A place I may never visit

Do svidaniya

Disclaimer: The following is solely my personal opinion. It does not reflect the views of my employers past and present.

There is much to mourn about Ukraine. One of them is the closing of the door between Russia and us. Even if a resolution happens soon, that door will be closed for a long time. This not only means the end of professional relationships and opportunities, it means the death of a dream we’ve had for decades.

Growing up during the Cold War, I had the hope of many that Russia and the West will not only find peace, we can be partners and friends. If we can find reconciliation and friendship with our mortal enemies during World War II, why not with the Soviet Union? It was a hope expressed by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address:

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together, let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to “undo the heavy burdens… (and) let the oppressed go free.”

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

That hope was further expressed in our science fiction, movies, children’s cartoons, and music.

And finally, that hope became fulfilled. Russians ate McDonald’s hamburgers. We played Tetris. Our astronauts and their cosmonauts flew joint missions and built the International Space Station together. And I began working with Russians. I reviewed Russian language software. I met Russians at tech writing conferences and online forums. A number of them became coworkers and friends. We discussed ideas, solved documentation problems, and shared family pictures. Over the years, this website had 397 views from the Russian Federation. Someone in Russia knows my three keys to better evaluation.

Now, it’s gone. A matter of weeks. All gone.

Regardless of the outcome in Ukraine, whatever trust existed between Russia and us has crumbled and a new Iron Curtain is rising in its place. But it hurts more this time because we had over 30 years of seeing how good it could be. How we could work together and accomplish great things. How we could build a global community of shared interests and ideas. How we could look past differences in culture, language, and politics and see the humanity in each other. Perhaps it can be that way again. But it won’t be for a long time.

The Russian farewell greeting, “Do svidaniya,” means “until we meet again.” I say it in sorrow, but also hoping one day the door will reopen.