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Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Abilene gives Western farewell to delegates from new sister city
By Andre Coe
Reporter-News Staff Writer

Abilene bid farewell to seven Russian visitors with a traditional Texas dinner of beans and brisket and some country-western dancing Monday night at the Abilene Civic Center.

The group from Chita, Russia, is the fourth international delegation to visit the Big Country and become an official sister city of Abilene. The three previous groups were from Corinth, Greece; Herrlisheim, France; and Rio Cuarto, Argentina.

Chita Mayor Alexandre Sedine said he liked “everything” about his visit. Speaking through interpreter and delegate Nikolay Efimov, Sedine said,

“Everything (was enjoyable) … beginning with the hospitality of Texas.” Then he got back to eating his slice of brisket, which he said was “quite tasty but quite different from traditional Russian,” pointing to a jalapeno pepper and adding, “especially your chili pepper.”

A few moments later Sedine and the delegates got a laugh out of the mayor breaking all four prongs on his plastic fork while trying to slice a piece of brisket.

The idea for a Russian sister city first began in 1996 when a local Abilene Rotary Club member traveled to Chita to start a Rotary Club there. Since then, the two cities have exchanged students and teachers and have sent various business people and delegates back and forth.

Sister City Committee member Jim Aneff helped bring the delegates to Abilene to make the two cities’ sisterhood official.

“This has been a wonderful experience for most of these folks because most of them have never been to the United States,” Aneff said. “It’s important.”

With the exception of Efimov, all of the delegates were first-time visitors to America. The group included Yury Kuznetsov, director of the Chita regional analytical agency; Vassili Glazirine, an ecological scientist and a director of the Chita Technical University; Efimov, the head of the Chita telephone exchange department; Sedine; Vladimir Bajenov, chairman of the Chita city parliament; Lioubov Bajenova, banker and Bajenov’s wife, and Valerik Akopian, public prosecutor of Chita.

Chita is a city of about 370,000 people in the southern portion of Siberia. The temperature there frequently ranges from -24.7 degrees Celsius to just 20 degrees above freezing.

“If the Russian delegates don’t have sore feet and overshaken hands by this time, then we haven’t done our jobs,” Abilene Mayor Grady Barr said.

The group will depart from City Hall at 7 a.m. today to return to Russia.

Contact staff writer Andre Coe at 676-6735 or coea@abinews.com.

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