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Home > Projects > Russian Sampler > 1996 Program

Viewing Russia From Afar

Colby College played host on Monday, March 25th to the fifth annual Russian Sampler Day. The day was sponsored by the Dept. of German and Russian and the Kotlas-Greater Waterville Sister Cities Connection as a way to expose middle school students to another culture.

About 200 Maine students from Waterville, Winslow, Augusta, Newport, Wiscasset, Freeport, Thorndike, Maranacook, and Hall Dale Schools attended. They had pre-registered for four workshops in a variety of areas from dance, to history, art, medicine, crime, travel and Russia on the Internet.

Slide shows demonstrated our countries' similarities and differences so that students could see what life is like in cities like Moscow and the countryside of Kotlas.

Each year the program varies somewhat based on evaluations of the previous year. New topics included, "The Rise and Fall of Communism", "Russia on the Internet," and "Environmental Protection in Russia."

Visiting Russian students from Skowhegan, Maranacook and Hall-Dale Schools shared their experiences with attendees in several sessions. They are part of the Project Harmony Exchange Program, which has become very active in promoting teacher and student exchanges between the U.S. and Russia.

Two tables were set up with arts, crafts and other memorabilia donated for display by various individuals and manned by Natalia Kempers and Vivian Tinner. The lovely crafts included lacquer­ware, embroidered cloths, inlaid wood, birch bark items, and a big, beautiful doll from Komi. Judy Bielecki brought in an officer's long coat and cap plus a soldier's shirt with medals and student artwork from Kotlas completed the presentation.

One Winslow student wrote that she learned, "how privileged I am in America to live in a big house, have lots of food from all over the world, good medical care and lots of free time after school." She also echoes the response of others at being impressed with the love Russians have for their country and the emphasis on performing arts.

Many students learned how different their names looked in Russian Cyrillic. They practiced common phrases and echoes of "Dobroye Utro" could be heard throughout the halls.

The purpose of the day is to have students gain an appreciation of the Russian culture and exposure to the language. It's hoped that many will become involved in further studies at their own schools. (Channel 7 News gave good press to the event.)

I believe that comments by student, Jed Thurlow are a good summation of the day's events: "Today's trip to Russian Sampler Day was good because I learned a lot about Russian politics and ways of life. Some of the things I was told gave me a greater understanding of the situation in Russia and made me much more thankful for all that I have.

"I greatly respect Russian people for living through all of their hardships. Understanding a foreign culture is hard but learning about it this way has helped me to understand what its like much more easily."

by Mary Coombs

(Note: This article was orginally published in the Kotlas Connection's May 1996 newsletter.)