It was a request addressed to me from my Volgograd ACTR office to write a letter of support for FSA FLEX Program. Nevertheless, I have been always keeping the same thoughts as in this message inside of my heart, my brain, and my soul. You should read it not as one of petitions but more as a revelation.
Thus, almost 9 years ago I learnt about existence of Freedom Support Act Program. I was a school boy and for that time that 'F-S-A' combination seemed just as a striking phrase. And also as a chance for some change and experience for my life I hoped that it would be fun and a good use.
I wasn't lucky in my first try, although I reached the final round. Next year I made another, last possible attempt - and (unexpectedly!) here I am, among those few to go. I felt a destiny sign, and maybe even God's will.
It will take a lot of time and space to describe my year in the US. I just want to stress that at the end of that year I felt no difference between any American and me: I used the same language, the same lifestyle, similar way of thinking and acting. I wasn't missing my home much because I WAS AT HOME in the United States. And it was not just some country for me any more. It was, it IS people, ordinary people like Russians or some other nations else.
You see, watching TV or reading newspapers about 'that Americans' is very contrary to being one of 'that' even for less than a year. The times have changed, but - who knows?! - I could have been in the same situation as Americans feared to appear in while the Cold War: being attacked by my own country with disastrous nuclear weapons in its disposal. I felt this threat with my neurons and skin as I absorbed inside myself one that scared Americans; from then and till now it has become an inseparable part of my 'I'.
Politics? Oh, I wished there were no states in the world, just Earth. But we are reading newspapers and magazines, watching TV, listening to the radio and perceiving what we are told about 'those' - not 'these' - Americans, despite of how good and bad it really is. We are objects in our Russian subjective informational field with all the prejudices, uncertainties and often falsehoods. Especially when our militaries make their speeches about 'fail-safe covering force against offensive American (or NATO - it counts the same) expansion'. Friendly on the surface, our countries remain opposite to each other, like different poles, although they are actually not. Politics, culture, geographical distance, memories of the past - all this contributes to our mutual dissimilarity and sometimes hostility, yet, it is all just a complete illusion and nothing else.
I came to a deep understanding of what I have just stated above only because of my FSA experience. You know, more and more I come to understanding that 'freedom support' is not just a couple of words. For example, a few days ago there was my company's 9th anniversary. There was a famous Russian comic invited to the celebration, and while he was amusing the public he asked a question on the year 2000 presidential election, who voted for whom. That was a sort of funny query but it meant an expression of loyalty to our government and president Putin (the top management of our company for pragmatical reasons stands for president Putin's political platform and for de-facto his party 'United Russia (Edinstvo)' being its members). The great majority of the audience raised their hands for Putin vote (from my side I strongly felt as if many were forced to do so). When the candidate Yavlinski was named only four or five people dared hand-raising. I was among them, although I felt many intent eyes on myself, together with feeling of risking my career. But it was my choice and pride of expressing my civic and democratic values. I have soaked with myself a true understanding of pluralism, democracy and freedom and I won't give anyone a chance to deprive it from me.
I am stating it here and I state the same to everybody around. I am not anymore a 'Soviet' as an obedient and loyal to all kinds of authorities man, I am a free individual, a citizen with a right to chose. This is an essential value I have learnt during less than a year in the United States of America. And although I feel an ugly neo-Soviet reaction trying to rise in my fatherland, I am full of optimism for the future as I know that I am not alone, that hundreds of young willing men like me are ready to take main part in improvement of my land and they are ready to resist any reaction now and in future. The more of us come the more meaningful and powerful we become as ambassadors and defenders of Peace, Freedom, Human Rights and National Tolerance in our country. Believe, these are not high-flown words. It's like a charter from us as FSA alumni: not future, but already present leaders of Russia (i.e. former USSR).
In this letter I could also write about how more purposeful and decisive I have become thanks to FSA Program, how easier it has become to me to live and act since then and how my American experience has been contributing to my studies and, at great extent, to my career. These are my personal achievements that can, of course, contribute to the World Society, but more likely in an indirect way. The value of myself and other alumni, the value of FSA FLEX Program itself is exposed in the paragraphs above. Thanks to the US government, the Senate (my special gratitude to Senator Bill Bradley as the initiator of FSA movement), we - I mean everybody: Russians, Americans, the whole world - have got a priceless opportunity to make our world better, at least on one-sixth part of the land. We cannot stop what was started ten years ago while the threats remain and when our common goal is not reached yet, although for some people it seems that it is reached or efficiency of FSA Program has slowed down a lot. Trust me, it is not true as I am living here, in Russia, and watching after what is really going on.
I hope that someday there will be no need of such an anxiety that I feel and of worries that I undergo. But until that 'someday' we - I still mean not just 'us', I mean everybody - will need such a great instrument of Good Will as Freedom Support Act Future Leaders Exchange Program proved to be.
I state this in written words and I will state the same orally to everybody personally or in public, as much as it is ought to. Please, be careful in evaluating my letter, keeping in mind that it may be not simply a personal address but an appeal of all the FSA FLEX alumni.