Thousands of miles from home, Elena Glavatskaia teaches Russian History 408, a history she knows well. At home in Russia, she teaches the same curriculum to a generation of students who can hardly remember communism and the problems that accompanied it.
Elana Glavatskaia is a Russian history teacher both at Cabrini and abroad. She teaches history and anthropology at the same state university in the Ural Mountains she attended, the same university at which she defended her doctoral dissertation. At the time, it was an industrialized area, prohibited to outsiders. No one was permitted to travel; she lives in the same building in which she grew up. Everyone who lived in the area attended the same university. It was a natural progression from high school to college.
During the period of communist rule, curriculums were stifled. “There were serious limitations,” she said, remembering growing up and studying in the Soviet era. The study of religions was restricted to scientific atheism, based on the notion that people should not be religiously affiliated. In reality, it was the criticism of world religions from the Soviet perspective. She continues to be amazed by the religiousness of the American people. Glavatskaia developed the first course at Ural State University teaching religious studies and world religions, after the fall of communism. She teaches religion, history and anthropology, specializing in the indigenous people of Siberia, at the Ural State University in Russia and will continue to do so when she returns at the end of the spring semester.
Students and faculty at universities experience new challenges now. Some institutions do not have the financial resources to rent their buildings. Glavatskaia remembers a winter in the not-too distant past in which there was no heat. But daily freezing temperatures ranging from 0 to -50 degrees (Fahrenheit) could not deter students and faculty alike from attending classes.
Curiosity, and an invitation from Dr. Jolyon Girard, a history professor here, brought Professor Glavatskaia to America. She leaves her husband and two daughters, ages 15 and 17, but it is not the first time they have been separated. Glavatskaia participated in a program four years ago at Rosemont College in which students were taught by teachers of varying ethnic backgrounds, depending on course content.
“I love American generosity,” she said, “and the feeling that tomorrow will be a better day.”