In November, 1982 WRAL News sent reporter Shelley Kofler and photographer Bruce Wittman to accompany 100 members of the NC Friendship Force, led by the Carolyn Hunt, wife of NC Governor Jim Hunt, to visit Moscow and Leningrad – now Saint Petersburg.
In 1982, the relationship between the governments of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and America was in a deep freeze. The Berlin Wall remained as a visual reminder that an “Iron Curtain” divided Europe into two separate ideological and geographical areas. Glasnost and perestroika, openness and political reconstruction, were still a few years away for the Soviets.
The NC Friendship Force did not let these barriers keep them from attempting to thaw relations between the two mighty nations. This grass roots approach proved that common, everyday people can be ambassadors by travelling to countries meeting people on a personal level. They typically stay in the homes of families in the host country so they can experience the everyday life of the culture.
In this second report, WRAL news reporter Shelly Kofler and photographer Bruce Wittman accompany a lady from Raleigh named Lydia, who visited the the cementary in Leningrad where her grandparents are buried. During World War 2, they tragically died when Nazi Germany cut-off supply routes to Leningrad creating massive starvation, no available heat with temps below zero, and no transportation. This emotional piece captures the suffering that still affects relatives post WW 2.