Writer’s mother, 94, was a little girl lost in a political upheaval

Winston Salem Journal, NC
March 19 2004

Clouds Lifted: Writer’s mother, 94, was a little girl lost in a
political upheaval

By Janice Gaston

A Long Search: Writer Thea Halo is shown at right with her mother,
Sano Halo, who was one of thousands of ethnic Greeks exiled from
their homes in Turkey in 1920. (Journal Illust. by Nicholas Weir)

Thea Halo grew up knowing that her mother’s life had been filled with
tragedy. By the time she was 10, the girl who would become known as
Sano Halo had lost everything that mattered to her.

Sano Halo, now 94, was one of thousands of ethnic Greeks driven from
their homes in Turkey in 1920. Marched through mountains and deserts
with ever-dwindling supplies, many of Halo’s fellow Greeks died. Some
dropped dead in their tracks. Her baby sister died in her arms.

By the time Sano Halo was 15, her mother and sisters were dead, and
her father and brother had disappeared. She was married off to a
45-year-old man she didn’t know.

She arrived in the United States in 1925, a teen-age bride, with
nothing left of her Greek heritage, not even the name that her
parents had given her.

Thea Halo tells her mother’s poignant story in her book, Not Even My
Name. Thea Halo, accompanied by her mother, will speak Saturday at an
Agape Celebration Luncheon at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Hellenic Center here. Proceeds from the luncheon, which begins at 11
a.m., will benefit youth programs.

When Thea Halo was growing up in New York, she could never explain
her heritage. Her parents were born in Turkey, but neither was

Her mother was a Pontic Greek, an ethnic group that had lived in
Turkey near the Pontic Mountains for 3,000 years. Her father was
Assyrian, a descendant of ancient people thought to be no longer in
existence. Her brothers took on the identity of Turks. Her older
sister told people that they were Egyptian and urged their mother to
do the same. She complied.

In her book, Halo wrote, “It had never occurred to any of us that in
our struggle to have an identity of our own, we had negated hers.”

Sano Halo, then known as Themia, was born in a tiny mountain village
in northern Turkey, near the Black Sea. She doesn’t remember her
family name. When she was not quite 10, soldiers came to her home and
rousted her family. In her book, Halo described what they said:

“You are to leave this place. Take with you only what you can carry.”
They marched the Greeks toward the Syrian desert, Thea Halo said by
telephone from her home in New York.

The march took place within the context of years of conflict between
the Greeks and the Turks.

“The whole history of this thing is so complicated, you could spend
your life on it,” said Bruce Kuniholm, a professor of history and
public-policy studies at Duke University. After World War I, the
Ottoman Empire, which ruled over Greece for centuries, was being
dismembered. An independence movement in the 19th century extracted
Greece from the Empire, but Greek minorities had continued to live

The Treaty of Sevres, imposed on the Ottoman sultan by the Allies in
1920, awarded Greece portions of the empire in the West. But when
Greek forces invaded Turkey to take what had been awarded to them,
Kunhihom said, Turkish nationals, who opposed the sultan and the
treaty, drove the Greeks out. They also drove out the Russians,
Italians, French and eventually the British.

People like the Pontic Greeks, Kunihom said, were caught in the
complicated dynamic of a disintegrating empire, an emerging
nationalist movement and ethnic conflict between the Greeks and the

After Sano Halo’s family passed through a town called Karabahce, her
daughter said, “they decided to run away. Two of their children had
already died on the road.”

Destitute, the family scrounged for food. Thea Halo’s grandmother,
realizing that her daughter might starve, gave her to a woman who
asked to take her in. The girl became a virtual slave to the woman,
who changed her name from Themia to a Kurdish name, Sano.

“She stayed with that woman about two years,” Thea Halo said. The
woman was so abusive that Sano Halo finally ran away. “An Armenian
family took her in,” her daughter said. “When they fled Turkey on
pain of death, they brought her with them as their daughter to
Syria.” There, her fate collided with that of Abraham Halo, who had
fled Turkey in 1905, “on pain of death,” his daughter said. He came
to the United States, married and fathered a child. The marriage
ended unhappily, and he gained custody of his son.

In 1925, he went to Aleppo, Syria, to look for a wife. One of his
relatives had a solution.

“Why don’t you marry that young girl upstairs?” the relative asked.
The decision was sealed.

