The prose poems included in this book reflect impressions of my experiences in Russia and South Eastern Europe, as well as a brief venture in Turkmenistan. I periodically worked in these areas as a university professor, international consultant, and Senior Fulbright Specialist. My interest in international studies began when my wife, Patsy, and I served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Turkey, 1965-67. I later became a Research Analyst with the Comparative Studies Staff (now the Office of International Programs) of the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC. It was in this position that I developed an appreciation for the difficulties, as well as the possibilities, of policies and programs aimed at helping vulnerable populations in developing economies relative to income and social services, particularly for elderly persons. Two years as a Senior Research Analyst with the International Social Security Association in Geneva, 1977-79, whetted my interest in the different ways older and at-risk men and women of diverse cultures and economies are treated around the world. From 1982 to 2004, I conducted research on the elderly in numerous countries as a university professor. In 1994 my wife, who is also an academic, and I had an opportunity to become involved in the development and implementation of a teaching project on social services in Samara, Russia, a province about 400 miles south of Moscow on the Volga River. We also became involved in a long-term initiative with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Budapest, Hungary. The ILO had a grant from the European Union, funded by the Government of France, for a project entitled: Strengthening Social Protection in South Eastern Europe that included the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro. It is in this context that I had abundant opportunities to experience and observe life in the various cultures referenced in the poems. The poems are my attempt to go beyond professional descriptions of policies and programs to capture some of the spirit and nuances of the complex history and current conditions in burgeoning and energetic societies that continue to grapple with the transformation from stifling, autocratic political, social, and civil environments.
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