In a world in which differences often divide countries, Russia’s ambassador to Canada brought a message of unity to students at a St. John’s high school Thursday.
“Politics is one thing, but we are all human beings…,” Alexander Darchiev told the class of about 30 students in a Russian Language and Culture class at Prince of Wales Collegiate (PWC).
“We really need to find ways (to come together)… . This is how we prosper.”
During his 45-minute talk to the class, Darchiev told students that building a more compassionate society is challenging not only in Russia, but in Canada and other parts of the world as well.
“But we really need more contact …,” he said. “The more contact we have, people to people, on regional level, the better things are.”
Students asked Darchiev a wide range of questions, from the effects of war on Russia to what is his favourite place he’s visited and if he has a pet.
Darchiev pointed out that Russia and Canada have many similarities, including climate, landmass, diversity, culture and a love of hockey.
It marks the second time the Russian ambassador has visited PWC, which is the only public school in Atlantic Canada that offers Russian classes. The first was in 2003, when Vitaly Churkin, who went on to become the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to the class.
It was made possible by Dr. Stuart Durrant, Russian professor at Memorial University, who escorted Darchiev into the class, along with Sergei Stoganoff, councillor at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, and Kirill Kalinin, first secretary at the Russian Embassy.
Rodney Squires, who has been teaching Russian at PWC for the past 17 years, was delighted to see Darchiev visit.
“We’re very proud to have him see us today,” said Squires, who said students like to study Russian because it’s something different for them. “It’s a recognition of the program.”
Richard Furey said he and his classmates were looking forward to the visit.
“To speak to someone this high is a really great honour,” the 16-year-old said.
“I’m glad to be studying Russian. It’s taught me a lot about Russian culture, their history, religion and so much more.”
His classmate Jaelyn Warren said it was a memorable moment.
“Having a Russian diplomat come in, and to be able to talk to someone who actually has a connection with Russia, somebody in such high authority, is an astonishing opportunity,” the 18-year-old said.
“It gives students a moment to actually connect with Russia.”