On June 29, Artek’s most famous visitor Samantha Smith would have turned 45. On that day, the children attending the Samantha’s Smile session at the Artek camp wrote letters to world leaders and public figures calling to preserve peace on Earth. The children also folded white paper doves and exchanged the international peace symbols as tokens of their friendship and memory of Samantha Smith.
Alexei Kasprzhak, head of the Artek International Children’s Center, stressed the importance of the Artek Peace Mail campaign: “Samantha Smith was our guest, an Artek kid, and her name has been inextricably interweaved in Artek’s history. Her story tells children that much in our lives depends on ourselves, on our unwavering belief that a simple human action can change something around us, in our families, in our cities, in the country, in the world. Today, too, we are sure that among the children who come to Artek there will be one who will write a letter that will pave the way to the fairer world of tomorrow.”
Artek cherishes the memory of Samantha, who in 1981 addressed the leader of the USSR with simple questions that were a concern for many people at the height of the Cold War. In the summer of 1983, she came to the USSR at Yury Andropov’s invitation, visited Moscow and Leningrad, and stayed in Artek. She became a Goodwill Ambassador for the whole world and turned the page of history.
Thematic meetings in memory of Samantha Smith were held in all of Artek’s camps over the past several days. The children watched documentaries about Samantha and talked to the people who knew her. Film director Vladimir Podznoyev, founder of the Artekfilm Studios, shared his 1983 memories with the children: “We were wrapping up shooting the documentary at the Morskoi Camp, where Samantha was staying, and were about to stop the camera when Samantha and her friend Natasha Kashirina from Leningrad hugged and started singing the song May There Always Be Sunshine. We began filming again. The scene was so sincere and genuine that later on this moment became one of highlights of our documentary The Childhood Capital.” Vladimir Podznoyev recalled Samantha’s worlds, full of optimism and faith in the future, which she said in Russian right before leaving Artek: “Budem zhit!” [We will live on!].
On Samantha’s birthday, special postcards with her photo were mailed to Moscow, Kiev, Washington, Berlin and other cities around the world.
Yelizaveta Khramova of Cheboksary sent her messages to the presidents of Russia and the United States. “I wrote to Donald Trump: Mr President, Russia is a peaceful country. It is much better to cooperate than to compete. I believe in people’s goodwill and I believe that wars do not solve problems but rather create new ones.” The girl wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin that many more camps such as Artek should be opened for children from different countries to learn how to be friends.