Posts tagged Poland

“I think I should tell you about myself” from Rawicz’s book

Finished Slavomir Rawicz’s book titled “The Long Walk.” Different in other ways from the recent Hollywoodized movie “The Way Back.”  Why did the movie veer off as it did from this true story from the early 1940s? More than enough drama without going off the serpentine path these escapees took from a Siberian prison camp, all 4,000 miles of it.  Without giving all the story away, if you are interested in reading the book or watching the movie, I will insert something from p. 116 that I thought was particularly good. It fits with the drum I’ve been beating for a long time about what conditions were like in Ukraine in the 1930s.  So much sadness even before the 1940s for those who survived the terror famine in the 1930s and what they encountered once sent off to Siberia or Kazakhstan to be “rehabilitated.”

The movie changed the name of the one fugitive girl (Irena) that joined the party of escapees, her name was Kristina in the book.  She wanted to let the other seven men know who she was so thus the title of this blog, she started with:

“I think I should tell you about myself,” she said.  We nodded.  It was a variation of a story we all knew.  The prison camps were filled with men who could tell of similar experiences.  The location and the details might differ, but the horror and the leaden misery were common ingredients and stemmed from the same authorship.

After the first World War Kristina Polanska’s father had been rewarded for his war services by a grant of land in the Ukraine under the reorganization of Central European territory.  He had fought against the Bolsheviks, and General Pilsudski was thus able to give a practical expression of Polish gratitude.  The girl was the only child.  They were a hard-working couple, these parents, and they intended that Kristina should have every advantage their industry could provide.  In 1939 she was attending high school in Luck and the Polanskas were well pleased with the progress she was making.

Came September 1939. The Russians started moving in.  Ahead of the Red Army “Liberators” the news of their coming reached the Ukrainian farm workers.  The well-organized Communist underground was ready.  It needed only a few inflammatory speeches on the theme of the overthrow of the foreign landowners and restoration of the land to the workers, and the Ukrainian peasants were transformed into killer mobs.  The Polanskas knew their position was desperate.  They knew the mob would come for them.  They hid Kristina in a loft and waited…”

The rest of Kristina’s story is too sad to recount here in this blog as is true of all these stories coming out of Ukraine and Kazakhstan I have collected over the years.  Suffice it to say, Kristina was an orphan and met up with these men who had gone through far worse trials of being separated from their families and also severely tortured.  The movie, of course, did not go indepth as to what had happened to Kristina before she met up with them. Nor had the movie shown the tortures that Rawicz went through at the hands of the Soviets which is at the beginning of the book.

Therefore, next time an old timer from the Old Country might say to you, “I think I should tell you about myself…” Let them tell their story. But my guess is that you will have to patiently ask questions (maybe loudly and insistently) and need a box of tissues handy when you get the answers.

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“The Way Back” or “The Long Walk” of 4,000 miles out of Siberia’s prison

Last night we watched “The Way Back” starring Ed Harris and a superb cast of actors (including one 16 year old girl). The movie is based on a true story of an original group of 7-8 men who walked away from an Siberian prison camp in 1941.  My husband, as a young boy, had read the book that was first published in 1955 titled “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” written by Ronald Downing.  That alone clinched our decision to experience this epic journey through cold, mountain passes and thirsty, Mongolian deserts. My husband wanted to see how close the movie fit to his recollection of reading this book 45-50 years ago.

Interestingly enough, Ronald Downing had started his own quest in Tibet of the legendary abominable snowman. However, he instead started gathering information about a Polish man, Slavomir Rawicz, who had walked across eastern Siberia to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, through China, Tibet and the Himalayans to finally gain his freedom in India. That was more compelling to write about than a snowman.

No doubt the film’s director Peter Weir had some parts of Downing’s book “Hollywood-ized”  However, the main meaning comes across in the special features after the movie.  That is, the inhumanity present in 100s of concentration camps throughout the Soviet Union is little known by people from the West.  I’m guessing for every 100 movies about Nazi atrocities in concentration camps, you have one movie about what Stalin did to his own people of the U.S.S.R. with the Siberian gulags. (That would also include Kazakhstan’s KARLAG system too)

The Soviet system was extremely brutal to their political prisoners who were imprisoned alongside REAL criminals of thieves and murderers.  There is one character, Valka, in this story who owned a knife, he called it “the wolf.” He also had tatooed on his chest the faces of Lenin and Stalin.  Though he believed in communism, he actually helped the other “politicals” survive in the wilds with the use of his knife. Yet he turned back once they got to the Trans-Siberian railway which they thought was the end of the Soviet Union and walking into freedom…sadly Mongolia had been taken over by USSR and so their trek to freedom continued.

