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TATYANA FABRICHNAYA'S first trip to America was a 30 hour marathon beginning in her home town of Valekey Novgorod (a city so old that when it was founded, Christopher Columbus was trying to convince someone to loan him a fleet of ships). Because of last-minute schedule changes, Tatyana, a 39-year-old mother of three, did not meet her translator, Nicolina Nekrashevitch, until they landed in Augusta. In Atlanta, Tatyana had 19 minutes to catch her connecting flight. She made it. Her luggage did not.
Russians are famous for their hospitality. Visit in a Russian home, express admiration over an object there, and you will be presented that object as a gift when you leave. To refuse would be grossly offensive, so visitors quickly learn to temper their appreciation. Tatyana was treated to Augusta's brand of hospitality when her luggage was nowhere to be found.
That first night, Doug and Jane Payne, in whose home she stayed, gathered up a few things to help Tatyana through a difficult night. Among the things Jane brought to Tatyana's room was a selection of fresh make-up. Tatyana flashed the hundred-watt smile we all learned to expect and said, "I speak make-up."
The next morning Jane made a phone call to a neighbor who is about the same size as Tatyana. Suitable wardrobe was found quickly and Tatyana was on time for her first official meeting.
TATYANA AND Nicolina came to Augusta as two of the 2,000 participants in "Open World," a program sponsored by the Library of Congress, funded by the U.S. Congress and hosted locally by MIR Children's Foundation, Inc. The program is the vision of Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress. Billington, a scholar of Russian culture and history, 13 months ago called on the United States to do more to support the development of democracy in Russia. He proposed doing "something big for the people (of Russia) ... who ended the Soviet menace for all of us."
While in Augusta, Tatyana and Nicolina studied with leaders of the federal judiciary system, Richmond and Columbia county governments, state officials, and various businesses, educational agencies, and non-profit organizations. United Way and Wimberly House in Waynesboro generated very favorable responses -- the Russians were appreciative of people helping each other without waiting for government assistance, a concept their nation is just beginning to learn.
Tatyana is the director of Novgorodskya Oblast Property Rights Registration Chamber. After opening the Oblast Registration Chamber in 1998, she was a leading force in the development of the oblast (or district) network of property rights offices.
Tatyana was initially trained in physics, and worked as a designer at a Russian submarine plant. She changed her profession when she saw jobs in the military/industrial complex being phased out. At the same time, her daughter, Nastia had a life-threatening illness which required extensive surgery. Every time Tatyana approached the medical community for information, she was told she did not have a right to know the answers to the questions she asked. She learned that it was only through legal means that she would ever be able to penetrate the silence.
SO, ALREADY accomplished in her field, she went back to college and completed law school, graduating one week before her son, Sasha was born.
Speaking at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, Tatyana said, "Ten years ago we stood in line for bread. Today we stand in line for jobs. Russia has gone through many difficult times, and more are ahead, but the spirit of the Russian people cannot be defeated by these problems. Our national soul is alive.
"Today, almost every Russian family has a dacha, a little place outside of the city where we go every summer weekend to plant, tend and harvest a garden. It is a necessity. It is survival. With the ruble only just now stabilizing, but at a rate four times weaker than last year, prices are too high and wages are too low. So we all work our dachas. We have hope that someday these country places will be places for fun, not just for survival."
To understand what Tatyana meant by the problems with the ruble, imagine that you went to bed last Aug. 16 (the day the ruble collapsed) with $6,000 in your savings account. The next morning your net worth was only $2,000. Two months later -- $1,500. And while this was happening, most prices doubled.
MAYBE THAT will put into perspective a statement which shows the courage of one incredible lady, and indeed, of most of her countrymen. Tatyana said, "God gives us only the tests we can handle. There is nothing we cannot handle with God's help."
Tatyana, our national problems are not nearly as great as yours, but thank you for the gentle reminder that our God is an awesome God.