PITTSBURGH (AP) _ It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood as Mister Rogers welcomed the host of a Soviet children’s television program.
Tatiana Vedeneeva brought along a special friend during her visit Monday with Fred Rogers.
″In Russian fairy tales, rabbits are traditionally very cowardly,″ Ms. Vedeneeva said through a translator while holding Stepashka, her rabbit hand puppet. ″But because he wanted to see Mister Rogers so much, he got on an airplane and flew all the way here to America.″
Ms. Vedeneeva presented Rogers with a set of colorful, wooden Matrouska dolls during a special taping of ″Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,″ and Stepashka gave him a videocassette explaining how the dolls are made.
Rogers, in turn, sang them a tune he’d written for the occasion.
″We would like to welcome you. It’s good to be in touch. We would like to welcome you. Our friendship means so much,″ Rogers sang, accompanying himself at the piano.
Ms. Vedeneeva, whose ″Good Night, Little Ones″ is the Soviet Union’s longest running children’s program, smiled as Rogers showed her around the set at Pittsburgh’s WQED-TV. Because she speaks little English, she was accompanied by a translator.
″Here’s my closet where I keep my sweaters,″ the quiet-spoken Rogers said, displaying a half-dozen sweaters on hangers.
Rogers wore a green, zippered cardigan along with his customary blue sneakers to greet the first Soviet citizen to appear on his Public Broadcast Service show. Ms. Vedeneeva dressed accordingly: she wore a beige sweater, white lace blouse and black leather skirt.
″Wasn’t that nice that she’d wear a sweater today?″ Rogers asked.
Later, as the two television hosts viewed a finished portion of the tape, Rogers couldn’t help displaying his excitement.
″It’s hard to believe we’re seeing this together, right here,″ he told her, grinning.
Ms. Vedeneeva arrived in the United States last week, her first trip to this country. She and Rogers met with Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, then headed to Pittsburgh, home to Rogers’ program for the past 20 years. She was scheduled to return home today.
Her visit to ″Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,″ which will be broadcast in March as part of a weeklong series on nighttime, was part of a cultural exchange initiated by Rogers’ staff.
Rogers, 59, visited Moscow in September, becoming the first guest ever to appear on ″Good Night, Little Ones.″ The episode is scheduled for broadcast in the Soviet Union on Dec. 7 or 8 to coincide with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to the United States for a summit meeting with President Reagan.
″I want to say to the children, especially in Russia, that we have also a lot of little children here (in the United States), that they also love their mothers and fathers, and that they have such a man as Mister Rogers, who loves every child like his own,″ said Ms. Vedeneeva.