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Americans are happy to share their history with allies

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Americans are happy to share their history with allies

14.05.2020

Julia Goryacheva 

The Russkiy Mir has already written how Russian-speaking residents of Seattle joined the fight against coronavirus. Now we will tell how the Russian community of Seattle is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. Igor Nozdrin, the coordinator of the Immortal Regiment movement and executive director of the Russian-American Cooperation Initiative, told us about preparation, as well as his vision of development of civil diplomacy.

Igor, you are the coordinator of the Immortal Regiment movement, which was successfully established in Seattle in 2016. And in 2019, Seattle city authorities even declared May 05 to be the Immortal Regiment Day. In this regard, there is a question: how does your movement interact with American-born population at the local level? To what extent do they participate in the celebration of Victory Day?

– Indeed, on April 5, 2019, Jenny Durkan, the mayor of our city, signed a proclamation document designating May 5, 2019 as the Immortal Regiment Day. The date will vary year by year. The document was issued to the Russian-American Cooperation Initiative, a legal entity to organize the March of the Immortal Regiment.

Participants of the Immortal Regiment in Seattle

Every year, more and more English-speaking members of our community join the Immortal Regiment in Seattle. Such tendency is noticeable through applications for veterans’ portraits, comments on social networks and general reviews. Americans are also proud of their veterans, and those who participate in our events are very happy to share their history with the allies.

We always invite American veterans to our events. Last year, for example, three combat American veterans participated in the march. One of them, Lester McCants, will be 100 this year.

Lester McCants

The Russian-American Cooperation Initiative (RACI) acts as a legal entity that organizes the March of the Immortal Regiment in the State of Washington. The organizing committee was formed under the RACI in April 2016. It took on the executive duties. At the moment, the organizing committee has nine members. It includes representatives of the Orthodox Church, the veteran association, the Russian student club, representatives of the Cossacks and other achievers from the local Russian community. I am the chairman of the organizing committee.

You are also an assistant to the president of the city branch of the All-American Association of Disabled and Veterans of World War II. How long has this association been active? Does it collaborate with other local veteran organizations?

– The All-American Association of Disabled and Veterans of World War II was registered in the State of Washington on October 7, 1996. Members of the organization include immigrants from former Soviet states that have the status of a veteran (WWII or work). Until recently, the Association was headed by Evgeny Viknyansky, a combat veteran and an active member of the Russian-speaking community. Unfortunately, He passed away in March last year. At the moment, executive duties were undertaken by Tsilia Murshtein, the vice president of the association.

The Veteran Association works closely with various organizations that are engaged in commemoration and coverage of the life path and feat of veterans. Such organizations include the Holocaust Center for Humanity, Team RGB (American Veteran Association), and the organizing committee of the Immortal Regiment.

And what events are currently being planned by the Association in connection with the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi fascism and the end of World War II?

– The All-American Association of Disabled and Veterans of World War II is a member of the organizing committee of the Immortal Regiment. All events are planned together. Despite the fact that this year we will have to postpone the March to a later date or cancel it altogether, as the coordinators of the Immortal Regiment, we believe that commemoration of your veteran can and should be performed not only by marching in a column. It is essential to treasure memories and share stories about heroes of the Great Patriotic War in each family.

We have announced “My Regiment - Our Victory”, a campaign to enable people to tell about the feat of their ancestors in more detail and do it online, so that faces of the heroes can be seen by the whole world on May 9. Participants of the campaign shall upload a video up to 1 minute long on their Facebook pages between April 22 and May 6, 2020.

Also, on the threshold of Victory Day, we are holding the St. George Ribbon campaign, during which anyone can get a free St. George ribbon at three Russian stores in Seattle and its counties until May 8. Also our plans include: congratulating veterans by phone on May 9, delivery of festive theme cards and flowers to homes, delivery of anniversary medals (on behalf of the Embassy) by mail; floral tributes at the burial sites of veterans from the Association.

Along with that, we are busy preparing a remote concert for Victory Day: at the request of the organizing committee, local performers from the Russian community will sing war songs and recite at home and record videos. Such videos will be uploaded to social networks on May 9.

Our plans also include the Victory Relay Race: Seattle - Vancouver - Portland. And Never Forget Memorial Event intended for English-speaking population of Seattle: commemorative banners will be placed on the main roads of the city.

The Immortal Regiment in Seattle. Speech of Igor Nozdrin

You facilitate consolidation of the Russian-speaking community in the United States and are also engaged in civilian diplomacy as the executive director of RACI. Please tell us about activities of your organization. How was it established?

– I joined the organization in early 2017. Back then it was called the Russian-American Youth Association and was based at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was founded by a group of Russian-speaking students in 2012. Sergei Gladysh was its leader.

By the end of 2017, our team members were maturing and gradually going beyond the exclusively student environment; range of activities of the organization was also expanding, so we decided to update the name.

At the moment, as you correctly noted, we are engaged in projects that are intended not only for compatriots, but also for Americans. For example, Global Russia is one of our top-priority projects in the field of public diplomacy. It involves study tours to Russia for the most prominent American students. The program was launched in the fall of 2018. And several times a year a small group of students from leading American universities go to Russia, where they meet various influential people from among entrepreneurs, journalists, politicians, diplomats, academics, and other significant groups.

Former program participants include students and recent graduates of Stanford, Columbia University, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Tufts, Yale, Harvard, Duke, Washington University, as well as interns and employees of major think-tanks and Fortune 500 companies. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi and Vladivostok are some of the visited cities.

We believe that such direct communication help participants develop a more true-to-life view of Russia. It also forms an important basis for further study of the country and contributes to development of business ties. We hope to resume such activities this fall when the situation returns to normal after coronavirus infection and stable international air service is resumed.

– Are you planning to do something while pandemic restrictions are still here?

– The general lockdown has brought some benefits. We took advantage of the freed up time to launch The Russian American, an information project intended as an English-language information resource tailored to the topic of Russian-American relations, as well as highlighting activities of our Russian-speaking community in their development.

We use this resource to deliver current news and important information to Americans and compatriots in English. The modern world is centered on information, so such activity within the virtual space is no less important than physical actions.

We give special attention to arrangement of various discussion platforms. Last summer, Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, visited Seattle. We managed to schedule and assisted in coordinating his performance at the prestigious venue of the World Affairs Council (as a rule, world celebrities, heads of state, ambassadors, etc., speak at the WAS venues). There are plans to hold similar meetings with other prominent Russian figures, and we are also considering a number of other online initiatives.

Local work at the level of our community in Seattle is still relevant. In 2019, we held the first Festival of Russian Culture in the city center and expect that this event will become a good annual tradition, just as the March of the Immortal Regiment, which we have been organizing since 2016.

What main partners do you have in the field of civil diplomacy?

– Since 2015, RACI has been actively cooperating with the Russian Community Council of the USA (KSORS). In 2018, Sergei Gladysh, our director general, was elected as a member of KSORS at its reporting and election conference.

It is my understanding that KSORS is a network platform where a large number of active people who care about Russia and Russian culture exchange information and interact over implementation of their initiatives and projects. The process has rather informal, horizontal and flexible mode; and it is conducted online, which, in my opinion, is the most optimal way.

I’ll go further to say that the KSORS framework demonstrated its strength in the most efficient way just a few weeks ago. It provided timely support to the Russians stuck in the United States due to the cancellation of international air traffic. People were accommodated in hotels, houses and families, they were provided with everything they needed through the support campaign launched by KSORS in social networks and owing to impeccable cohesion of representatives of the Russian diplomatic mission.

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