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Treadwell, Cowper and Hensley Celebrate Friendship Flight

November 1, 2013, Anchorage, AK - Twenty-five years ago, the “Ice Curtain” that separated the Cold War Soviet Union and Alaska thawed.

Today, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell joined former Alaska Governor Steve Cowper and former State Senator Willie Hensley in recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Friendship Flight from Nome, AK to Provideniya Russia that marked the renewal of relations between two nations.

Treadwell, Cowper and Hensley were passengers on the June 1988 flight. They shared their memories at today’s World Affairs Council luncheon and discussed how the flight helped end the Cold War, renew family relationships, and set the stage for Arctic cooperation.

“Our so-called Ice Curtain came down well over a year before the breach of the Berlin Wall, and Alaskans helped make it happen,” Treadwell said.  “Our proximity to Russia, rather than being a joke on Saturday Night Live, became a card to play.”

“We knew Russia was right there,” Hensley said, “but it was like the other side of the moon – you knew it was there, but you never saw it.”

Gov. Cowper said the most important impact was on personal relationships:

“People in the Russian Arctic and people in the U.S. Arctic – that’s us Alaskans – discovered we had a lot more in common with each other than with Moscow or Washington – especially Washington!”

Treadwell recognized several members of the audience who were also participants in the flight, including Chet Walukiewicz, Gunnar Knapp, and Jon Van Zyle.

Treadwell initiated today’s celebration in his role as chair of the Alaska Historical Commission, which recognizes Alaska’s unique anniversaries.

Treadwell also distributed a collection of articles from others on the flight who were asked to share their memories. That publication will appear in the Nome Nugget and the Journal of Commerce, and will be available on the AHC website at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/histcomm/ahc.htm.

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