The movie skipped over the Himalayans since the over two hour long movie had already shown its audience enough of the bitter cold of Siberia and reaching Lake Baikal and then the dry desert scenes. Also, I don’t think the actors or camera and production crews could fathom doing more marathon type survivalist living in the mountains.

The real hero of this story (played by Jim Sturgess) in both the movie and the book was Slavomir Rawicz, this Polish army officer who had been captured by the Red Army and accused of being a Nazi. His wife had been tortured to create a false testimony against him and Slavomir was summarily imprisoned by the Communists out to Siberia. He successfully trekked 4,000 miles after escaping from a Siberian prisoner of war camp. He survived the ordeal which lasted about a year because he knew how to live in the outdoors and survive on nature’s food and water.  He was accused by the Ed Harris character, known only as “Mr. Smith” of not being able to survive in the prisoner’s camp because he was too kind and helped other prisoners.  Perhaps his kindness and knowledge of how to survive is what eventually prevailed and got the two other men out alive with him.

Apparently, the older American, dubbed “Mr. Smith” had earlier watched his 17 year old son die at the mercy of communists then he was sent to the gulag and once “free” went on the Lhasa, Tibet. We don’t know if he survived once he parted ways with Slavomir and the others.  Also, I’m not sure if the movie ended accurately which showed how Slavomir had waited until Poland was free from the bonds of communist oppression to see his wife again after being separated for almost 50 years.  I would like to get a copy of the old book titled “The Long Walk” to read what my husband had read 50 years ago.  Such a remarkable story had a great impact on him.  The movie may have a profound impact on many other westerners as well.

Why don’t more people in the West know about the gulag system that happened throughout Russia and Kazakhstan?  Little is written because few people survived the cruel brutalities!  I would highly recommend watching this movie “The Way Back.”

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Haunted by ALZHIR Stories (Part III)

Incredible things an American teacher can learn from her Kazakh students if asking the right questions.  Today was no exception as a continuation of what I learned about ALZHIR, but this time it was from my advanced learners. The photo shows the artwork on the ceiling of the lobby area of the ALZHIR museum which is titled “Freedom and Captivity.” This shows 15 different birds in various stages of getting free from their cage of captivity.   This symbolizes the 15 republics whose women from the era of the former Soviet Union who were trapped in this far away place close to Astana, Kazakhstan.

Apparently two years ago there was a big conference in Poland where three or four Kazakh professors attended because they were vice presidents of universities here in Kazakhstan.  Such an important event attracted many different people from many nations.  During one of the meetings, a Polish man stood up and said the following to these Kazakh representatives:  “I want to pay my respect to your country and thank the Kazakh people because my grandmother stayed in ALZHIR.  When everyone was very hungry, every day the Kazakh children would give them cheese and bread. Even when the guards thought the children were throwing stones at the poor women, they said, “see even the small children hate you.” So that is why we need to make education a top priority for the Kazakh children because of this situation where Kazakh children saved my grandmother from certain starvation.”

I had asked my students today about the following women: Lubov Babitskiy,  Lubov Vasilevna Ivanova, Ruslanova, Galina Serrebryakova, Bulbairam Kozhakhmetova, Natalya Satc, Katya Olaveynikova, Zagfi Sadvokasovna Tnalina, Raissa Moisseyerna Mamayeva.  These names were in the brochure that I got at the ALZHIR museum the other day and very little is known about them.  However, everyone seemed to know about Ruslanova who was a famous Russian singer. There’s a story about when the prison guards asked this talented singer to sing a song for them, she declined and said “A nightingale doesn’t sing in a cage.”  After she was released, she went to sing for the troops during the Great Patriotic War.

I questioned them about Galina Serrebryakova and all my students could say was that her husband was a poet so that is why she ended up at ALZHIR.  See some of the poetry that is displayed on the first floor which gives a background of the husbands who were labeled “enemies of the people” and why the women became victims in ALZHIR.

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“Why we LOVE the U.S.” Part II

My husband and I love the U.S. of A. for patently usual reasons. We both have lived in other countries so we have something to compare America to.  Of course, I believe all people should love their motherland, it is a good and proper thing to do.  If one doesn’t love their own country, to me, it is like not loving your own parents.  It was appropriate to have a gathering at the American embassy in Astana on July Fourth to celebrate our uniquely annual event each summer.  The ambassador, embassy staff, assorted guests and Peace Corps volunteers were in attendance. I would hope they all love our country as much as my husband and I do.

