International relations: Europeans share special bond at SU

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first_img Published on October 7, 2013 at 11:57 pm Contact Ryan: [email protected] Three volleyball players came from Russia, Lithuania and Poland, a little scared and having no idea what to expect as they stepped foot into the United States for the first time in their lives. When they went back to their home countries after their first season, these three foreigners — Silvi Uattara from Russia, Monika Salkute from Lithuania and Gosia Wlaszczuk from Poland — had one thing they did not have when they left their countries for the first time: each other.“As soon as we came, I realized we had a lot of same interests, same things that we’re talking about,” Uattara said. “We even realized with Monika we were in the same tournament years ago at the same camp.”The three of them are now almost always seen together, whether its chatting on the sidelines during games or walking to classes together. The three sophomores seem to have a special connection when they interact, always laughing or smiling as they form the foundation for Syracuse (5-11, 0-4 Atlantic Coast).Wlaszczuk and Salkute both said that the ability to communicate with someone in a similar situation was important in making the transition to Syracuse easier.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“First time we came, we didn’t know the language so well,” Salkute said. “So we were trying to explain other ways and Americans didn’t understand it. But we understand each other.”Added Wlaszczuk: “For example, I’m not speaking Russian, but I would understand 75 percent of what Silvi is saying, Silvi would understand 75 percent of what I’m speaking in Polish. Monika understands Russian. “It’s really hard to understand Lithuanian, though. No chance.”Uattara felt a friendship form among the three of them almost immediately, but her best friends Wlaszczuk and Salkute said that it took some time.“We didn’t know each other, and it was kind of weird,” Wlaszczuk said. “We just came and it was everything new. First you have meet people and know what are their personalities to know who you want to be your friend.”When they arrived in Syracuse, many of the players on the team lived far away from each other. Wlaszczuk lived with Uattara on South Campus last year and does again this year. Salkute is their next-door neighbor for the second consecutive year. Although Salkute does not physically live with them, Wlaszczuk said that she pretty much lives at their apartment.While they had many similarities and lived together, Wlaszczuk and Salkute both said that it really took them until after Winter Break to feel that bond that they had built throughout the course of the season.“We saw each other we jumped on each other,” Wlaszczuk said. “We missed each other.”“Now we realize,” Salkute interjected, “every evening we are all the time together. Going to classes together, having lunch together.”“We’re like cooking for each other,” Wlaszczuk said. “We’re like family, like sisters.”The three all come from different countries, but those countries’ cultures are more similar to each other than that of the United States. Living close by certainly helped their relationship grow, but the biggest reason they are now so tight is because of how easily they can relate to one another and the similar problems they go through.“We have the same problems, we’re thinking the same way. Even we would be like, ‘Oh my God, Americans,’” Wlaszczuk said, rolling her eyes. “It’s so much different and we have exactly same problems in Europe.”Head coach Leonid Yelin is also is from overseas — he was born in what was then the Soviet Union — and has been coaching and recruiting players for more than 25 years. Oftentimes, he even lands multiple players from the same country. But that does not always cause strong bonds between those athletes like the one Uattara, Salkute and Wlaszczuk share. “Sometimes you bring in two players from the same country and you expect they are going to be helping each other and close to each other,” Yelin said. “Absolutely not. They are not from the same country but somehow they, I don’t know, maybe it’s feeling like we all foreigners here.”Yelin has struggled to recruit American-born players in his brief career at Syracuse. He said it’s difficult to convince them to come to a program that hasn’t had much success and has outdated facilities.This is exactly why he recruits players like Uattara, Salkute and Wlaszczuk from overseas.“I can bring in international players,” Yelin said. “They’re going to come just because of me. From the coaches, from parents who’ve played for me. Their parents know what I can do for them, they know they can trust me. They’re going to send their kids.”None of the three specifically said that Yelin was the main reason they ended up at SU, but Yelin pushed hard to recruit in an area with which he’s familiar.Coming from somewhere in the United States can be hard, but it is a lot easier for Americans to contact their loved ones from home and to visit than it is for someone from Russia or Lithuania.Uattara admits that initially it was quite hard to be so far away from her family and that the time difference can make it hard to contact her loved ones.But it’s become easier now. For all three of them, it was hard at the start, but now they have each other.“It was big change to leave home for first time,” Wlaszczuk said. “I feel it’s much better that we have each other in Monika and Silvi. We’re all international at the same time.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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