I was blessed to grow up in the 1980s. For the most part, it was a time of unstoppable optimism and opportunity, and the United States was going places. In my tiny hometown, everyone I knew had a good-paying job, and there was always some new innovation to spend the money on. The decade started with a bang as a team of nobodies pulled off the “Miracle on Ice,” and the dominance continued in 1984 when U.S. wiped the floor with everyone else at the summer Olympics. Plus, we had the Transformers cartoon—the highlight of my Saturday mornings.
I knew somewhere in the world there was a gigantic red nation filled with people called Communists who didn’t like us. But the sum total of my knowledge about all things Soviet came from repeat viewings of Rocky IV and those evenings when President Reagan was on TV. (There were only four channels after all, and he was on all of them.)
I knew the Russian people only in the abstract. I saw them from a distance, and there was a wall of water between us.
But I gained a new perspective about that wall when I got to know Valeri and Valentina Seleznev, the subjects we selected for the Faces of In Touch section of the March issue of In Touch Magazine. This brave, amazing, godly couple had lived on the other side of that barrier. They were two of the Communists I was told I should fear (and possibly even hate), and talking to them has helped me better understand the decade I look back on with such fondness.
They also thought they were living in the happiest, most prosperous nation on earth. To them, the capitalists were the “bad guys”— the boogeymen across the ocean. I listened, mouth agape, as they told me about all the ways the government controlled their lives and sought to shape them through brute force and fear. And I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have fared half as well as they did.
It’s easy to misjudge one another when we’re en masse and cloaked in our conflicting ideologies, but when we put a face on those people we consider “other,” we’ll see they’re not foreign but familiar. And those walls we thought were so essential to our strength? They only served to frame our weakness.
Read Valeri and Valentina Seleznev’s story in this issue of In Touch Magazine.