THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE.
There are a number of fascinating, frightening and fun-to-read stories on my life in Russia coming to this site. Basic to these is understanding how I got there and the events once I arrived.
Here is the sequence of events.
1) 1980 Jack Byrne, ad man, helps opticians to invent EYELAB, the world’s first eyewear store that does glasses in an hour with lens laboratory on premises. Paramus, NJ.
2) 1982 Dean Butler of Procter & Gamble copies Eyelab and opens LENS CRAFTERS in Kentucky.
3) 1983 Jack Byrne opens world’s largest and most prestigious eyewear store in Manhattan called MANHATTAN EYELAND. Folds in 1984.
4) 1990 CIA man contacts JB, representing KGB organization in Soviet Union that seeks to open a western-quality Eyewear store to serve the foreign embassy and business communities in Moscow. Wants JB to line up US partners and financing.
5) 1990 plan falters when Gorbachev moves away from his democratic turn and the American venture capitalists turn away.
6) JB approaches Dean Butler (see 2) who, after building 500 LENSCRAFTERS stores, sold out for half a billion dollars and built chains in other countries. He has 80 store chain in Great Britain and seeking to grow. JB suggests Soviet Union. Butler says already considering it but go investigate and if you agree its a good idea and you will run it – we’ll do it. Has Russian- American, Yuri Feinstein available to work with Jack.
7) JB and Yuri visit Soviet Union, make contacts and arrange joint business ventures with Russian and Latvian companies who dominate their countries eyewear business.
8) Soviet Union breaks up just as initial stores are planned so as Soviet Union is dissolved, the potential partners become Russian and Latvian.
9) Russian partner is largest eyewear business in Russia, former communist factories and stores cover northwest Russia, population of 60 million These were privatized and the General Director Valeriy Solovyev became 51% owner with all 3500 employees owning the other 49%.
10) Solovyev is beloved leader of all who led his people out of communism and into the market economy (democracy to some). He is described in The Tsar is Dead and elsewhere. He was Greco roman wrestler for Soviet Union in his early days, he is short but powerful with round chubby face and twinkling eyes.
11) Byrne and Solovyev run the joint venture with Gregory Barinberg (called the “Jewish Cossack” and bearing large mustache) as his Chief Engineer and Arnold Kogan a very quiet man with the bearing of an accountant. Three plot and plan with and, in the long run, against each other.
12) Solovyev as any full-blooded Russian Magnate employs 20 years younger Elena Drobiaska, blond, full bodied, actress and sometime ticket seller at movie house – and she rises high to be the person assigned to run the joint venture store and wholesale unit named LENAM (Leningrad/America) which opens Vision Express (1st 1991) stores in Russia.
13) Mafia edges into picture to help protect Elena/Stores whatever.
14) Jack Byrne hires brilliant Russian student having just received her Masters in Languages and Arabic studies. Name Veronica Nazarova. Reads Sanskrit and other unspoken languages, is Archeologist, is hot to look at and tons of fun and dances up a storm. She starts at $25 a week but right away gets raised to $50. She is JBs interpreter, traveling companion and when out of St. Petersburg (where her mother lives), JB’s roommate.
15) JB is in Russia until end 1997.
16) In 1994 Solovyev is assassinated (as he steps out of his elevator on way to work shot three times in chest)
17) DEATH AND LIFE IN THE PALACE OF CULTURE tells of the events at the body viewing (which actually is a devise to further the conflict and danger in the war between Elena, Gregory, Arnold, and Jack’s role in same). The TSAR IS DEAD tells the burial ground story and furthers some of the issues ahead. HEAD OF THE TABLE occurs the night of the burial. These will be in the early blogs posted.
The stories will go on from there.