National Post had a very interesting article by Winnipeg historian Allen Levine called “The night Gorbachev came to dinner”.
It recalls the legend of the late former federal Agriculture Minister Eugene Whelan when he hosted an up and coming politician named Mikhail Gorbachev at his home in Windsor, Ontario.
Whelan’s trade-mark green stetson set the tone and stage of the wild West (all capitalism and relatively free democracy) meets the Soviet Bloc East (all communism and relatively no democracy).
Its said that over a 3 hour walk and conversation between Gorbachev and then Soviet Ambassador to Canada, Alexander Yakolev, that the seeds of perstroika were sown leading to the eventual destruction of the Soviet Union.
While Gorbachev in his memoirs years later did not reflect on this conversation, I have it on good authority it really happened.
The 12 year old’s godfather says so.
How does a former farmer and federal public servant know?
Because he got it straight from the source – Eugene Whelan.
Once the godfather’s farm foreclosed, and he won a job in the agriculture department in Ottawa, he sat down with me and we talked.
Its funny how life makes connections that unfold in many different ways.
He talked to me about Whelan and his impact on farmers and Canada and the Soviet Union.
He spoke highly of the Senator, saying the man stood up for the farmers, in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
During the conversation, I said to my friend, why don’t you tell Eugene Whelan what you think to his face?
You’re in Ottawa, call him up, ask for a meeting and talk to him about your ideas – for Canada, and in this case, Ukraine as well.
And that’s what my friend did.
It resulted in a long friendship and mentorship that spanned generations and jurisdictions.
And it was through that friendship that I heard on several occasions about the Gorbachev-Yakolev meeting of the minds.
Apparently it was true.
It happened on the Whelan farmstead.
And yes, it shaped history.
What a wonderful legacy.