Positive Experiences in Kaliningrad Region

Attempt to Revive the Russian Economy Fails


I recently discovered that the husband of one of my colleagues at the „International University“ in Kaliningrad, Russia is a photographer. I had wanted to have a portrait made, so I got myself a shooting date at his studio. But after the session the photographer refused to allow me to pay any rubles for the shooting or for any of the photos! So ended my mishapen attempt to help resuscitate the Russian economy. Not a few Russians understand a great deal about being a friend; that makes a lot of primitive conditions bearable.


It looks as if I will be passed around from school-to-school in Kaliningrad. There are plenty of high schoolers working on their English – it’s just that they’ve never had the opportunity to meet a “genuine” American face-to-face. So I’m being told to just “report on something interesting” and then answer any ensuing questions. That sounds promising enough!


I have in the mean time discovered that there are at least nine of us US-Americans in the Russian enclave: a Pentecostal, me and seven Mormons. Not particularly happy numbers.


I’ll be having three classes at the teachers’ college in Chernyahovsk/Insterburg on March 12. There I’ll want to report on the deeds of the anti-Hitler Confessing Church in the awesome Reformed (now Russian Orthodox) church right next door to the school. Hans Graf von Lehndorff (1910-1987), a member of the Confessing Church, surgeon, horse freak and East Prussian author, had been active there during World War II. What a privilege it will be to be there and report!


The neighboring states of Poland and Lithuania will be joining the European Union in May. A friend has asked me to state the consequences of that for the Russian enclave. Initially the situation has worsened: Russian buses entering Poland at Bagrationovsk are spending three to four hours at the border – only an hour of that on the Russian side. I just spent three hours there two nights ago. Work visas for church persons from the West remain difficult to obtain. That is one of many reasons why I yearn for a Protestant understanding with the Orthodox church.


Bill Yoder

Berlin, 7 March 2004


German version appeared in "Aufbruch", the periodical of Berlin's Baptist "Evangelical-Free  Church, Hauptstrasse), 355 words.


Note from late June 2021: Since 2004, my assessment of Graf von Lehndorff’s work has become more reserved. As a landed-class German conservative he was hardly a friend of Hitler, but he was also not a supporter of the peoples of the USSR.