Blind and Deaf students from the ESOL Department participated in a cultural event on December 11, 2018, focusing on Russia. Every year, the department chooses a different country to learn about as part of the ESOL curriculum. Blind High School and Deaf High School students presented on Russia’s history, geography, and cultural traditions.
After spending many years under Communist rule, the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991 and Russia opened its arms to capitalism. This change did not come without its challenges, however, as Russia had to find its footing at home, as well as in the international market. Russia spans the continents of Asia and Europe and is the largest country in the world. It is surrounded by fourteen different countries, some of which used to be part of the Soviet Union, and it has miles of coastline along the Baltic and Pacific Seas.
Russia has a rich cultural past and is world renowned for its ballet dancers painters. Moscow’s treasures include the beautiful cathedrals and palaces of the Kremlin as well as the 16th century St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square–the most photographed cathedral in the world. FSDB Russian Language Facilitator Alla Rekshan brought in a fascinating book about the Kremlin as well as Russian newspapers and other cultural artifacts for the students to explore–these included books, ornaments, musical instruments, a Fabergé egg, and nesting dolls.
Students had the chance to learn some letters of the Cyrillic Alphabet, which looks very different from our alphabet. You can see some examples below along with their phonetic pronunciation in parentheses and English translation.
Меня зовут (Menya zovut)—My name is... Спасибо (Spasiba)—Thank you Пожалуйста! (Pozhaluysta!)—You’re welcome! Привет! (Privet!)—Hi! добрый день (Dobry den)—Good day до свидания (do svidaniya)—Goodbye
Students also learned that Russians celebrate the holidays differently from those who live in the USA for several reasons. First, under the many years of Communist rule, Russians were not allowed to celebrate religious holidays. Second, many Russians are Orthodox Christians; according to the Orthodox calendar, Christmas comes after New Years on January 7th.
For that reason, New Year's became a more important holiday than Christmas. The Russian tree is called a New Year’s tree and gifts are given on New Year’s Eve. The gifts are not brought by Santa Claus, but rather by Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and Sneguroushka (Snow Maiden and granddaughter). Russians don’t say “Merry Christmas or Happy New Year,” instead they say “With the New Year” pronounced like “Snovem Godem.” With that, they wish you good fortune in the new year. Ded Moroz looks like Santa with a very long beard and red cloak adorned with intricate designs. Sneguroushka wears blue and white.
We were lucky to get a visit from Ded Moroz and Sneguroushka, played by Blind High School Aleksandr “Alex” Chalov (BHS 10) and Alla Rekshan (Language Facilitator), who were happy to share their culture with us.
So, the next time you see Ms. Alla and Alex, please don’t forget to say, “Snovem Godem.” That, for sure, will bring a smile to their faces.
By Kathleen McManus, ESOL/ELL Program, Instructional Services