- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Russian novelist Vladislav Bakhrevsky used to feel resentful toward Americans, a feeling that stemmed in part from the tensions of the Cold War.

“But then I came here and there are wonderful people,” Bakhrevsky, speaking through an interpreter, said during a recent trip to Alaska’s capital city. “From this point on, I will never think of America as my enemy,” he said after pausing to admire area mountains.

Bakhrevsky was one of five Russian writers who were in Juneau earlier this month to experience Alaska and its culture; the next stop on their itinerary was Anchorage. While in Juneau, the writers spent time with local teacher and author Janna Lelchuk. She told the Juneau Empire (https://bit.ly/RACPMH) the trip had been in the works for more than two years and that the writers plan to document their Alaska experiences when they return home.

Bakhrevsky said he will draw from his experiences in Juneau in his fiction works.

“When I write new fairy tales, I will have Alaska images in my mind to create these new stories,” he said.

The writers had a mix of reasons for wanting to visit Alaska. Some wanted to learn more about the way of life here or to further their studies on parallels between Russia and Alaska. Most simply shared a fascination with Alaska and wanted to see it themselves.

Malgorzata Marchlewska, the group’s translator and only member from Poland, said coming to Alaska confirmed what she found on her prior travels - people, at their deepest levels, are not different.

“I look at people here and there, and I see no difference,” Marchlewska says. “Everyone wants and admires love and beauty.”

She said literature, art and culture transcend political boundaries. She said politics, money and government breed conflicts and differences. “At our core, all people are the same and just want beauty and love,” she said.

Bakhrevsky, who publishes a journal in Crimea, said the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine was “quite natural, and expected” - a view shared by others in the group.

The group’s leader, Lola Zvonareva, first secretary of the Moscow League of Writers, said people have seen their quality of life improve since the change. She believes media coverage of Russian-American relations is aimed at “trying to fire up another Cold War.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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