Couple shares love of Russian culture with children

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 14, 2003

SOUTH POINT- It's a long way from South Point, Ohio, to St. Petersburg, Russia.

But some children at South Point Elementary School got to travel there Monday without ever leaving Lawrence County. Barbara and Gerhard Suhrstedt, both life long musicians, have visited Russian six times in the last six years, studying its language, history and culture. The Suhrstedts shared their love of Russian customs with the children. Their visit was arranged by South Point music teacher

Margie McKee, who is a member of the Ironton Arts Club.

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"We want to make the children aware of how very similar these two countries are, even though in my lifetime we've suffered through the Cold War," Gerhart Suhrstedt said. "We want the kids to know the Russian people are just like us, with the same aspirations we have."

The Suhrstedts played selections from Tchaikovsky and the Russian National Anthem, and showed slides of notable historic figures and famous sites, such as the Royal Winter Palace at St. Petersburg.

They also taught the children a few Russian words, such as "Hello" and "Goodbye"- words the children were practicing amongst themselves after their Suhrstedt's performance ended.

"I thought the language thing was cool," fifth-grader Anissia Johnson said.

"But it was sad when I saw those kids," her friend, Courtney Keeney said, referring to slides of young Russian boys and girls at the turn of the 20th century whose childhoods were cut short by hard work and deprivation.

Barbara Suhrstedt is a native of Chillicothe; her husband is a native of Charleston, S.C. They met in graduate school at Boston University and now live in Boston.

The Suhrstedts will also perform Nov. 1 at Ohio University Southern. That performance is also sponsored by the Ironton Council for the Arts.