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Home > News > Archives > March 2003 Visitors

Kotlas Connection Hosts Three Visitors

by Gregor Smith
Welcome to Waterville

Our three latest visitors from Kotlas, Tatyana Shelygina, Sergey Trofimov, and Olga Gorshkova stand by the sign that greets travelers coming over the bridge from Winslow. Since this picture was taken, the sign has been replaced. Photo by Phil Gonyar.

"We like America. We like American people. We liked them from the first minute when we had to spend a night in New York. Olga was very calm; I was terrified." So said Tatyana Shelygina, laughing, to around fifteen area residents as she recalled her first night in the United States. Shelygina was speaking at a reception being held for her and the two students on the evening of March 26 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Waterville. The three were here for eleven days, departing two days after the reception.

The eldest of our three most recent visitors from Kotlas, Shelygina, a college English instructor, arrived with high school students Olga Gorshkova and Sergey Trofimov in New York on Monday, March 17. The trio had been scheduled to fly to Portland that evening, but both their original connecting flight and the one on which they had been rebooked were cancelled due to fog in Portland. The airline arranged complimentary meals and accommodations for the threesome and they arrived here the next morning.

During their eleven-day stay, each of the visitors resided in a different local home. Shelygina was hosted by Herb and Nancy Foster of Waterville; Olga Gorshkova was the guest of Mary and Earl Coombs of Winslow; and Sergey Trofimov stayed with Kotlas Connection co-chairman Phil Gonyar in Waterville.

Their visit was timed to coincide with the Kotlas Connection's eleventh annual Russian Sampler, which was held on Monday, March 25. Russian Sampler is a day of workshops and presentations on Russia and Russian culture for middle school students. At the Sampler, our three Kotlas visitors taught three sessions on Russian schools. Shelygina was sufficiently impressed with the experience that she was thinking of organizing an "American Sampler" for Kotlas students.

Tatyana Shelygina has "a very nice experience with lobsters" at the home of her host, Herb Foster (at left).

Earlier on the day of the reception, the trio had visited Augusta, where they toured to state capitol and sat in on a session of the state senate, where, from the rostrum, Senate President Beverly Daggett introduced them to the assembled senators and they received a round of applause. They also spent over fifteen minutes with Gov. John Baldacci, who, incidentally, had studied Russian while a student at Bangor High School and had taken an American studies course from Phil Gonyar, who had taught there before coming to Waterville. The day after the reception, our visitors met Waterville Mayor Nelson Madore. At that meeting, Gonyar presented the mayor with a letter of greeting from his Kotlas counterpart, Aleksandr Shashurin.

Other highlights of their trip included a day each at Waterville High School and Winslow High School; a trip to Pemaquid to see the colonial fort, archeological excavation, and lighthouse, which is featured on the new Maine state quarter; an interview with a local newspaper; an out-of-season Thanksgiving feast; and a lobster feed, which had taken place the previous evening. "Yesterday, we had a very nice experience with lobsters," Shelygina said.

About Our Guests

Tatyana Shelygina and her hosts

Tatyana Shelygina (left), with her hosts, Herb and Nancy Foster. Photo supplied by Herb Foster.

Last fall, the Kotlas Connection's Executive Committee asked the Waterville Committee, its counterpart in Kotlas, to choose an English-speaking adult to come to Waterville this March. They selected Tatyana Shelygina, 34. She is head of the English Department at the Kotlas Pedagogical Institute, where she has taught for the past three years. Previously she taught high school English.

Shelygina is married to Ivan Shelygin, a railroad security guard who likes to play hockey and guitar. They have two daughters, Katya, 12, and Paulina, 5.

Shelygina says she herself has no time for hobbies, but enjoys reading, knitting, and playing the piano. Apart from hosting executive committee member Herb Foster when he and ten others visited Kotlas last summer, she hosted has not previously been active in the sister city exchange. This was her first trip outside the former Soviet Union.

Shelygina's institute prepares prospective teachers of Russian, English, and German; and for young children. Currently, the teacher training college enrolls around 500 students. Prospective high school language teachers start their training after eleventh grade, the last year of secondary school in Russia, at age 17. They attend the institute for three years and then go to Pomor State University in Archangel for two or three more years to finish their training. Those who want to teach young children start at the institute after ninth grade and, after four years there, become certified to teach children in the primary grades.

Although the Kotlas Pedagogical Institute was founded in 1966, its English department is only three years old. The department will graduate its first class, 24 students, this spring.

The two high school students, Olga Gorshkova, 17, and Sergey Trofimov, 16, won an essay contest organized by the Kotlas Connection last fall. In October, the Connection announced the contest in Dvinskaya Pravda, the daily newspaper in Kotlas. The Connection invited interested 15- to 17-year-olds to submit essays in English via e-mail in which they described themselves, their families, and their reasons for wanting to visit the U.S. We received seven applications and deemed Olga's and Sergey's the best.

Olga Gorshkova lives in Kotlas with her parents, her grandmother, her cat, and her dog. (At one point, her menagerie also included a tortoise and a white rat.) She attends School #7, where she is a star pupil. In 2001, she won first prize for literature in an Archangel Region scholastic competition and last year she took fifth place in Russian. Her hobbies are knitting, embroidery, and cooking.

Besides lobster, Olga and Sergey also sampled a different type of American delicacy.

Olga is an aspiring journalist. She has already written articles for a Kotlas newspaper on teen issues and has competed in national and international journalistic competitions. Last summer she won one of 20 second prizes in a competition for young journalists from the former Soviet Union and beyond. As a result, she was invited to attend a mass media festival in Kazakhstan, where she met the president of that country and Russian television stars. She said her parents were shocked when she told them she had won; they hadn't been aware that she had even entered.

Sergey Trofimov lives in Vychegodsky, a Kotlas suburb, with his parents and younger brother. Each school day, he takes the bus into Kotlas to attend classes at Lyceum #3 in Kotlas. He also takes private English lessons from Zina Yegorova, who has taught English at that school and has visited Waterville twice.

Like Olga, Sergey is an excellent student. Last year he participated in various academic Olympiads in Vyechegodsky. He took first place in physics, second in math, and third in geography and literature. Sergey is also a skilled ballroom dancer and bayan player. (The bayan is a Russian instrument almost identical to the accordion, but with five rows of buttons on the right instead of a keyboard.) He has won local and regional music and dance competitions. He is also an automobile afficiando.

Read the Morning Sentinel article about the visit.