Friday, February 29, 2008

One more story

I grew up in a time when Russians were considered our enemies. We were told the Soviet Union intended to bomb America to oblivion and control the world, that the people of Russia, Poland and Ukraine were cruel and fearless automatons controlled by their government. But even as a child, I had my doubts.

I first visited the enemy's side in 1994, not long after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. In the dozen years that would follow, I would return there nine times. I got to know the people we were encouraged to hate in our childhood. You get to know people well - on a different level - when you live with them in their homes.

You are all familiar with the typical travel experience: Visiting a strange and foreign place, the traveler overcomes fear and prejudice to realize that the natives are, despite their culture and language, just like him. Well, my experience in the former Soviet Union has been a little more complex than that. It started as a mysterious attraction, then grew into a joyous emotional attachment before fading. It was, more or less, a long love affair that has ended regretfully.

The story that starts Monday will be about some of the people I met in that part of the world. I hope you enjoy meeting them. As with the previous stories, I know where this one starts but not how or when it ends. Some of the characters may spark some memories of your own that you should share with other readers through your comments.

We'll call this one "Russian Affair."


Monique Ringling said...

Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I have long advocated a mandatory two years of service (non- military) abroad for every graduating high school senior. And I do mean "service" -- living with and working with "normal" people in Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East and elsewhere. Americans are an isolated, insolent lot. We need to understand and adapt to other cultures rather than insisting that everyone adopt the American standard. Maybe it would keep future generations from attempting to foist democracy on peoples who don't particularly want it.