AWIU GOES TO RUSSIA–Trip Summary Post–Detailed posts follow in trip order

AWIU completed its 48th member delegation with a two week trip to Russia.  The delegation met with a number of non profit and governmental organizations in St Petersburg and Moscow.

Trip Highlights were

1.  Meeting with students of oriental studies St Petersburg University

2. Meeting with Jocelyn Greene, wife of the US Ambassador to Moscow at Spaso House, the Embassy Residence in Moscow.

3.  Meeting with a Consortium of Women’s NGO’s to learn more about issues for women in modern Russia.  This group represents 160 women’s organizations around the country.

4.  Session at the Moscow Carnegie Institute, an award winning think tank.  Here we heard about the political and social issues in the country.

5.  Met with the Women’s Union of Russia.  This organization is a vital thread in the government of Russia.  They were formed in the early 90’s to represent women to the congress of Russia.

6.  We spent 1 1/2 hours with Chairman Platanov, the head of the Moscow DUMA or the Moscow City Council.  This meeting was filmed and segments were presented that day on the Moscow TV news at 3 and 6 PM.

7.  Meeting with Veronika Marchenko, Founder and Chairman of Mother’s Rights, an NGO dedicated to supporting the rights of Russian Soldier’s.  Veronika was a 2009 International Women of Courage Awardee and was hosted by AWIU at our 2009 Gala at the National Press Club.

The delegation is now back in the US and is doing presentations to interested organizations on the Russia trip and the insights gained in Russia.

If you want a presentation for your group or if you have any questions about the trip, please e mail AWIU President, Anne Tonks annetonks@yahoo.com.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

AWIU GOES TO RUSSIA

AWIU’s 9 member delegation arrived in St Petersburg, Russia on May 13 for a two week visit to St Petersburg, Moscow and the historic Golden Ring.

THE DELEGATION: Delegation members are Anne Tonks, President; Gayle Morin, VP Delegations. Kathleen Hunt, VP Membership; Barbara Rubio, Chair, Virtual Chapter; Robin Winter Odem, Chair, Chicago Chapter; Diane McGlinchey, Chair, Orange County Chapter; Merry Lee Eilers, Co-Chair, Northern California Chapter; Laura Schuldt, Chair, Washington DC Chapter and Judith Russell, Member Virtual Chapter.   In Moscow they will be joined by Vesna Bozic, a new AWIU member working in Moscow who has helped in all aspects of the delegation planning

.

MISSION OF THE DELEGATION:  The purpose of the delegation is to support the AWIU mission of person to person dialogue and understanding between people from around the world.

We have arranged many meetings in the country including with Jocelyn Greene, the wife of the Ambassador, The Moscow Carnegie Center, A consortium of 160 Women NGO’s, the Russian 200o Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Winner, Veronika Marchenko; The Women’s Union of Russia and with the Moscow City Council or as it is called in Russia—the Moscow DUMA and many others.

AWIU Virtual Chapter has been studying Russia for the last year in anticipation of the Delegation.  Delegation member Vesna Bozic belongs to that Chapter and has brought many opportunities to the delegation to meet with local organizations in Russia

THE ITINERARY: The delegates will spend 4 days in St Petersburg and 9 days in Moscow and vicinity.  As the delegates are learning about life in Russia, this blog will provide links to areas and topics about the country and its history and life at present in the country.

BACKGROUND ON RUSSIA: Here are some of the links used in the Delegation planning.  These links provide background to Russia and to some of the sites we visited in St. Petersburg.

On Russia—just the facts—can be found in the CIA Fact Book which you can find here https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html Russia is vast and has a  history going back well over 1000 years as a nation.  Currently the country has140 million people and spans 11 time zones from the European border to Siberia.  Well it stretches over 11 times zones for the world—but recently for administrative reasons—Russia consolidated to only 8 time zones.

St. Petersburg.  A city of about 5 million near the Baltic Sea.  Home to the Hermitage, one of the world’s most famous museums.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Petersburg The city is filled with canals and is known as the Venice of Russia

FIRST STOP: University of St Petersburg.  We visited with students from the Department of Japanology and School of Japanese Language, within the Oriental and African Department.at the University of St. Petersburg.  Professor Victor Rybin introduced the class, and told us that the History of Japanology goes back 300 years to Peter the Great who founded Japanese Studies.

