Where are you from and where have you lived?
USSR/Ukraine and the Isle of Man, UK.
Tell us about yourself—what path led you to becoming a Zegrahm Leader?
I always have been interested in travel. When I was young, I traveled a lot, to many parts of the USSR, and then as a concert pianist. When I moved to the Isle of Man (in 1998), as well as traveling on holidays and for concerts and lectures, I started lecturing on cruise ships in 1999, joining my husband Dr. Ian Stone, a historian par excellence, who already was an experienced lecturer in cruise industry. I was introduced to Zegrahm in 2005 by my husband, who already was working for Zegrahm as a lecturer. Zegrahm’s cruise around the British Isles made a stop at the Isle of Man in June 2005, anchoring at Port St Mary and I came on board for the after-dinner talk and concert. I loved the way Zegrahm does things from that first time, and I still do, 15 years later!
What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have?
I have been a ‘full-time’ concert pianist when I lived in the USSR/Ukraine, but as I already had a degree in Art History as well, I started lecturing on art-related subjects soon after I settled on the Isle of Man. I since have received MA degrees in History and Classics, and I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Classics.
I also teach modules on the European History from 1000AD to 1789 and on the Crusades for the University of Chester, and courses on Russian History and Classical History for the University College, Isle of Man. I was Head of Classics at King William’s College for many years and taught Arts History courses for the University of Liverpool.
What other fields are you passionate about?
Apart from art, music, and history I love playing bridge, I do charity work for various cancer organizations, and occasionally indulge myself by doing 1000 pieces puzzles. And I love animals, especially my rabbit Thumpus Secundus!
Do you have any awards, publications, appearances documentaries etc.?
As a teenager, I had taken part in many music and piano competitions in the USSR. Then family life took precedence, but as a concert pianist I had been on Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian television and radio many times. I also have been a guest of several radio programs in Europe—in Denmark, South Africa, Argentina, and several other countries, and was a guest of BBC twice.
What organizations are you a part of?
The Arts Society UK and Organists’ Association (Isle of Man).
What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Zegrahm?
I always look forward to Zegrahm trips as I know that the company, both guests and staff, will be interesting and engaging. Also there are often some special excursions to ‘out of the way’ places, even when visiting popular ports, and it makes travel with Zegrahm so exciting!
What is your favorite Zegrahm memory?
I have lectured on Zegrahm trips to many European destinations, but my special memory from the cruise to the White Sea in August 2007, when we were lucky to witness the blessing of the new set of the church bells on the main island of the Solovetsky Archipelago. There were many special visitors from Moscow Patriarchate, in their splendid golden vestments, and the sound of the newly blessed bells chiming over the holy islands is unforgettable.
Can you tell us about a time that you were on an expedition that ended up taking an unexpected turn or made an unexpected discovery that took you off the planned trail?
Of course, seeing the Patriarch of Moscow in Solovetsky in 2007 was special, but another unplanned highlight was in July 2017 on the Baltic cruise, in Saint-Petersburg, we saw the most spectacular arrival of the Chinese Navy ship.
What non-for-profits or causes do you support or feel strongly about?
I support Cancer Research UK, play concerts for their fundraising campaigns and give money from my music CDs to this charity. I also support Hospice on the Isle of Man, in the memory of my mother, who used it in her last months of life. And I support the Red Cross, as I remember what a lifeline their parcels were in impoverished Ukraine in 1990s. So all my Christmas checks are going to good places close to my heart!
What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?
Central America—I find its history and culture fascinating; Japan—so different, so dignified, I loved every minute of being there; Caucasus—such a small region with such rich history.
What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there?
Cambodia—I’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat, what a place; Vietnam and Cuba—I had several Vietnamese and Cuban course mates in Odessa Conservatoire, who were talking about their countries with such love that I have always wanted to see these places for myself.
What does being a part of the Zegrahm family mean to you?
I am proud to belong to the unique tribe of Zegrahmites, to be part of the company of like-minded people, both staff and guests, who meet on trips as if they only parted yesterday, who stay in touch between the trips, and who make the discovery of the world so much more exciting.
Who is the Zegrahm Explorer/Traveler?
To me a Zegrahmite is a person with inquiring mind, lateral thinking, the one who wants to see the world in all its variety—wildlife, natural wonders, architecture, music, national customs. Nothing is too much or too little, everything is interesting.
If you would like not just to travel ‘through’ the world, but ‘in’ the world—travel with Zegrahm. You’ll see the best places with the best people.