On her wedding day, Sano Halo was still a child. She had not yet
begun to menstruate, and her breasts had not yet developed. The
bodice of the borrowed wedding dress that she wore sagged against her
flat chest.

When Sano Halo arrived in her new home in New York, she became an
instant stepmother to a boy of 10, a role she was ill-equipped to
play. But she quickly learned about motherhood when she began to bear
children of her own, 10 in all. She forgot the languages of her youth
and spoke nothing but English. When an injury forced her husband to
quit working when he was in his 60s, she got a job and supported the

While her children were growing up, Sano Halo told them about the
tragedies of her early life, but they didn’t truly sink in.

“Parents tell their story,” Thea Halo said. “Especially when you’re
young, you have your own lives to live. You want to go
roller-skating. You hear basically the same stories over and over.”
But she realized that she needed to really hear the stories when she
decided to write a book about her mother’s past.

The idea for a book came after Thea Halo had taken her mother back to
Turkey, after nearly 70 years of exile, to look for her ancestral
home. Sano Halo had never been able to find her village on a map. In
Turkey, she found out why. The name that she remembered, Iondone, was
in dialect. The village was actually named Ayios Antonios.

Emotions ran high for both of them when they finally arrived at the
spot where Sano Halo had lived as a child.

Where 250 houses had once stood, they found nothing but a wooden
shack and empty green hills. A rectangle of wildflowers marked the
spot where the family home had been.

In her book, Thea Halo described what happened then.

“I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes for something lost,”
she wrote. “Or maybe for something found. I had a family at last,
just long enough to know they were gone.”

Thea Halo had spent most of her adult life making a living as an
artist. By telling her mother’s story, she became a writer. She has
put aside her painting and has more books in the works.

Not Even My Name, she said, has taken on a life of its own.

She started getting e-mails from people around the world. “This is
our story,” people told her. She began giving lectures and readings.
She started connecting with people who share her ethnicity.

“I was raised an American,” she said. “I had never been part of a
Greek community, an Assyrian community, an Armenian community,” she
said. “One of the things it did is bring me into the communities of
my heritage.

“It’s been a wonderful experience.”

A Writer At Large: In Search Of The (Live) Lost Chord;

A Writer At Large: In Search Of The (Live) Lost Chord;


March 7, 2004, Sunday
By Tim Marrs

In Seville recently for the Womex Conference, I fled the official
conference showcases and sought out La Carboneria, a bar I remembered
from years ago. Its signless wooden door in a back alley was marked
only by a row of parked bicycles and a few people exiting as we

You enter an extraordinary room, the high-vaulted central chamber of
what was once a charcoal-maker’s workplace. The walls are covered with
old bullfight ***** faded photos of flamenco singers, abstract
daubs with a Fifties air about them and relics of the craft of turning
wood into fuel. In a corner of the room by a fireplace, a woman
dressed in scarves and a long, flowered skirt and accompanied by a
guitarist sang coplas, a flamenco-esque song form from the
Forties. The crowd was mixed by age and type and paid attention to the
music rather than chatting. Through the far door is a large shed with
rows of benches, a long bar and a small stage. The back door opens
onto a huge hidden garden sheltered by palms and banana trees with
more tables, chairs and a bar. When the coplas finished, an Armenian
trio with clarinet, oud and percussion started in the shed, a
belly-dancer joining them towards the end of their set. By that time
the place was packed and the crowd was younger and hipper. It seemed
to have become more fashionable than I remembered from prior visits
listening to young flamenco rebels jamming after hours, but it had
retained its eccentricity and its atmosphere. It has also, like the
rest of Spain, kept its wilfully egalitarian ethos: the bartender
scrupulously insisted on returning the loose change I left on the bar.

As I sat sipping my ginda, I pondered why no equivalent exists in
London. Our past gets ploughed under by changing trends and rising
real-estate values. Clubs soar upwards on a tide of tribal fashion
then disappear. The Jazz Cafe was a great little joint in Stoke
Newington before it moved aspirationally to Camden Town; now it’s a
cog in the Mean Fiddler machine. The original Mean Fiddler in
Harlesden, for that matter, was once a pretty good place for live
music, but has long been closed. Momo tries to create the equivalent
atmosphere, but it is too relentlessly hip, exclusive and small to
match the democratic flavour of La Carboneria.

