By Kate Knight
City residents got a crash course in Russian culture this week.
Members of the community gathered at the Portage County Public Library on Tuesday to learn about Rostov Veliky, a sister city of Stevens Point.
Delegates from Stevens Point’s Russian sister city gave a presentation to attendees which introduced Rostov’s history, culture and economy with a focus on environment. The free, public presentation was followed by an open Q&A session.
“Our relationship was established through Sister Cities International in 1990,” said Maia Johnson, Stevens Point Sister City Program co-chair and organizer of the event. Johnson said the presentation is a chance for the community to meet the delegates and learn more about Stevens Point’s Russian sister city, its people and environment.
Johnson said all six Russian visitors have been great to host.
“They’re very interested in the environment and green spaces,” she said. “So far we’ve visited and heard about Schmeeckle Reserve, the Sculpture Park, Green Circle Trail, Farmshed Greenhouse, the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and met with Mayor Wiza and the heads of the city departments.”
“What I really enjoyed was a number of similarities that I see here,” said Rostov Veliky Mayor Konstantin Shevkoplyas. He described the landscape of Rostov as having “marshy areas and wetlands” – similar to Stevens Point.
“For example, you have a business that made a huge hole in the ground during construction and turned it into a lake to preserve the area,” Shevkoplyas said. He explained how some of Rostov’s manmade lakes were not beautified yet, but after visiting Stevens Point the delegates now have an idea for how to complete such a project.
“We found it interesting how to find solutions for very similar problems,” Shevkoplyas said.
“My job is to maintain infrastructure and make the city beautiful for residents,” said Dmitriy Malushkov, chief engineer of Rostov Municipal Institution. “I hope that some of the ideas I learned here in Stevens Point we’ll be able to use in our city, given the mayor’s support.”
Other delegates from Rostov Veliky at the presentation include Danil Brazhnikov, principal of the Gymnasium (Rostov’s largest school), Olga Filippova, head of environment protection at the city’s optical plant, Yevgeniya Leonovich, facilitator, and Sasha Etlin, interpreter.
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza was also in attendance and spoke with the delegates. He said the Sister City Program is important because it showcases similar issues communities face.
“In our brief talks it doesn’t take long to realize we have the same goals and obstacles, and by sharing ideas, we help each other,” Wiza said.
Johnson said the Russian Sister City Project was made possible through a grant from Open World, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization designed to promote the exchange programs. Delegates from the city visited Stevens Point several years ago, and former Alderman Randy Stroik made the trip to Russian as a city representative in 2012.
The group is visiting Stevens Point from Oct. 30 – Nov. 7.
For more information on the Russian Sister City Project and Sister City Program visit the organization’s Facebook page at facebook.com/SisterCityFriends or email Maia Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.