Regrettably there are Americans who think it is in vogue to dishonor our country and its flag. They do NOT love America, yet that is their citizenship.  Where else would they rather live? By hating their own country so, they are belittling the ultimate sacrifices made by others we so can enjoy our freedoms.  Many of these America-deprecating people are found in academia. They go “ho-hum” to Fourth of July events. They may take a break from their usual ivory tower activities or at the very worst continue to write untruths that they eventually feed to unsuspecting and vulnerable young Americans and foreign students who fill their classroom chairs.

Yes, it is no surprise to me that there are many unpatriotic professors who do not tear up when they hear the National anthem.  They don’t even put their hand to their heart or pretend to mouth the words.  I am wondering if they have even read the time-honored Declaration of Independence?  It makes for a worthy annual read, which I should do now.

But first, I appreciate President Ronald Reagan’s words: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”  For many people in the former Soviet Union, freedom was not protected and many children suffered as a result.

I’m in the middle of reading a short book entitled “The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile “by Esther Hautzig. It starts out with Esther as a happy nine-year old girl in Poland but WWII interrupts her idyllic world.  She and her parents are transplanted in Siberia. This book was published in 1969, so the author knows just how awful the former Soviet Union was to their own people and those of neighboring countries such as Poland especially before WWII broke out.

The women in ALZHIR (concentration camp close to Astana, Kazakhstan) who survived their fabricated sentences also know how to survive as Esther Hautzig portrays in her book.  Back in the 1930s, one could be accused of mixing with the wrong crowd as “enemies of the people” simply by owning more than someone else.  Ownership and privilege came with a cost back in the former Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s. ALZHIR is a museum that shows the misery of the thousands of women from different countries in the Soviet Union who were sent there.

Perhaps that is why we love the U.S. because we know of the hardships of others during the Soviet Union, box cars full of people without freedom. Here are photos of names of women who lost their independence and who fought a different kind of battle of survival.

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“Bearing” the Weight of the World – Buddy Bears

I bet you thought you had seen the last of the Buddy Bears, well you were wrong!  Some of the designs from the different countries are so amazingly artistic that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show off more of the United Buddy Bears.  I’ve been more disciplined at writing down the names for each country that goes with each bear.  I wish I had done that when I first started showing photos of these bears that are bearing the weight of the world in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Actually, no, it seems that they are putting their arms up in praise, a very non-threatening stance to take in this world that is getting off balance with wars and rumors of wars.

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Ainura T’s Grandma’s Birthdate was Unknown

My name is Ainura and I have a very big family. I was brought up in countryside and we moved to town only recently. Because of that I have a lot of relatives. My mum’s and dad’s families were in close relationships with each other. My grandparents worked together, father’s mother was a teacher at a local school and taught almost all my uncles and aunts. But before moving into one village, the two families had different origins. I would like to introduce some people from my family, whose lives were quite different from others. So let’s start.

The family of my father was from the region which is called Torgay. It is in the south of Kostanay region. My great great great grandfather was a head of the village. Honestly the whole village was owned by him. It was in the 19th century. He had one wife, which was from very rich and influential klan, but they didn’t have any children. After her death he decided to marry again and chose the girl from the same klan from which was his first wife. At that time he was a 60-year old man. Then 17-year old new wife gave birth to their son. That was my great grandfather. After a few years my great great great grandfather died and his second wife was married with his brother but some said that his brother actually was his servant. Today it has not a lot of meanings.

After that they had a lot of children probably, 5 or 6 because one died until the age of 5. All that I heard was from my great grandmother who lived with us for several years. She was born in 1916, it is not justified because she didn’t know exactly even a date when she was born. She also couldn’t write and read. She lived a very long life and died in 2008 and she told us a lot of stories about her life. For example, during World War II women of her village including my granny built a dike alone or she told how they fished and then exchanged their catch of fish for food. Almost all kinds of food they made on their own. When she lived with us, she used to eat a lot and mostly butter. And honestly she never had any serious diseases.

