In late August 1991, four months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I traveled to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, with my Finnish girlfriend (now wife) and fellow journalist. One week earlier, on August 20, this small Baltic country had declared its independence from the USSR, after Soviet hardliners attempted a coup in Moscow while Mikhail Gorbachev was at his dacha in Crimea. This was a chance to talk to and write about the brave and weary people who defended their independent television station after tanks and troops rolled in from the Russian capital.
The chance to witness the early post-Soviet years (and a film project) was the catalyst for frequent trips to Moscow—riding on the 15-hour overnight train from Helsinki—and St. Petersburg. I also made occasional visits back to the newly emerging Tallinn when I lived in Helsinki, just three hours away by ferry across the Gulf of Finland. I also journeyed through the Estonian countryside to visit the Riga Film Studio in the Latvian capital. Once a thriving home for filmmakers, it was largely empty in those years of post-Soviet confusion.
I always intended to spend time in Kyiv, but somehow never had the chance. In recent days, I’ve regretted that I didn’t find the time. I’m hoping the day will soon come when I—and millions of others—can visit this beautiful city freely. But that remains only a hope right now as we watch the unfolding horrors perpetrated by invading Russian troops at the mad behest of Vladimir Putin.
That yearning has gotten me thinking about places I haven’t gone but intend to visit. That particularly includes parts of Asia—Japan, Korea, Vietnam and India chief among them. What about you? Where haven’t you visited that you don’t want to miss? Times of turbulence and doubt have a way of making those half-formed plans seem increasingly urgent.
As always, I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind and the chance for this community to learn from each other.
Photo: Tallinn’s Old Town at sunset. Photo by Hendrik Osula/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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