Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Russian Film Crew Visits Somersworth, NH and Berwick, ME

[From Jennifer Soldati at the Somersworth Chamber of Commerce:]

The local communities of Somersworth, NH and Berwick, ME will be the focal point for a Russian documentary film project that will tell the story of an American couple who became legendary during their thirty years in the Russian city of Vladivostok.  Frederick Shenstone Pray of Somersworth married Eleanor Lord of Berwick, and together with Frederick's sister and brother-in-law (the Smith's), they moved to Vladivostok, Russia in 1894.  Their purpose was to open an American store that sold products from the United States.  They originally intended to stay for only five years, but circumstances changed, and they remained in Russia for the next thirty plus years.  The four Americans are buried in Somersworth's Forest Glade Cemetery.

While living in Vladivostok Eleanor Pray wrote numerous letters to family and friends, two thousand of which are now preserved in the Library of Congress. Eleanor wrote vividly of both ordinary days and the extraordinary historic events that she witnessed (including wars and revolutions).  Her letters have preserved parts of Vladivostok's history that had been forgotten or suppressed.  To acknowledge her work, on the Fourth of July, 2014, the Mayor of Vladivostok (a city of nearly 600,000) unveiled a bronze statue of Eleanor Pray.  The City is planning a small museum in her honor in the former home of the four Americans in the center of the city overlooking the harbor.

Birgitta Ingemanson, who will be traveling with and assisting the Russian film crew during their stay, has written and edited several books based on the Eleanor Pray's letters.  Birgitta is a Professor Emerita from Washington State University and an expert on Russian history and culture.  She and the well-known Russian film maker, Sergey Mayorov, hope to meet with descendants of the two families along with members of the Old Berwick and Somersworth Historical Societies.  They also plan to visit the two family's homes; the Pray's lived at "Echo Farm," now known as Malley Farm in Somersworth, and the Lord's lived at "Elm Wold" on Sawmill Hill in Berwick.  The film crew will be in New Hampshire and Maine from October 7th – 13th.  Somersworth's Mayor, Dana Hilliard, will attend a tribute to the four Americans at Forest Glade Cemetery on Thursday, October 8th at 11:00 a.m., and the public is welcome to attend.