It’s Never Too Late to Return a Book

Diane Russell

The day after my 66th birthday, I looked through the paperbacks on my bookshelf.  It was time to decide which books I would donate to the Friends of the Library for resale.

One book caught my eye, as it did every year. It was Ivanhoe, the classic authored by Sir Walter Scott.  Only the book wasn’t mine. It was lent to me 39 years earlier by John Doe (pseudonym to protect privacy).

We both participated in the 1979-80 USSR academic exchange sponsored by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board), an international nonprofit organization specializing in global education and development.

My spouse and I befriended John and his partner in August 1979 when we all took a month-long crash course in Russian while living in the Moscow State University dormitory.  (More…)

Soviet Women in the Brezhnev Era

Diane Russell

“Do you have any abortion pills?” Marina whispered. Stunned, I answered a vehement “Nyet!”

For seven months from September 1979 through March 1980, my first husband did research for his doctoral dissertation in Tbilisi, Georgia. I learned firsthand about the Georgian woman’s lifestyle, which contrasted with the image presented in Soviet propaganda. Georgia lies 1,000 miles south of Moscow, bordering Turkey and the Black Sea, and was one of 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. Americans recognize Georgia as Joseph Stalin’s birthplace.

As a 27-year-old American woman with knowledge of conversational Russian, I befriended several young Georgian women who wanted to improve their English. However, my friends preferred learning about the American woman’s lifestyle.  (More…)