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Komsomol’skaya pravda
February 12, 1999, p. 16
Such Friendship: Who is Harassing the American Home?
By Viktoria Kirillova
Translated by Oxana Ustinova and Ron Pope

At first they “wrote” on it, now they demand its removal.

Ten years ago Vladimir became a brother [sister] city with Bloomington-Normal (Illinois, USA). With the American’s resources, builders from across the ocean along with Russian volunteers built an American home near the Golden Gates. And before the crisis came to Russia this fall, we lived together with representatives from another country in peace and harmony.

The director of the home, Galina Petrovna Altonen, explains [the changes that have recently occurred]:
–In September came the first manifestation [of trouble]. A group of “unsavory” people approached us with a request to influence the Clinton government to stop bombing Kosovo [sic. Iraq]. They declined our offer to come in and drink tea. They also didn’t stay to write a letter to Bill, although we offered to help deliver it to the U.S. Embassy. The next month there was another crowd in front of the house. Young people were going to burn an American flag painted on paper, but militia stopped them. They stood in hostile silence for half an hour, and then dispersed. In November the walls of the house were vandalized with graffiti. The offenders haven’t been punished. Unlike the law enforcement agencies, the Energogarant insurance company responded immediately and paid the money needed for the repair work (the American Home was insured against unlawful acts by third-parties). At the end of January 18 public organizations within Vladimir Region asserted that the American Home should be moved to a district with similar ugly barrack architecture…

It’s always easier to break than to make. I have no idea why the organizations that call themselves “patriotic” see the disruption of partnership ties as their main goal: “We consider our moral obligation to use all possible ways of pressure against the U.S. government, including through U.S. citizens…” Who are they pressuring? Six young men and women who came from the States to teach English to Vladimir citizens? Or their fellow countrymen [i.e., the Russians] who work at the American Home?

No, they do not complain. On the contrary I was pleasantly surprised by the warm atmosphere at the American Home. It was there where I could see new aspects of the life of my hometown that I had never noticed before. Look carefully, and you’ll see them too.

With the assistance of the American Home, cardiologists from the regional clinical hospital have been able to visit the U.S. several times. Having visited 7 hospitals in Illinois where American specialists shared experience and technologies, they are now striving to abandon “bloody” surgery. We are 5 years behind America.* American surgeons perform heart surgery under local anesthesia in a few minutes while in Russia doctors chill their patient’s body to the temperature of 16 degrees Celsius (the temperature of a corpse), use an extracorporeal circulation system, stop the heart and saw through the breast bone. Such heart surgery takes from 6 to 12 hours and other body organs may not recover their viability after this serious intervention. Those who survive have to go through a painful rehabilitation process.

Our sister city has already donated diagnostic equipment worth 2 million dollars to hospitals in the Vladimir region. I have a question for the members of the Russian National Movement, Russian National Party, and the Vladimir branch of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia: Are you concerned about the nation’s health?

At the suggestion of the stars-and-stripes country our enterprises have entered the international market. VNIISIMS from Alexandrov supplies artificial diamonds to the U.S. With a loan of 10 million dollars, Anopino glassworks doubled its output and its workforce and increased salaries. Regional budget revenues have increased. The Joint Stock Company Polimersyntez beat Japanese competition to win a tender for the supply of their products to one of Boston’s nuclear stations. Our product quality turned out to be unrivalled. The Japanese competitors said: “This just can’t be done.” But the Vladimir company did it. The Joint Stock Company Alko [a vodka distillery] is having success abroad, too. It is quite probable that in the third millennium we’ll teach Americans how to drink… Dear comrades from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation who signed the statement, have you forgotten how working people benefit who are employed by prosperous enterprises?

But the main activity of the American Home in Vladimir, according to its owner, Dr. Ronald Pope, is its non-commercial educational activity. With funds allocated by the U.S. Congress, faculty from Vladimir State University traveled across America for a month. The aim of the trip was to establish professional ties. Groups of Russian students have visited the U.S. more than once.

The American Home is a happy hunting ground for those who wish to improve their English. The main teaching principle is language immersion, which is seldom the case in Russian schools. After two semesters of study a “graduate” takes exams and gets a certificate which is highly respected not only in Vladimir, but also in Moscow universities (MIFI, MGIMO). Dear ladies from the All-Russia Women’s Union, United Women’s Union and Congress of Soviet Women, do you care about your children’s future?

Among the American Home’s numerous charity projects are the construction of playgrounds for two orphanages [sic. an orphanage and a boarding school for deaf children], donation of basketball uniforms and equipment to a sports school and basketball team “Burevestnik”, children’s clothing and food to families with many children, English books to the Law Institute… And the work goes on …

Three years ago a cat from the neighborhood lost his owner: the old woman died, but it only became known a week later. The cat was her only mourner. After the funeral he was the cold winter in a manhole. The Americans adopted him. When he was struck by a car, they took care of him and fed him out of an eyedropper. He is a nice, sociable and smiling creature, just like his new owners… Dear sirs from the eighteen organizations: are you against love in principle? Or its manifestations in a specific house or neighborhood or community?

We used to build walls, remember? Nothing came of it. Should we really repeat that history?

*According to American medical specialists, Soviet-era medical practice was, in many ways, closer to 50 years behind the West.
**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. -R.P.

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