Interning with a charitable Quaker organization in Russia

Sam Skove reflects on his internship with Friends House Moscow: 

"Thanks to a generous OCREECAS grant I spent three months, from August to November 2012, interning for Friends House Moscow (FHM), a Quaker group working primarily within Russia. Their small office in an outlying ring of Moscow is run by Sergei Grushko and Natasha Zhuravenkova, with help from Judy Maurer, an American teaching in the Elektrostad. Funding comes mainly from US and British Quakers. FHM, despite its size, runs or contributes to a number of operations. At the office they translate Quaker texts into Russian and work closely with the Alternatives to Violence Project, a Quaker program for helping people peacefully manage conflict. They also evaluate and translate grant proposals for a variety of independent groups, including programs to help foster parents and army draft resistors. While there I translated grant applications, ran social media, and volunteered with Krug, a dance/theatre center for people with developmental disabilities.

"One of the joys of working for FHM was working with Natasha and Sergei. [...] This was my first trip to Russia and they were always kind to me, fully understanding whenever I had difficulties. I likewise found everyone at Krug to be hardworking, passionate and kind. Krug in particular was a wonderful experience, as I was able to do work that had immediate effect and meet a wide variety of Russians from all walks of life and age groups.

"Living in Russia, and particularly Moscow, is a balance of appreciating the good, understanding the strange, and finding the humor in the bad. The good included amazing theatre, beautiful public spaces, and finding friends (including, quite fortuitously, Dakota Hall and Hannah Klein, two friends from Oberlin). The strange was adapting to Soviet architecture, Russians’ ideas about Americans, and the pervasiveness of the WWII mythos. The bad was having my bank cancel my ATM (twice), the packed Metro at rush hour, and mistrusting the police. All in all though, those negatives just made me more self-reliant, while giving me a few good stories to share. And in a city like Moscow, between the extreme wealth and the extreme poverty, sometimes all you could do was observe and reflect.

"Working in Moscow was many things for me, and I look forward to returning someday. Most importantly, it helped me better understand Russia as a country instead of an abstraction. I got to live life as a real citizen. I lived and worked far from the glitzy center, spent my leisure hours strolling Gorki park, and spoke Russian as much as I could. I am happy to be back in the US, but it was truly special to be, at least a little bit, a part of Moscow life."