Some residents of the Soviet Union will find their cupboards are not quite so bare this week thanks to Utahns who've heeded the call of two Brigham Young University professors concerned about food shortages there.
So far, Utahns have contributed nearly $4,000 to the `Russian Relief' project spearheaded by Alan F. Keele, associate dean of the honors program, and Don Jarvis, a Russian-language professor."It's been heartwarming to see this kind of outpouring," Jarvis said. "People have so many good places to put their money this time of year."
The two professors plan to wire the money this week to BYU colleague Gary Browning, who is the president of the Finland Helsinki East Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Browning has agreed to distribute the money or goods purchased in Europe to people in need, Jarvis said.
"We also contacted (congressman-elect) Bill Orton, and I'm very pleased to report Orton was already independently researching sending food to Russia by airlift," Keele said.
Orton told the Deseret News he is working through congressional and state department offices to put together an air transport of foodstuffs from Utah to Moscow and Leningrad, which seem to be the two cities hardest hit by food shortages.
"I feel doing this can create long-term friendships with people in those cities," Orton said.
Much of the Soviet Union's fall harvest was lost to bad weather this year. The food shortage is exacerbated by poor transportation routes, inadequate storage and processing facilities and a devalued monetary system. The shortage is particularly hard on elderly people or families with young children who are unable to stand for hours in long food lines, the professors said.
Widespread food shortages could create political instability in the Soviet Union, Keele said.
The food shortage will peak in January or February, according to Peter Serdiukov, a visiting professor at BYU from the Kiev Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages.
"It (the funds so far collected) is a small sum compared to what Japan and the government have weighed in with," Jarvis said. But, " . . . a little something is better than a big nothing, and this is a little something."
Most donations have been about $25 to $50, although there have been several $100 donations and one $1,000 donation, Jarvis said. Students at Timpview High School contributed $100 to the Russian Relief project.
All contributions go directly to the relief effort, Jarvis said. Monetary donations can be sent to `Russian Relief Fund', care of Don Jarvis, 1256 Locust Lane, Provo, UT 84604. Also, the professors have set up an account under the name `Russian Relief' at Universal Campus Credit Union; the account number is 78792-1.