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Comrade Putin and Me

On the day after 9/11, Russian President Vladmir Putin issued a statement condemning the attacks, calming fears that perhaps Russia had been involved. The next day, I wrote him a letter saying how much I, and, I suppose, many U.S. citizens, appreciated his demeanor during those scary first hours after the attack.

One month later, I was in a taxi in New York City when my cell phone rang. A heavily accented voice asked, "Is this Mr. Seversky?" I said, "Yes, this is Seth Swirsky." The voice continued, "My name is Nikolay Lyashchenko. I'm calling from the Russian embassy in San Francisco. President Putin wanted me to contact you directly. He was very appreciative of your letter to him and wanted me to call to thank you for it personally." Needless to say, I was surprised. Nikolay and I stayed in touch after that phone call and when he and his wife, Knesia, were in L.A. a year later, we had a small dinner party on their behalf, where they gave me this nice gift from Russia.

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