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PC native returns for visit from Russia

By Staff
Melissa Cason
Franklin County Times
PHIL CAMPBELL – A native of Phil Campbell has spent the last four years working for the Corp of Engineers in Russia and recently came to Phil Campbell to visit with family.
Van Pinion said that he never had big dreams of moving far away as a child. In fact, he wanted to stay close to family and friends after receiving an engineering degree from Auburn University.
"I wanted to stay close to home," Pinion said. "I didn't look for work outside of north Alabama."
But, Pinion's changed his mind about keeping his roots in Phil Campbell when he was offered the opportunity to travel to Russia and help the Corps of Engineers oversee the construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility.
"They [Russia] had a stockpile of chemical weapons left over from the Cold War, and we are helping them build a place to safely destroy them," Pinion said.
He added that he decided to go to Russia because the country was a mystery to him, and he wanted to see what the country was like since the end of the Cold War.
"When you grow up in the 1960s, you can't help but wonder about what Russia was like because they were such a threat to us back then," Pinion said.
But, what Pinion found was a country that has been deeply influenced by Americans.
Pinion's fianc/e Yulia Pozhar, who is a Russian citizen, said that the country craved the American culture because before the Communists lost their grip on the country, Russian citizens could only have things from other socialist countries.
"At first, it was very difficult after the Cold War ended, but it was something our country had to go through," Pozhar said. "Now, Russia has influences from America and Europe that we did not have before."
Pinion said that Russians watch American movies, eat American food, and buy American products, so it wasn't too much of a culture shock to him.
"I've really grown to appreciate the Russian people," Pinion said. "They are a caring, outgoing people but they are reserved."
He added that the main cultural difference in the Russian people is the fact that they don't smile as much as Americans. Russian's don't smile in pictures, or at one another on the street.
"We like to have a serious look in our pictures," Pozhar said. "I like the smiling…I like it so much."
Pinion said that he is set to return home to Huntsville at the end of this year, and at some point, he and Pozhar will be married.