If you've been following my tale of my sister's once-upon-a-magical-summer-romance (scroll to previous post) you'll recall that my last glimpse of the Russian tall ship Kruzenshtern was in 1984, as she sailed out of Sydney harbour in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
It was the first tall ships event here in Nova Scotia, and my sister had fallen for a sailor aboard the Kruzenshtern - a hard thing to do, when you recall that in 1984 the crew was monitored at all times by Soviet authorities aboard ship, and the cadets were kept in groups if they went ashore, and kept aboard at all other times.
It was painful to say goodbye to Rashid Kamalov, a cadet from the marine college in Kaliningrad. That's him at left with a fellow cadet on that last morning, when my sister and I drove onto the wharf with an official pass she'd gotten from a Canadian sailor so we could see them off.
They exchanged addresses in the days before internet and email, in the days before glasnost and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
It seemed to take forever - but finally an air mail envelope arrived in our mailbox.
It was from Rashid.
My sister had sent letters to all three addresses he'd given her: the college, his mother's and his grandmother's. But his mother and grandmother - being concerned, I suppose, for their son and grandson - didn't pass along the letters from a dangerous foreign girl in the age of the KGB. Rashid spent time at home after returning from his around-the-world trek thinking Michelle hadn't written to him. The letter my sister got whispered of the hurt he'd felt, while brimming with hope that she still might return his feelings.
Michelle wrote back, assuring him that all was just as it was when he'd left Canada.
Finally he returned to the college - and a collection of my sister's letters waiting there for him.
Thus began a two-year correspondence between my sister and Rashid. We even obtained travel visas and planned a trip to see Rashid in his home town of Yaroslavl.
But one day a post card arrived, in Rashid's old-fashioned handwriting, telling my sister he'd been drafted into the Soviet army and would be there for two years. In 1986, the Soviet Union was deep in their war with Afghanistan.
We've never heard from Rashid since. Our family moved from the address he had for Michelle. He was obviously no longer at the college. His mother wasn't a reliable contact. And very likely, he served in Afghanistan.
We've Googled him, naturally. Hunted for him on Facebook. I discovered there's a soccer player named Rashid Kamalov. Not our guy, of course.
25 years have gone by. My sister has found a partner in a truly wonderful man named Newt.
But there's always been a hanging thread dangling from that summer so long ago. Rashid has never left our thoughts. How could he?
So this past Thursday, when the Kruzenshtern once again sailed into Halifax Harbour for Tall Ships 2009, I made a beeline for the four-masted Russian barque.
When I rounded the corner by the park in front of the train station, and saw the huge masts high over the top of Pier 23, I literally grabbed my chest over my heart.
My sister and I are going aboard the ship tomorrow during public visiting hours. But I couldn't wait to see the ship - I went down by myself after work, happy to have this time to get close to such a huge figure from our past.
As I walked along this road towards the ship, I passed two men in civilian clothes speaking Russian. How my heart soared with joy that things have changed so drastically. They can get off the ship without official babysitters dogging their every step.
But look at the sailors! They're so cute.
And so young...
For more Summer Stock Sunday, visit Robin at Around the Island.
Ms Snarky Pants says Well there is one Rashid Kamalov on Facebook... Yes, I had to search. ;) Just call me a Facebook stalker, even in stories that have nothing to do with me. hehehe
Michelle Johnson says Surely the technology we have these days would yield something. Have you tried Twitter?
Mama Pajama says I am glad that your sister has found happiness...I hope Rashid has, as well!