Some of us have real touching stories that makes us out to be “Patriots”. My personal story started back in the summer of 1971. I hope you enjoy my story because it is meaningful to me and I want to encourage you as our readers to send us your story so we can post it on both of our websites.
My father was a business man and he belonged to the YMCA Businessman’s Club. One day my father over heard these men talking about a athlete’s tour to Russia as a prepaid tour. I was not a very good 17-18 year old Christian boy back then because I was the typical teen rebel. I got with the wrong crowd and was doing stuff that upset my family.
My dad got to thinking about sending me on the tour of 18 different countries through the YMCA. He thought that I would do better by being around a better class of kids, that I would do better myself. Well kids will be kids and the amount of money did not mean a darn thing.
Around the 4th of July 1971, twenty-two of us junior athletes were going through Check Point Charlie at the border of East Berlin and West Berlin. We were flying out of East Berlin in route to Moscow. We were cordially greeted at the airport in Moscow by a few men as one of them being our interpreter.
After leaving Moscow we went by bus down to a place down in the Crimean Sea called Simferopol. We had our own private floor in the beach hotel, which was a beautiful sight to see at sun down. This is just around the bend from Yalta where at the Yalta Conference where Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin met at the Yalta Conference, 1945. They met in Yalta in the Crimea to plan the final defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.
The events that took place in Simferopol were like being in the Olympics. We had events such as swimming, basketball, track, and shot put. On our team we had 11 boys and 11 girls. We got a lot of attention because our team was so small. I guess it did not help with us just being Americans. The teams that entered the competition were teams from Czechoslovakia, Russian, Yugoslavian, Polish, and German teams, and of course we were the only Capitalist country there. At least they called us Capitalists.
The night after the event was awards night, and of course we got our awards for placing first in a couple of events. Part of the awards ceremonies was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was so amazingly beautiful and my heart over-flowed with gratitude for being an American. Tears were flowing down my face and I was all choked up with gratitude. I was so proud to represent the United States of America as an athlete as well as a proud Patriot. The Russian organizers surprised us with a commemorative celebration for the 4th of July with fireworks, and the song I believe was America The Beautiful. It was if I could not control the tears of joy.
Also to our surprise too, was that the Russian organizers decided to go off program. They wanted to have a special event so that each country could have two speakers from each country speak about their country. Was this a good idea or not? We agreed to the agenda and as it turned out it was not a good idea. Our interpreter was not interpreting accurately and we were put into a bad political situation.
Little did us athletes know that our tour guides John and Eleanor Thune was taken captive and were harshly interrogated by the KGB. After we left the Soviet Union and on our way to Greece we were briefed on how to deal with the media frenzy. The news got out and we were in the European and the American papers. We were greeted by a whole barrage of media at the airport when we landed in Athens. They thought we were spies and I did not know this at the time in that I may have complicated matters more when I met and fell in love with a sweet little Russian cutie, her name was Svetlana, I called her Sam. She was some kind of a diplomat from what she told me. She did a lot of the interpreting when talking to people from other countries.
I believe they thought that we were part of some kind of spy ring and thought we were passing secrets back and forth. I kept a detailed image of her in my mind for several years after that and have always wondered if she was still alive or not.
I guess it was the KGB who broke into our rooms and confiscated our cameras and all of our literature. It was Lenin’s 100 year anniversary and so we were blessed to view Lenin in his tomb on Red Square. There was quite a celebration going on with the anniversary of Lenin’s death. I had quite a few books on Lenin because I was interested to know who he was and how bad he was as a dictator. Before we left for Kiev we had dinner in the dinning hall and after eating some of the athletes reported being very sick. The athletes that ate the chicken and rice ended up being food poisoned.
We left in the middle of the night which was much earlier than planned. I ran over to Svetlana’s hotel to let her know we were leaving. There were a lot of men in suits hanging around, so I went outside and threw rocks up to her window. She did not reply. As a matter of fact that was the last time I saw or heard from Svetlana. I believe the KGB may have done something bad to her because they could have thought that we were passing secrets back and forth, which is whacked out thinking. Our tour guides did not want us to worry and we did not know what they experienced until we left and were on our way to Athens, Greece.
As things turned I left the Soviet Union with a broken heart because I never heard from her when we got to Kiev and Leningrad. We were in route to Athens and were continuing on with our tour when I felt that things were not right with me because I was wondering if Sam was still alive or not.
The tour was bitter sweet to me and the memories I have of our tour has last me a lifetime and I will never forget that awesome 4th of July night down in the beautiful ambiance of the beaches in Simferopol down in the Crimean Sea. When we have moments like these it is hard to forget how one felt on an occasion such as this was. I proudly served my country in the Army soon after I got home from the tour. I served from September 1971 to September 1974 and I am a proud Patriot that has A LOVE FOR MY COUNTRY!
May God Bless America and may we all rebuke the evil things of this world