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American Figure-Skating Champion Michelle Kwan Visits Moscow Orphanage


This year marks 200 years since the United States and Russia established diplomatic relations. The U.S. Embassy is coordinating several events to mark the anniversary. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Russian capital as part of the program, American figure-skating champion Michelle Kwan engaged in some people to people diplomacy with a visit to a Moscow orphanage.

"I am afraid to sleep on the top so that I do not fall. I think I am afraid of heights, or something."

Michelle Kwan, Olympian and five time world figure skating champion, visited a bedroom at Moscow's Orphanage Number 23. Kwan engaged the children in their classrooms, playground, and basketball court, which is flooded in the winter to serve as a skating rink.

Speaking in a small auditorium, Kwan spoke about the importance of hard work and perseverance

"When I first started skating, I was five years old and I remember the teacher telling me, 'this is how you fall.' And I looked at her and said, 'why are you teaching me how to fall? Shouldn't you teach me how to skate first? Then I soon realized that you do a lot of falling, but it is how you come up after a fall and keep on going," she recalled.

Kwan said making connections with children, trying to inspire them, is her form of public diplomacy.

Commenting on 200 years of U.S.-Russian relations, orphanage director Vlada Volokhatova said there is no direct connection between traditional diplomacy and Michelle Kwan's visit.

Nonetheless, Volokhatova says diplomacy is not just about diplomats. She notes that communication between ordinary Americans and Russians is also part of good relations.

Throughout this bicentennial year, U.S. diplomats in Russia will be celebrating other areas of Russian-American cooperation since 1807, including health, philanthropy, space, business, and rule of law.

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