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The Soviets Who Came to Irvine

June 19, 1988

As a member of the local organization committee that hosted four Soviet citizens' visit to Irvine, I would like to correct the misconceptions of those who wrote (June 22 Letters) to express their opposition to our project.

Sterling Evans wanted to know why we did not "initiate some strong words on behalf of all the political prisoners dying daily in Soviet labor camps while we entertain those who put them there." I wish that Evans had taken the time to attend the reception for our guests at Irvine City Hall, he would have learned that our visitors were not "those who put them there."

Loretta is a grade school teacher. Vladimir is an auto mechanic. Sasha is a cancer specialist--he saves lives. Oleg is a foreign history professor, and has studied in many nations around the world. These are average Soviet citizens, just as you and I are average American citizens. If you were to visit the Soviet Union, would you expect to be held accountable for the homeless starving on Skid Row? For the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in World War II? For the merciless slaughter of American Indians in the 19th Century? Alexis Plemiarnikov suggested that we needed to learn about the Soviet Union before allowing a "Soviet invasion of Orange County." I studied Russian for two years, and Russian history for one year. One member of our group visited the Soviet Union last year, and freely walked the streets of Leningrad. Other members will be visiting the U.S.S.R. this year.

The members of the organizing committee are not naive innocents. We are fully aware of the flaws in the Soviet system and Soviet culture. Yet there also flaws in the American system and culture, and we don't let that stop us from getting to know one another.

Loretta, Vladimir, Sasha and Oleg will return to their homeland and tell what they have learned about us. Perhaps--just perhaps--their words will be heard by someone who one day will make changes for the better in the Soviet system. That's why President Reagan went to Moscow. Can't they come here too?

STEPHEN C. SMITH

Santa Ana

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