We visited the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg last week and were lucky enough to catch the Frida Kahlo exhibit just a few days before it closed. This was the very appropriate entry wall introducing the exhibit.
This past week, I've been reading "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" by Nicholas Reynolds. It explores Ernest Hemingway's political views and his likely unintentional ties with the Soviet Union, led by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, also known as the NKVD. the NKVD was a broad-reaching public and secret police force that was also charged with espionage and enforcing Stalinist policies within communist movements around the world. The book alleges the NKVD actively sought to recruit Hemingway and suggests they were able to use him as a tool for the communist message while he was in Spain covering and fighting the Facist Franco.
For his part, Hemingway was a very staunch and early supporter of the anti-Facist movement in Spain, Italy and Germany. In the early days, the USA turned a blind eye to the original Axis of Evil between Germany, Italy and Spain. The Soviet Union was fighting the Facists for the rest of the world when Hemingway found himself in Spain. Naturally, he met and developed relationships with many good Soviets and Communists who were rightly taking up arms against the Facists.
In an abrupt turnaround in 1939 — just before the outbreak of WWII — Stalin's Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler's Nazi Germany. This shocked many who thought Russia's fighters were the largest force fighting against the rise of Facism. Accordingly, many previous communist party members around the world denounced the party. Many were put on Soviet hitlists. Many of the Soviet fighters from Spain were forced to seek refuge elsewhere lest they return to the Soviet Union and were disappeared by the NKVD since the Soviet doctrine had changed while they were away.
Frida Kahlo's companion and husband, Diego Rivera, found himself mixed up in the Soviet policies as a member of the Mexican Communist Party ten years earlier. He was expelled from the party and ordered to leave the Soviet Union where he was painting a mural for the Red Army Club in Moscow when the NKVD suggested he was involved in anti-Soviet politics.
Hemingway and Diego Rivera had become friends and Hemingway, who thought Rivera's life was under threat from the NKVD, gave his friend a pistol to protect himself from assassins. Hemingway may have been on to something as Rivera's friend and former leader of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky was assassinated by the NKVD in Mexico City in 1940.
Perhaps Frida's husband was next?
This photograph was captured with a Sony a6300.