Russians and Canadians share a similar attitude to life, says businessman Oleg Afanasyev.
“Here the people are in first place and the money in the second place,” said Afanasyev, who is in the third week of a month-long Rotary Club International exchange. “And I think in Russia (it’s) the same.
It’s an order of priority he feels seems to set our country apart from our neighbours in the U.S., where he visited five years ago, said Afanasyev during a tour of the Red Deer Advocate on Tuesday.
“I was in the United States and now I am in Canada and I feel the difference. And I like it,” the Russian said, adding he also found Americans very friendly.
There are other similarities between Canada and Russia he has found during his tour, which has taken he and his group of four others to Kindersley, Sask., and Brooks, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Pincher Creek. After a stopover in Banff for a Rotary conference, the trip will end in Calgary.
“I think our countries are very close because we have the same nature, the same weather, the same land and view of fields and forest,” he said.
Afanasyev lives in Ulyanovsk, a city of well over 600,000 about 900 km east of Moscow on the Volga River, where he runs a business that makes packaging for fast food, pharmaceuticals and other products. He learned English while studying at Moscow’s Institute of Electrical Engineering, where he graduated in 1994.
Afanasyev is president-elect of his small, 23-member Rotary Club and the leader of the diverse exchange group. His travelling companions include a cardiologist, fertilizer company manager, bank employee and staff member at one of Russia’s most famous museums, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
A small group of Canadians are visiting Russia at the same time, in a similar Rotary-organized exchange.
Afanasyev said Canada’s people have made a lasting impression on his group. “The people are very friendly in Canada. It’s very easy to make contacts. It’s very open.”
And what visit to Western Canada would be complete without an eye-opening weather experience. When he left his hometown it was 25C. Landing in Calgary May 5, it was -2C.
The opportunity to see Canada and learn how its businesses, institutions and Rotary Clubs operate has proven a valuable experience, he said. “I think it’s a great program for Rotary.”