Warm in Russia's embrace By Mary...


October 28, 2001|By Special to the Sun


Warm in Russia's embrace

By Mary Holt


When my husband, Ken, and I traveled to Russia last spring to adopt our 8-year-old daughter, we prepared for an arduous journey to a country in the midst of economic and political turmoil.

But we also decided that we would take the opportunity to see, as tourists, one of the most captivating places in the world. Our optimism was rewarded with countless unexpected pleasures, in addition to the greatest joy of all -- welcoming Svetlana into our family.

The pleasant surprises were in the vast, natural beauty of the countryside -- thousand-acre fields of rich, black soil still sprinkled with April snow -- and the splendid architecture and history of Moscow -- the Kremlin, Red Square, ancient gold-domed churches, the Bolshoi Theater -- and other cities we visited.

Our stay was made even more wonderful by the Russians we met, who were warm and gracious people. We made many friends I know we will remain in touch with for years to come.

Our most memorable evening was a barbecue with several Russian friends. We drove about 50 miles outside the city of Perm, near the Ural Mountains, to a forest of pine and white birch. After hiking deep into the snowy woods, we found a good spot.

With the sun still shining at 8:30 p.m., the men built a fire and cooked shish kebabs while the women set out an array of salads and desserts prepared by our hosts. Someone brought a radio, which we hung on a branch, and we listened to Russian and American pop songs as we ate.

Although our friends spoke little English, and we were limited to Russian "cheat sheets," communication was never a problem. We stood around talking, laughing, proposing toasts, sipping cognac and singing songs in our native languages to each other. A highlight was when Ken, in his lovely tenor voice, belted out America the Beautiful a cappella, each verse reverberating through the trees.

And then a song I remembered from a decade ago was playing on the radio. Called Wind of Change by the Scorpions, the song speaks poignantly to glasnost and the political changes that were occurring in Russia at the time it was released:

The world is closing in / Did you ever think / That we could be so close, like brothers? ... Take me to the magic of the moment / On a glory night / Where the children of tomorrow dream away / In the wind of change

The song must have been written with this very evening in mind, I thought, looking around our group. Russians and Americans were together, sharing a wonderful camaraderie in that primeval forest, sun setting behind us, moon rising above. Hugging Svetlana, I knew that I would never forget that evening.

Mary Holt lives in Kingsville.


Bridge to enchantment

By Alexa Lori, Baltimore

Ascoli Piceno sits in a valley in central Italy surrounded by mountains and olive groves. The city is enchanting, and walking through it you feel as though you have stepped back in time. On our last night there, my sister Alison and I took lots of pictures. This is an old Roman bridge built over the Tronto River.



John Vinci, Sparks

"A wonderful time to travel through the picturesque San Juan Mountain Range in Colorado is in the fall, when the brilliant yellow of aspen trees lights up the countryside. U.S. 550 is aptly named 'The Million-Dollar Highway' for its alpine vistas. We traveled this scenic highway from Durango to Silverton and beyond."


Donald Kiley, Baltimore

"Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 on an island near present-day Bangkok as capital of a Thai state. Ayutthaya was an entrancing city with gilded palaces and temples, but it was mostly destroyed during a Burmese invasion in 1767. Even today, the tranquillity of the ruins is overwhelming, and when things get hectic, I think back to that visit to restore calm to my life."


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