For Rotislaw Cytowicz the Russian House Rodina holds lots of special memories from his youth. It was almost 60 years ago that he went to the Russian cultural center on Alexander Ave. to spend time with his friends after church.
On Saturday, Cytowicz who now serves as Director of East Coast Activities for the Congress of Russian Americans Inc. was one of many people in attendance for the center's re-opening. Remembering how much Rodina meant to him Cytowicz said he hopes a new generation can enjoy it as much as he did. "This was our home outside the home," he said. "The big idea is to serve not just the Russian American community but the community of Howell."
One of the people in attendance on Saturday was Nick Dyahov who was part of the crew that helped build the Rodina all those years ago. One of his friends Julie Price said she believed it can still play an important role in the Russian community. "We have to emphasize our ethnic backgrounds and talk about their grandparents and how it will spark their interest," she said. "When they become a certain age, maybe 12 to 15 then they get more interested in their backgrounds."
As part of the ceremony members of the Cossack Brotherhood of America came dressed in full uniform. Serge Tsapenko, who holds the rank of Ataman General in the organization said keeping the history of the Rodina is important in the 21st century. "It's a very big event to unite all the Russian compatriots and all the Russian people," he said. "For the people who live here and our visitors this is a really big event which will make many things happen."
In the basement of the center is a museum filled with a wide variety of items from across Russia, which is a point of pride for Tsapenko who said the collection has won many awards around the world.
The Rodina is on the same property as St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Our Lady of Tikhvin Church and Father Valery Lukianov said it will play an important role in the community. He said that is particularly important for the young members of the community. "If you treat them with love then I think they will respond likewise and they will come," he said.
One of the people responsible for the event was Alexander Bondarev who helped purchase the Rodina and bring it back from the brink of closure. "Each population has a culture and this is the parent's responsibility to give your children everything we have," he said. "If we have a chance to give it to our children, our culture will live and develop more."
As the older generations begin to pass on Bondarev said it became the next generation's responsibility to continue the lessons they learned. "In this chain link if one link is broken it means the next generation will lose all this beauty," he said. "The most important part of the culture was inherited by so many generations before."
Youth activities will be one part of the Rodina but Bondarev said they will also have programs for people of all ages. That includes dances, lectures, classes and other cultural activities.
As part of the event a statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was unveiled and some of his more popular poems were read by dignitaries in attendance. Mayor Robert Walsh was also in attendance to celebrate the ribbon cutting, as were members of the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
For more information on the event in check out this website.