Posted by: thebluemusicblog | December 20, 2017


SYRUS in Dacha at Volga river – if that does not sound exotic? Dacha is the Russian summer house, it can be small and modest or huge and luxurious, but no matter the size, it is supposed to be full of a Dostoyevski/ Tolstoy’ish  atmosphere. This is the concept behind the Russian YMCA Dacha at the Volga River, just outside Yaroslavl City. It is a great symbol of the combined efforts of international YMCA solidarity through the old Field Group under leadership of Terry Ratcliffe and the hard work of a handful of Russian YMCA leaders, with Nikolai Kurochkin at the helm! As a result the Russian YMCA has now a national training and conference centre fully equipped for camps and conferences in a very traditional ambience. It smells Tolstoy and Dostoyevski in all rooms and you hear old Russian folk songs together with the chiming of church bells from the nearby monastery. It is a superbly Russian atmosphere.IMG_1846.JPG

And here above you can see what SYRUS means. It is the new Support group for YMCA Russia, SYRUS, to take over after the traditional Field Group. This support structure is open for the whole world of YMCAs, and around the table here you can see representatives from YMCAs in USA, Sweden, Scotland, Belarus, France, Russia itself and the World YMCA. Kerry Reilly, the NGS from Scotland, is the new leader. We are looking for more members, like Norway?


We had excellent work sessions during the days at the Dacha, discussing the present situation with all the challenges, and looking into the future to see how we can reach results in solidarity and collaboration. Tina Larionova is number three from the left, she is from Moscow and she is the President of YMCA Russia. The second from the left is the NGS in Russia, Alexei Kostyakov.


The main building of the Dacha, there are more buildings behind me and bedrooms to the right. The view is fabulous overlooking the Volga River.


Here you see Julie Watkins, CEO of YMCA of the Rockies, our host for the 18th World Council inEstes Park 2014! To the right you see Nikolai Kurochkin, the Manager of the YMCA Dacha and retired NGS of Russian YMCA.

IMG_1791Never in Russia without enjoying great Russian hospitality with a rich buffet and plenty of opportunities for toasts and short speeches rounded up with a tiny little chut-chut!


For Nikolai it is very important to engage local musicians and artists as well as the people from the nearby Monastery. Every evening there is a cultural programme, often concerts with classical music or russian folklore.


A visit to the monastery is always included in the programme, and here we are visiting a local artist who creates the most fascinating sculptures and paintings.

IMG_1820Would you not like to own a bird like this? I would. This artist never makes a copy, he never repeats himself. So it is not possible to order this bird. You can order a piece of art from him, but you have to give him full freedom. Next year I am going to pick up a piece of art, and I cannot wait to see what it looks like!


The work is going on in the living room of the Dacha. Number 2 from the left is Henrik Liljestjerna from Sweden, a close friend from many years back The stairs bring you up to the first floor where the bedrooms are, with en suite bathrooms. Very comfortable and a great place to have a holiday with a group of friends! Nikolai is very selective in renting out the Dacha. He never rents it to people who just want to have a wild party in the woods, even if there is plenty interest. No – this is a place for YMCA, it is a place of culture and style.



After the SYRUS meeting we always visit Nikolai and Ira in their beautiful private dacha in the nearby village. We know all their neighbours and friends and it is like coming home.


The third dacha this time is Misha and Ira’s new dacha, one hour outside of Moscow. It is a very nice place with a big land around it and space enough inside to receive friends and family. IMG_1767This brings back memories from years gone by! Many, many years ago Misha took me to a club of Colonels and Generals, some of them retired. They were from the Navy, from the Airforce or from the Army, some where Police officers, some from Customs. I was allowed access as the first ever foreigner. The logics behind giving me access to this very exclusive club, was that I was Secretary General, and that I was the boss of Colonel Misha Guskov. They just cut the Secretary and then I was OK. Sauna was an integral part of the club when they met, and their bathrobes all had the same message on the back and along the arms: GOOD NIGHT AMERICA!

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