A Capitol Hill family joined more than 200 other Americans and 170 Soviet citizens in taking a long step toward peace this summer when they marched 350 miles from Leningrad to Moscow.

Ed and Adrien Helm and their children Eleanor, 10, Joanna, 7, Ged, 4, and 19-month-old Daniel participated in the International Peace Walk, which Adrien Helm called "a precedent-setting, important event of citizen-to-citizen diplomacy."

The march, organized by California college student Allan Affeldt, 28, was an offshoot of the Great Peace March across the United States this year.

Affeldt said Soviet officials welcomed the marchers and in fact helped subsidize their stay at $50 to $75 per person per day. He said the Americans paid $25 per person per day.

Affeldt said the purpose of the march was to "create a climate where it it possible to think of the Soviets as humans and not the evil empire."

Affeldt said the march was the largest civilian exchange ever between Americans and Soviets. He also said the marchers were participants in the first-ever foreign demonstration at the Kremlin in Red Square.

Adrien Helm, a lawyer, said that she and her family marched "to advance the goal of ending the arms race before it ends us. The walk was the beginning of a person-to-person journey that must take place and expand if we are to wind down the arms race."

"We won," said Ed Helm, 42, a civil rights lawyer with the solicitor's office at the Labor Department. "We walked in a disarming way and were humble. We introduced populism to fancy Soviets."

They also handed out to eager Soviet citizens cards with a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on one side leading the 1963 March on Washington and on the other side a picture of a Helm child with the words: " . . . Let us stop the arms race so that these things {that I love} and all you love may live and have life in abundance."

Adrien Helm said that in living, camping and eating with the Soviets in dormitories, hotels and campgrounds along the way, her family provided "a fresh view of a family committed to a religion and serious about peace. The Soviets read about our AIDS, the homeless, gangsters and drug addicts. We read about their dissidents, suicide rate and agricultural failures.

"The walls broke down over there. We met intellectual, spiritual and educated people interested in verbal chess games who knew a lot about us Americans. A Soviet walker said, 'American hands and eyes were so kind.' "

During their stay from June 15 to July 8, the marchers, who included three other Washingtonians, became celebrities, appearing in newspapers and magazines and on television. Along the route, Soviets approached and with their hands drew a box, signaling they had seen the family on television.

"The outpouring of emotion was hard to take. We were so busy I couldn't process it well," Adrien Helm said. A Soviet rushed to an American walker, handing him the watch of his son killed in the war in Afghanistan. Families asked them to their homes for tea.

In Novgorod, 50,000 Soviets lined the streets to watch the march when officials said they had expected only 5,000.

"Men cried and hugged us. People handed us presents," Adrien Helm said.

The Helms said they were treated well. "They fed us well and too much," Adrien Helm said. "We had two to three courses for breakfast, four for lunch and three dinner courses. Every other day we ate red caviar and smoked salmon. Their vegetables are limited, however. Every day we had cucumbers and tomatoes."

But there were some inconveniences, the Helms said. Hot water, showers and toilet seats in the dormitories were frequently absent.

"Things are often primitive there. When we asked about showers, they answered, 'This isn't Leningrad or Moscow,' " Ed Helm said.

Eleanor Helm, a fifth grader at the Capitol Hill Day School, was somewhat apprehensive about the trip. "My classmates said the Russians would kill me. I sort of knew they were kidding."

She said she does not regret having gone. "Everywhere we went, we were given gifts. I was amazed by the loving and respect the Soviets have for us and the need for peace they feel the world needs. 'Miredruzhba' {peace and friendship} they said to us and we said to them."