The students here were studying Japanese and Chinese and other languages.  Their studies focus on the far eastern side of Russia 10 or 11 time zones from Europe.

There were Introduction of the AWIU women and an explanation of what we do.  The students introduced themselves.  Barbara Rubio asked what led them to learn Japanese.  Most intend to become translators for Japanese who visit or work in Russia.  For instance, Toyota employees.  There are not too many Japanese tourists.

The students here spend 80 % of the time learning to write Japanese, and 20% speaking the language

We were told about the St. Petersburg University:  There are about 20,000 students, faculty and tutors.   Tuition costs about $7,000.  Some students pay.  The government pays tuition for the top students.

In the Oriental and African Department, 612 students are enrolled.  Ninety languages are offered.

In elementary and high schools, English is the main second language now.

They gave us an overview of their program and we had the opportunity to the Universities sculpture garden.

See and overview of the University here

http://www.eng.spbu.ru/university/today/

STARTING TO LEARN ABOUT RECENT HISTORY OF RUSSIA IN ST. PETERSBURG: By recent we mean 1700 to the present!!!

St. Petersburg is near the Baltic Sea and has been the capital of Russia in the past.  This city was founded as a link to Europe and its commerce which could be reached by sea from this port.  It was the dream of Peter the Great to link Russia closely to Europe and he chose St. Petersburg as the place to start.  Learn more about him here  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_I_of_Russia

THE HERMITAGE: This is one of the most famous museums in the world and it is located in the Winter Palace used by Catherine the Great and other members of that royal family.  Here are links to what we saw.

http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/index.html

Check out pictures of the Hermitage taken by the delegation here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624097854694/

More tomorrow on more historic sites in St. Petersburg and our overnight train trip between St Petersburg and today’s modern capital Moscow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CASTLES, CASTLES AND CATHEDRALS

Today in our blog we tell you about some of the sites we saw as we learned about the early history of Russia and the impact of the Romanoff Family.

Come back tomorrow to learn about our overnight train trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow and our first person to person meeting with Jocelyn Greene:  Jocelyn is the wife of the US Ambassador to Russia.  She is a long time student of Russia and the area.  She speaks candidly about Russia today and the role of women in this evolving country.

But for 300 years the Romanoff Family dynasty which began in 1613 left a legacy not only in St Petersburg but in all of Russia.  We told you yesterday about our visit to the Hermitage which began as the Winter Palace for the family.

The fabulous collection there began during the reign of Catherine the Great in 1762.

Our delegation spent the next two days visiting more palaces and cathedrals from the 18th century which were the homes or places of worship for the family.

For over 300 years Romanoff’s ruled Russia ending with the death of Czar Nicholas and his family in 1917.  They were killed as part of the Communist Revolution which was the beginning of modern Russia

In Moscow the delegation will meet with groups who will inform us of the current Russia.  Visiting St. Petersburg we learn about the nearly 400 years of history which sets the framework for today.

THE SUMMER PALACE:  This opulent palace was the favorite of Elizabeth of Russia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_of_Russia

We learned that if we saw over the top “gilt” (not guilt—she had none of this) it was a design for Elizabeth who ruled before Catherine the Great.  Elizabeth believed in “only the best” When she died she had a collection of 15000 dresses but only 3 rubles in the treasury.  She had as many as 6 illegitimate children but since none of them could succeed her she chose her nephew—husband of Catherine the Great as her heir.

To reach this palace we drove out of St Petersburg passing through pleasant residential areas.

TODAY, PEOPLE LIVE IN RESIDENTIAL HIGH RISES RINGING THE CENTRAL CITY See some of our pics of residential high rises here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624347909941/show/

PETERHOF IS ALL ABOUT FOUNTAINS:  Peter the Great built a palace right on the Baltic.  It had an elaborate system of Fountains.  See our pics of the fountains here

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157623981850675/show/

and see the professional description of the palace here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Palace_%28Saint_Petersburg%29

See more details here

http://cruises.about.com/od/northerneuropeancruises/ig/Peterhof—Russian-Palace/

BACK IN ST PETERSBURG WE GO TO A RUSSIA FOLK SHOW, VISIT THE Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood and see a PINK CADILLAC.

THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOR ON THE SPILLED BLOOD IS AN ICONIC CHURCH IN ST. PETERSBURG.   It is a domed Byzantium style church.

