The U. S. Department of State recently issued an official travel alert to Americans who plan to attend the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The alert is being justified by potential security risks posed by terrorist attacks.
Although there have been terrorist attacks in Russia that are considered to be related to the terrorists' aim to disrupt the Games, they have occurred hundreds of miles distant from Sochi. Moscow maintains that an "steel security ring" surrounding Sochi will make the Games there one of the safest.
Many in Russia feel that the American media is saturated with negative reports about security issues connected with the Sochi Games. Some see it as an effort to derail the Games there. One of those concerned about the effect the controversy may have on U.S.-Russia relations is Edward Lozansky, president of the American University in Moscow.
Ed Lozansky at left
Lozansky, in a recent interview with the Lake Placid News and the Virginia Gazette explained that Russians now have practically all the basic freedoms that people enjoy in the West, and despite certain deficiencies in democracy, Russia should be cultivated as an important ally to face the global challenges. He sees all attempts to derail the Sochi Olympics as harmful not only to Russia but also to the United States.
He has a special perspective on the potential of what the Olympic Games play in international relations.
The Olympic Winter Games held in Lake Placid in 1980 generated worldwide publicity. It caught the attention of Lozansky, a nuclear physicist, at that time professor at the University of Rochester. He was an immigrant to the United States from the Soviet Union.
Lozansky, was one of the few who received permission to emigrate and assurances that his wife, Tatiana, and their young daughter, Tania, would be allowed to join him later. His wife was the daughter of one of the Soviet Union's highest-ranking generals. Her father had promised to help facilitate the reunion with her husband. Instead, the general did everything he could to block it.
The couple, Lozansky in the United States and Tatiana in Moscow, did all they could - lobbying, demonstrating, petitioning, staging hunger strikes - to bring world attention to their case, and pressure the Soviet government to relent.
When Lozansky learned about the Olympic People-for-People Program's involvement with Soviet athletes, he contacted me and asked for help in persuading the Soviet government to allow his wife and their 8-year-old daughter to join him in America.
In an effort to be of assistance, a letter was sent to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev signed by Mayor Robert Peacock of Lake Placid, the host city of the Olympics, and by me, as the founder of the Olympic People-for-People Program. In his book of reminiscences, "For Tatiana," Lozansky credits me for securing the signature of Eric Heiden, the American speed skater who won five gold medals, on a petition sent to the Soviet government.
Although the Olympic People-for-People Program did everything in its power to assist Lozansky in his quest to reunite with his family, it took two more years and the introduction of perestroika by the new Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, to secure permission for Tatiana and Tania to emigrate.
Shortly after their arrival in the United States, Lozansky brought his family to Lake Placid to say "thank you" to the Olympic People-for-People Program. Since then, Lozansky has earned high position in the academic world. He serves as founder and president of American University in Moscow and is recognized as a vital bridge between American and Russian institutions of higher education.
His aim is to establish a link also between his own institution in Moscow and the College of William and Mary.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette.