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A supplemental history of the NZ-USSR Society

dinner 2006

Friendship and Cooperation. The Later Years of the NZ-USSR Society (1976 - 1992)

Author: Chris King

Excerpt from the book:

Mr N. Shatskikh from the Soviet Embassy addressed conference and referred to anti-Soviet efforts by reactionary forces worldwide, including New Zealand. He expressed confidence that friendship and mutual cooperation would develop and be strengthened in the future. He praised the Society and the role it had to play. National President, Carrick Lewis, also spoke of the deplorable deterioration of relations orchestrated into a campaign by interests outside New Zealand. Soviet Cosmonaut, Vladimir Shatalov, an intended delegate to the conference, wrote expressing bewilderment that his visa application had been refused by the New Zealand Government. General Shatalov said -

"As a man who has been to outer space 3 times, I proposed to share-my impressions of space flight and to try and describe, in particular, what a beautiful green oasis in the vast blue sea New Zealand looks like from outer space". He concluded "It is contrary to the interests of New Zealanders themselves as well as to the interest of detente and peace to hamper the extension of contacts between organisations whose only objective is firm friendship". Conference expressed their gratitude to General Shatalov for his clear and restrained letter but they also expressed their disappointment and "extreme disgust at the refusal of the authorities to issue visas to our invited guests".

Reference was made of the death of Denis Glover, New Zealand national poet and a member of the Wellington Branch (Many of Denis Glover's contemporaries in the literary field were members of the Society and found its objectives and activities fitted comfortably with their own beliefs and principles). Denis Glover had served as a Naval Officer in World War II and had seen active service on convoy escorts, including the North Russian operational area. He returned to Murmansk with his wife in 1975 meeting Soviet war veterans and civilians. He spoke of the huge cost in human life during the war and the need for a lasting Peace and for friendship between all countries of the world. A Soviet woman said to Glover "Twenty million lives is certainly a very high price for the Soviet Union to pay for victory, but ask any mother in Russia, England or New Zealand, is it too much or too little to lose even one son?"

Denis Glover was presented with a. medal by his Russian hosts to commemorate his war service in the region He later said he had never met such marvellous and hospitable people, who expected him to "eat as much as a Rugby XV three times a day and make little of a 22 hour fast railway journey." He referred to Murmansk as "my second city."