My Transylvanian Family

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

In 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of a 40-year Cold War to the jubilation of millions around the world. But how many of us have a personal story of the struggle, heartbreak, despondency, and alienation endured by individuals caught between two opposing political ideologies during that period? Little did I know what I would learn about this subject when I first moved to Europe in 1982 to begin my performing career at a German opera house.

Early on I met a tall, impressive bass, an ethnic Hungarian from Transylvania (formerly a part of Hungary ceded to Romania after WWII) with an unusual last name and charismatic demeanor…

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Uzbek Surprise

Diane Henrikson Russell

Never in a million years did I imagine that I would visit Uzbekistan, a Soviet republic in Central Asia!

In August of 1979, I accompanied my graduate-student spouse on the 1979-80 USSR academic exchange sponsored by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board). We participants began the exchange by taking a crash course in Russian while living in the Moscow State University dormitory. We met two exchangees who were heading to Toshkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, in September, while we planned to study in Tbilisi, the capital of Soviet Georgia. We became such good friends that we vowed to visit each other at our exotic locations.

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Christmas Carol Redux

Joan Weaving

This week’s blog ushers in what we hope will be a series of issues about the challenges facing this nation in 2024. We are pairing her thoughtful, short article, where she considers the future we are leaving for the next generation, with a new challenge in the form of an appeal for more opinion content from our subscribers and writers. You can read more about our request at the end of Joan’s article. — Editors


The ghost of Christmas Future visited us this Christmas Eve. It came on the faces of all the little children who gathered at my son’s house. My grandsons, their neighbors and friends, their cousins. The oldest was 10 years and the youngest 2 months. I felt very old.

I thought about the world they will live in. The only thing I know for sure is that it will be different from the one of today, and unrecognizable to the one I grew up in. The events which shaped our understanding of the world will be just a footnote in their history books. But I want them to know.

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The End of the Liberal World Order?

Don Menzel

“America,” former Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, in his later years proclaimed, “is the locomotive at the head of mankind, and the rest of the world the caboose.” The new liberal world order fashioned together after WWII was the “rules-based order” led by the United States. The alternative, Acheson believed, is an international jungle with no “rules, no umpire, no prizes for good boys.” Does Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military incursion into Ukraine signal a return to the jungle and an end to the liberal world order? View more

The Ukraine Invasions

As we write this, the actual invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces is ongoing. Whether that stage of the “war” will be over by the time we publish is something we don’t know. Whether it is or not, conflict will certainly continue. But war and conflict aren’t new to the Ukraine, as you know from your own memory of “history”.  OLLI members have an edge on the general public in that we’re old enough to have lived some of the history that they only read about on the Web.

We have two articles today. They were written separately, but we think they fit together well. 
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‘Twas the Night Before

Neil Cosentino

It was the night before Christmas Eve in 1970 at Torrejon Air Base near Madrid, Spain. I was a captain in the United States Air Force and the junior aircraft commander of one of the three Strategic Air Command (SAC) KC-135 tankers.  We were from three different air bases. My home base was Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. We were there to provide backup air refueling for the SIOP war plan, emergency air refueling and training sorties. It would be another Christmas on SAC alert duty away from our families.

It was the first day of my two days off from alert duty. I had made plans to go into Madrid and do my favorite thing: enjoying the city as if it were a living museum. I was always surprised during my walks in Madrid, London, Paris, Tokyo, Copenhagen or Rome that when I roamed these cities at random,  (More…)

Cold War Warrior

Don Menzel

The 1960s was a decade of hope embedded in the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. I was there; I was a Cold War warrior in every way imaginable. When I signed up for navigator training in the U.S. Air Force, I wanted to be on the front line, and that meant getting assigned to a B-52 Stratofortress crew. This awesome 8-engine plane was the Air Force’s answer to the need for a strategic bomber force that would win the war against Communism and take down the Soviet Union. This bomber fleet was also an essential component in the planning to assure that the U.S. could survive a first strike and deliver devastating destruction to the enemy—this is the language of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

In this essay, I want to describe the training and experience that I had in order to become wedded to a weapon of mass destruction. I also want to share with you the spine-chilling atmosphere that I and many other Americans shared about a nuclear future.  (More…)

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