Celebrating Christmas with AEGEE – no antenna organises an event in this period. With one exception: AEGEE-Samara. The most Eastern local of the network organises combined New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas events every year. This time it took place from 30th of December until 8th of January under the title: “Breaking stereotypes – a hot event in the cold winter time!” The AEGEE Golden Times asked AEGEE-Samara’s president Yuliya Korobtsova about details.

13Samara08Golden Times: Yuliya, AEGEE-Samara organised a New Year’s event this year. But it was more than that, it was also Orthodox Christmas, right?
Yuliya Korobtsova: You are right – these are the two most important holidays within this time period, a state one and a religious one. The New Year’s celebration is always fun and full of parties, joke competitions and gifts, and the Christmas is rather solemn; we wait for some miracles at the Christmas Eve. This was already the fifth winter event in Samara organised since 2007, and the number of participants varied between 4 and 20 persons.

Golden Times: So you organise this event every year?
Yuliya: Yes, we organise an event in this period every year, because it is a good possibility to show Russian traditional holidays to foreigners and to spend these days with great pleasure. Furthermore, most of us have free days in this period. So we can fully focus our energy to feel the real mood of celebrating the main Russian holidays with our guests without any interruption.

13Samara10Golden Times: How did the participants feel about celebrating Christmas together?
Yuliya: In the Old Russia singing traditional Christmas song was usual as well as visiting well-known and totally unknown people in their flats with these songs; the subject of these ones is the glorification of the born Christ. But nowadays these traditions are almost lost in big cities, so we chose another way of spending this night. We took our participants to an Orthodox church. The speech of the priest, solemn music and songs, the atmosphere inside – this is very unusual for foreign guests. But we had some trouble in the church, because there were too many visitors inside; that’s why we went out of the church after some minutes. After the church we played Russian billiard; this game is much longer and more difficult than the American version. Anyway, we enjoyed that evening.

Golden Times: Did you exchange gifts?
Yuliya: No, but of course our guests got some pleasant souvenirs – colored balls for decorating the Christmas tree – that will be a good reminder about these ten days spent in Samara, in the most eastern AEGEE antenna in Europe.

Yuliya Korobtsova
Yuliya Korobtsova

Golden Times: How and where did you celebrate New Year’s night?
Yuliya: The New Year’s night party was the main party of our event. It was really great. We celebrated the beginning of the New Year on the main square of Samara called Kuybyshev Square – the largest square in Europe. About 50,000 visitors came there, dancing, singing, laughing, skating and sledging right at midnight. We brought champagne and made our best wishes for the New Year while listening to the bells. After two hours we went back to our AEGEE apartment to continue our holiday with a costume party. We had a crazy mix of fairytale heroes: no Father Frost because we lost our costume on the square, but his grand-daughter, the snow-maiden Snegurochka in a snow-white dress. The Baba Yaga, one of the most interesting, funny and awful negative persons in our folklore, an old women with a big humpback. Our participants got make-up of pirates and cannibals. One girl, Natasha, organised a very great party with a rich scenario and a lot of jokes, roles and competitions; it will be a good remembrance of our Winter Event!

13Samara07Golden Times: What were the other programme highlights? 
Yuliya: We were playing paintball and spent about three hours in a true military winter camp, which was well-heated. We marked the wall of this camp with AEGEE letters! Playing paintball in winter has its particularities: we were running in deep snow, with wet shoes and gloves, but we didn’t feel any pain when we were shot. On 2nd of January we went skiing on a good professional slope, which was a true pleasure. Our guests from countries with warm climate got absolutely new impressions. They fell many times but became better and better. One of the best days was the day of the quest game in the historical part of Samara.

Golden Times: What did they have to do?
Yuliya: Our participants had to find some places according to the city map and to fulfil different tasks. For example, there is a Pushkin public garden in the city, and the foreigners had to answer five questions about this greatest Russian poet. Almost all questions were answered without mistakes, the Europeans and even our Asian participants from Kursk Medical University knew many facts! Every team had to compose a small poem about Samara; the Malaysian girl Aisha found an excellent express rhyme: “Samara is surrounded by the Volga, and wonderfully connected this with names of Russian girls – Natasha and Olga”. Another task was given on Revolution Square, near the Vladimir Lenin monument. The teams had to make PR for AEGEE-Samara or AEGEE-Europe by any means: singing, dancing or making a performance. The Malaysians gave a true performance about Russian history: from the times of the Tsars till the coming of Lenin and the 21st century. And at the end of the game we sat in a café and ate a tasty cake decorated with AEGEE symbols.

