Founded on the eve of Perestroika by an American in 1988, the Moscow Free Speakers Club is the oldest Toastmasters Club in Russia and numbers about 75 members. It is English speaking.
So when Daniil Maslyuk, Vice President of Public Relations of this club invited me to be General Evaluator of meeting no. 602 in Moscow, I leaped at the chance. “We definitely would love to experience the Canadian style :-)” he had emailed in perfect English.
Having loved visiting Toastmasters in Paris and New York, Russia was not to be missed.
The meeting was scheduled for 7 pm on October 16th the day of my arrival in Moscow. I wasn’t sure to make it. Luckily I had just spent two weeks in Paris, my birthplace, so jetlag was not a problem and neither was my carry-on luggage. And with two extra hours to my day, (Moscow is two hours behind Paris) I felt the night was young.
But soon it was dark, cold and windy. The rain seemed to fall horizontally as we made our way by taxi to the Famous Gorny Institute of Mining where the Moscow Free Speakers Club gathers bi-weekly. With neither signs nor streetlights, the venue was difficult to find. Eventually, thanks to her flawless Russian, my long time friend Marie Stock found the correct classroom. She and her husband Bob had also agreed to experience Toastmasters in Moscow.
The room was packed. Heads turned. Toastmaster Mikhail Petrov CC greeted us warmly. A great Icebreaker for guests, we were asked to line up in the front, face the audience and speak! No was not an option. Names, occupation and what brought us there. An attentive Grammarian named Natalya Lapitskaya announced she would be listening for sentence structure and correct grammar. This it turned out she did to a tee and was more exacting than most native English speakers. The Table Topics led by Ilya ensued at a humorous clip, followed by two speeches. Given they were delivered in a foreign language (English) and with no notes, these were impressive as were the evaluations.
The meeting was high energy, positive, and well organized. Without exception, members were friendly and welcoming. In addition, Moscow Free Speakers Club has a superb website in flawless and fluid English. A top Toastmasters Experience to be sure, participating in this meeting was a highlight of 2014.
Marie Betteley CC CL President
St Catharines Toastmasters
From District 86 Toastmasters