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).
At that time, 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 fourth report, WRAL reporter Shelly Kofler and photographer Bruce Wittman take a look at the role of religion within a country that is officially atheistic.