During the Cold War, I had a good friend in the USSR
It was kind of like a “one-person to another” diplomacy
In the late 70s until around 2000, I was a ham radio operator. I would talk to people all over the world, and I really enjoyed that. At the time I didn’t speak any languages other than English, and a bit of Spanish that I remembered from High School. But most of these “international contacts” on the radio were short conversations, saying hi, and a few other niceties.
For all of my life until about 1990, Russia (the Soviet Union at that time) was a mortal enemy of the USA. During the mid to late 80s, Gorbachev took over as Premier in Russia, and things started thawing in our relationship. During that time, I came into contact on the radio with a fellow named Val. I am not going to give his last name, in case anything I say in this article might cause him any kind of problems in Russia at this time. I don’t think anything would cause problems for him, but I don’t know for sure, and his last name is not really relevant to this article anyway.
One night, I was listening to the ham radio and heard a guy in the USSR talking to lots of other people in various other countries around the world. I sat and listened for a while, and then I contacted him, and like most such contacts we just said some short greetings to each other and moved on. However, the next night I heard him on the radio again, so we talked a little more than the previous night. This went on for a couple of weeks, and we became good friends in a short time. We talked pretty much daily, and long conversations. We got to know each other pretty well.
I was going to go to Russia
After a year or two of regular connections on the radio, Val invited me to come and visit him in the USSR. Val lived in the Ural Mountains in the Central USSR. I won’t give his exact location. At that time, in the City where Val lived, an American was not allowed to visit there unless he had an official invitation to go there from a local citizen.
I thought about it for a bit, but quickly decided that I would love to make the trip, and decided to go there sometime in 1990. I thought it would really be neat, and exciting.
Then, in January 1990, I met somebody else
As we got into early 1990, I met a lady. Actually, we had not met personally. Through a connection from a mutual friend, I was given this lady’s address, and I decided to write her a letter. She lived in the Philippines. About a month later, in February, I got a return letter from her.
This lady and I started exchanging letters with each other for months. The lady’s name is Feyma. Most all of my friends will already know, Feyma is my wife. We got married in 1990, just 6 months after we “met” each other through letter-writing.
I had a change of plans
Because of this surprise meeting with Feyma, I changed my plans and decided not to go to the USSR. Instead, I went to the Philippines in late-July 1990. I met Feyma in Cebu City, Philippines (she is from General Santos City, but was going to College in Cebu).
I spent a month in the Philippines and returned to the USA a married man. A lot of people told me “you just met in person for the first time, this will never work out.” Maybe they were correct. We are still trying to make it all work after 30 years together, and 3 (now-adult) children! Haha… we have a great marriage, and I have no regrets about changing my travel plans.
I never went to the USSR
I planned to travel to the USSR a year or two after the originally planned trip, but it never happened. I was too busy enjoying spending time with my wife and didn’t think much about making a trip to the USSR or eventually to Russia.
I would still like to make such a trip, and perhaps I will, but I made the correct choice in 1990 because that was the best thing that ever happened in my life.
I lost interest in ham radio
In about 1991, a couple of things happened.
- Feyma arrived in the USA on January 6, 1991
- I got into the Internet
Being reunited with Feyma after she went through the immigration process really refocused my life. Instead of spending time on the radio, I focused on my marriage and getting to know my wife better. We wrote letters to each other for about 6 months, and spend 10 days together before marriage! After getting married we did spend about 2 1/2 more weeks together before I had to go home and get back to work. So, we didn’t know each other all that well. So, we enjoyed getting to know each other better.
Secondly, I really got to enjoy the Internet. I had already been into computers since about 1982 or so, and communication with people all over the world on the Internet kind of brought my computer and radio hobby together. I could communicate on the computer and didn’t really need to worry about the radio anymore.
I remained licensed as a ham radio operator until 2000, but never really used the radio after about 1991. I lost contact with Val not long after that.
Recently I started thinking about Val
About a month ago, I found a channel on YouTube about a Russian couple. They are trying to learn how to speak better English, so they set up a YouTube Channel where they connect with Americans. I really enjoy watching it.
Watching this channel made me remember Val. I told Feyma “I wonder where Val is now and how he is doing?” Feyma responded that I should look for him on Facebook. I did a search and I found him! I sent him a friend request, but he has not responded to that yet. I can see on his profile that he is only active a couple of times each year on Facebook, though. I am excited to hear from him and rekindle our friendship.
But, there is a surprise
I said that I never did travel to the USSR or to Russia. But…
I did meet Val! I will be posting several more posts about Val, and especially about how and where we met. I think you’ll find it interesting.
Articles in this series: