Wisconsin State Journal (February 25, 2010) — This is a story that begins with a lunch engagement between strangers and ends with a friendship and the publication of a remarkable book.
The strangers in question were Alfred Senn, an esteemed emeritus professor of history at UW–Madison, and Nancy Heingartner, outreach coordinator at the UW’s Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia.
On a day in fall 2008, it developed that Marina Sorokina, a researcher from Moscow doing a UW–Madison residency, had made a lunch date with both Senn and Heingartner.
Sorokina called Senn and said, “Would you mind having lunch with two women instead of one?”
“I can survive it,” Senn said.
Over lunch at the Kollege Klub, Heingartner and Senn quickly found common ground in the country of Lithuania. Senn is “arguably the world’s renowned authority on Lithuania,” to quote a proclamation from Mayor Dave Cieslewicz that made Feb. 16 “Alfred Senn Day” in Madison.
Heingartner, meanwhile, was able to tell Senn that her grandfather, Robert W. Heingartner, had spent two years as the American consul in Kaunas, the provisional capital of Lithuania, in the 1920s.
Senn, who had missed Heingartner’s name during introductions, asked it again. “Of course,” he said, when it was repeated. “I know that name.”
“He kept a diary,” Nancy said, referring to her grandfather. She added that the diary was now in the possession of her father in Ohio.