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In the 1970s, I took the “wagon-lit” train from Prague to Moscow and back three times to work with Russian students on construction of new production facilities for a “kolchoz” (collective farm) in a little town called “Mednoye” on the river Tvertsa between Moscow and Leningrad. Three weeks of work were then followed each time by a week of sightseeing in Moscow and Leningrad.

I worked every summer as an exchange student in different countries in the Soviet bloc (and once I was even allowed to go to Southern France to my utter delight and amazement) because this was the cheapest way to travel back then for a penniless linguistics student. So I traveled to USSR three times because I wanted to know how the things worked back in the USSR as the Beatles put it, and also because I loved (and still do love) Russian language and culture.

My…

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