Tomorrow, Saturday 7th April 2018, I set off on my way to Kostroma in Russia. It is my fifth visit to Russia and to Kostroma. Durham County Council and Kostroma Oblast have had a partnership spanning an amazing 50 years. I am involved with a visit that involves volunteer English teachers, some retired and some still practicing like myself.

50 years ago, I was a 12 year old boy watching the strangest, the most exciting, the most dangerous, the most bizarre events the world has ever seen. The space race. It wasn’t science fiction and it wasn’t some false / fake news story. It happened and it was happening as I grew up in my little town in the North East of England, Middlesbrough.

Yuri Gagarin was a superstar, an international fact, not just a member of the Russian Air Force, a real hero. 50 years of this partnership is a real achievement, considering the differences and the issues surrounding our two nations. The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, not to mention today’s political challenges.

50 years ago, England were the champions of the world, I had seen my first ever football match at Ayresome Park, Russia v North Korea and the greatest ever goalkeeper, ‘The Black Panther’, Lev Yashin, famous for wearing his flat cap. In fact Yashin didn’t play in this game, but he was part of the squad.

Watch our Facebook page @cafepierrelanguages to experience Russia in 2018.