Mother’s family has quite a different history. Her father was from an ordinary Kazakh family and her mother was from Russia but she is Kazakh. In her family were nine children and all of them were raised up by their mother alone, because her husband died when she was pregnant with the last child. All children, including my granny, have different stories. That family is the most international, there are Kazakhs, Russians, Jews, Ukrainians and others. All others live in Russia, excluding my granny.  She is in Kazakhstan and the youngest one lives in Kyrgyzstan. Mother’s grandfather was a soldier in 1941-1945. He participated in the battle for Kaliningrad and achieved Poland. He returned home and went to the parade in Moscow in 1973.

So that is my family. Actually all that is a history of my family and if I consider myself as a part of my family I can say that is a history of me.

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Alexandra’s Grandmother Knows What Life is Worth

В бою побывать – цену жизни узнать

To be in a battle is to know what a life is worth

For me this essay is not just an assignment not just a composition, but it is a family history, because it is about my grandmother. I believe I speak for my whole family in saying that we have the greatest grandmother anyone could ever ask for. While thinking about her I cannot help but have a smile on my face. I’m really proud of her.

While describing my granny, I can say a lot about her life in society, about her profession, but let me tell about her childhood during World War II.

Her family lived in Ukraine, which at the time was part of Soviet Union. Their home town was located close to the border with Poland. From what my grandmother told me, life was amazing. Both of her parents were working at a factory in a nearby town and were loving parents to all children. My grandmother was a baby sister to two older brothers. She was doing fine in school. She liked dancing and knitting most of all. They had living a great country life.

She was only 8 years old when World War II knocked to the house. In 1939 the German armies took over Poland and the life in Ukraine was becoming more and more unbearable. My great grandfather and both of his sons were called in to active duty with the Red Army. My grandmother and her mother were left alone close to the Nazi occupied Poland. With the Russian armies stationed in their town the stories and rumors of the Nazis inviting the USSR grew and so did fear. My great grandmother decided to leave their home town and relocate to Kiev, which is where my great grandfather and her brothers were stationed at the time. They packed everything that could take with them and got on a train. It was tough for both of them to leave their home, but knowing that the family will be together again and safe made it all worth it. From what my grandmother has told me, seeing her father and brothers at the train station was one of the most emotional moments in her life.

Sure enough the Nazis did attack the Soviet Union and my great grandfather and his sons were called in to the front lines. The trip to the train station with her brothers and her father was difficult. She understood that there is a good chance she may never see them again. She couldn’t do anything to stop them from leaving but she did knit all of them hats, so they could remember home and know that she was waiting for them to.

As you can imagine it was very tough on both my grandmother and her mom as the war moved closer and Russian casualties were growing with every day. My great grandmother decided to volunteer at a war hospital. As I have mentioned, my grandmother was seven at the time and since the schools had been closed, the only place my grandmother could be is at work with her mom. As time went by the little seven year old girl who should be going to school and enjoying life, was helping to take care of wounded soldiers that were coming in from the front lines of the war.

Finally, the war ended taking my grandmothers father and one her brothers lives with it. It took some time for them to find her brother who survived, but they were finally reunited. I think the war has had a big effect on my grandmother as a person and I adore everything about her. She is one of greatest people in the whole world. In spite of the cruel condition of the war, and the Nazi aggression knocking on every door, that little girl was able to keep her kind hearted ways.

Now she is a grown woman and the foundation of the family. She brings warmth and love to everyone around her. Even though it has been a long time since the war, you can still see the little girl who is in need of affection. We’ll take care of you grandma!

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Pope John Paul II’s legacy


Don’t know what this building used to function as but it is in my neighborhood in Almaty. Perhaps an old church, maybe some prominent families cemetery plot? In any case, people continue living even after the mighty have fallen. We all need heroes and I just finished watching a superb movie titled Pope John Paul II, he was a hero to millions and died only four years ago. He was born in Poland in 1920 and saw much in his years on earth. The following is from the (Internet Movie Database) website which gives a summary of this man’s life played by both Cary Elwes and then Jon Voight. Excellent acting, highly recommend this movie if you want to find out how Pope John Paul II helped fell communism.

