Anyone who doesn't want peace in the world is crazy, says Soviet poet Igor Mikhailusenko, who stopped in Salt Lake City Wednesday on his way to visit friends in Idaho.
"Peace is the key to happiness," Mikhailusenko told the Deseret News. "All normal people want to be happy, but who can be happy when they are in the midst of war?"He said he is glad the United States and the Soviet Union have embarked on a "new era of peaceful and cooperative negotiations and relationships.
"It is unfortunate that the peaceful climate that we have experienced in the world during the past year has been so disturbed by the conflicts brooding in the Middle East.
"I can only pray that people will become educated spiritually to the point they understand that the only route to happiness is peace and that the only intelligent way to solve problems is peacefully."
Mikhailusenko, 58, knows all about war. He lost both his legs in World War II. "I grew up in Moscow and lost my legs in 1942 after the Germans bombed our city. I was 10 years old."
He eventually was given artificial legs and learned to walk again. Today, Mikhailusenko is able to walk with the help of a cane. He remembers the war, he says, and the pain and anguish and the loss it caused.
"I have been writing poems and songs about peace ever since 1945. I write about peace, love, nature, the stars and heaven." A well-known poet in the Soviet Union, his work has been published in countless newspapers, magazines, calendars and commemorative publications and in several anthologies.
Some day, he says, he hopes to publish a book of his poems and songs. One song, titled "Shine Out, Just Like a Star, Our Sporting Planet," was chosen by his country as an Olympic song in 1980.
Other songs, including the Galaxy song "Starry Meeting" and "Waltz of Love," have earned him medals and honors in the Soviet Union. A long-time promoter of peace in the world, Mikhailusenko has been awarded the Badge of Honor by the Moscow Peace Committee for his active work in striving for peace.
This is his fourth trip to the United States and the first time he has visited Utah and Idaho.
On one visit to Washington, D.C., two years ago he met Scott Garner, who was on a mission there for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mikhailusenko was converted.
Garner and his parents, Del and Carol Garner, of Declo, Idaho, invited Mikhailusenko to visit them on their 1,000-acre sugar beet farm, and the poet finally was able to accept the invitation this month.
"I love farms and being close to nature," the poet said. "I am afraid too many people have drifted far away from nature and they suffer for it."
Mikhailusenko said he is not surprised by the huge changes that have occurred and which are still taking place in the Soviet Union. "It had to come. It was building up for years," he said.
"Unfortunately, there is much discontent in the Soviet Union. Many are not able to get the food, clothing and other material goods they want. Appliances, for instance, are just not available. You must wait for years to get a car, even if you are able to pay for one today."
He said the Soviet people love President Mikhail Gorbachev and respect his sincerity. "We think he is working in the right direction. The Soviet people have to be patient for a while to let the new changes work.
"There is a possibility there will be civil unrest, rioting, looting and other violence in my country because people are unhappy about not having enough food, clothing and other things."
Mikhailusenko said his latest peace project is a series of letters he is sending to artists, writers, entertainers and world leaders asking them to work for peace and to write to him what they think the world will be like in the year 2000.
President George Bush wrote the poet a year ago:
"Like you, I look forward to a peaceful future between great rival powers, a peace full of prosperity and freedom for all peoples.
"The United States and the Soviet Union have begun a new relationship. It's a relationship that demands realism but has shown real progress in a better understanding between our two nations.
"When we have kept to the principles of realism and strength, dialogue and engagement, we have succeeded in advancing both peace and freedom. My administration remains committed to these tenets of international harmony," Bush wrote.
Mikhailusenko said he will spend the next five weeks with the Garners in Idaho, will tour the surrounding areas and then return home. "I will try to promote peace wherever I go for the rest of my life. It is my dedication," he said.