by Rosie Sinapi
Editor in Chief
Symbolizing peace and friendship, the City of La Verne hosted Dr. Arthur Nicolaevich Chilingarov, vice president of Russian parliament on Monday.
Dr. Chilingarov’s visit was to include a 10-day visit incorporating several cities in California. Due to problems in Chechnya, he returned to Russia Tuesday to preside over an emergency parliament meeting.
“He wanted to stay and honor his commitments which was to visit La Verne because he thinks as an expression of gratitude that he needs to come and give thanks to the people of La Verne,” said Dr. Garbis Der Yeghiayan of Mashdots College and chair of the Rotary Club’s International Committee.
Yeghiayan was instrumental in bringing Chilingarov to La Verne. His visit was highlighted by a peace conference held last weekend at California Institute of Technology.
While Chilingarov was in La Verne he talked one-on-one with Bonita High School students, visited City Council Chambers and toured Le Roy Boys Home and Hillcrest Homes.
La Verne mayor Jon Blickenstaff said he was excited about the visit and realized that Dr. Chilingarov was extremely impressed by the Bonita students.
“The high school is the best example of and sense of warmth and support from our community,” said Blickenstaff.
At a mid-afternoon ceremony, Blickenstaff, City Council members and other La Verne representatives presented Dr. Chilingarov with various gifts including the key to the city.
With the help of a translator and his English speaking son, the personable Russian hugged every presenter and kissed every female including a much impressed Carla Sullivan, La Verne Rotary president.
“He has such a personality and disposition to go back to Russia and say that there are people back here who want to have a relationship,” she said.
Robert Rodriguez, La Verne councilman and ULV’s chief of security and transportation, agreed that the warmth of Dr. Chilingarov’s council speech was impressive.
Dr. Chilingarov was equally impressed by La Verne’s reception.
“It’s a beautiful, small, clean town with good hearted people,” he said. “People’s attitudes are a lot like those in a lot of Russian villages and small towns. People are the same.”
The smallness of La Verne is one reason why he decided to visit La Verne despite cancelling his other obligations.
“He wanted to visit two cities, Los Angeles which has a sister city with St. Petersburg and La Verne that has a sister city with Etchmiadzin in Armenia. Not only because of that, but because the important role the Church of the Brethren had in 1915 during the Armenian genocide. The church raised a lot of money in support of Armenian forces in Turkey,” said Yeghiayan.
Chilingarov’s visit was instrumental not only for La Verne, but for Russian-American relations.
“This is a big part of history,” said Sullivan. “If you look five years from now, we will come back to this day where he met in a little city in California. There will be a big difference that has been made.”