Learn more here:  http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/church-of-savior.asp

MARY KAY COSMETICS CONVENTION: At our hotel in St Petersburg we visited with some women who were attending a Mary Kay Cosmetic Convention in St Petersburg.  The founder of Mary Kay used to award a pink Cadillac to their most successful sales people—and while visiting the Church of the Spilled Blood we saw a pink Cadillac parked across the street.

Now here are our pics of both the Church of the Spilled Blood and the Pink Cadillac parked across from the church

RUSSIAN FOLK SHOW:  Our last event in St Petersburg was a Russian Folk Show. There was amusing dancing and spirited singing and a light dinner of traditional Russian food including caviar on small bread circles and vodka.

See some of our images from that event here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624106310686/show/

NEXT WE TRAIN OVERNIGHT TO MOSCOW, MEET WITH JOCELYN GREENE AT SPASO HOUSE AS PART OF OUR WEEK OF MEETINGS WITH NGO’S AND GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN MOSCOW.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE NIGHT TRAIN TO MOSCOW

Does that sound like a song title?  Maybe not–read on to find out why.

NIGHT TRAIN FROM ST PETERSBURG TO MOSCOW

The train leaves at 11:40 pm and arrives at 8:50 am.  Here is a pic of the train and the sleeping car.  Each compartment has 2 hard beds about 6’ 6” inches long.  There is a window between the beds with a small table underneath.   Your luggage can go several places, but none are easy to reach.

The Adventure Begins:  Getting to the train

Getting to the train is a challenge because we needed to hire a porter.  The porters charged $6 for each bag and more to put a bag onto the train.

Often while traveling some of the most irritating experiences come from taxi drivers and porters.  These porters were true to this tradition.  In this case a porter grabbed the money from our guide’s hand and wouldn’t give us our luggage until more money was forth coming.  They also grabbed 100 ruble notes (about $3.30) from two different people as “Tip”.  Before entering the station we were strongly advised to beware of pick pockets and keep close attention to our hand bags.  But the only pick pockets we encountered were actually our porters.

ONCE ON BOARD YOU FIRST TEST IS TO STORE YOUR LUGGAGE:

You can lift up the bed and there is a box space underneath for luggage.  Smaller luggage can go under the table.  And high above over the door is room for two good sized suitcases, but even a tall person must stand on the bed and lift the luggage over their head to get it in the space.  Here is what you car looks like http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624006101797/show/

Fortunately for some of us on the train, a gentleman, named Fema from Princeton offered to lift some bags into that space.  As we were traveling we met a number of business people from the United States and from other countries.

At our hotel we met a fellow from Czechoslovakia who was buying “trees”.  He loves Texas and President Bush and President Reagan.  We didn’t bring up politics–he did.

Fema was originally from Lithuania and has lived in Princeton for many years.  His wife works for the library at the University.  He travels in Russia in connection with his business which provides MRI and CAT scan equipment to hospitals.  He sees Russia as an excellent market.

Each sleeping car had a bathroom (toilet and sink) at either end of the car. In the morning, we were served breakfast of oatmeal (rather watery) and half a sandwich.  We had a choice of cheese or ham so most of us as a double room had a cheese sandwich delivered for one member and a ham for another and then turned reorganized them ourselves into a ham and cheese breakfast “treat”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Reach Moscow and See Red Square

OUR WONDERFUL HOTEL IN MOSCOW—THE KATARINA: Upon arrival in Moscow we got into a van and went to our hotel—the Katarina.  This turned out to be a marvelous choice.  It’s a 4 star hotel with 5 star service.  They have a free mini bar (beer only for alcohol but many snacks), free wifi which worked everywhere and wonderful service throughout the hotel.

EVEN THE BREAKFAST THERE IS SPECIAL: Most hotel breakfasts are pretty pro forma, but this hotel had a wide selection of fruits, vegetables (vegetables for breakfast are common in Russia) and some things not usually found.  They had raspberry and cherry “shooters” a rich fruity mix of each fruit in small shot glasses.  They had cappuccinos in addition to regular coffee.  One member found their “Oily” fish particularly delicious.  They also had salmon every morning.

ON TO RED SQUARE AND SAINT BASIL CATHEDRAL–ICONIC SITES OF MOSCOW

After checking into the hotel, we went out to see St. Basil’s and Red Square.  St Basil is the cathedral with multi colored domes that you see in many television reports from Moscow.  It is in a square just outside the red walls of the Kremlin.

