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Archive for Friday, January 24, 1992

CENTRAL JUNIOR HIGH STUDENTS WRITE TO RUSSIAN PEN PALS

January 24, 1992

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Galina likes rap and rock 'n' roll. Alesha likes hockey, soccer and tennis. Sergei enjoys science fiction and Oskana likes to travel and sing Russian songs.

These are some of the tastes of students in Orel, Russia, about 200 miles south of Moscow.

Soon these five Russian students, along with the other 22 who wrote to Kathryn vonEnde's seventh-grade "core" class that combines literature, langauge skills and geography, will know the tastes of students from Central Junior High School.

VonEnde's class received the letters from the ninth-grade (or "ninth-form") students a couple of weeks ago and wrote back last week. It's an effort to develop an understanding between the two nations and to expose students to the common links that exist between the two groups, vonEnde said.

Elena Stalmashevskaya, an English teacher at the Orel Pedagogical Institute, participated in the Meeting for Peace in October 1990, and stayed with vonEnde. The two struck up a friendship and came up with the idea that Stalmashevskaya would have a friend's English students write to vonEnde's class.

VONENDE'S students gave the Orel letter-writers a glimpse of student life in Lawrence.

"I introduced myself and talked about the kind of sports and music I like," 12-year-old Rebecca Black said. "We're sending pictures of the school and of the class, too."

Karrigan Bork, also 12, explained some of the school rules to his pen pal.

"I told him that there was no dress code here and that we had four-minute breaks between classes," he said. "I'd definitely like to keep corresponding with him."

The time it took the letters to reach vonEnde's class and the materials the students used to write the letters highlight the economic problems and indicate an uncertainty about future correspondence. The Russian class mailed the letters at the end of November and vonEnde's class didn't receive them until the middle of January, vonEnde said. Two to four students shared pieces of parchment that resembled brown, institutional paper towels.

BUT THE letter to vonEnde from Stalmashevskaya indicated uncertainty in every aspect of life in the former Soviet Union.

"The daily round takes all the time and energy away, and I feel that I am a turning into a dull and insipid being, a brute," she wrote. "We have gone through shock, despair, hope, enthusiasm, expectation, doubt and disbelief since August, and now we are in a state of deep and profound pessimism."

Although Stalmashevskaya warned against sending food through the mail because of pilferers, vonEnde plans to send packaged food anyway.

"I'm going to mail it separate from the letters," she said. "I hope it will get to her. But if it doesn't, at least someone in Russia will eat it."

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