It sounds odd to say London isn’t a great city for music. Kids come
from all over the world to go clubbing here. But most London musical
destinations are in thrall to the world of DJs, or the shifting sands
of popular fashion, or both. Dancing, if it is done, is to recorded
music. And to be fair, London has raised the club-DJ scene to a level
of sophistication and up- to-dateness easily the equal of New York or
Paris. But the dance hall or venue with memories of years of great
nights of live music clinging to its unfashionable wallpaper is not to
be found.

There’s Ronnie Scott’s of course, but for decades that has been a kind
of landing strip for American, Cuban or other foreign jazz artists of
international repute. “The Old Place” lasted for a while as a haven
for local jazz talent in the original Gerard Street basement, but
walking through Chinatown now, you are hard pressed to remember which
stairwell once led down to its grimy but soulful rooms. The Pizza
Express jazz venues are good, but adhere pretty closely to the jazz

One problem is that there is no native London musical tradition you
can dance to. You could never imagine a local version of the Mid-City
Rock ‘N Bowl, for example. As the name suggests, this is a bowling
alley, located in a strip mall in an unfashionable district of New
Orleans. Most nights, the lot is full and cars prowl the murky side
streets looking for a place to park while queues form at the foot of
the stairs. Once you gain entrance, you find yourself in a gigantic
hangar where the rumble of bowling balls blends with the clatter of
pins and the creaking of automated machinery re-setting the
lanes. It’s a good bowling alley, one of the best in the city, and in
excellent unaltered condition. Which means it reeks of the Fifties,
even down to the barmaids’ and waitresses’ tight little blue jackets,
pleated mini- skirts and black ankle boots. Murals on the wall
celebrate the Pelicans, the city’s minor-league baseball team, and
their sponsoring local beer.

But what sets Mid-City Lanes apart is the huge dance floor between the
bar and the bowlers. The space is about 30 lanes wide, with a stage at
either end for the busy nights when two groups alternate until two in
the morning. Week nights, they tend to have zyedeco or cajun bands,
with R&B or Latin music on the weekends. The roar of the lanes is
curiously supportive of the music, like a drone that never goes out of
tune. There are two-step lessons for the newcomers at 7pm on Wednesday
and Thursday evenings. By 11, the place is heaving, with dancers of
all races, ages and classes mixing it up and girls sitting on the
banquettes in hot dresses waiting to be asked. Couples come and bowl a
few frames, drink a few beers, eat some fried chicken, then have a

London’s closest equivalent to the democratic mileu of Rock ‘N Bowl is
the DJ Gaz Mayall’s Rockin’ Blues which has made its home in various
dives over many years. I remember running into an ex-girlfriend at a
dinner party 20 years ago who wanted me to take her, her Tory minister
husband and their friends out dancing after the meal. We ended up at
Gaz’s listening to early reggae and R&B while the minister rubbed
shoulders with a party of skinheads at the next table toasting one of
their number who was shipping out next day for the Falklands.

In later years, Jerry Lyseight, Max Reinhardt and Rita Ray opened the
legendary Mambo Inn which specialised in Latin and African music and
would present live bands in one of the rooms of the glorious
rabbit’s-warren that is Brixton’s Loughborough Arms. But it died at
the end of the Eighties, leaving Gaz to carry the roots torch
alone. Bricks and mortar are a problem in a prosperous place like
London. Seville and New Orleans are wonderful cities, but one has very
strict preservation orders to protect the old quarters from
development and the other is too poor to grow. Both recognise that
preserving their past is a better economic plan than developing it.

It sounds as foolish to accuse London of having no sense of history as
it does to accuse it of having no good music. But think about it – in
Seville and New Orleans, the past comes right up to the
present. London’s past is safely preserved in architecture from
distant centuries. Punk clubs? All closed. Murray’s Club, where
Stephen Ward first danced with Christine Keeler? Long gone. Eel Pie
Island, home to trad, skiffle, the blues, and finally The Who and The
Stones? No preservation order saved that century-long mecca of
decadence from the weeds. And don’t get me started on Battersea Power
Station …

Readers who may have gone along with me thus far would quickly turn
the page were I to suggest that London ought to preserve its own
native musical past the way those other cities do. What would that be?
The country dances brought into sweaty city dance palaces that Charles
Dickens so admired? The big dance floors and the equally big bands of
the Forties? Clearly, there is no chance of that. What, come to think
of it, is London’s musical culture? Cockney Music Hall?

No, London is a chameleon city, turning absorbed styles from across
the Atlantic into something it can call its own. Eric Clapton and Mick
Jagger did America’s white blues wannabes one better, as did Zep, Roxy
Music, The Clash, Britpop and Radiohead with their Transatlantic
equivalents. But these groups were primarily turns. They didn’t meet
kindred souls at after-hours clubs and jam. English pop groups work
out their act and then show it on a stage for kids their own age or
younger. Its whole point is to violate whatever tradition is
around. There is no undercurrent of musical texture seeping up from
London’s earth. Unless you count reggae and calypso – but the question
of why there has never been an established venue here for live West
Indian music is another subject entirely …

Bordeaux has a reputation as an up-tight bourgeois city. The beauty of
its 17th century river-front buildings is chilly and severe and the
place reeks of money and respectability. Spending time in the
countryside nearby, I despaired of ever having a Bordelais laugh. One
day I was sipping a pastis and idly thumbing a copy of Sud-Ouest when
I spotted a small notice announcing the Kocani Orchestra, the Balkan
brass band who appeared in Emir Kosturica’s films Underground and Time
of the Gypsies. Where on earth could they be playing in Bordeaux?

Many wrong turns later, I found myself in what resembled a scene from
one of those films. On the dingy far bank of the Garonne
Christmas-tree lights were strung along a chain-link fence between two
forbidding warehouses beside a disused railway line. The signs
announced two names, take your pick: La Guinguette and Chez
Alriq. True to guinguette tradition, it has tables, a dance floor and
a stage under the trees by the river. The bar and restaurant are
inside a crumbling workshop. You fetch your (excellent) food from a
counter and enjoy the summer breeze off the river. In winter, there’s
a stage at one end of the workshop and the tables crowd together
around a dance floor.

And behold, here was the Bohemiam Bordeaux I had been searching for:
art teachers, overgrown moustaches, charity-shop fashion, mixed-race
couples, teenagers hanging out contentedly with their parents
… Alriq’s wife, Rosa, greets and looks after the bar and the
musicians, and together they create an admirably louche
atmosphere. Every night there is music: cajun, musette, jazz, Latin,
gypsy, flamenco, tango. Never a DJ, always a band.

The atmosphere generated by live musicians playing danceable music is
impossible to replicate with recordings. People behave differently
towards each other. Electronic beats have the effect of hardening
manners to match the punch of the rhythm tracks. Watching the music
take shape in front of your eyes and touching your dance partner
softens people. At least that is my experience.

London does have a market for this musical agenda. The audience for
real musicians playing real music with a bit of history is satisfied,
to a degree, by our public spaces. We are lucky to have people like
David Jones of Speakout, Bryn Ormrod from the Barbican, David Sefton
of the South Bank (head-hunted and now running Royce Hall in Los
Angeles) and Andy Wood from Como No. They manage to parade a series of
concerts and musical events not just onto the formal stages but into
the foyers of the Barbican and the Festival Hall where there is room
for dancing. Mambo Inn’s Max and Rita now run the periodic Shrine and
try to blend their beats with live music in imaginative ways. The
Lyric Hammersmith fills time between plays with imaginative music
programming. The crowds at these events show that there would
certainly be an audience for a London guinguette. Maybe someone should
bring Eel Pie Island back to life.

I ran a club once: “UFO” Friday nights in a Tottenham Court Road
basement. Pink Floyd were our resident group, there were light shows
and Kurosawa movies at 4am, Yoko Ono cut a paper dress off a naked
girl on a stepladder with amplified scissors and it became the centre
of the annus mirabilis of 1967. History has memorialised it as the
cradle for groups like the Floyd, the Soft Machine and Arthur Brown.

