Soviet Schoolgirl Ends U.S. Tour : Katerina Discovers the Magic Kingdom
There, atop her tiny head, sat the symbol of all that is American--Mickey Mouse ears.
Carefully sewn in yellow thread across the back of the two-earred cap: Katerina Lycheva.
The 11-year-old Soviet schoolgirl is not a household word yet, not even on the final day of her 12-day visit to the United States. But she still received a top dignitary’s salute at the Anaheim theme park Tuesday.
Katerina’s trek to Disneyland followed a morning visit to Los Angeles City Hall, where the Soviet youngster echoed the same message of peace that she has repeated since her tour began in Chicago. “The most important thing of all is for us to have peace and for that we need friendship,” Katerina said.
The visit to the Magic Kingdom came loaded with reporters’ questions--and few answers.
“What about those Mickey Mouse ears?” a reporter asked. “Do you feel comfortable wearing a set of ears linked to the heart of American values?”
Katerina was clearly puzzled by the question. A translator refused to repeat it to her. “We have festivals like this in Moscow,” she said, as a Mickey Mouse character placed his arm around her. “I like these festivals.”
But the “festival” at Disneyland was as carefully crafted as a Russian novel. More than three weeks of planning, scheduling and special preparations at Disneyland preceded Katerina’s visit, according to park officials.
Katerina’s whirlwind visit was “comparable to a visit from a head of state,” said Bob Roth, a park spokesman. A previous Soviet head of state, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, was denied entrance to the park in 1959 when police said they could not assure his safety.
On this visit, park security guards were aided by members of the Anaheim Police Department and the Secret Service. The Disney security forces, though, were caught off guard moments before Katerina’s arrival by the appearance of a dozen protesters--most of them children. The protesters distributed letters from the Free Afghanistan Alliance, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that wants Soviet soldiers to leave Afghanistan.
“If the Russian leadership is sincere about peace, the place to start is in Afghanistan,” said Asad Farhad, a director of the organization.
Times staff writer Victor Merina contributed to this report.