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June 25, 2003
It's now been a week since Katia went back to Russia, but it seems like
so much more time has passed. She brought tremendous life to our little
South Bay dance scene; I know everyone deeply feels her absence.
I wanted to take a moment to write my thoughts about Operation Dance, and
I have also included here two letters: one from Megan, who helped me coordinate
everything from Russia, and one from Katia. I know you will enjoy reading
First off, how can I thank each and every one of you enough for all you
contributed? Just know that each deed, whether it was an action or a monetary
contribution, made a significant combined result -- a sensational three-week
dance adventure for one of Russia's leading lindy hoppers.
I know for all of us were thrilled meeting Katia -- she was a beautiful
dancer, a vivacious person, wonderfully friendly and outgoing, and a delight
on every level. She went dancing every single day/night of her three week
visit! Can you believe that?! I never once saw her energy wane. She would
often say to me, "I can sleep when I get back home to Russia." (She must
really be sleeping now!) Well, let me have her say in her own words what
she felt about the trip.
Here's Katia's letter:
I really don't know where to start. I'm still speechless! You've had a
good deal of laughing at it already, but that's how I feel - everything was
UNBELIEVABLY WONDERFUL. I never expected to see all these places - the USA,
California, Catalina, ocean(!), Disneyland, Universal Studios!
But places are not the most important thing - I've never expected to meet
people like you! When I just arrived I was a little bit afraid, since I had
no idea how should I behave and what people would think and expect from me,
and, well, you know what it is to go to some new place where you don't know
anyone. And then I've met you, so many new people, and all of you were so
nice, so friendly, so generous! It was a dream come true! It seemed like
a perfect world where there are no wars, no hatred, no conflicts - only friendly
people, wonderful music and great dancing!
Thank you very much, all of you who took care of me, who spent their time,
money and effort to make my stay a real fairy tale! And a very special "thank
you" to Rusty - you are magnificent!
I could never even dream about a trip like this! It was fantastic! Thank
you all so much!
What can I add to that? You all were so welcoming to her. You showed
her the best of America and the American spirit of warmth and graciousness.
Megan was my contact on the Russian side. You may remember that I met
her when I was in Russia teaching last year. She is the one vintage dressing
person over there -- I couldn't miss her! We have become great friends,
and when this idea of bringing someone over came up, I had wanted to bring
her over. But she flat out refused, saying that if I was going to bring
someone over it absolutely had to be the best possible dancer in Russia.
So when the work of Operation Dance began, Megan was crucial in helping
us coordinate everything, from picking out the dancer to the logistics of
flights, documents, etc. I hope that one day you will all be able to meet
her. She is really incredible! All I can say is "Watch out!", she is a
And now here's
Everyone who took part in this unbelievable, laborious, tremendous project
called "Operation Dance"!
Our whole Saint-Petersburg swing dance community wants to thank you all
for providing this opportunity to Katja, our leading dancer and dance instructor!
When this project began to take shape in Rusty's mind, it seemed almost
impossible to implement. And then you made it happen - a miracle of community
co-operation, a miracle that is most precious and most needed in our world.
You have been very generous, kind, friendly, nice - in other words, you
have been swing dancers at their best!
Thank you! (We wish we could type it for 10,000 times!)
And if any of you will ever consider visiting Saint-Petersburg, Russia
- you are most welcome!
I want to thank the Operation Dance Team, Jennifer for first stepping forward
to help me and for the mammoth job of designing the Gift Registry, and for
Sarah and David for helping with the sign-ups while I was in Australia.
I would also like to thank my Bay Area friend, Tanya Wodinsky, for helping
me so much with the letters of invitation -- I couldn't have done that without
Well, Gates, we are the first people in the United States to bring over
a Russian lindy hopper. Congratulations on a beautiful project! A project
in which we all became finer people.
I hope that Operation Dance will lead to many more such experiences. I
hope that it brings our two communities together for a long time to come.
Thank you again, everyone. You have been, and always are, superb people.
P.S. If you want to read about Operation Dance, click HERE.