But we used to present jazz, theatre, folk and the uncategoriseable
avant- garde as well. The openness of the programming was part of the
point. When my partner, Hoppy, was jailed and I found myself running
it on my own, I made the mistake of trying to keep it at the centre of
the new scene instead of maintaining its original free-form spirit. In
trying to become a commercial succes, it lost its way and
disappeared. (Having police and skinheads busting and beating up our
crowds probably didn’t help much, either …)

New York has recently lost both The Bottom Line and Village
Underground, but still boasts the Tonic, Joe’s Pub and The Knitting
Factory. Moscow now has great live venues, led by the quirky
Jao-Da. LA has Largo, Paris La Java, Cafe de la Danse, Divan du Monde,
Amsterdam the venerable Milkveg and Paradiso. Here, Stuart Lyon’s
Sunday nights at Ronnie’s carry on, while the admirable Kashmir Klub
has lost its lease. The Jazz Cafe, Spitz, 12-Bar, Cargo and Borderline
have their merits, but you wouldn’t send an out-of-town visitor to any
of them for the crowd and the ambience.

Is there room for a place in London with the Bacchanalian spirit of
Eel Pie Island, the agape booking policy of Chez Alriq, a dance floor
as big and springy as Mid-City Rock ‘N Bowl and the atmosphere and
cheap drinks of La Carbonaria. Well, I am certainly not going to open
one. But if someone is brave enough, he or she can count on my buying
a round on opening night.

Churches of Tabriz

Mehr News Agency, Iran
March 8 2004

Churches of Tabriz

TEHRAN, March 8 (Mehr News Agency) — Shining as the oldest and
largest church in Tabriz, Saint Mary’s church was built in 1782 in
the Armenian style of architecture.

Beautiful pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, as well as
several apostles decorate the walls of the prayer niche and the
corners of the arch-shaped ceiling of the church in which religious
and national Armenian ceremonies are performed.

There are also several other churches in the city including the Saint
Serkis and Saint Shoghat churches.

Saint Serkis Church was built in 1821, and is located in the
Barunavak district of the city. It is also decorated with pictures of
the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and several apostles. Another church is
on Valman Alley and a Gothic-style church built in 1910 is located on
Miyarmiyar St.

Shoghat Church is located next to the Armenian graveyard of the
Maralan district near Saint Mary’s Church.

E Prelacy: Blessing of Foundation Stones for St John in Boynton Bch.

Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America
138 East 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-689-7810
Fax: 212-689-7168
e-mail: [email protected]
Contact: Iris Papazian

March 9, 2004

Blessing of Foundation Stones for
St. John Armenian Church
Takes Place in Boynton Beach

NEW YORK, NY-Sunday, February 29, was a memorable day for the Eastern
Prelacy and the Armenian community of South Florida. His Eminence Archbishop
Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic
Church of America, together with V. Rev. Fr. Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar,
and Archpriest Fr. Vazken Bekiarian, blessed the sixteen cornerstones of the
new St. John Armenian Church of Boynton Beach, Florida. Joining the clergy
on this occasion were the deacons, the sixteen godfathers, the major
benefactor, Mr. George Pagoumian and his family, and the Faithful of the
The sixteen cornerstones were purified with water and wine, then blessed
and anointed before being placed into their respective positions. With
everyone’s participation, the Andastan service (Blessing of the Harvest)
took place, beseeching the Lord for peace in all corners of the world,
goodness and glory for Armenia, and for the steadfastness of the Armenian
Archbishop Oshagan expressed his profound joy and gave thanks to God for
granting him the opportunity to preside over this ceremony. He explained the
meaning of the sixteen cornerstones, which represent Christ’s twelve
disciples, St. Paul, the evangelists Mark and Luke, and the father of the
Armenian Church, St. Gregory the Illuminator. “We are building this church,”
His Eminence said, “so that our lives will be solid and our faith will
remain immovable.”
Srpazan thanked the sixteen godfathers and especially George Pagoumian,
who along with his family, has made this God-pleasing gift in memory of his
father, John Pagoumian, in whose honor the new Church is named.
During the luncheon which followed the blessing of the cornerstones, the
Master of Ceremonies, Bedo Der Bedrosian, chairman of the Board of Trustees,
offered words of welcome and thanks and invited the chairman of the building
committee, Vahram Tanielian, to address the gathering. Mr. Tanielian
encouraged the attendees to continue the good work that has started with God
‘s blessings and to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Pagoumian poignantly shared memories of his father. He said that the
building of this house of God provides the opportunity to spread the Lord’s
Word. He said that he considered it vital to put into practice the original
Biblical message, especially because in our modern times various currents
and movements have taken us far away from spiritual values.
Archpriest Bekiarian, who serves the Florida community, expressed his
thanks and emphasized that the building of a church is not the work of one
individual, but rather a collective effort of all of the Faithful.
In his closing words, Archbishop Oshagan extended his words of
appreciation and encouragement and spoke of the importance of this sacred
effort. He gave a brief view of the overall project, which includes the
Sanctuary, the fellowship hall with facilities for Saturday and Sunday
schools, and eventually a gymnasium. “We do all of this with love and
dedication because we believe that it is necessary for our future
generations to have their own home, where they will pray to God, learn their
mother tongue and history, so that they will find their true identity and
live as model citizens, keeping their faith and culture.”
Visit the Prelacy’s web site () for
photographs of the cornerstone blessing as well as up to the minute
information about Prelacy events and activities.


