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Argumenty i fakty, Vladimir-Ivanovo (supplement), No.27, 1999, p. I

NATO Bombing Did Not Keep the American Charity
from Marrying the Russian Roma
By Elena Smirnova
Translated by Ron Pope & Oxana Ustinova

On the 4th of July friends celebrated U.S. Independence Day and the seventh anniversary of the American home in Vladimir. On this occasion, its owner, professor Ronald Pope, arrived in Russia with his family: his wife, Susan, his brother, Terry, his sister, Kathy, her two children, and his father. (The home would simply not exist without the support of the 82 year old Russell, a former television engineer, who invested $100,000 in its construction.)

After partaking of the beauty of Vladimir and Suzdal, the family enjoyed the hospitality of the K. Libknekht orphanage whose children were resting at a summer camp just outside the city. Each child received a stuffed toy and a packet of candy, as well as shoes and clothes (some of which were sewn by an elderly woman after she learned of the humanitarian mission of the Pope family.)

The Children's Emergency Hospital, having already received in the spring some American medical equipment (bedside monitors and a respirator), this time was given a mini video camera for viewing internal organs and another respirator.

In return, the elder Pope was given as a thank you by the Russians a hunting knife in a decorated box. Russell responded to this gift of a sharp weapon, as tradition requires, by paying one ruble.

The reception on the green lawn at the home is the traditional end of the language program's academic year, where most recently 250 people were studying. The year was difficult. To begin with, there was the discussion in the press initiated by leftists concerning the need to move the building from the center of Vladimir to the outskirts, then the machinations of local nationalists who broke lamps and windows and disfigured the home's walls with stupid graffiti.

"When this occurred, we were gloomy for the first hour," said Alexei Altonen, the director of the Home's non-commercial programs. "But when I was cleaning off the graffiti, dozens of passersby of different social status and different nationalities took it upon themselves to express their indignation at this hooligan act and to voice their support for the American home."*

In any case, this style of politics was not able to interfere with the happiness of Roman Ryabinkin and Charity Trelease. A month earlier the employee of the American home and the teacher in the English program were married. On the holiday they kissed and danced in their own world.

*NOTE: In addition to "passersby," all the Vladimir media, including TV and radio, strongly condemned the acts of vandalism, as did the overwhelming majority of the Vladimir City Council and others. One of the good things to come out of this is that we now know how wide spread and strong the support from the community is for our activities. Also, thanks to the considerable press coverage all this received, the general public knows a great deal more about what we are doing--and not just those who are directly benefiting, such as the more than 2,000 who have taken one or more of our English classes since the program began in fall 1992. RP

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