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A debt of gratitude

Re: There is much work still to be done (Oct. 30). Mikhail Gorbachev and I are connected: our stories, our families and our history.

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I was born in Winnipeg in August 1987. Both of my parents were also born here, but my grandparents were all born along the banks of the Dnieper River, just outside of Zaporozhe, in Lictenau and Neider Chortiza.

My maternal grandfather grew up, shoeless, in the city of Nikopol. Like Gorbachev, and millions of others in the 1930s, our family fell victim to Stalin's purges. My great grandfather was arrested and deported to Siberia when my grandfather was only four. My great uncle was arrested and deported to Siberia, where he later died. My other great uncle, Andre, at age 19, was sent to Siberia as an "undesirable" from the Soviet army. He was imprisoned there until 1987.

My grandfather fought during the war and immigrated to Winnipeg in May 1948. He started a family in the 1950s and a construction company in the 1960s. By the 1970s he was travelling the world for business. By the start of the 1980s, he became the first North American to do business in the USSR.

With his brother still imprisoned in Siberia, and often travelling to the Soviet Union for work, he began writing letters to Gorbachev pleading for his brother's release.

One day early in 1987, Gorbachev responded to one of his letters, and in the late days of August 1987, Andre came to Canada for the first time. It was because of Gorbachev's desire for change and his willingness to open the gates of the past that Andre was set free.

My great uncle was here for my birth because of Gorbachev, and our family thanks him. My mother named me Michael after him and my middle name Andrew is after my great uncle.

But the story does not end there. Just two months after my birth, my grandfather was invited to the Kremlin for a dinner that Gorbachev hosted. Following the dinner, they met. And it was in Gorbachev's office that my grandfather shared with him this story. At its completion, Gorbachev tore off a sheet from his note pad and wrote, "From one Michael to another."

Although I have never met him, I hold a special place in my heart for what Gorbachev did for our family. He was an independent voice in the crowd of conformity, a light in the dark and a hope where there previously was none.

MICHAEL WILMS

Winnipeg

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Our planet would be better served if Mikhail Gorbachev asked the world's billionaires what they are doing to "make a difference" and not me.

He might start by asking the Pope what he's doing, other than encouraging overpopulation.

DAVE HARDY

Winnipeg

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Many of Mikhail Gorbachev's objectives would be achieved if we abandoned intensive livestock operations and adopted a vegetarian diet.

Not everyone can travel the globe to initiate change, but we are all capable of making a difference for ourselves, the animals and the planet, one meal at a time. Peace begins in the kitchen.

DEBBIE WALL

Winnipeg

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Kudos to the Free Press for its engagement with Mikhail Gorbachev. This is opportune and is evidence of literary leadership that Winnipeg deserves.

ROBERT GRANKE

Winnipeg

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I remember, as a boy, marching down to the basement of my school in Wichita, Kan., and huddling there in fear, together with my classmates, as part of a nuclear drill during the Cuban missile crisis.

The dread of nuclear war between the East and the West accompanied me into my adolescence and adulthood.

Mikhail Gorbachev, I cannot find words to thank you for your huge part in freeing our world of that fear. I would love to tell you personally thank you, spassiba and God bless you.

Dr. WILFRIED KAETHLER

Steinbach

Many were culpable

Ingeborg Boyens' lament over coming to terms with Nazism and the Holocaust has merit (German guilt was postwar burden, Oct. 27).

Many culpable Germans here and there did nothing by way of resolution. Either the monstrosity of the Holocaust was too gigantic for them to imagine, they were intellectually incapable, or they were mostly unwilling of doing so, and so they preferred or prefer to trivialize that issue.

It will not go away. It has become the DNA of the human condition, everywhere, for all time.

As a conscientious-objecting Mennonite who has researched this phenomenon of evil for more than half a lifetime, I have concluded that the war against Hitler and his executive of mainly thugs is the only war in human history that was fully justified.

JACK THIESSEN

New Bothwell

Authentic conservatism

Val Werier's Oct. 29 column Harper undoing Bennett's 'conservative' legacy exemplifies the reason I no longer feel confident voting for the Conservatives. R.B. Bennett, while being successful in the business world, also knew the value of being an authentic social conservative.

Bennett understood that our country is more than a corporation. He was visionary in administering a strong central government with a commitment to social programs that help the nation remain united. Contrast this to the Harper Conservatives who, while on their knees before the high priests of Bay Street and Wall Street, tear down social programs and environmental safeguards. I look to the future with hope that there may yet again be a viable "progressive" Conservative party that doesn't sound and act like U.S.-style Republican wannabes.

JAMES PENNER

Ste. Anne

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I love the quote from R.B. Bennett that "the corporate elite is more dangerous than socialism." That statement coming from a Conservative prime minister is worth remembering.

MICHAEL CUDJOE

Winnipeg

Inspiring decision

Re: Crystal Taman's son joins police ranks (Oct. 27). This is a touching and inspiring article. I can't imagine the courage and dedication it took Jordan Taman to become a police officer after all his family endured.

Speaking as a mother of a son and daughter, I know his mother would be so proud of him for making his dream come true.

SANDRA DESAUTELS

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2012 A9

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