Group Study Exchange to Russia
Rotary District 5010, April 10 – May 11, 1999
Team Lead: Past President Anna Jurak
Team members Jim Frick, Mary Brescoll, Tom Martin, Sharon Roth and Team Leader Anna Jurak were chosen for their vocations/avocation in the health field for this exchange.
The team visited Novosibirsk in Siberia, population at the time at 1.6 M. It was the largest industrial centre in Siberia. It was considered a young city with growth due to its railway and the Ob River. It boasted an airport and one of the largest opera houses in the world, completed in 1945 mainly with labour by women and children, due to men being off to war. Near Novosibirsk was Akademgorodok, developed in the 1950s to house the Siberian branch of the USSR’s Academy of Sciences. There were over 26 specialty research institutes in town. The team also visited Barnaul, population 700,000 and Moscow after the official Rotary trip.
The team visited many medical centres – hospitals and clinics. The evenings were filled with cultural events and visiting Rotarians in their homes.
Rotary was new in Russia at the time, so Rotarians were eager to learn more about Rotary. Club meetings were rather informal, with no specific agenda but to meet socially. Russian Rotarians were very hospitable and eager to share stories about their Rotary projects.
It was difficult for the Rotarians to do many service projects at that time for several reasons. First, their money was devalued in August 1998. Second, the government taxed charities at an extremely high rate and third, their personal incomes were very low.
The team was in Russia on two important holidays, May 1 – Workers’ Day and May 9 – Victory Day. The team watched Communist protesters in Lenin Square in Moscow and armies of soldiers parading on Victory Day.
It was apparent that their hopes, dreams and ambitions about life were the same as ours. They were hopeful for their society and were contributing to this via Rotary.