From Russia with love came an Open World delegation to visit the land that once was part of their motherland. “Open World is an exchange program where talented people from Russia come to America for several purposes. One is to see the country, meet the people and get acquainted with families that live there and another is to show and share professional skills and exchange ideas to benefit both our countries through peace and understanding,” explained Denis Demenko in an interview. Demenko is with a company that does environmental work in Russia in areas that are similar to wildlife refuges in the United States, “We do specie identification, and we build trails and visitor centers. We are becoming more environmentally aware today in Russia and have many projects going on now across our country and overall the people have much more interest in these projects and conservation,” he said. Demenko said he feels Russia and the United States have much more in common today, “The whole world is much closer now through technology and many have a different world view to me I see the world as connected one big country. I have many friends in the U.S.A and stay connected with them so our relationships as a people are growing closer every day and I see that as bringing us toward world peace and working together to protect the environment of our world,” he said.
The Russian delegation was hosted by the Soldotna and Homer Rotary Clubs who facilitated visits to the Kenai National Wildlife Center, Seward Sea Life Center and other places of interest on the Peninsula. During their weeklong stay they were housed by local Rotary families who said the experience was amazing, “I never knew I could get so close to people in such a short period of time,” said Soldotna Rotarian Rick Bucy, “We didn’t want to say good bye and when we took them to the airport it was an emotional experience,” he said. “It’s a busy time of year, but hosting them and getting to know more about them and the way they thought and their hopes and projects was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve spent my time doing this summer. It was great,” said past Soldotna Rotary Club president Dr. Matt Pyhala. Other members of the Open World delegation said, “I rejoice when I see that the delegates bring back a drive to change things at home. My most memorable experiences, however, are all related to meeting and getting to know the host families. Their hospitality and care are beyond words, each time I feel how we are all connected as humans, that we are part of one big family.” “My visit in USA was beautiful and extremely beneficial for me. My goal as a recipient of the Small Alumni Grant from the US Embassy of Moldova is to inform the Moldovan public about the consequences of their choices and also ensure a transparent, public communication with all citizens, local public authorities, civil society and the mass-media.” Aimed at establishing mutually beneficial relationships between future leaders of other nations, Open World is a value-added program that permits practical and depoliticized options for engagement. Open World is sponsored by the U.S. Congress.