BAKU: Press conf. at clerical office of Caucasian muslims held

Azer Tag, Azerbaijan
March 10 2004

[March 10, 2004, 18:18:52]

Chairman of the Clerical Office of the Caucasian Muslims sheikh
ul-Islam hajji Allahshukur Pashazadeh has conducted a press
conference for media to speak of the results of the Inter-religious
Peacemaking Forum in Moscow. Mr. Pashazadeh noted that over 300
religious leaders from CIS countries had participated in the forum.
He said the major purpose of the event was forming CIS
Inter-religious Council to strengthen peace between nations and
religions, to achieve solidarity and stability in the society,
develop dialogue among religious leaders, unite efforts against the
common danger, co-ordinate joint activity for revival of the
traditional spiritual values.

The forum participants elected a Board of the CIS Inter-religious
Council consisted of 22 religious figures. Two of them – Patriarch
Aleksiy II and Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh – were
conferred special powers of honorary co-chairs. An executive
committee consisted of 19 Council members was also elected.

Within the frameworks of the international forum, sheikh ul-Islam A.
Pashazadeh and Aleksiy II held one-on-one meeting and discussed
bilateral relations and main goals facing religious leaders of CIS
countries. Moreover, a meeting of religious leaders of Caucasus
countries – sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh, all Georgian
Catholicos-patriarch Iliya II, Catholicos of all Armenians Garigin II
and Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Aleksiy II – was also held
during the forum.

Within the frames of the meeting the `round table’ discussion mainly
revolved around `Experience of inter-religious cooperation expansion
at the regional level’, `Problems of religious education’, `Religion
and Media’, `Peacemaking efforts of religious organizations’.

In conclusion, head of the clerical office responded to the
journalists’ questions.

Jewish Community of Armenia Helps Musician

The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), Russia
March 12 2004

Jewish Community of Armenia Helps Musician

YEREVAN, Armenia – Jewish community in Armenia helped in production
and release of ‘Exodus’ CD by Yerevan-based singer-songwriter Willy

This unique album and the upcoming gala-concerts to be given in
Yerevan and Moscow, present an enormous opportunity for the Jewish
community of Armenia and Willy Weiner to raise awareness about Jewish
people and their culture.

While the Jewish community in Armenia is relatively small, it has
established the ‘Menorah’ Jewish Cultural Center, headed by the

Weiner celebrated news of the album release with the Yerevan Jewish
community, presenting a concert for members based on his latest
project “Jewish Traditional Classical Music in Armenia”.

‘Exodus’ is the latest of three albums by Willy Weiner based on
classical Jewish orchestral pieces, the other two being ‘Chalom’ and

Different countries, same goal

Press Herald, ME
March 12 2004

Different countries, same goal

By MATT WICKENHEISER, Portland Press Herald Writer

Staff photo by John Patriquin

Marina Kalysh, who operates a lucrative tile business in Russia, has
been observing business practices at Paul G. White Tile Co. in
Portland. Speaking of the way Dave Beattie, the manager of Paul
White, interacts with his employees, Kalysh says, “He managed to
build a real crew. They lead the business together.” Kalysh is part
of a cultural exchange run by Southern Maine Community College.

Marina Kalysh and Dave Beattie both sell tile, but the similarities
between the two entrepreneurs mostly end there.

She runs a 15-person shop in Smolensk, Russia, that caters almost
exclusively to high-end customers. Her division, Skvirel Stroy
Setvic-Smolensk, comprises designers who only sell tile. They don’t
deal with carpet, they don’t measure rooms for proper fits, and they
don’t install their goods.

