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One Hell of a Week at the United Nations!

Speaking before the United Nations Book Club about my efforts to do something that has never been done before by an American Author was a pretty cool experience. Naturally, since Call Sign, White Lily is about an amazing Russian female fighter pilot lost in time for 60 years, I thought the UN invitation would attract mostly Russians readers. To my surprise, there was also nice showing of interested Chinese, East Europeans and Americans. I was also pleasantly surprised that the Voice of America decided to interview me for a newspaper story and a radio interview.

The Initial Presentation…
First I spoke to a delegation of Russians, Chinese, Americans and East Europeans at the United Nations book club about how and why I wrote Call Sign, White Lily. I’ve now done my presentation at numerous locations from the Russian Cultural Centre and Ukrainian Embassy in Washington D.C. to book clubs and groups in New York, Memphis, and Southern California. From the Q&A session and comments that followed, I think the latest iteration of my multi-media presentation was well received.

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(l) The invitation that was circulated at the United Nations;

I continue to be amazed that people are amazed that an American would somehow come to write the definitive coming- of-age story of the world’s most successful female fighter pilot, a hero who is virtually has been lost in time for over 60 years. I’ve also learned something else along the way…I am doing my part, in some small way…to educate America’s youth about the 30 million+ Russians and the Ukrainians that died in World War II to help America maintain its way of life.

Important Friends…
I now get asked regularly, “who is this American who loves Russians?” The answer, “I am just an average patriotic American citizen, born of Italian immigrants, one a butcher, the other a telephone operator, who wants the world to be a better place for future generations.” like to thank a number of people who made the speaking engagement a success, Dr. Yury Zaitsev, head of the Russian Cultural Centre in Washington, Dr. Ekaterina Doubrovina, chairperson of the Russian American Children’s Hospital Foundation and Alexandre Toubolets, head of the United Nations Russian Book Club.

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Delegate Toubolets, Dr. Doubrovina and myself at United Nations(r),
Dr. Zaitsev and myself (l) at Russian Cultural Centre in Washington D.C.

The Radio Interview…
After the presentation I did a few press for Voice of America Radio and the Press Corps. The questions revolved around adding some insights about Lilia, the woman. To listen to part or all the 15- minute radio interview just listen now.

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The Voice of America home page promotion and posting of my radio interview

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Voice of America Radio Producer, Elena Vapnitchnaia, and myself
during her post presentation radio interview

The Newspaper Interview…
In addition to Elena’s interview and story, I was interview by Voice of America reporter, Misha Gutkin, who asked questions about my personal growing awareness of cultural relations between the united States and Russia while developing the book. The story ran throughout Russia. Misha sent me an email that readers were amazed Lilia’s story was finally being told, albeit 60 years late, and were appreciative of my interest. So in some small way, it makes me feel like I’m trying doing something valuable, beyond just taking up space on our planet! The story link is http://www.voanews.com/russian/news/Gutkin-05-08-2012-150702015.html. (it’s being translated into English as we speak).

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Part of Misha’s story as it appeared on VOA home page.

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Voice of America Reporter, Misha Gutkin, came well prepared for his print interview

The Unbelievable…
The most emotional moment of the day for me was the surprising appearance of Anna Litvyak (she spells it Litvak), a distant niece in the Litvyak family. Anna, now an attorney at the United Nations heard about my presentation when a friend showed her the invitation earlier that day! When this beautiful young lady walked up to me and introduced herself, I was speechless for one of the few times in my life. She told me she remembered the families talking about Lilia and her exploits when she (Anna) was a child. Anna explained she had migrated to America from Latvia at the age of 17, not knowing a soul. She put herself through college and law school. She now lives in New Jersey with husband Jim, who is also an attorney. In our short conversation, it was clear she had inherited some of her distant cousin’s determination and self-confidence. Later, at the midpoint of my presentation, I introduced her to the audience. You could hear a pin drop! Ann and I have begun a dialogue to share more family stories and anecdotes. We are both sure there will more to come, perhaps even a third edition with some additional insights that also have been lost in time.

Anna-Litvyak
Talk about Six Degrees of Separation. Anna Litvyak and myself. Wow!