(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON - The first time Anya Logvinova was in Sikeston, back in 1994-95, it was as a foreign exchange student looking for a cultural experience. "This time I returned to visit my family here," she explained.
While most foreign exchange students tend to remember their host families for the rest of their lives, Logvinova and her former Sikeston hosts, Harry and Anita Sharp, have remained considerably closer.
"It's always nice to have two sets of parents," Logvinova smiled.
Their first reunion was the summer after she returned from the United States when the Sharps came to Russia for mission work near St. Petersburg - and at a perfect time. "They came just two weeks before my English exam, so I had some practice," she recalled.
In 1998 Logvinova returned for a visit, spending the summer here and traveling to the Caribbean with the Sharps, and in 2000 she met up the Sharps in Scotland while Mr. Sharp participated in a pastor exchange program.
"This year she came over at our invitation," Sharp said, returning for another stay in Sikeston after joining them for a Hawaiian cruise.
"So we do see each other every two years," Logvinova said.
While she appreciates her second set of parents here in America, she remains very close with her Russian parents as well. Her father, Petr Logvinov does weather research at the Poles. "He also did aerial photography when Chernobyl blew up," she recalled. Her mother, Natasha Logvinova, has worked in marketing for the Metropol, an upscale hotel, and other organizations.
Born in the Ukraine where her grandparents live, Logvinova lives and works in the center of Moscow. "You can look out and see the Kremlin from my windows at work," Logvinova said.
Logvinova was most recently employed by the Center for National Glory of Russia. "It's supposed to revive the patriotism," she said. "We've lost a little bit of that and we need to catch up."
While working for the Center, she was one of four people who dedicated "half a year, 24 hours a day" to complete a book on the history of Russian highways for the Ministry of Transportation. "One sample was given to Putin," she said.
"My main job was to find all the Russian poetry from 10 centuries on Russian highways," she recalled. Highways, she explained, have long been a popular philosophical theme for Russian poets and artists.
"It was about travelers' notes for travelers five centuries ago," Logvinova said of the book, with includes historical details on the journeys from Europe through Russia to China.
She recalled a part of the book that relates how merchants sometimes crossed Baykal Lake on their way.
"When the Baykal was frozen, they had to have special leather shoes for the camels so they wouldn't slide," Logvinova said. "There's a whole chapter on it."
The book was satisfying work, and appealed to Logvinova's tendency to see things as part of a bigger picture. "I have a feeling I'm still carrying it with me," she said of the project.
Logvinova recalled the day she was helping Sharp shovel snow and he was telling her to be careful not to scrape the concrete as she shoveled.
"I said, 'You sound just like Catherine the Great,'" she recalled, explaining Catherine had passed a law along the same lines protecting paving stones for Russian highways.
"It makes life very deep if you apply your cultural background to every single thing you do," she said, "or try to acquire the cultural background of where you are."
And for Logvinova, the first place to look is the arts. "I get the poetry first," she said, being a recently-published poet herself.
It was American authors such as John Updike, Ernest Hemingway and Kurt Vonnegut who gave her a glimpse of our country before arriving for the first time. "So I didn't find out about America from the press, the papers," she said. "I did recognize this America here when I came."
In the United States, Logvinova finds time for her is marked with event milestones. When she was an exchange student, it was "the end of the O.J. Simpson year and the beginning of the Forrest Gump year," she recalled. Two years later, "It was the Monica Lewinsky year."
And while some things remain the same, others have changed dramatically. "I think America has changed a lot since 9-11," she said. "America has certainly lost some of its childhood."
She recalled the reaction in Russia to the terrorist attacks was very sympathetic. "It did get a very wide reaction," she recalled. "We were so deeply sorry for what had happened."
A few weeks later, however, concerns arose in her country, and at first she "was afraid to come here and see everyone excited about going to war" or looking at it like it was "just another movie."
"Russia has a history of suffering," she explained, and are used to enduring it. "We realized a young nation that never actually had an enemy on its land could become savagely aggressive - and ready for revenge."
Now that she is here, however, she is "happy to see people reflect on this subject" with the appropriate seriousness and graveness.