Growing up in the Soviet Union, Emilia Tynes-Mensah did the same things other children did. She read the classics of literary master Alexander Pushkin, listened to the symphonies of Peter Tchaikovsky and heard the propaganda that life here was better than anywhere else.
But in her home, there was American jazz, Thanksgiving celebrations and stories of the struggles facing blacks in the United States. An improvised version of soul food sometimes replaced borscht.
That's because her father, George Tynes, was an African American agronomist from Virginia who moved to Russia in the 1930s.
Tynes was among hundreds of blacks who traveled to the Soviet Union in the two decades...