News On the Road

Fisko recalls Russia, participation in Soviet-American play as child

By Michael Ahearne ’14
THE ROUNDUP

In 1987 Mr. Paul Fisko, along with 19 other American children and 20 Russian children, traveled across Russia, Europe and American to spread the message to end the Cold War and bring peace.

Mr. Fisko’s journey and experiences began during the Cold War in 1987. At that time, he was in 8th Grade, and Ronald Reagan was the president while Mikhail Gorbachev led the Soviet Union.

During that time, many people lived in a fear of nuclear warfare.

“We all lived in fear of mutual assured destruction by nuclear war,” Mr. Fisko said. “I remember as a child at that age, we would do bomb blast drills, going down into the basement and the fallout shelter, rehearsing and having that being a part of our existence.”

In attempts to ease tensions between the Soviet Union and United States, the Peace Child Foundation in California decided to find common interests between Soviets and Americans, and looked at children as the future.

This foundation embarked on a six-year journey where they helped pair up Soviet and American children together to work on projects that they had in common.

This foundation later hired with the Theater of All Possibilities in Santa Cruz, Calif., who wanted to pair up Americans and Soviets to perform a play together called “Peace Child.”

“It would tell the futuristic story that kids brought peace to the world,” Mr. Fisko said.

This theater went on a country wide talent search in order to find children to bring to Russia that were very talented. Out of 2.3 million children who tried out, only 20 were chosen, one of those being Mr. Fisko.

Mr. Fisko and the 19 other children met in Santa Cruz for a month to study Russian, study relationships and diplomacy and begin work on the play.

After the month, the 20 children traveled to Soviet Russia, where they met their 20 Russian counterparts for the first time in the Crimean Peninsula at an International Youth Camp.

These 40 children traveled to a camp near Yalta called Artek Camp, where for about a month and a half, they rehearsed, wrote and broke cultural barriers together.

After finishing writing the play and rehearsing, they began to travel across Russia.

They started mainly in small towns that would be affected by the possible nuclear war.

They went all across Russia through what is today Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Siberia performing their “Peace Child” play.

They then went to larger places, such as Moscow, Kiev, Estonia, Lafia, Saint Petersburg, then called Leningrad, where they performed about 10 performances in each big city.

They finished their trip across Russia in Moscow, where they met President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.

“We actually went into Kremlin, into the premier’s offices and we spoke with him. All 40 of us,” Mr. Fisko said. “It was an amazing experience to speak with the man who is credited with turning the tide of communism and the Soviet tradition.”

They continued to show their play in Eastern Europe, places such as Prague, Hungry and Bulgaria.

After touring Eastern Europe, the Soviet children had to leave because they were restricted by the Soviet government. They said their goodbyes and parted ways.

The American group continued to tour, going first to Western Europe, then back to United States  where they performed in large venues such as in places like Washington, Oregon, California, New York, Chicago, Dallas and many other cities, helping to raise money and awareness.

The two groups of children were involved in a satellite broadcast with each other, at which Gorbachev was in the audience of the Russian concert, but Reagan couldn’t make the American concert, sending a diplomat instead to represent him.

After that, the tour was over.

Even though the tour ended, the two groups of children to this day have been able to keep in communication with each other through email, Facebook and the Internet.

The groups have been able to have two reunions, one in New York and another in Riga, Latvia.