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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A 'Non-Joiner' Helps Women's Club Grow

Lori Berliner, the new second vice president for Moscow's International Women's Club, is in one aspect like many of the 1,200 women she will be serving as an officer: She followed her husband to Moscow because he was offered a great, and demanding, job here.


Like many of the club's members, Berliner came to Moscow without a corporate job and the colleagues, activities and instant community that comes with such work. And she missed it.


"I've met a lot of women who were really depressed about being in Moscow," Berliner, 47, said in a recent interview, as her two daughters played upstairs. "It [IWC] is a really good way for women who are not working to meet other women who have the same interests as they do." Many of the club's activities take place during the day, which makes it less accessible to women who work outside the home.


Berliner said she rarely joined women's groups in New York City, where she lived before moving to Moscow. And although she's not ready to say the IWC saved her life, it certainly enhanced it.


"I'm not a joiner," Berliner said. "This is the first group I've ever joined. I came in the summer. I didn't meet anyone. At a party someone said, 'You have to join the International Women's Club,' and I said, 'Oh, God, do I really have to?' I didn't start out saying 'rah! rah!' It just sort of happened."


This year, Berliner said, the IWC is expecting 500 newcomers to join its existing 1,200 members. Besides the community it offers for newcomers, the IWC also has 80 special interest groups -- from tennis to flower arranging. But the biggest news the club will announce at the first annual meeting Thursday is the formation of IWC Charities.


IWC Charities replaces Action For Russia's Children, which split from the IWC at the end of 1995. Berliner said the new charity will include work with a soup kitchen, abused women and baby homes and orphanages.


Berliner, whose grandparents were Russian, is no stranger to living abroad. A U.S. citizen, Berliner was born in Beijing, China and grew up in South America until the age of 13, when her family moved to New York City. She attended New York University, where she pursued Russian Area Studies and later met her husband. After 12 years of married life -- she worked as a freelance writer, her husband in the stock market -- he answered an ad for a job in Russia.


"When I came here, I wasn't overly enthusiastic," Berliner said. "If I was in my 20s I would have come immediately. But it didn't seem quite as exciting when you have two little girls -- one was 2 and one was 6 -- it's just so much. I was ambivalent."


Now after 2 1/2 years in Moscow, Berliner is taking on the challenge of helping to shape Moscow's largest expatriate women's organizations.


"I'd like to see IWC Charities take off," she said. "I'd like us to continue being a source of providing interest to the women of expatriate society. I get very frustrated when I hear people complaining, 'Oh it's so awful here.'"