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Russian twins live China dream

By Wu Yong and Liu Ce in Shenyang  (China Daily)

11:26, March 24, 2013

Two sisters settle down in Shenyang and call it a city full of opportunity

Like many other late 20-somethings in Shenyang, Vera and Tomara Kulebyakina dream of buying an apartment in the city.

"We love Shenyang and we want to live here, but we can't afford to buy an apartment," says Vera, the elder of the two 29-year-old Russian sisters from Barnaul, administrative center of Russia's Altai Krai.

They have lived in Liaoning's capital for eight years, working for Shenyang Brilliant Elevator Co. Vera is responsible for product sales to Russia, while Tomara is a technical data translator.

"We do like our jobs here and working together in Shenyang makes us happy. Opportunities are scarce back home," Tomara says.

The twins majored in international relations at Altai State University in 2000 and initially chose English as their foreign language.

"English letters are similar to the Chinese phonetic system and we were very lucky the school opened a Chinese-language course - even though our teacher wasn't that good," says Vera, explaining how they started learning Mandarin.

At first it was a challenge, they say, but their mom encouraged them to keep at it and the more they learned the more they liked the language.

In order to practice speaking the language and at the behest of their parents the twins went to Shenyang's Northeastern University in 2004.

"We knew little about China at that time and were afraid of leaving our parents," Tomara says.

"I sobbed in our mom's arms when I was about to leave," Vera admits. "But we never regretted the move because we like traditional Chinese culture and its values, which suit our characters."

Liaoning Provincial Education Bureau data shows 2,847 Russian students studied in the province in 2011. That makes Russia the second largest source of foreign students in the province, after South Korea.

After graduation in June 2006, the twins decided to start their careers in China, but initially couldn't find a job and had to leave the country for three months before getting new visas.

The twins then returned to Shenyang and attended every job fair they could, in addition to sending out their resumes to prospective employers.

Tomara landed a job first in January 2007. Then Vera earned a chance of interview at Shenyang Brilliant Elevator Co Ltd and was hired. Two months later, Tomara quit her job and joined her elder sister in the company.

"Russian employees will improve our service quality and keep in close touch with our Russian customers," says Cui Guangyu, Russian regional president of Shenyang Brilliant Elevator Co.

Shenyang Brilliant is among the top five elevator manufacturers in China. The company entered the Russian market in 2004 and at the end of 2012 had sold 2,500 elevators there.

"We like the working environment here. For example, there are meet-and-send buses and a wonderful cafeteria for employees. All these benefits are rare in Russia," Vera says.

"They are diligent workers. Sometimes they work overtime till the early morning because of the time difference between the two countries," Cui adds.

In their spare time, the twins like to stay at home, do housework and listen to Chinese music.

"She likes Zhao Benshan while I prefer Xiao Shenyang (both famous comedians). And we both like Emil Wakin Chau's songs," Tomara says.

"In fact, when we were in Russia, a friend sent me Chau's tapes as a gift. I like his songs so much that I listen to them nearly every day," Vera says.

Both twins say they are looking for Chinese boyfriends, but admit they miss their parents.

"They like Chinese tea so we bring them some every time we go back. We bought our father a Tang-suit as a birthday gift when we returned in February. He was so happy about it," Tomara says.

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