MOSCOW (Reuters) – Tyler Ivanoff, an American schoolteacher, was gathering firewood with his children on a beach in western Alaska when he came across a champagne bottle with a letter inside.
“Warm greetings from the Russian Far East fleet,” the letter began. It was a hand-written note, in Russian, dated 1969.
“We wish you good health, a long life, and happy sailing,” the short message read.
It said its authors were crew members of the Sulak, one of the Russian Far Eastern fishing fleet’s depot ships.
Ivanoff posted a photo of the letter on Facebook, asking for help with its translation, and shared a photograph of the emerald-green glass bottle, corked and undamaged.
“I was pretty excited to find out who wrote it,” he said.
Reuters found its author in Sevastopol, a town on the Crimean peninsula’s Black Sea coast.
Sitting in a jacket adorned with war medals, Anatoliy Botsanenko, 86, a former sailor, recalled writing the letter half a century ago together with his shipmates.
“People started saying … a time will come when we will be forgotten. And no one will even know that this vessel and its crew ever existed. But if we threw a bottle…” Botsanenko explained, holding up a black-and-white photo of the crew.
The retiree said the bottle came from a crate of champagne they had had on board.
He said he had never imagined the letter could reach as far as Alaska.
But the possibility that it could would not have worried him anyway, he said, despite it being the height of the Cold War, with relations between Russia and the United States frosty at best.
“There wasn’t anything (important) in it. It was a greeting,” Botsanenko said.
“Why can’t we send a greeting, to any country? Moreover to the Americans. Our people always liked Americans, no matter what political events were going on.”
Writing by Dmitriy Turlyun and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Alison Williams