Fresno Bee (Fresno, CA)
Posted on August 7, 2000
By Matthew Kreamer
The sign handwritten on binder paper read "Russia Hello."
At least it did to five people getting off a plane Sunday evening at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport. To everyone else, it was a jumble of sometimes backward-looking letters.
But the two-word welcome sign was a well-received taste of home for the small Russian delegation, visiting California for a week to experience American government and culture.
The five, staying with host families in Fresno, are among 1,800 Russian leaders participating in the Library of Congress Russian Leadership Program Open World 2000 this summer.
"It's quite an experience bringing somebody into your home who speaks no English or relatively no English and letting them see how we live," said Chuck Montgomery, who helped organize the local visit and is playing host to one of the delegates.
For Polina Vasilyevna Perederiy, a 23-year-old recent college graduate staying with Montgomery's family, the trip is her third to the United States. For others, it is their first.
"This is my first time on the West Coast," said Perederiy, who once spent a year in Atlanta as part of an exchange program. "Every time I come it's something different. Everything is so diverse in each part of the United States."
Traveling with Perederiy are four governmental officials including a mayor, a vice mayor, a state Duma deputy's assistant and a deputy head of trade management.
In addition to trips to Monterey and Yosemite, the five will get an in-depth look at how local city governments work before their departure Sunday, Montgomery said. Thursday, they will take an agricultural tour.
Rotary International is the host organization.
The goal of the program is to concentrate on young leaders who will be involved in Russia's transition to democracy in the coming years. The average delegate's age is 39 and more than 30% are women. Other delegates include members of the judiciary, businessmen, journalists, teachers and directors of social programs.
Copyright 2000 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. The Fresno Bee
[Reprinted with Permission]