Russians experience our way of life
Los Alamos Monitor (Los Alamos, NM)
Posted on June 23, 2004
By Carol A. Clark, Monitor Staff Writer
|Photo by Gary Warren|
Living with area host families, they said Americans have the same problems, the same feelings and are as happy as they are.
"I thought Americans were so serious and didn't hug others," Liliya Petrovna Beznosyuk said. "I really like the family I'm staying with. They are very interesting and I feel at home."
The future Russian leaders came to the area to learn about healthful and constructive activities for youth through the Open World Program at the Library of Congress.
The delegates, three female and one male are involved in youth programs in their own country.
Lawry Mann, chair of the Sister City Initiative coordinated the visit with assistance from County Councilor Fran Berting.
The Los Alamos/Sarov Sister City initiative hosted the visit with support from Robert Thomsen, Nina and Sig Hecker, Alice Mann, Paul White, Emily and Roger Waterman, Jody Howell, Ron Augustson and Kevin Holsapple.
Their Russian facilitator was Oxana Gorbunkova. She spoke fluent English.
This was her first trip to New Mexico and her seventh to the United States on behalf of the Open World Program.
"Open World looks for people who speak the language, have spent time in the country and understand the culture," Gorbunkova said.
She was an exchange student in Virginia between 1999 and 2000 and is now editor-in-chief of the Vse Vertitsa newspaper in Russia. Gorbunkova called New Mexico awesome.
Mann treated the delegates to interesting meetings, great food and amazing sites.
They met with the police chief, the fire chief, judges, county officials, educators and business people and learned about the Family YMCA community youth programs.
They learned the story of how Bob Waterman came to Los Alamos to work as a security guard and built a multi-million dollar business - the story of how free enterprise works and of a man who used his resources to help a community.
The Bob Waterman presentation was given by son Roger at the TRK Building.
They also spent time learning about distressed areas in towns like Mora, Cleveland and Las Vegas.
"I enjoyed the Spanish villages in Mora," Aleksandr Trufanov said. "We have small villages in Russia but they are different."
Svetlana Timchenko was amazed by the state capital.
The delegates were given a tour of the Round House by Rep. Jeannette Wallace. She introduced them around and even gave them a look at the governor's office, Mann said.
"I loved the capital," Timchenko said. "I have never been to such a place."
The delegates visited a piano bar in Santa Fe where they could request Russian songs and sing along.
They also visited the Russian Czar exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts and had lunch with museum board member Don Tishman.
Later, a docent gave them a tour of the Indian Art Museum.
They wanted to sample the American political system so they attended a monthly Los Alamos Republican Party meeting, complete with a BBQ dinner at Rover Park.
"After the dinner, the delegates wanted to walk across Omega Bridge, which they enjoyed," Mann said.
UNM-LA Executive Director Carlos Ramirez spoke to the group about Russian program courses offered at the college.
Superintendent James Anderson discussed LAPS curriculum including the education of students with disabilities, athletics, funding and trends in education.
They were introduced to Open Space Specialist Craig Martin and Mountain Elementary School teacher Laura Patterson at the Quemazon Trail Head.
They learned about the trail restoration and met two Russian-speaking students that worked on the project.
"I think the nature here is beautiful," Svetlana Yachevsksya said. "The mountains, trees and canyons are so nice."
The delegates toured the United World College and meet with President Philip Geier.
Geier visited Russia 14 years ago. He asked the delegates what had changed.
"We only had two television channels," Trufanov said. "Now we have 14 and we don't want to go back."
Two interpreters from Los Alamos shared translation duties during the delegates visit.
Olga Augustson is a former teacher and translator from Sarov and Valida Dushdurova works at UNM-LA.
Mann said they did an absolutely fantastic job and deserved a lot of credit for the success of the delegate's trip.
The delegates capped off their trip with a Sunday evening concert at Ashley Pond performed by the Russian Rock Group the Red Elvises.
The delegates will head back to Russia on Monday, Mann said.
The Open World Program was authorized by Congress in 1999 as a result of discussions between Librarian of Congress James Billington and members of Congress.
The program is the first and only exchange program administered by the legislative branch of the U.S. Government, as stated on the Open World website.
The program is designed to bring emerging federal and local Russian political leaders to the United States to meet their American counterparts and gain first hand knowledge of how American civil society works.
More than 7,000 current and future Russian leaders have experienced an in-depth introduction to American political and civic life through the Open World program.
[Reprinted with Permission]