Gollar: During the ﬁrst Kremlin Cup, we stayed at the Mezhdunarodnaya Hotel, which was not intended for ordinary tourists, but only for high-level functionaries. For the second tournament, we were in the Oktobrskaya Hotel, which was also only for VIPs and not for ordinary people. It was very beautiful with marble and all, but it was very Soviet in style, and not comfortable at all. Later, they built a hotel next to the stadium, the Penta, which belonged to an international chain. This hotel was very comfortable and starting from the third Kremlin Cup tournament, we stayed there with the players. It was a short walking distance from the Moscow Olympic Stadium, which saved us a lot of expenses and headaches on player transportation. During the year, we stayed in the Metropol Hotel, once they ﬁnished renovating.
The Kremlin Cup paid for hotel rooms for all the players and some of our guests. As we had a registered Russian company for organizing the tournament, we were allowed to pay in rubles for some of these rooms, as well as for rooms we rented during the year, because all our trips were preparation for the Kremlin Cup. Paying in rubles meant the prices were very good. Unfortunately, we only got a limited number of rooms through the company, and the other guests, whose rooms were not included in the bargain, had to pay in dollars, which meant that their prices were very high.
Russians were not allowed to enter our hotel without a permit. The hotel was open only for hotel guests. When I wanted to meet someone, I had to wait in front of the door to meet that person, and tell the guards that this is my guest for one hour, and then they were allowed in.
Whenever we stayed in Russia, in any place and any hotel, Sasson would tell me not to talk in the room, because, as the famous Persian proverb goes, “Divār mush dārad, mush gush dārad — the wall has a mouse and the mouse has ears”. I didn’t believe him, but he was very serious about it! When he wanted to talk with someone in the room, they would go to the bathroom and talk while the tap water was running!
The hotel director Yuri Matkof said, of course, that the hotel is completely safe and private, but Sasson didn’t believe him. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Matkof took us to the hotel basement, and showed us the eavesdropping room: all the rooms had been wired and ﬁlmed, they could look at each corner in the room and hear every breath. Sasson was right!
In those days, during communist times, there was an old lady sitting on behalf of the KGB on every ﬂoor, and she was the one who gave you the the keys to your room. She was supposed to be there 24/7, but one time I returned very late. She was not there, and I couldn’t get into the room, because they never let you take the keys out of the hotels. Sasson had returned earlier, got his key and locked the room. When I arrived, he was fast asleep, I couldn’t wake him up by knocking on the door, and the lady was nowhere to be found! I spent that night in the corridor.
I’ve learned my lesson, and never came back late again.
I also had a personal “caretaker”: an elderly lady named Masha, who was introduced, and indeed acted as my interpreter. Her husband was a member of the Academy of Science. They were very high level people. It went without saying that they were assigned to spy on and control us, and make sure we were not spying on behalf of another country.
In the beginning, we were given a one-room office at the Olympic stadium. We had only one telephone line. We wanted another one, for the fax, but they said — even the prime minister doesn’t have more than two lines. Sasha Vainstein wrote all his notes on a single large piece of paper that covered his table. You could only buy paper in shops where you paid with dollars, and only foreigners could do that. Locals couldn’t even go in. It was such a mess back then!
But it was all very exciting and interesting.