Fwd: Peace Corps Ukraine - Educators Exchange Digest Number 164
- Hey everybody,
I'm not exactly sure why but having this guy, Jeff, represent the PC in Russia in such a dignified manner makes me feel a little bit better. Everybody take care, and feel free to contact me if you'd like.
In a message dated 1/6/03 4:20:36 AM Central Standard Time, PCUA@yahoogroups.com writes:
TIME Europe Magazine
The Peace Corps' man in Moscow, Jeffrey Hay won't waste his words on
the spying charges that have the Corps leaving Russia
By AISHA LABI
In Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, a U.S. aid worker in
1950s Saigon turns out to be a spy. The recent film version of the
story hasn't come out yet in Russia, but Nikolai Patrushev, director
of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, must be familiar with the
plot. Last month he accused U.S. Peace Corps volunteers of illicitly
"collecting information on the sociopolitical and economic situation
in Russia," singling out one staffer for entering a closed zone on the
Chinese border and a volunteer for trying to establish inappropriate
contacts. Even in a world where Russia and the U.S. wage joint battle
against terrorism, cold war suspicions die hard.
If Russia feels it's no longer necessary to host the program, then
Patrushev's accusations grew into an international incident when all
27 American Peace Corps volunteers in Russia were essentially told to
get out of the country. Caught in the storm is Jeffrey Hay, the Corps'
acting country director for Russia, who was informed on the day after
Christmas that Russia would have no further use for his services or
those of his volunteers and 24 staffers (most of them Russian). Hay
must now help the Corps volunteers scattered throughout Russia plan
The U.S. ambassador, Alexander Vershbow, is furious at the
insinuations. Patrushev's comments, he says, "are outrageous, untrue
and harmful to the work that Peace Corps volunteers are carrying on
world-wide. We categorically reject allegations that Peace Corps
volunteers have been engaged in spying." But in the midst of this
verbal blizzard, Hay himself remains, well, the quiet American. He
declines to denounce his now-inhospitable host country. "The way the
Peace Corps works is that a host government invites us for the term
they would like us to be there, and if they feel that it is no longer
necessary to host the program, then that's fine," he says. "The
Russian government has expressed appreciation for the work the Peace
Corps has done and said that conditions in Russia have changed and
that the need for the Peace Corps has changed."
Hay, 34, has been with the Peace Corps for nine of the past 11 years.
He served as a volunteer in a small Hungarian village shortly after
graduating from St. Michael's College in Vermont with a degree in
literature (yes, he read The Quiet American). While there he became
fluent in Hungarian and met his wife, also a Corps volunteer, with
whom he has a three-month-old daughter. He served as a desk officer in
Washington and an administrative officer in Mongolia before arriving
in Moscow last year. When his predecessor left Russia last June, Hay
became acting country director.
This is not his first brush with controversy. In August, 30 volunteers
who'd been in Russia for a year were denied visa extensions. The
Russian Education Ministry, which coordinates Corps' activities,
"supported our requests for visas and passed them on, so it was a
surprise when they were denied," says Hay. "We decided not to bring in
a new group of volunteers."
Hay's mild words are clearly designed to ease tensions. And Corps
director Gaddi Vasquez echoes his mellow view. "We're disappointed,
but we respect a country's right to determine the merits of volunteer
service," he says. "This is a situation we encounter from time to
time. Last year we closed programs where economic development has
grown sufficiently that the countries determined that a continuation
would be unnecessary." But when those programs, in the Baltics, were
phased out, no one was accused of espionage.
Hay refuses to dignify the spy charges by responding to them directly,
stressing instead the accomplishments that over 700 Corps volunteers
have made as teachers and mentors throughout Russia. But Patrushev, a
friend of Vladimir Putin, is apparently not convinced. With little
tradition of volunteerism in Russia, the one-time cold warrior may
simply have trouble with the notion of idealistic young Americans
coming to Russia to do good. Or maybe he's just been reading too much
What's your reaction to the explanation that the Russian government is
ending the Peace Corps agreement simply because there is no longer an
economic need for the program?
I accept that. That's the way the Peace Corps works in every country.
It's not up to us to decide what a country needs or doesn't need.
What about the spying allegations?
My reaction is to emphasize what Peace Corps and Peace Corps
volunteers do, which is to come to a country for two years, learn the
language and try to learn the culture. They go out to communities that
have invited them and work in those communities, not only in a
technical capacity but in a way that allows for an exchange of cultures.
But do you deny these specific allegations?
Again, all I can do is emphasize what Peace Corps does.
So you won't confirm or deny the allegations?
You won't even address them?
What legacy do you think the Peace Corps will leave in Russia?
Our volunteers have taught over 26,000 students, they've held
thousands of seminars, taught teachers and students and helped develop
resource and computer centers. Communities all over Russia welcomed
volunteers into their homes and workplaces and helped create more open
communication between our two countries.