by Gregor Smith
On June 26, a six-member delegation will arrive from Kotlas, Greater Waterville's Russian sister city, for a one-week visit to Waterville. Interested members of the public will have a chance to meet the delegates at a reception at the Waterville Public Library on Tuesday, March 30, at 3:30 p.m.
The visit marks the silver anniversary of the sister city partnership. On June 20, 1990, the then-mayors of Waterville and Kotlas, David Bernier and Victor Zverev, signed a proclamation formalizing sister city ties.
The current delegates are Andrei Bralnin, age 41; Natalia Verkhovtseva, 45; Nikolai Markaravsky, 61; Natalia Markarovskaya, 58; Maxim Dmitriev, 40; and Andrei Strekalovsky, 49. Bralnin is the current mayor of Kotlas and all six delegates are members of the regional legislature, or Duma, which meets in Archangel, some 300 miles to the north. The visitors are guests of the Kotlas — Waterville Area Sister City Connection and will live with host families during their stay. Of the six, only Bralnin has visited the U.S. previously.
The travelers will have a full schedule during their stay. They will have day trips to Freeport and Acadia National Park. They will spend Monday in Augusta, touring the capitol and the Maine State Museum and will have tea with Gov. Paul LePage at the Blaine House. (LePage visited Kotlas twice while he was mayor of Waterville.) The next day, they will take an extended tour of Waterville, concluding with a private dinner at Joseph's Steak House hosted by current Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro. During the week, they will also have time to pursue their individual interests with their host families and will get to enjoy a classic Maine lobster bake and an "American barbecue" at a lakeside camp.
The delegation's visit caps a busy spring for the Kotlas Connection. In March, the Connection held its 22nd Russian Sampler. Held annually at Colby College on the fourth Monday of that month, this day of hands-on workshops introduces pupils from area middle schools to Russian history, culture, language, and crafts. In most years, the Connection is able to arrange for one or more English-speaking teens and a teacher to visit from Kotlas and serve as instructors at Russian Sampler. This year, they had five guests: three girls, one boy, and a female teacher.
In April, five members of the Kotlas Connection traveled to Kotlas to commemorate the 25th anniversary there. Peter Garrett, Mary Coombs, Martha Patterson, Mark Fisher, and Therese Couture spent eight days in Kotlas, as part of a two-week visit to Russia. Coombs and Patterson currently co-chair the Kotlas Connection's executive committee, and Garrett cofounded the organization. He, his daughter Jessica, and the late Natalia Kempers were the first three Waterville area residents ever to visit Kotlas, in April 1989.
Finally, on Tuesdays from March 31 to May 12, the Kotlas Connection and Mid-Maine Adult Education held their fourth Russian film series. While past series have dealt with weighty subjects in history and social commentary, this year's series featured five classic Russian comedies.
For more information on the current Kotlas delegation or the Kotlas Connection's past and future activities, one may write to Martha Patterson or call her at