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Home > News > 2007 > Two Visitors

Kotlas Connection Hosts Two Guests

Nadya Perepyolkina at the edge of the Atlantic at Pemaquid.

Nadya Perepyolkina kneels on the pebble beach at Pemaquid.

By Gregor Smith

The Kotlas Connection was pleased to welcome two visitors from Russia in March. Darya Shestakova and Nadezhda Perepyolkina arrived early on the morning of Tuesday, March 20. A high school piano student and a college English teacher, respectively, the two young women were here for ten days.

During their American sojourn, "Dasha" and "Nadya" visited area schools, toured Waterville and Augusta, took day trips to Boston and the Maine coast, enjoyed an out-of-season Thanksgiving dinner, and met interested members of the community in a reception in the REM Forum. In addition, Dasha spent a Sunday snowboarding at Sugarloaf, while Nadya learned about maple sugaring at Fort Western in Augusta.

The centerpiece of the visit, however, was our Russian Sampler on Monday, March 26. Held annually since 1993 on the fourth Monday in March, Russian Sampler is a day of workshops, classes, and presentations about Russia for middle school students from schools throughout Central Maine and beyond. This year, 115 students from eight schools attended.

Nadya and Dasha in colorful Russian dresses.

Nadya and Dasha prepare to teach a Russian folk dance at the close of Russian Sampler.

Whenever possible, the Kotlas Connection arranges for guests to come from Kotlas for Russian Sampler. We previously hosted March delegations of one to four people in 2002, 2003, and 2006. This year our guests taught two sessions. In one, they presented a PowerPoint slide show on Russian schools. In the other, they showed the students how to make traditional Russian rag dolls.

At the end of the day, Dasha, Nadya, and Colby's Russian Language assistant, Ksenia Kobak of St. Petersburg, held a song and dance class for all Sampler attendees. Ksenia played and sang a Russian rock song on a guitar, with raucous assistance from the audience on the refrain, and then Dasha and Nadya sang two beautiful Russian folk songs in close harmony. The duo then taught a Russian folk dance to two groups of 30 to 40 students. While the Maine students did not become skilled dancers, they certainly enjoyed themselves.

Nadya Malkova and Jessica Garrett in 1989.

Nadya Malkova (her maiden name) and Jessica Garrett (right) in April 1989 in Kotlas. Photo courtesy of Jessica Garrett.

Nadya, 32, is a longtime friend of our sister-city connection. When she was 14, her family hosted Jessica Garrett, when Jessica, her father Peter, and the late Natalia Kempers made the historic first visit to Kotlas in 1989. She has since become a pen pal to Kotlas Connection member Mary Ellen Miner, who was her hostess here. Although Nadya now lives in Archangel, capital of the Russian province that contains Kotlas, she is still involved with Kotlas sister city projects. Nadya is married and has a 6-year-old daughter.

Nadya teaches English at Archangel Medical College. While she was here, she was pleased to visit the nursing program at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, where she met the director, toured the facility, and got a demonstration of high tech patient mannequins that can talk, mimic symptoms of various maladies, and even die!

Our younger visitor is a 16-year-old student in the tenth grade at School #18 in Kotlas, where she earns excellent grades. She also studies piano at Gamma, a city-founded school that offers after school classes in art, music, and dance to around 1,000 Kotlas pupils from ages 4 to 15. Dasha loves crafts, especially making pictures from straw. She studied the technique for four years at the House of Children's Creativity, the Kotlas analog to the Waterville's Alfond Youth Center.

Nadya Perepyolkina and Jessica Garrett at Harvard.

Nadya Perepyolkina and Jessica Garrett at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. in March 2007. Click the photo to enlarge it.

Dasha also loves to travel and has backpacked in the mountains. Her parents would like her to follow in their path into medicine — her mother is a doctor and her father is a dentist — but right now she is leaning toward a profession "connecting with foreign languages." She is already quite good in English. She has one more year of school in Kotlas, after which she hopes to attend university in St. Petersburg.

For both Dasha and Nadya, the highlight of their visit was seeing the Atlantic Ocean. Neither had seen an ocean before. "[It] was so exciting," Dasha said, "I can't even describe my feelings."

On their return to Russia, both took part in American Sampler on April 15. Now in its third year, American Sampler is a program on American culture for Kotlas school children. It is based upon our own Russian Sampler and is organized by the Waterville Committee, the Kotlas Connection's counterpart in Kotlas.

The Kotlas Connection is grateful to all who helped make the visit of Nadya and Dasha so memorable for them. We especially thank their host families: Mary Ellen and Neill Miner of Augusta and Joe and Mary Ann Couture of Sidney and their children.

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