Kristina Kronauer
Kristina Kronauer

As a Russian major at Bryn Mawr College, Kristina Kronauer spent the summer of 2011 in St. Petersburg. Now, having just returned from a year in rural Russia, she says her earlier impressions of Russia were wrong.

“The face Russia shows us is NOT what Russia really is,” she said. “St. Petersburg and Moscow are Western cities in a giant country where life has stood still, sometimes since czarist times, and definitely in most areas since the Soviet era.” She will describe her experiences in a talk entitled “A Year in Rural Russia,” next Friday (July 18) at 3:30 p.m.

Kronauer wanted to attend veterinary school, and so when her undergraduate studies were completed she accepted a job on a 3,000-head dairy farm near Penza, Russia.

“This was not a random gap-year between undergrad and vet school,” she said. “It is directly related to the type of work I intend on doing later in life, and other American vets highly encouraged me to take the offer not so much as a resume builder to get into school but as a career jump into the field.”

The plan seems to have worked. “I was thrown head first into animal care and veterinary medicine, from basic vaccine schemes to treating injury and illness, doing surgery and pulling breached calves – all in Russian.” Starting in August, she’ll begin a four-year course of study at the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine.

The biggest way in which her perception of Russia changed was “the backwardness and poverty that I hadn’t seen in St. Petersburg. Twenty-two percent of the country is still without running water in their homes, compared to 0.6% in the US. Water shortages are common even in towns that do have running water, and electricity often goes out. Roads I used in the villages shouldn’t even count as roads.”

But she also came home with a renewed respect and admiration for the people “who opened their homes to me and taught me how one can be content with so little, as long as we have the love of our families.”

Submitted by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

Rural Russia’s Poverty Resembles Czarist Days: July 2014
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