—see more information about St. Basil here

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&source=hp&q=st+basil%27s+cathedral&aq=0&aqi=g5g-s1g4&aql=&oq=st+basil&gs_rfai=&fp=7e4fce8e7e3fc9dbt

See out pics here

NEAR BY IS AN UPSCALE 3 STORY SHOPPING AREA ½ BLOCK FROM ST BASIL.

Hugo Boss is the first store you see when you walk in.  This particular shopping area is in a building that dates back to the late 1800’s.  Here you see the delegation members exiting the shopping area.

In one of the photos you will see a much decorated veteran of the Second World War wearing his medals.  He was proud to have his picture taken.

LUNCH AT AN ELEGANT RESTAURANT NEAR A PART OF THE BRICK MOSCOW WALL LEFT FROM THE 1600’S.

We left the Red Square area for lunch at a restaurant located next to a fragment of the original brick Moscow city wall.  This wall was originally built in the 1600’s.  Our restaurant was downstairs in an elegant setting with chandeliers.  The stair steps were rose marble and curving down for 1 ½ stories before we reached the restaurant,

We leave lunch for our meeting with Jocelyn Greene, the wife of US Ambassador to Moscow, John Beyrle.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MEETING WITH JOCELYN GREENE AT THE AMBASSADOR’S RESIDENCE

The US Ambassador to Russia is John Beyrle and his wife is Jocelyn Greene.  They met in the Foreign Service and both had strong interest in Russia for many years.

The delegation was invited to the Ambassador’s residence in Moscow where we met with Jocelyn Greene for nearly two hours.  The discussion was wide ranging on the relationship between the US and Russia over many years.

The residence is an impressive home which has been used by the US since 1917.  As you enter there is a flower display in the yard of the US and Russian flags side by side.  See more info here  http://moscow.usembassy.gov/spaso.html

Ms. Greene first came to Russia as a student and on that trip she spent 8 weeks on a camping tour of the country.  Later she spent several years there over several periods.   Prior to this assignment she was there twice with her husband when he was posted there on prior assignments in Russia.

She is sincerely interested in the people she has met in Russia and their background.

The couple has two daughters one of whom just graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio and the younger is now graduating from high school in Moscow.

She is particularly interested in preservation of historic buildings in Moscow.  She regularly meets with local groups and finds the Moscow scene lively and interesting.

She sees women as the backbone of the country.  Particularly since the Second World War when the country lost so many men during the war, women stepped in to keep families together and still are a major factor in family life here.

We were interested in contrasting the US and Russia and we asked her to outline the biggest challenges facing the country.  Not surprisingly her observations on pressing issues had similarities to a number of countries including the US.

The first issue she mentioned was health care.  The health care system in Russia has many challenges.

There is a significant orphan population in the country that needs care.

Another important issue for everyone but particularly women and children was education.

Bribes and corruption are a significant issue.

The elderly have been particularly affected by economic changes over the last 20 years.

And one unique opportunity for improvement would be hospice care.  There is only one hospice in the country.

Ms. Greene was interested in all the activities of our delegation in Russia.  She observed that more contact between people from Russia and the US was beneficial to the relationship between the countries.

You can see pictures from our meeting here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624130435766/show/

And wondering about the ambassador?  Here is his bio here  http://moscow.usembassy.gov/ambassador.htmlhttp://moscow.usembassy.gov/ambassador.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Out and About in Moscow–We meet artists, see a fabulous historic grocery and some street views

Learn more about Moscow here  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow

When we visit the DUMA or City Council on friday, we include more information about the Mayor and his wife.

But for the moment this post is about a couple of things of interest.

For the real “foodies” of the world, one of our best known grocieries is the Dean and Delucca group located in places like Georgetown area of Washington, DC.   But for pure grocery glamour you can’t beat the historic grocery in moscow center complete with Chandeliers.

Read about it here http://guides.themoscowtimes.com/articles/detail.php?ID=368210  And see us shopping there and a couple of shop windows scenes from nearby here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157623983725513/show/

And we visited artists Tatyana and Nicholas–husband and wife who are both painters.  Tatyana does some sculpture as well.  There friend Valentin was there with his famous miniatures.  See our pics here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50034331@N02/sets/72157624100012180/show/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment