruelly portrayed.

The next day, I said in a TV interview: &ldquoThere was not a word that was true in [Rocky IV]. Even the faces of the Soviet people were not the way they really are. I&rsquom ashamed of the adults who made the film.&rdquo

Her remarks caused a stir in the US media: &ldquoWhat is objectionable about this film is not the conflict between the characters but the constant and unabashed pressure on the audience to scorn, pity, and demean the Russian people and their government,&rdquo wrote Carol Basset of the Chicago Tribune in support of Katya.

Back home

Jane Smith (second on the left), mother of the died U.S. peace envoy Samantha Smith and Katya Licheva (second right) participate in the opening ceremony of I Goodwill Games in Moscow.

In the days and weeks after her trip, Katya was a huge news item in the USSR &ndash everyone wanted to know what America looked like, what people there ate, how they dressed, what they read. She took part in public events, received sackfuls of mail, and had stories and anecdotes told about her. As a result, she had little time for normal life and contact with her peer group.

In the end, Katya and her family decided they&rsquod had enough of the media spotlight. Soon afterward, the name of Katya Lycheva disappeared from Soviet news. She and her mother moved to France, where she studied at the Sorbonne, graduated in economics and law, and worked there for a few years, before returning to Russia in 2000. Today, the grown-up Ekaterina refuses to speak to journalists on principle &ndash the attention she received as a child was more than enough for one lifetime.

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Maine Memory Network

Contributed by Maine Historical Society


Jane Smith stands by the life-size memorial statue of her daughter, Samantha (1972-1985), in front of the Maine Cultural Building in Augusta.

The Manchester school girl wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, expressing her concern about nuclear war. He responded, reassuring her, and invited Samantha and her parents to visit the Soviet Union.

Samantha became known worldwide as an advocate for peace.

She and her father, Arthur Smith, were killed in a plane crash in Auburn in 1985.

About This Item

  • Title: Jane Smith and Samantha Smith statue, Augusta, 1986
  • Creator: UPI
  • Creation Date: 1986-12-22
  • Subject Date: 1986-12-22
  • Town: Augusta
  • County: Kennebec
  • State: ME
  • Media: Photographic print
  • Dimensions: 24.8 cm x 18 cm
  • Local Code: Coll. 1880, Box 10/14, 1995.277.0016
  • Collection: United Press International collection
  • Object Type: Image

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This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. No Permission is required to use the low-resolution watermarked image for educational use, or as allowed by the applicable copyright. For all other uses, permission is required.

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