Saturday, May 18, 2013



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Swallowed by our relatives' huge car, we bumped our way through New York. The contrast with what we left in Italy was appalling. Everywhere we looked, rose the soot-covered apartment buildings with fire-escapes marring their sides. 
  jpeg (103×99) Our patience and stamina depleted by a long air-plane ride, it was hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on life. For three months, my parents and I lived in our elderly aunt's living  room. She frowned on turning on the table lamps in the evenings and watching TV.  All and everything we saw outside her apartment was alien. Moscow downtown was kept clean. On the central streets of New York the wind blew papers and other trash, the din was deafening and the acrid smell from the pretzel carts filled the air. I unfolded a cot at night and parked it in front of the TV.  My parents slept on a large bed in the same room. In spite of the aunt, in the small hours of the morning,  I watched  TV. The hardest thing was to get used to the commercials! 
In due time we moved to Washington Heights, the, so called, Spanish Harlem.                                                                    jpeg (193×90)                             
 I studied English, still watched TV and bickered with my mother. I also prayed almost non-stop, but nobody knew about it, except me and Heavenly Father.  

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A stallion ran along with our van, the mane and the tail flying in the wind. The azure sky was boiling with clouds, like only the Western skies do. The horse finally stopped. He bucked and kneaded his hooves in the grass and then shook his head and cheerfully turned back to his herd.  
 I was happy. Simply, happy. For the first time in my life I felt fulfilled. Meeting the like-minded people was just half of it. The other half was having fun while having a purpose. The deeper understanding of God and our - my - role in the scope of history, will come later. They do say, with great knowledge comes great sorrow. Well, that time didn't come yet. I was a part of the Unification Church
                      I was young and capable; the Americans readily opened their hearts to me. It was enough to be happy. I worked with a team of the missionaries from different countries. jpeg (144×90)   We traveled around the U.S., talked to people about God and our church, raised money for our team by selling some product. In under one year I saw most of the Western states. Colorado was my favorite. 
month in the winter at the retreat site in the Rocky Mountains was spellbinding. The snow fell most days. The exhilarating cold and mountain air, the beauty of my surroundings - they helped to believe that I lived the best life there is.                                                                                                                 jpeg (194×121)

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Our trek continued through the West, first Utah and then Nebraska. I'll never forget the people that I met. They heard my Russian  accent and, instead of becoming suspicious or hostile, they welcomed me not only in words but into their homes and hearts. But sometimes things did go awry. 
We were traveling and fund-raising in North Platte, Nebraska. 
Some families there didn't care, what church we were from. They invited us to spend nights in their homes and shared the best that they had with us. Every day we had to get a permit to sell our product for donations. On Sunday the City Hall was closed. The leader of our group went to the Police Dept. and asked the permission to continue working in North Platte. They agreed, but in a couple of hours they rounded us all up and put us in jail
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If I was alone, the tone of this story would be very different. As it was, we stayed together, prayed and sang songs together and, no matter what, laughed together. On Monday morning we were handcuffed two by two (the most fastidious Englishman ended up being handcuffed to a drunk in the overalls covered in puke. I don't think he ever recovered!). The police took us walking to the Court House, handcuffed, through the downtown throng of people hurrying to work
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                                                                                                                              This is not really us, and we didn't wear the striped pajamas!
Embarrassing isn't a word for it! After the room and the judge stopped gaping at us, the  seven Europeans, who for some reason ended up arrested in their small town, the gavel spoke: five more hours in jail and (the judge added in jest): "Go and sin no more!"   
The next day we reunited with the rest of our team, driving through North Platte on the way to the next State. We stopped at the jail and decided to take a picture. A policeman drove up then and asked what we were doing. He didn't meet us the day before. We invited him to take a photo with us. Now, when I look at that picture, I feel like we triumphed over the authorities! 
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