Who would have thought I would be given the opportunities I have been given?
It is hard to believe that Susan and I are spending our third day with a Russian family. During my first trip to Russia in 1985, I never envisioned that some day I would stay with a Russian family in their apartment in Krasnodar.
In 1985 I was stationed with the U.S. Army in Pirmasens, Germany. The Officer’s Wives Club sponsored a tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg. I decided to go, along with two other men from the U.S. Army Medical Material Agency Europe (USAMMCE). We only had secret clearances at the time. Most of the officers at Pirmasens had top secret clearances. They were not allowed to go, but some of us at USAMMCE were able to go.
This was prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, so there were restrictions on where we could go and what we could do. As a tour group we had a set daily agenda. We stayed in the tourist hotels, ate in tourist restaurants and rode the tourist buses. We had a local guide with us all the time.
During our visit I thought the USSR would always exist, always be communist and all Russians would be my enemy. A great deal has changed in the last 27 years since my first trip to the former Soviet Union. Now the Russian people are not my enemies, but my friends. They are no longer communist, but are free. The USSR has dissolved into several independent countries. Now I can stay with my Russian friends without any fear, and am able to travel with them wherever they wish to take me.
Visit to Goryachi Kluch: This evening, after it started to cool down, we took a short drive to Goryachi Kluch (meaning hot wellspring) to do some hiking. The area is known for its healing mineral waters and is a place many people go for rest, relaxation and the “cure” from the mineral water. Misha told us that his church planted a church in Goryachi Kluch about a year ago.
We started with a casual walk through the park. It was very busy with young people, families with children and older folks strolling along wide walkways edged with trees, shrubs and flowers.
At the the end of the walkways we came to the beginning of the hills. With Mark leading the way and me bringing up the rear, we walked up the hills. I am thankful for the steps that made the climb much easier.
Mark always wanted to the take the long way and I quietly followed, hoping he would take the short way! However, another set of steps didn’t stop Mark, but they made me take a deep breath at the beginning and several more once I reached the top.
Finally we started going down the hills. Once we got to the bottom we had a picnic that Olga had prepared. It was a great meal. I am not sure which I enjoyed more, the meal, the drink or just sitting down. After a time of relaxing, chatting and people watching Misha drove us back to Krasnodar.
I slept very well that evening in the home of my Russian friends, who I never thought I would have the opportunity to get to know and eventually stay in their home.
Who would have though I would be given this opportunity?