Following the premature death of his mother, Karol Wojtyla is brought up by his father in the Polish city of Krakow during the first half of the 20th century. An outstanding student with a magnetic personality, he dreams of becoming an actor. When his homeland is invaded by the Nazis in 1939, he and his friends secretly oppose the systematic persecution of their Polish culture. But, with the death of his father and the lacerating solitude which accompanies this loss, Karol’s personal “resistance” takes on a new form and he decides to follow a priestly vocation. At the end of the war, Poland falls into the grip of Soviet totalitarianism. The newly ordained Karol is constantly surrounded by young people whom he teaches to safeguard and defend human dignity. He could be considered a serious threat to the regime, but the Communist authorities merely see him as an innocuous intellectual and even encourage his nomination for the position of bishop. Karol Wojtila is the youngest bishop in the history of Poland. When he is appointed Cardinal, Karol is more intransigent in the spiritual guidance of his homeland, becoming a real and proper thorn in the side of the Communist government. And the whole Catholic world begins to wonder who he is. On the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, the cardinals of the Conclave decide that Woytjla is the right man to lead replace him. Thus Karol leaves his beloved Poland to become Pope John Paul II. His free, unconventional attitude alarms several prelates, but immediately wins the hearts of the people. In a age paralyzed by fear and ideology, the new Pope shows everybody again the overwhelming fascination of Christianity: this is the beginning of a deep change, which will affect the whole world and the Church itself, as a sort of “contagion”. He miraculously survives an attempt on his life in 1981, and not even this event curbs his mission. Thanks to his unshakable tenacity , Pope John Paul II helps to change the course of history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 decrees the collapse of Communism. But the Pope does not stop being the voice of Christ, even among the injustices of the capitalistic Western world, even among the provocations and challenges of modern times . The Great Jubilee of 2000 is the most moving evidence of his mission: 3 million young people in love with the Pope gather in Rome, bringing with them the whole world’s hopes. This world has learned to look to him, now old and shaky, as a ray of light in the heart of darkness.

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“World Class Flat” and Wise Buys (Part II)

Here are my “Wise Buys” for those more astute, speculating shoppers:

1)     Naturally, one should always start in the bathroom area of one’s flat.  That is where most other people who are cost saving start, never mind the big ticket items such as cars, washing machines, computers, etc.  In our flat’s bathroom a more appropriate term would be “Water Closet” because it is as big as a closet.  I have a foot high metal holder for toilet paper, towelettes, spray.  I bought this at the Green Market and not the barahoka, so you KNOW it is stellar quality. Mind you, not manufactured in China. I also have the kind of spongy matting (forest green) that people use in bathrooms, imported from Germany and of very good quality. Again, not made in China which is a major selling point made often by Green Market sellers.  Okay, I dislike bathroom humor so thankfully this part is over with, moving on…


2)     These next items are for our truly “green thumb” shoppers.  The next place to look in order to save money for us is to sell all my plants.  When I first arrived to our flat that my husband had secured over a year and a half ago, the whole place was devoid of the color green.  I LOVE green (especially our old style American dollars) so I made short work of a trip to Ramstor just a block away and I bought 10 green plant holders, potting soil and the requisite GREEN plants.  For some reason I have many “Mother-in-laws tongue” plants that seem to proliferate.  So, not to use the ubiquitous “mother-in-law” jokes that abound in the former Soviet Union, I will refrain from writing any more.  Just know that my 14 + plants are healthy, they make our “World Class Flat” a home.


3)     For those of you who observe Christmas as a holi-day, I also have a collapsible Christmas tree for sale.  This has many fond memories attached to it having celebrated two Christmases with us here in Kazakhstan.  This tree I bought at the Green Market and is from Poland so you KNOW it is of top notch craftsmanship.  It stands less than a meter high when on a box and I will throw in the twinkling lights to the highest bidder.


4)     Apparently, we had our place newly remonted, meaning we had a European style remont which means absolutely NOTHING was on the walls, just whitish wall paper.  I suppose I prefer that over the gauche red carpets one sees in packed in living rooms and overly stuffed book shelves of outdated books in Russian printed in Moscow in the 1960s.  Yes, with bare walls, I could actually be creative with using pictures of my own taste to fit our color scheme of blue, purple, tan, beige, red and off orange linoleum.  So I quickly bought 14 frames at the big Tsum department store, matted the pictures off our old Carl Larsson and Terry Redlin big calendars and asked my hubby to drill the nails into the wall. (I found out later that these @ 18 inch by 20 inch frames were much cheaper at the Green Market)  Of course, the walls on our “World Class Flat” are patently secure with a 6 inch thickness of concrete so my dear husband went through many drill bits on some of our more fortified walls.  In any case, I will eventually sell all 14 frames and it will be of no extra cost to you, dear smart shopper, if you actually LIKE the pictures I matted under the glass and in the frames.


