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Russian Sam's First Day in Oklahoma City

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: November 14, 2010
Dennis Wells with "Russian Sam" (Ilia Shvetsov)
Dennis Wells with "Russian Sam" (Ilia Shvetsov)

I can’t write much right now – busy writing daily stories for the paper. But I just want to share a bit about “Russian Sam” aka Ilia (Elijah in English) Shvetcov. He arrived last night, worn out from a 24-hour flight from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Ilia is staying at the MidTown home of architect Dennis Wells in what is becoming the city’s best neighborhood of modern design houses. Ilia got up at dawn and this was his first photo taken of the skyline:

I joined Ilia and Dennis this morning; we are without an interpreter today, though we will have one throughout the week. We managed, thanks to some rudimentary English spoken by Ilia and fumbling attempts by Dennis and I to sign and motion. It worked. Not everything needs to be spoken anyway – not, at least, Ilia’s amazement seeing the downtown skyline he could only view online, and then recast as an incredible model so far, far away.
When Dennis picked up Ilia last night at the airport, his first comments were “the model is more spectacular than I could have imagined. It would be great if the mayor could see it.” I agree. It’s far smaller, far more detailed than the photos indicate.
Ilia also brought his sketches and other prep work to show how he assembled the model. It’s truly amazing.
We spent out day visiting various sites around downtown, including the rooftop of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (many, many thanks go to Leslie Spears for arranging special access at the last minute on a Sunday afternoon!).

Some people might ask, what is this all about? Good question. And the answer, I think, is quite simple. Sometimes the best way to see your city, to see its creativity and imagination of its people, is through the eyes of a stranger. And what better stranger to help us step back and see ourselves than this one person who fell in love with it so many, many miles away, armed only with a computer, his own artistic talent, and a translation program that gained him an assortment of friends here in OKC that he has yet to meet?
Go back and read the start of this coverage (hit the Russian Sam link at the bottom of this post) and you can catch up on how this journey began, how a man who used the online nickname “Russian Sam” traveled to Oklahoma City with a vision made of paper.
Welcome to Oklahoma City Russian Sam. I hope you enjoyed today’s tour, including the Chicken Fried Steak at lunch!
Your friend, Steve Lackmeyer

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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