Yana Chernuhka, 15, of Moscow, was one of 15 teen-agers from the Soviet Union to spend Christmas week in Orange County through the arrangements of the International Youth Ambassadors and the Church of Religious Science in Huntington Beach.
High Life asked Yana to keep a diary of her experiences here. The following are excerpts from Yana's week-long diary:
Monday, Dec. 21: When we arrived in Los Angeles (at midnight) we were met beautifully with many flowers and smiles and joy. We then met our old friends from the camp (Soviet summer camp where U.S. teen-agers stayed last summer) and many other Americans. And there were many cameras and we were interviewed. And we said it was beautiful and even our long flight couldn't make it less beautiful than it was.
Then we drove through Los Angeles in the evening. I noticed many lights and advertisements, and all the buildings of the companies had many stories.
Soon we arrived at the Rancho Capistrano (a youth camp in San Juan Capistrano). There we had a beautiful greeting. The (U.S.) children ran to us with cries of joy and happiness, they were so happy to see us. And then we came into a room with candles and a Christmas tree and we had greetings then. We then lighted the candles and sang songs together. The songs were a great part of our communication. It helped us to understand each other . . . and it made us closer to each other.
In the morning we looked at the surroundings of Rancho Capistrano. It was very beautiful--swimming pools, birds, beautiful. But most of all we liked the atmosphere of our camp. It was filled with love and friendship. We didn't feel ourselves in America, we feel ourselves in the camp. Like that camp which was near Moscow.
Then we went to the press conference in the church. There were TV (cameras) and journalists there. We sang the song we had sung before ("We Are the World") and then some important persons said some speeches and then we introduced ourselves and said some words to the Americans. I was very surprised how greatly they listened to us, to all our words.
After this, the journalists took us and went with us around the city. First we went to the bank, then to a small island, then to the ocean. Every time she (journalist) wants us to go into a shop. She said it would be very interesting for us. But we knew you can buy everything in American shops, and so we were not surprised. Americans are proud of their shops, of their houses, their cars, their lives. And they (journalists) often ask us, "Is this the same as in the U.S.S.R.?" They already know that it is not so. It seems to me that shops for Americans is one of the greater parts of life. Maybe the main part.
In the street some Americans came up to us. They learned that we are from the U.S.S.R. according to our shirts (which read, "From Russia With Love") and they asked some questions. One teacher proposed to me to exchange letters, and one boy offered me his suit in order I can bathe in the ocean with it. It was so funny.
Then we attended a cafe where we tasted hamburgers and something else. The young girl who served us was very excited that we are from the U.S.S.R. And all the time the reporter asked us questions, simple questions about our families, our cities, and then about Afghanistan and the policy of our government . . . And many Americans often ask us if we want to live in the U.S.A. I answer no because we love our motherland. It means that we have to do our life better in the U.S.S.R. but not to change our motherland.
In the evening of our first day there was a great reception in the church in our honor. We were so tired and sleepy, but when we came in the hall there was music and all people stood and applauded us and so we became excited.
Afterward, almost every American came up to us and said, "I'm so happy that you here in the United States. You are welcome." They give us some gifts, cards with their names, hugged us, kissed us . . . oh, so many Americans. It was such a warm reception.
And the reception was so long and we were simply tired of repeating, "Thank you very much, thank you, thank you."
I was mostly surprised in America, not with its technology, but with its hot, hot reception of Americans.
Tuesday, Dec. 22: The next morning we stayed in the camp. It was a free morning and you could do what you wanted. For example, play volleyball or paint something. . . . A group of American students with their teacher came to our camp. They wanted to make friends with one of Moscow's schools. We arranged to send letters. It was so nice that the Americans said, "I get to exchange letters with Soviet children." They are eager to learn more information about the Soviet Union. It was nice.
In the evening we attended Crystal Cathedral. I noticed that churches in America are unusual compared to our country because they are modern buildings, made of glass. In Russia, all the churches have traditional forms. They are small and cramped.