From Ho Chi Minh’s fictional Diary:

13 May 1937

Everything conspired to stop me from getting here. The day before I was due to leave Moscow, Stalin attacked all of those advocating a Popular Front and even arrested several. I was saved only thanks to Dimitrov - always a friend in need.

The journey to Canton was the usual grind, made even worse by floods all over south China, which meant horses, when I could get one, or walking, sometimes wading. Then this junk to Macao was attacked by pirates - they took almost everything. Two passengers were shot, and one thrown overboard. The constant dampness affected my lungs again and put me in the hospital.

This particular visit of Ho to Moscow was during a nightmare in Soviet history. Apart from repeated crop failures plaguing the peasants, Stalin’s widespread purges meant constant threat of arrest, imprisonment, starvation, torture, and death for almost anyone. Meanwhile, his initial opposition to a Popular Front had helped Hitler’s rise to power. That Ho was able to thread a path through this entanglement of misery, hate, suspicion, accusation, and death is further evidence of his political skill.

No one studying Ho’s life in depth can be anything but appalled at the challenge of the journeys he made for his ever-varied assignments. Had he never been an outstanding political leader he would still deserve fame as a traveler over vast distances, varying from purely difficult to hazardous and atrociously grim. One must remember that there was no commercial air travel, no scheduled bus routes, negligible railways or road traffic, and sea routes were largely haphazard. Always carrying his own posessions and often his own means of subsistance, Ho walked (sometimes pushing a cart), sometimes rode a pony, poled a sampan, or now and then hitched a hard ride on the back of an army lorry or on one of the derelict vehicles that occasionally traveled between major towns; altogether, he covered thousands of miles in every type of weather from tropical heat to arctic snowstorms, every type of terrain from desert to forest, from floodplains to mountain peaks. In that era of maximum world strife and deception, travel for an indigent and often proscribed traveler required, indeed, an iron will and the utmost fortitude.
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