"KOTLAS IS ALREADY A EUROPEAN CITY!" SAYS GREGOR SMITH
Four Americans from our Waterville Area Sister City Connection could
not think to miss the 100th Anniversary of our city! They were Gregor
Smith, Mark Fisher, and Vasilisa (Lisa) and John Fortier. The Waterville
Committee prepared a busy schedule for our guests during their visit,
As always, our guests lived with Kotlas families. And they didn't miss a
thing in Kotlas during their stay! The opening of the River Park and
Theater Square. All the citizens' festivities. The festival of street theater
and fireworks. A celebratory meeting of the Waterville Committee. A
meeting with Andrei Bral'nin, Mayor of Kotlas. A city tour, including
visits to the museum, the children's home, the electromechanical
technical school. Excursions to the ancient cities of Sol'vychegodsk and
Velikii Ustiug, to Turovets and Krasnoborsk.
I met up with my long time friend Gregor Smith in the city park; we
embraced and started a long conversation about the visit. (Arina
Pavlova was our interpreter.) While Mark Fisher has visited Kotlas 3
times, Greg is making his 5th visit since his first arrival in the early 90's!
The evening before, Greg had spent time with Irina Dubrovina.
Greg works in the big Maine company LLBean as an information
technology specialist. He answers questions from customers near and
far. And for three months every summer he writes for the weekly
seasonal newspaper "Summertime in the Belgrades." The small town of
Belgrade is 15 kilometers from Waterville. The towns have 7 lakes, all
connected by rivers and canals, and Greg himself lives on Belgrade Lake,
the largest of the lakes.
Greg writes articles on the ecology of the state of Maine, and before
coming to Kotlas, he wrote an article about his upcoming trip, in which
he included a sketch of the Kotlas area and a history of our Sister City
relationship. And when he returns home, full of impressions, he will
write about the trip and share his photos of all the colorful anniversary
events. "All my emotions are already in my notebook," he says.
What struck him most in our city during the festive days? Lots of things.
In the "Bear" restaurant, the menu is also in English. In the 90's Kotlas
seemed to him a closed off city; it wasn't even possible to phone home.
(There were then two operators, one Russian, one American, who
conspired between them to deter communications.) But now there is
complete freedom; the connection is excellent both for cellphones and
And now there are a lot of supermarkets, notes Greg, and adds that lots
of product names are in English. And the airplane, now showcased on
Peace Prospect, looks as if it's been there forever. He was also amazed
at the traffic jams on roads - not the nicest mark of progress!
Indeed his chief impression is the warmhearted reception he got
everywhere, the openness of all the people of Kotlas and its suburbs. In
a word, says Greg, there is not a single trace of isolation as Kotlas has
become like the rest of the world - this "little ant" of a town hasn't got
lost deep in the provinces, but is a completely European city.
"My wishes for the people of Kotlas: may they thrive, progress, enjoy
health and happiness for another hundred years." translated Arina
After completing school, Greg studied at Williams College and has wide-
ranging interests. He loves to travel (on the way to Kotlas he toured in
St. Petersburg and will visit Moscow on his return trip). And he has
been active with our Sister City Connection for a long time and with
great pleasure has met with both Zinaida Egorova and Victor Zverev,
who were with me in the first delegation in 1990.
We talked over a great many things, but not a word about politics. Of
course, two writers can't possibly meet without recording the event. So
A. Pavlova took photos of us against a background of a world
globe - how really near we are to each other! How much connects us,
Russians and Americans! On both sides we share an ocean of emotion,
and the Sister Cities continue to create their own history.