Russian visitors come to Elmhurst
Pictured are two men visiting from Russia as part of the Open World program through the Library of Congress, along with their Elmhurst hosts. Sophia and Jim Abenante (center) are wearing hats their guests brought them from Russia. On the far left is Artemiy Aksenov, 38, and Konstantin Chernov, who is 28.

A learning experience for all, including their hosts

By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

Two young men from Russia were recently guests of Jim and Sophia Abenante who live on Edgewood in south Elmhurst. They were delighted to be a part of their adventure to America.

The men were part of the Open World program, part of the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress, designed to build understanding and cooperation among Congress, American communities and global leaders. To that end, the program brings emerging government and civic leaders to the United States for a 10-day professional journey with their American counterparts.

The visitors who spent time with the Abenantes were Artemiy [pro: ART-uh-me] Aksenov and Konstantin (like Constantine) Chernov. Artemiy, 38, is an associate professional with the Russian State University of Justice, Kazan Branch, where he teaches students, trains specialists for the judiciary system and conducts retraining courses. Konstantin, 28, is the senior lecturer at the Department of Civil Procedural Law, also at the Russian State University of Justice, Kazan Branch. He trains specialists for the judiciary, where he has more than 1000 students. His department hosts various scientific conferences and events, focused on legal science and court practice.

Getting acquainted…

Despite the language difference, the two young men and the Abenantes as their hosts had a lovely experience staying together for those few days.

The Independent had the opportunity to sit down with what felt like a family around the dining room table one afternoon during the visit to get to know these two visitors – with the help of an interpreter, of course!

Artemiy was a big strapping man, over 6’ tall with an athletic build. He was a little embarrassed to be wearing a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, feeling he should be more dressed up, until we assured him he looked just fine and quite frankly, very American, which he seemed to like.

Konstantin had a more slight build and looked very young – too young to be a law school professor, which is the best description of his job in Russia. He was thoughtful and quiet but very interested in the sights and sounds to being in the U.S.

Asked what they liked most about Chicago, both were quick to answer that they found the architecture in downtown very impressive and found it a relatively clean city.

George Palamattam, Executive Director for CIP Chicago, was the host organizer along the tour who coordinated the accommodations and relationships with the host families. Both Artemiy and Konstantin expressed gratitude for his help along the way, noting George was very important component to their entire trip.

Asked how they were getting along with the food in America, Artemiy said he was impressed with the various ethnic cuisines available in Chicago. Asked if they went to any Russian restaurants, he said no.

Why go to a Russian restaurant when we have that all the time at home?” Artemiy pointed out. “We wanted to try the different things.

Explaining other ways they were spending their time, Jim Abenante said he was surprised when the men came home the first night after a long day of touring around Chicago.

I thought they’d be exhausted after running around all day, but the first thing they wanted to do when they got home was go bicycle riding!” Jim said. “They wanted to work off the energy they seemed to have built up all day. Luckily we have enough bikes so we could go out along the Prairie Path. They were delighted to see that was available for people to bike-ride.”

About their lives in Russia

Asking more about sports, Artemiy said his 7-year-old son is absolutely crazy about ice hockey.

He knows everything you’d want to know about the NHL,” Artemiy said. “He knows all the players, whose been traded where, everything. He hopes to be a professional ice hockey player some day.”

They described their home life as living in apartments, rather than houses, but were very comfortable and very much at home. They added that there were “regular supermarkets” in Russia – no one stands in line for bread anymore!

Overall, they could not be happier for their experience.

We are very thankful for everybody who put the trip together,” said Konstantin. “We are also grateful to the universities and the people who received us here.”

Needless to say, it was a delightful learning experience for the Abenantes as well.

We have found that when people come to visit, we learn that we’re not all that different,” Jim said. “We all like to enjoy a good time, good company, good food, getting exercise together. It’s really just a wonderful experience.”


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