CARTERTON, ENGLAND, DEC. 7 -- Raisa Gorbachev visited a British grade school today, kissing flag-waving children as she watched a traditional Christmas Nativity play.
Crowds of cheering students waving small British flags and Soviet standards with the hammer and sickle greeted the wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev outside the Edith Moorhouse Primary School. Raisa Gorbachev, sporting a luxurious white-streaked fur coat, told them through a translator, "I'm very happy to meet you."
Inside the school, Gorbachev, who once was a teacher, told an assembly of students and about 100 parents, "It is nice to visit your country again."
The Gorbachevs last visited England in December 1984 when Mikhail Gorbachev was the number two man in the Soviet Politburo.
Today, Raisa Gorbachev visited the school in Carterton, a village of 12,000 near Brize Norton Royal Air Force Base, while her husband spoke privately with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the base. The British stopover was arranged to coincide with a refueling stop en route to the Washington summit meeting between Gorbachev and President Reagan.
During her 45-minute visit to the school, accompanied by Britain's Education Secretary Kenneth Baker, a beaming Raisa Gorbachev watched a Nativity play staged by 5- to 7-year-olds, toured classrooms and received gifts and Christmas cards from the children.
Asked who the visitor was, one girl said, "She's an important lady" and after pausing to think, added, "because she runs Russia."
Brian McCutcheon, head teacher at the school, said she appeared to enjoy the visit and showed the children "tremendous affection."
"She took children on her knee, hugged children, kissed children who gave her gifts and who made her laugh," he said. "She was very warm, very warm indeed."
Angela Samuel and her son Ashley, 9, met Gorbachev. "I think she is a very nice person," Samuel said. "She spoke to several of us in Russian and then in English, saying how nice it was to see us."
After her visit, Gorbachev returned to the air base and joined her husband for lunch with Thatcher before the Soviet couple left for Washington.