CosmopolitanBorn in the Siberian city of Krasnojarsk, raised in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, and schooled in the cosmopolitan cities of Minsk and Berlin, Alexandr "Sasha" Ablovatski is a man of the world adept at cultural adaptation. Perhaps it is just this ability which makes him comfortable in the little village of Gambier.
Ablovatski came to Gambier a year ago when his wife, Eliza, joined the history faculty. Although they have just bought a house in Mount Vernon, they spent their first year living in the McIlvaine Apartments, which can be a good way to begin establishing a sense of community. "We met a lot of very interesting people there and made some friends," says Ablovatski.
Little did he know that he would soon find himself at the very heart of Kenyon's cosmopolitan crossroads, at least virtually speaking. This summer, Ablovatski began working for the Library and Information Services (LBIS) division as system manager, overseeing the relentless exchanges of e-mail within the College and between the campus and the world. As electronic postmaster, he is responsible for upgrades to and maintenance of the e-mail infrastructure.
His journey to Gambier began in central Europe. After completing his university education in international business relations with a major in economics at the Russian State Economic University in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, he received a stipend to go to Berlin, Germany. Initially, he did a practicum in a German bank and then he entered a five-year program at Freie Universität, continuing his studies in international business. "German was the first foreign language I studied," says Ablovatski, who is also fluent in Russian, Belarussian, and English, "so I had been speaking German for about ten years and was very comfortable."
"Berlin is the most interesting city in Europe right now," he says. "It is sort of the crossways of Europe, and you see this especially in the many kinds of music. There are bands playing a fusion of Russian, Ukrainian, Balkan, and Klezmer music, plus there is the influence of the West. Also, there are lots of theaters and opera houses."
Berlin was where he met Eliza-at a social event sponsored by the fellowship program in which both of them participated. They married on September 22, 2001. "Eliza's parents were unable to come for the wedding, since all the international flights were disrupted by the terrorist attacks of September 11," he recalls. "But we couldn't change all the plans, so we proceeded without them." They returned to the United States in January 2002 so that Eliza could resume her studies and teaching at Columbia University in New York City.
Sasha's first job, as a Wall Street broker, didn't suit him at all. "It was cold calling and selling, and it was very harsh. You don't need my kind of education to do this. You just need a harsh personality."
Next, he worked for a Russian publishing house, St. Peter's Books, in Brighton Beach. "This place is the largest distributor of Russian-language books, films, and videos in the United States," says Ablovatski. "Brighton Beach is kind of the Russian culture center of New York. But, you know, living in New York is very expensive, so I had to earn more money." While in Berlin, Ablovatski had worked as a freelance computer specialist, designing networks and providing systems support. Looking for similar work in New York City, he eventually found a position as a network administrator for a small company in the borough of Queens.
Here in Gambier, Ablovatski enjoys the beauty of the countryside and biking on the Kokosing Gap trail, as well as visits to the Amish country and to Columbus. He and Eliza love to travel, especially to European cities, and they have friends scattered around the globe.
"I've been doing a Web site for my college colleagues for about five years now," Ablovatski says. "It is a forum for us to exchange opinions and news and to stay connected. We visit all these friends every chance we get."
The cosmopolitan spirit remains very much alive for the Ablovatskis, who speak German with each other at home. "My English is not so good," he says, in perfectly fluent English, "and we are both comfortable in German."