13Samara09Golden Times: Did you go to the sauna?
Yuliya: One of the greatest highlights of our programme was visiting the Russian Banya. This is not a classical sauna. There is very hot wet steam in a place which is reinforced by birch or oak. It is very good for the health, and this is reinforced when one has a contrast between the hot steam room and the cold snow outside! Our participants liked it very much and went out in the cold for three or four times during the whole procedure of enjoying the Banya.

Golden Times: How did the participants enjoy Russian cuisine? I heard something about a cooking workshop…
Yuliya: We had a cooking workshop before the farewell party: our guests learned to make Vareniki – the traditional Russian dish cooked of dough and curd or potatoes. By the way, Aisha and Valentine, the Malaysians, went fishing with their other friends from Samara, which was very memorable for them. The catch taken out of the ice consisted of two catfishes. At the evening we cooked them in the oven, and this was very tasty!

13Samara03Golden Times: Your event had the motto “Breaking Stereotypes!” Which stereotypes were broken?
Yuliya: The main stereotype for most Europeans and Americans is that our country is not as high-developed as for example England or Germany, that our clothes are like 200 years ago and that we have no civilisation. This event showed that our people have the same interests and values as everywhere but that we also value our history and culture very high. We are always glad to meet guests from everywhere and know how to show our country and our city to them!

Golden Times: Now, a few words about AEGEE-Samara. When was it founded, how many members do you have and what were your main activities in 2012?
Yuliya: AEGEE-Samara was the third AEGEE antenna in Russia, after AEGEE-Moskva and AEGEE-Sankt-Peterburg. The founder of our antenna is Elena Solomatkina, a former student of Samara State Pedagogical University. Also former AEGEE-Samara president Lyubov Sevostyanova played a great role in the life and development of our antenna. Almost every summer and every winter we have events, Summer and Winter Universities. A friend from AEGEE-Milano, Andrea Lantery, was a participant of our first event in 2007 and visited Samara already for ten times. He also played the role of Father Frost at the New Year holiday in 2009. Nowadays we have about ten active members who organise international and local events such as the Burst of Energy Summer Event (http://bordersoff.ru/publ/3-1-0-556 ) in July 2012 and the European Day of Languages with lessons of German, French, English, and Italian in November.

13Samara04Golden Times: Samara is at the edge of Europe, close to Central Asia. How European do your members and people in your city feel in general?
Yuliya: Although Samara seems to be close to Central Asia, we feel that we are fully Europeans according to the way of thinking and feeling. We hold the quick development of the personality, the good results in career and business in high regards, but also our culture and traditional values: family, parents, friends and relatives. Also good communication is very important; money and career are not the main things in the life! That’s why we take part in such a volunteer project as AEGEE is. And we are happy and proud to be Russians!

Golden Times: Last but not least a few questions about you. How old are you, what do you study?
Yuliya (smiles): I am 22 years old and an active and positive girl, who enjoys her life. Also I am energetic, friendly, cheerful, kind and vibrant! So I am full of life! I enjoy being President of AEGEE-Samara! It’s very important for me to arrange different events, both European and local! But the most important for me to see how organisers of AEGEE-Samara and participants take great pleasure in everything! To see the smile on their faces and understand: “This wonderful AEGEE people are really satisfied with the event!” I was used to achieve high results in everything that I do, especially in life of AEGEE! I study at the Academy of Management, my specialty is Public Relations. And I develop successfully my PR skills in AEGEE too!

13Samara06Golden Times: How and when did you join AEGEE?
Yuliya: Well, I joined AEGEE in 2008 due to my private teacher of English. She was a member of AEGEE-Samara at that time and she recommended me to try to practice English with foreign guests in AEGEE. Of cause I accepted her offer with a big pleasure! That time AEGEE-Samara organised its Winter Event with a big amount of positive AEGEE people! So I fell in love with AEGEE since my first encounter with it!

Golden Times: What was the best event you ever attended?
Yuliya: The best event which I attended took place in 2010! It was the TSU in awesome Barcelona and other eight cities! I still thank Zeus – or Capitán Marmelado – and Mike Costa who helped me to be in gorgeous Spain! Last year I invited them to my city for our Winter Event “Try yourself: Veni Vedi Vici”. And we spent again a wonderful time together!

13Samara12Golden Times: What other hobbies do you have outside AEGEE?
Yuliya: Actually, my favorite hobby is singing songs. For nine years I attend singing lessons, took part in many competitions and concerts.

Golden Times: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Yuliya: AEGEE is for me big lovely family!

Golden Times: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Yuliya: Kind, sincere, friendly, easy-going and positive!