The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)
Posted on June 17, 2000
By Marina Mishunkina
Marina Mishunkina is a Russian journalist who is spending seven weeks working at the Gazette as part of a program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists. She has been writing about her experiences in West Virginia.
A group of Russian citizens arrived in West Virginia in the beginning of this week."This is the second year we have participated in the Open World program sponsored by the Library of Congress," said Rev. Tom Clark of Summersville. Clark is the coordinator of the Volunteers-In-Mission program for the West Virginia United Methodist Church."Dr. James Billington [the librarian of congress] has had a dream to bring many of the young and reform-minded Russians to the United States for a 10-day experience. They have been placed in communities across the country. Their goal is to learn as much about federalism, commerce, the three branches of government, business, education, community systems, American family life and more.
"They are housed by host families in the local community during their stay. Summersville hosted a group of 10 last October and now has 15 Russian men and women, mostly from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but alsofrom Rostov, Ryazan, Buryatia and even Siberia near the Mongolian border. Another group of 15 will be coming to Summersville on July 2 for their 10-day stay," said Clark.
Clark has personally been to Russia six times in association with the work teams he organizes. His wife, Michele, has made two visits and is about to make her third in July, when she will work at an orphanage inMalakhovka (near Moscow). While there, Michele, along with nine others, will be working to paint and repair the orphanage and do some sewing ofclothing. Many other people from West Virginia and Summersville area have shared in this power work in Russia. If anyone is interested, you can contact Clark at 872-3221 or e-mail at tom firstname.lastname@example.org. And he will be able to answer all your questions.
The United Methodist Church got involved because of its long andextensive participation in a program called The United Methodist Church Russian Initiative. West Virginia has sent 16 work teams to Russia since 1994 involving nearly 120 people who have worked on Russian Orthodox churches, farmhouses and orphanages. Clark said Billington recognized the strength of the United Methodist Church in Russia as well as their system of churches that form a strong network of cooperation across the country.
Recognizing the connections of the denomination, the Library of Congress has been working through the United Methodist Church to place the thousands of Russian men and women who have been chosen to participate in this program.
As for today's Russian group, while in Summersville and West Virginia, the group has visited schools, the Capitol complex, Gov. Cecil Underwood's reception area, the Charleston Gazette complex, Christ Church United Methodist and the Summersville Dam. Part of their experience will include whitewater rafting, horseback riding, a visit to Cranberry Glades, Hawks Nest State Park, a hang-gliding experience and a visit to a goat farm and goat cheese factory.
I spent one and half days with the Russian group. It was when the Russians had gone whitewater rafting. I met with Alexander Bashkin, Russian deputy and chairman of the board Astrakhan's fund social support; Oleg Kudinov, a director of the agency of politician electoral technologies; Sorto Masheiev, the chairman of the committee of the social defense of the Buryatya's population; Alexander Zatonsky, commercial director of the financial-industrial group "Don" OJSC "Donkhleboproduct"; and other people.
The place of our whitewater rafting was the New River. Dozens of communities sprang up along the river in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. The upper sections of the New were rated up to Class 3. The 15-mile section began easy for the first nine miles, then picks up to its Class 5 intensity in the last six miles.
When the New was at medium to high flows, the rapids were characterized by huge breaking waves and monster hydraulics. At lower levels, the waves and holes were punchy and powerful. All the time of our trip was very strong rain. And I saw water, really, everywhere. It was excellent! I like exotic. The nature around was beautiful. Our young guides, Steve and Carla, were simple masters at their jobs. Not only did Steve guide us expertly through the rapids, he told about the history of this place, about the New River Gorge Bridge. And we knew a lot of different interesting things. Our trip's end was in the shadow of the New River Gorge Bridge.
It was also my first experience in my life as well as play golf and flight on a small plane. And I am full of impressions of West Virginia.
[Reprinted with Permission]