Saturday, February 25, 2017

Building Bridges to Russia

Troitsky Bridge across Neva River

     I'm very curious when I look at the stats on my blog and see that I have a huge fan base in Russia. Since these readers don't leave comments, I have no idea who they are and why they are interested in "Building Bridges of Oneness." 

     For most of my life the United States and Russia - or the Soviet Union - have been political enemies. I have never thought of the Russian people as enemies, and I've always been interested in Russian culture and literature. When I was fourteen, I wrote my first letter to the editor of a newspaper about the space race, and how we could achieve more if we were to work together with the Soviets rather than trying to beat them into space. I thought then, as I do now, that we should be looking for ways to cooperate and learn from each other.

     In the early 1980's, Mark and I were active in the peace movement, seeking an end to the arms race. We started to take a class in Russian at East Tennessee University, and were saving our money for a trip to the Soviet Union where we hoped to make connections with some Russian people. Then, on September 1st of 1983, a South Korean airliner, in flight from New York City to Seoul, was shot down by a Soviet Su-a5 interceptor. After that we cancelled our travel plans and used the money we'd saved to purchase a piano. 

     Mark and I never did get to Russia, but our niece studied at the Performance Art Theater in Moscow for two years, and sent us some beautiful decorated eggs and a bowl. I love Russian art, and have several sets of Russian stacking dolls displayed in our home. 

     I also have a friend whose daughter, Emily, went to Russia as an exchange student in 2009 and loved it so much, she went back and worked at the Anglo-American School in St. Petersburg for a year and a half. My friend. Debbie, and her husband, visited their daughter there in 2011. Debbie says that the country was beautiful, and yet she felt a heaviness, as if the people were all weighed down by the centuries of oppression their ancestors had known. However, Emily explained to her mother that while Russians do not smile a lot in public, it doesn't mean they aren't happy. They tend to be more joyful in their private lives, so while they may not be smiling on the subway, they are probably smiling in their homes and at the jobs they enjoy. 

     Debbie and Bruce stayed in an apartment overlooking the ethereal Neva River, and she enjoyed watching the men clean their boats every morning, in preparation for the tours they would give later. She got a lighter feeling while watching them take breaks to jump into the water, and seeing an artist who was painting the scenes below their window. 

Debbie and daughter, Emily, in St. Petersburg

     During her visit, Debbie found the shopkeepers to be very friendly, and Emily certainly found friends during her time in Russia - in fact, one of them has recently moved to the United States to marry her! I like to think that the American and Russian people would find much in common on which to base friendships, if given the opportunity. The quarrels between our governments should not influence the way common people feel about one another. It is up to us, the people of the world, to build bridges when our governments attempt to build walls. 

     I really hope that some of my Russian readers will comment here and tell me a little bit about themselves and their interest in building bridges of oneness. мир

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