Erin Warmington said she "can't believe I was there." Her brother called it "making history."
Erin, 15, and Chase Warmington, 17, both students at Newport Harbor High School, recently returned from a youth summit in the Soviet Union with teen-agers from around the United States.
The two-week trip, called "Only One Earth," was organized by Youth Ambassadors of America, a nonprofit organization based in Bellingham, Wash., to promote world peace through friendships among young people.
"It was such a powerful experience to actually be part of the summit," Chase said. "It's like all these doors kept on opening. (The Soviets) were so happy for us to be there because we were trying to make peace. It was just overwhelming. . . . It felt like the whole world was on your shoulders and there was nothing you couldn't do."
Last Thursday, as the Warmingtons and three other Orange County teen-agers who attended the summit met for a reception in their honor, two other events were about to occur that also were intended to bind the two nations.
First, on Friday, a delegation of 34 students, including some from Orange County, left for Moscow, where they are scheduled to meet Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The trip is sponsored by Direct Connection, a San Francisco-based group.
Then on Saturday, 20 high-ranking Soviet citizens, including some of Gorbachev's top advisers, arrived in Newport Beach for informal meetings with selected U.S. educators and community leaders. That conference, sponsored by the Kettering Foundation of Ohio, concludes today.
As part of his trip, Chase remembers, students were asked to write a summary of their discussions.
The document, "The First Soviet American Youth Summit Declaration for the Future," calls for world peace and better communication between all countries. It will be sent to leaders of countries around the world.
"I felt like I was writing the Declaration of Independence," Chase said. "It was a real honor to write something of this magnitude."
Chase said he was invited to have Easter dinner with one Soviet family and was surprised at what he found.
"We were watching Walt Disney cartoons," he said. "I thought, 'Wait a minute. I'm in Moscow. This is not supposed to happen.' And then we watched "48 Hours" and music videos. It was weird."
Before the summit in Moscow, the students made a brief stop in Helsinki, Finland, for three days of orientation. The group then flew to Leningrad for four days of sightseeing before going to Moscow by train.
"In the plane ride to Leningrad, that's when I realized that I was actually going through the so-called Iron Curtain," said 16-year-old Arielle Lawson of Costa Mesa.
Arielle wore a peace necklace made of silver and wood, which was given to her by a Soviet boy. The same boy gave her a white military belt he had received from a Russian soldier.
"He gave it to me saying, 'Our countries won't kill anymore.' And so I wear it whenever I can," Arielle said.
All five youths said they want to go back, and some have begun planning.
Billie Hopkins, a spokeswoman for Youth Ambassadors, said youth exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union are "starting to mushroom. A lot of people are starting to get in on the act."
Hopkins said any youth who can raise the money for the trip--about $2,500--can be a youth ambassador. At least five more trips to the Soviet Union and one to China are planned this year, she said.