Posted by: thebluemusicblog | August 4, 2011


Ingunn and I came to Russia on the last leg of the long journey. We have been there many times and we have close friends there. I have been working together with the Russian YMCA for almost 20 years, and this partnership has shaped me and formed me and never stopped to fascinate and inspire me. This is the world of Orthodoxy, the deep sound of old church bells and beautiful sounds of the church quires and inspiring views of church spires and towers formed like fantastic onions painted in glorious colors and gold and silver.

I have sailed on the mighty Volga river a summer night with music from an acoustic guitar and small, small glasses with vodka. But I have also waded in deep snow in Siberia or warmed my frozen hands around a nice cup of tea on board the Trans Siberian Railroad.

This time we travelled to Yaroslavl along the Volga River, to the North East of Moscow, to meet with the leadership of the Russian YMCA and YMCA Europe. The National Office is located in Yaroslavl, and there is a very interesting national project to build a youth camp close to the river. Soviet Union was full of camps for the Socialist Youth Movement, but this system has collapsed. It is therefore a very interesting niche for future work of the Russian YMCA that has opened up, and YMCA leaders from several National YMCAs  are willing to support this important project. The camp is situated very closely to an old monastery, now being renovated, and there is a good cooperation between this monastery and the YMCA.

On our way to Yaroslavl we stop to visit another renovated Monastery, with a boarding school for young students. It is an ordinary school, but with added subjects like ikon painting and old church liturgy. It is not a seminary, even if a few of the students told us that service for the church was high up on their list of dream jobs. In excellent English the young students showed us a round their beautiful  school.

We were impressed with the high quality of the school and also with the very friendly and polite reception by the young people. We of course used the opportunity to tell about the YMCA and invited the school for collaboration with us.

This is a model of the renovated monastery, and below you can see one of the beautiful churches of the monastery.

Nikolay Kurochkin is the National General Secretary of Russian YMCA (in the middle) and Mikhail (Misha) Guskov (right) is the regional secretary for YMCA Europe, placed in Moscow. Deputy Secretary General of YMCA Europe is Michal Szymanczak (left) from Poland, and he is now working closely with the Russian YMCA and the twenty other emerging National YMCAs around Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Empire.

A summer evening at the river Volga is something very special, the colors, the atmosphere, the birch trees and of course the powerful image of this mighty river, so central to the history of this great country. The YMCA started here in St. Petersburg in the year 1900 and had an impressive history until the last YMCA was closed in Vladivostok around 1924 after the revolution had reached all the way to the Pacific Ocean. YMCA was restarted here around 1990 and is now present from the Kola Peninsula in the North West, down to St. Petersburg, over Central Russia via Moscow all the way to Novosibirsk and Barnaul deep inside Siberia. Tonight we were far away from the Siberian taiga and wide open landscape and enjoyed the hospitality of a summer night at Volga. Spasiba Bolsjoi! And do svidanya, my Russian friends!

Again I have invited a guest to my blog, this time our celebrity, Romulo Dantas, Executive Secretary for Youth Empowerment at NEW WAY, who spoke on behalf of all the Youth Organisations of the world at the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York last Monday and who actually concluded his speech at the UN podium by singing the last part of his speech!

If you want to watch and listen Romulo’s speech >>>>


  1. Johan Vilhelm, I really enjoyed reading our last blogg, as much I have enjoyed the previous ones. And rhe interview with Romulo was excellent. Thanks a lot! And that it It was published on my birthday, 4 August, did not make it worse :-). / Jan

    • Congratulations, Jan! I hope you will enjoy today’s post as well!

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