Friday, March 21, 2008

Russian Affair, Part 15

It's been 50 years since I huddled under my desk at P.S. 8, worrying about the day when this would not be a drill but the real thing, when Soviet missiles would rain on New York and we would all be blinded by a flash of light moments before our incineration. I could never have imagined at that vulnerable and impressionable age that the world would survive for another half century with no nuclear warfare. And I could never have dreamed that I would spend so much of my time as an adult on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

I doubt that I will ever return to Russia, our work being done. Our sister newspaper not only survived but is thriving. And Books for the World, like so many other small humanitarian organizations, is no longer welcome. But we are proud of what we accomplished: equipping the Chemal village school with books, furniture and school supplies; furnishing more than 17,000 books in English to Novokuznetsk's schools and university; and donating a 40-foot container loaded with clothing, diapers, sporting goods and sewing machines to 12 Siberian orphanages.
It's a big world, though, and there's no shortage of places that could use our help. In June, I'll return to Lithuania along with Alice and six members of the Washington Rotary Club. We plan to spend a couple of days in Obelei with Diana Kanciene helping out at Arteities Vardan in any way we can.
If you look at a map of Europe and zero in on the Baltic states, you'll notice something peculiar about Lithuania. In the southwest corner of that country, along the coast of the Baltic Sea at the border with Poland, is a tiny piece of Russia that's cut off and separated from the motherland. It’s called Kaliningrad. It's a little piece of Russia that won’t go away.
That map is like my heart. I have a little piece of Russia there that will remain forever. It is a pocket stuffed with joy and sorrow - the memory of my Russian affair.


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