Beattie is the manager of Paul G. White Tile Co. Inc. of Portland,
and has 85 people working for him. His shop is full service, helping
customers who might rent a small efficiency in Portland or own a Cape
Elizabeth mansion with everything from choosing tile or carpet to

Despite their differences, or maybe because of them, the two have
learned from each other during the last month as they worked together
through a Southern Maine Community College program. The initiative
brought 10 small-business managers from Russia to the Portland area.

One of the big things Kalysh learned during her stay was how
salespeople need to focus on politeness and patience with customers
in a shop, she said. Kalysh also sat in with Beattie as he bargained
with suppliers for lower prices, and discussed advertising strategies
with local media outlets. She observed his management style, and saw
how he joked with his staff, making the workplace a bit more

“He managed to build a real crew,” said Kalysh. “They lead the
business together.”

Since 1995, SMCC’s Community Connections program has brought more
than 200 businesspeople to Portland from countries that were once
part of the Soviet Union, according to Debra Andrews, director of the
Center for Global Opportunities at the college.

“It’s an intercultural sharing,” said Andrews.

The main goal of the program is to show entrepreneurs from the former
Soviet Union how business is conducted in the United States, giving
them ideas on how to strengthen their home marketplaces. In addition
to businesspeople, legal professionals, local government officials
and nongovernmental organization leaders participate.

“In a nutshell, at the end of the Cold War, we didn’t need the budget
to fight the Cold War,” explained Andrews. “The State Department saw
an opportunity to do something proactive instead of reactive: ‘Let’s
help support these former Soviet republics as they’re growing their
economies and creating their constitutional democracies. Let’s bring
them over and show them how things work in this country.’ ”

Andrews has been running the program since 1995. It is one of 50 such
programs across the United States and the only one in Maine.

Participants must speak English and be a manager at a small business.
Andrews and her staff pick the participants, secure for each a host
family where they will live for the month, and identify businesses
that are similar to the ones they run in their home countries. Most
of the companies participating in the Portland area are small, said
Andrews, and receive an opportunity for a firsthand look at another
culture that is often only available to workers for multinational

“It gives we (Americans) who grew up in the U.S. and thought the
Soviet Union was bad, bad, bad a chance to meet these people,” said
Andrews. “Your world view is broadened.”

Beattie, for example, said his perception of business in Russia was
from television images of long lines at grocery stores that didn’t
have enough bread for their customers. Talking to Kalysh, he learned
she operates a lucrative business in a city of 550,000 people, he

“Things are similar, but dissimilar,” he said.

Beattie said he suggested to Kalysh that to deal with competition,
she find small services that set her apart from the other operations.
For instance, he said, none of the tile shops in Kalysh’s city offers
labor, only sales.

By hiring some tile installers, or even by carrying an area carpet
line, she may boost business, he said.

“If she grasps one of those and makes it work, that will be a major
change in her business,” he said.

For Kalysh, who’s only been in the tile business for a few months,
“any kind of experience is useful.”

Andrews said a group of Armenian businesspeople would be visiting for
a month in April, the first time participants from that country would
take part in the program in Maine. The federal program started in
1994 as “Business for Russia,” with opportunities only for residents
of that country. The program was so successful it was expanded and
renamed, and today also includes participants from Belarus, Armenia,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine and

The initiative is fully funded by the State Department’s Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs, said Andrews.

“It beats paying for the Cold War, I think,” she said.

Andrews said the program tries to emphasize four main points to the
businesspeople, and asks the businesses they visit to reinforce them.

Prepare for success with a good strategic plan.

Do well by doing the right things and giving back to the community.

Develop the employee base.

Focus on both external customers and internal customers, such as

On a recent State Department trip to Ukraine, Andrews said she found
out that the lessons that had been learned in the United States by
previous program participants are paying off.

She contacted a program alumnus whose company makes microsensors that
regulate temperatures in different appliances. Five years ago, the
man spent time with a manager at a local McDonald’s restaurant, and
that experience gave him the motivation to contact the McDonald’s
restaurants opening in his country, Andrews said. Today, the chain is
one of his major clients.

Additionally, Andrews said, the man took the program’s four main
points to heart. He now gives his employees their birthdays off and
offers paid time off when a worker experiences a death in the family
or other personal problem.

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791- 6316 or at:
[email protected]