MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2003 B5
Russian career women finding common ground
By Ryan Konig The Arizona Republic
A delegation of Russian career women arrived in east Mesa recently to learn more about American democracy, enterprise, education, public finance and library science.
First stop: the mall.
What could be more American than gathering for a group photo in front of a 20-foot Christmas tree at Superstition Springs Center, on display long before Thanksgiving, next to an automated teller machine and a food court featuring entrees from other countries?
Ten women are taking part in the Open World Program of the Library of Congress, hosted by the East Valley chapter of the American Association of University Women.
They hail from all over Russia, from Moscow, on the European side, to Vladivostok, on the other side of the Asian continent. They are staying with host families, most of whom reside in Leisure World.
This is the first Russian delegation to visit Arizona as part of the program, said Marvel Bongart, an East Valley
"Our malls, at least in the Moscow area, are similar. We even have a Ruby Tuesday's."
— Oksana Borisovna Anistratenko
Visiting Russian career woman
The mall, which they visited Sunday, wasn't much of a culture shock.
"Our malls, at least in the Moscow area, are similar," said Oksana Borisovna Anistratenko, a facilitator for the program.
"We even have a Ruby Tuesday's," she said, like the one at Superstition Springs Center.
The women are successful public and private professionals in Russia.
"After Perestroika, there have been many opportunities for women," Nadezhda Nikolayevna Chernova said, through an interpreter, of the social and economic restructuring program that began in the 1980s.
"I am a living example of this."
Chernova earned advanced degrees in engineering and economics, and holds a government position in Tomsk similar to that of lieutenant governor in some U.S. states.
Another example: Larisa Sergeyevna Budnikova was a manager at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Vladivostok. She now is starting an agency to represent local artists to galleries worldwide. One client currently has a show in Portland, Ore.
The women will begin a weeklong tour that includes three public schools, the State Capitol, a Mesa City Council meeting, a meeting with county schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling, the Grand Canyon, libraries, museums, and a little more shopping.
Back at the mall, Olga Iva-novna Kolobova had a consummate American experience: She got lost in a mall.
A customer-service representative at JCPenney rehearsed the name four times before paging.
"It's spelled easier than it sounds," she said.
Kolobova was later recovered in the shoe department, by Jean Hagen, one of the program's hosts.