5)     One of my prized, big ticket items is a small CASIO keyboard.  It has more keys than the person at Housing who strenuously requests all foreigners to give over an extra set of apartment keys for “our protection.”  Well, maybe not, I counted my piano keys and it is short two octaves of the 88 keys that a full sized piano would have. However, it does have all the bells and whistles you could possibly want to make it sound like an accordion or a trumpet, ad naseum.  Me, I just prefer electronic pianos with an on and off switch, but this one also runs on battery.


6)     Another item is my HP LaserJet 1018 printer that has an extra filled print cartridges. It runs like a top.  Well, it should, it was purchased so we could continue to do our jobs at home while we are away from our office computer and printer. My husband and I buy our own reams of paper so that cannot account for the high erosion of paper that is lost by our university.  You find these things out when we are told to not use as much paper.  You see, they too are only trying to cut corners to save money where it really adds up!!!  That goes for number 1 above, we buy our own toilet paper at Ramstor. I can’t even imagine anyone embezzling toilet paper at our university except maybe impoverished college students.


7)     Finally, we also have the usual toaster, crock pot (from the U.S.), juicer, upscale hot pots for heating water necessary for any post-Soviet kitchen.  When the apartment complex heat is eventually turned off we have the SEVEN oil filled heater that will have to be sold along with heater fans to keep ones feet warm under one’s desk.  We have a boom box that uses both tapes and CDs. 


8.     I will give away music CDs, what is left of my DVD and video collection, my textbooks and reading books to those people I count as friends and important colleagues.  I may even have a phrase book or two in English on how to properly use Jesus Christ’s name rather than using it profanely.


This fine tuning we MUST do in order to pay back our credit card company and to run our “World Class Flat” more effectively, until we leave on cordial terms with our landlady, of course.  I’m truly grateful we have things to sell and not have to sell ourselves.  Unfortunately, some Central Asians have been forced to sell themselves into slavery due to their dire and grim circumstances.  (please read “Two Kyrgyz Women” to get perspective) Others have, perhaps, sold their souls.

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One Day at a Time: Solzhenitsyn Kept on Writing

I suppose I have “kept on writing” too an inherited trait from my mother’s side of the family.  Her older relatives commonly wrote letters back and forth from Norway to North Dakota and consequently my mom and *I* wrote lots of letters which I have stored away from my Philippine and China teaching days. 


I have many journals too but the one I miss the most was a five year journal (1983-1988).  I had mailed a hardshell, Samsonite suitcase back to Minnesota from Harbin, Heilongjiang China in spring of 1988. (Imagine 20 years ago) Everything I packed in the locked suitcase arrived safely to my local post office except my small stone, Chinese chop and my five year diary.  As you watch the Olympics, and the opening night was meant to impress, keep in mind what is considered “private and personal” in a land of communism.


Glad to still have my travel journal from my trip to another communist country of the former Soviet Union where I noted the following on Day 19 of my 36 day tour, May 22, 1976.


We arrived into one of the four Moscow airports at 2:30 p.m. Our bus ride to Sputnik showed the bleak country with dismal housing and yards.  They were about 60 years old and sectioned off with fences.  All over could be seen women of stocky build in drab coats and scarves on their heads.  Their faces all the same – wide set, plain eyes, white skin, stern and sober.  We had a tour of the subways and they were immaculate, I was impressed.


On Day 27, May 30, 1976 I was going through culture shock when we arrived at Warsaw, Poland.  What a contrast from what I had seen in Russia:


But you can’t explain the Russian people, because they have duo personalities.  Cold and reserved on the public front but very warm and hospitable on a personal level.  It was like being in another world, mystical and ungraspable in all respects for my Western, capitalistic mind.  It was hard to acknowledge the fact that such a difference of mindsets would limit us in our movement far as to churches or other places of our interest.


Perhaps Solzhenitsyn had a duo personality and really did love America and the free air he breathed even though he steadfastly worked away on his writing about Russia and didn’t get to know many Americans or our culture.  The following helps explain Solzhenitsyn better and is from Christopher Hitchens column titled:  “The Man Who Kept on Writing”


But it seems that Solzhenitsyn did have a worry or a dread, not that he himself would be harmed but that none of his work would ever see print. Nonetheless—and this is the point to which I call your attention—he kept on writing. The Communist Party’s goons could have torn it up or confiscated or burned it—as they did sometimes—but he continued putting it down on paper and keeping a bottom drawer filled for posterity. This is a kind of fortitude for which we do not have any facile name. The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived “as if.” Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on “as if” he were a free citizen, “as if” he had the right to study his own country’s history, “as if” there were such a thing as human dignity.

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