Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Charity's New Start Feted at Brasserie

Dixie Thornton of the United States knows a few things about children and charity.

She was among the 200 guests who attended a fund-raiser for Action for Russia's Children, or ARC, at the Brasserie du Soleil restaurant Sunday. The fund-raiser was also timed to mark ARC's recent registration as an official charity in the United Kingdom -- a development the group's public relations officer, Emily Glentworth, said should untangle some of the red tape for the charity in Russia.

That will make Thornton's volunteer work easier. She said in the five years she and her husband, Jack, who works for Conoco, have lived in Moscow she has become addicted to her charity work and regularly visits two institutes, including the Tomilino Shelter for physically and sexually abused children south of Moscow.

She said she's very comfortable working with children. "I find it easier to work with foreign children when there's a language barrier, particularly when performing play therapy where sophisticated language isn't required," she said.

Thornton said in the two years she's been going to Tomilino there has been a progressively improving relationship between ARC and the institute's director, Irina Viktorina.

"At the start Irina had been guarded about foreign involvement, advice, medicine," Thornton said, "but now we've created a fantastic rapport, and she's not afraid to say what she needs for the children: warm boots, for example."

Thornton was full of praise for Viktorina, who she said, "loves the kids like they were her own children."

One girl who was placed in a foster home still calls Viktorina and asked to come back to Tomilino, saying, "You're my real family."

Having a Ball, Kilts and All

Also attending ARC's fund-raiser were two gentleman involved in the upcoming St. Andrew's Society charity ball Nov. 29.

Scotsman Tom Crozier will head it up as honorary chieftain at this year's ball, and Michael O'Leary of Cork -- "the real capital" of Ireland, he claims -- who is the sales and marketing manager at Moscow Cash and Carry Mozhaisk importers, is helping organize the event.

Judging from Crozier's sense of humor, the ball won't be too formal. Describing how to reach his hometown of Galloway, Crozier said, "You cross the border from England, make a left, drive until you see a lot of sheep, keep going until you see more sheep than people, and then you've made it."

Though the St. Andrew's Society's mission is to promote Scottish culture abroad, there won't only be Scots at the party. For example, O'Leary said he's "the first Irish man on a Scottish committee."

Will he lend an emerald touch to the black-tie and kilt ball? "I guarantee there will be some bottles of Irish whiskey there," he said.

For his part, Crozier assured there would be haggis.

Dusk-to-Dawn Toast to Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino's movies were the inspiration for Moscow's newest dining and dance club.

"This Tarantino theme is really hot, especially in Moscow. You take some ideas, collect them and then try to realize the interpretation," Sergei Kouniev, project director for the Dusk Till Dawn club.

An "interpretation" it is indeed. At Thursday's opening it was evident that Dawn Till Dusk is as eclectic in design as it is Tarantinoesque. Aside from boasting photos of many Hollywood directors and stars, a dark stone-and-wood interior and a jade and peach color scheme reminiscent of a slick Tarantino set, Dusk Till Dawn is strikingly varied, particularly with its Aztec-style doorways and statuettes.

The men behind this interpretation, San Francisco developer Dominique Berhouet and Moscow architect Edward Ovsepian, also were on hand for the opening.

Ovsepian, looking academic with his smooth-shaven head and wire-rimmed glasses, added a touch of humor to his impeccable gray suit: a surprisingly subtle stars-and-stripes necktie in honor of the American Tarantino.

"I am a fan of his films," Ovsepian said. "I am an admirer of his stylish approach but also of the colors and style of Mexico -- things that can fit together well."

Berhouet, who described his role as opening "restaurants for owners and then I leave; I develop concepts in food, menus, systems and controls, and then I leave."" He said he has high hopes for the new club.

The crowd was divided between Russians and foreigners on opening night and was entertained by veteran blues rockers Moralny Kodeks as well as by frequent repetitions of the twist-contest "Teenage Wedding" song from Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack.

Jazzman Going Strong

Well-known expatriate and jazz/blues singer Tim Strong is going, well, strong. Not only has he just finished recording his latest album, "Precious Heart," but he has also had a steady schedule of performances in Mosocw, including ARC's fund-raiser and the recent opening of Rossini's restaurant.

Strong said his new album will contain mainly original compositions and "will have a lot more spiritual content -- part of what I'm feeling."

Emotions are running high in Strong's family since his wife, Jane Coombe, New Zealand's deputy ambassador to Russia, gave birth to their 10-month-old son Connor Ambrose, to whom the "Precious Heart" album is dedicated.

Strong, who performs in Russia more than a dozen times a month, said he thinks his work is an important part of bringing jazz and blues here.

The Pittsburgh native's hopes for his bandmates mirror those of many Western business people who come to Moscow: that his colleagues will reach Western standards. He wants his Russian backup band to play as well as his studio musicians back home, well enough to join him on future recording sessions in New York, where "Precious Heart" was recorded.

"I think it's much more attractive to go to the West with a band," he said. "I think that's extremely exotic, as exotic as it is for me to be here."

Strong said his Moscow band has made progress. "At the beginning people were coming to me and saying, 'Tim, you're great,' and now they're saying, 'You've got a great band,'" he said.

Thanks for the Memoires

Eigil Koefoed recently left his comfortable home in Copenhagen and journeyed to a wintry Moscow for the unveiling of a 52-year-old book.

Koefoed was following in the footsteps of the book's author, his grandfather's uncle and godfather, Karl Andreas Kofad, who first came to Russia in 1878 and who, during his retirement in Denmark decades later, wrote an account of his life here titled "Fifty Years in Russia."

At a recent ceremony organized by the Danish Embassy, the first Russian-language version of the memoir was presented. Koefoed credits former Russian ambassador to Denmark, Alexei Obukov, and his wife, Olga, with bringing the book to Russia.

"They said it would be an inspiration for the authorities," Koefoed said. "They saw the similarities in the changes occurring at the turn of the century in 1900 and the situation the country is facing today."

The change that the pioneering Kofad was working toward was land reform. Educated at the Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Copenhagen, Kofad served in the administration of Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, advocating the breakup of common land and estates into smaller plots.

Koefoed, who was 12 years old when his godfather died in 1948 at the age of 92, has fond memories of the man.

"He would tell about events that were completely foreign to people at home. He was a typical adventurer," Koefoed said. "From him I received a deep understanding of how difficult it was for him to have come here. You can't change such a society from one day to another -- unless it's by revolution, and we don't want that."

Wintertime Stars to Burn Bright

As the nights are turning colder, the stars are becoming more visible. Two are due to perform at the Kremlin Palace in the near future.

The first to bring his glittery act to Moscow will be English pop star Rod Stewart for two shows next Sunday and Monday, while American singer and actress Liza Minelli returns to the Russian capital after two years for concerts Dec. 13 and 14.

Minelli, 51, best known as daughter of actress Judy Garland and for her own role as a stage and film actress -- she won an Oscar in 1968 for "Cabaret."

She released her most recent album, "Gently," in 1996, a year after she had a scare when doctors thought she might have throat cancer.