by Le Thanh Binh*
|With gratitude: Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Do Quy Doan, on behalf of the Vietnamese Government, presented the Friendship Order to Professor Dr Yassen Zassoursky at a ceremony in Russia's Moscow. — Photos coutersy of Le Thanh Binh.
More than 20 years after we finished our journalism training course at Lomonosov State University, also known as MGU, we returned to Russia for the first time.
When we arrived in Moscow, the city where we had lived for almost four years, we saw that the city was much larger and more crowded. But we still felt a deep connection to the city's people.
Led by Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Do Quy Doan, we arrived in the Russian capital to attend a ceremony to present the Friendship Order to Prof Dr Yassen Zassoursky, head of Russia's Journalism Faculty at Lomonosov State University, for his contributions to Viet Nam's education and personnel training.
At the ceremony, the Viet Nam Diplomatic Academy also granted a honorary doctorate to Zassoursky for his work in training generations of journalists from the academy.
Zassoursky, who has written dozens of books and spoken about international journalism at major seminars and forums in the US, the UK and Northern Europe, said it was an honour to contribute to Viet Nam's educational development and help strengthen the traditional friendship between the two countries.
We all were very happy to see each other. Prof Zassaursky, who was 50 years old when he taught us, had gotten older but was still healthy. He still remembered our classmates Dinh The Huynh, who was injured at Quang Tri during the American War and was most affected by Russia's severe cold; Dong Quang Tien, a soldier on the southern front during the war and was a much better student than others; and Le Phuc Nguyen, who spoke Russian the most fluently.
Zassoursky recalled that in 2010 when he arrived in Viet Nam on a meeting with his Vietnamese students, Huynh asked to keep his felt coat as a keepsake and present him with a new one.
Zassourky agreed, but he stipulated that his new felt coat be made in Viet Nam. He said he would not worry about winter with Huynh's new felt coat.
When we enrolled at the MGU in 1980, we had four returned soldiers: Dong Quang Tien, Dinh The Huynh, Do Quy Doan and me, Le Thanh Binh.
I was the youngest; Tien was the oldest. He had spent 10 years fighting on the southern front before liberation of South Viet Nam on April 30, 1975.
Before the four of us arrived, MGU's Journalism Department usually received only two Vietnamese students.
Tran Dang Tuan, a famous TV journalist who finished his MGU course one year earlier than us, still keeps a list of international graduates from the university which includes many Vietnamese.
|In good company: Professor Zassoursky with his students by the statue of M.V.Lomonosov in the yard of Lomonosov State University.
During our first month of studying at the university, we were very confused by many things such as how to fill out administrative forms or how to use a knife at table. Zussoursky was always willing to help us even though he was very busy.
Zussoursky often asked me whether I suffered from the fierce winter in Russia. He asked me about the windows in my room, reminding me that I should carefully stick thick papers over them in order to avoid getting severely cold and ill.
"Winter in Russia is very harsh, so you should wear warm clothes when going out and drink warm water to prevent colds," the professor often told me.
Most importantly, he helped us to improve our Russian pronunciation and skills, advising us to practise short phases and sentences first before using long ones.
He praised my class mates Tien and Doan for having the "most interesting pronunciation".
He also taught us the history of journalism and analysed journalism's influence on international relations.
"I can help you to create an intellectual tree, but you should create branches, leaves and fruit for the tree to fully develop," Zassoursky told us.
To do this, he suggested we read more current literature, letting us borrow books from his own library.
Although Zassoursky looks simple and modest, he is very famous in the international press. In 2004, I worked with Prof Michael Park, head of the Mass Media Department of the University of South California.
When he found out I was a student of Zassoursky, Prof Park expressed his respect for Zassoursky and said he was ready to help me.
As a result of his work with both Vietnamese and other foreign students, Zassoursky received an award from UNESCO in 1996 for his contribution to educational development.
Many of Zassoursky's Vietnamese students have become outstanding journalists. They have gone on to train the next generation of their country's journalists.
I will never forget Zassourky's words: a journalist should analyse events with a sense of what is right.
The most important task of the press is to win the belief of many people, Zassoursky always told us.
Discussing journalism trends, Zassoursky said journalists should make sure to interview a variety of sources, avoiding writing a monologue as reporters did in the past.
Today, when I think about Russia, I often sketch Prof Zassoursky, who represents for me this beautiful country and people. — VNS
* Head of the Diplomatic Academy's Department of Communications and External Relations'.