CamRuSS Trustees


Sayara Thompson

Sayara holds an MSc in Computer Engineering from Tashkent State Technical University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science from Essex University. Currently, Sayara works as a Programme Manager in the Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School where she runs short-term entrepreneurship programmes. Her previous roles involved working in Alumni Relations and teaching programme administration.

Sayara spent two years working in a telecommunication company in the US. She also worked as an Information Officer at the British Embassy in Uzbekistan, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Volunteers programme. In these organisations, she gained a broad experience of working with government departments, educational and cultural organisations, and the general public. She hopes that her experience, knowledge and expertise will be useful to CamRuSS.

Sayara has been a volunteer for CamRuSS for the past 6 years, involved in many projects with war veterans, has organised Treasure Hunts, a Quiz and the Russian Film Weeks.

Sayara can contribute to CamRuSS in the following capacity: to lead on Membership development; to plan a strategy for building cooperation with different organisations, events organisation and engagement with volunteers and general support and promotion of CamRuSS events.

KSENIA AFONINA – Vice Chair and CamRuSS for Ukrainians Project Lead 

Ksenia Afonina

Ksenia Afonina

Ksenia holds an MSc and PhD in Economics (St Petersburg University of Economics & Finance), CIM Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing, MBA (Georg-Ohm University), Diploma in Digital Marketing (IDM) and MA in Arts Policy & Management (Birkbeck College). She accumulated over 20 years of experience while working in marketing and business development and most recently has been actively involved in delivering consulting services to the creative industries.

For the last 10 years as an independent scholar and curator, Ksenia researched unofficial art of the Second World War and worked on cross-cultural exhibitions of art and memories conceived by the active participants and witnesses of wartime. In addition to her research interests she shares belief that artworks, conceived by unofficial artists during the war have a strong potential to serve as a vehicle of both individual and cultural memories, promoting empathy and better understanding between people and nations in our fractious time.

Ksenia took on the role of CamRuSS President in 2011 following in the steps of Tanya Yurasova (8 years) and previous President Marina Burrell (3 years).

Ksenia would like to continue applying her experience and knowledge of the field to further develop the Society into a successful and financially viable CIO and deliver support in the following areas:

  • External communications;
  • Attracting external funding;
  • Building new partnerships;
  • Generating new ideas and attracting contributors for cross-cultural events and projects;
  • Further increasing awareness about CamRuSS and strengthening its image in Cambridge, the UK and Russia.

EKATERINA ONATSKAIA – Membership Officer

Ekaterina Onatskaia

Ekaterina Onatskaia

Ekaterina graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University and also holds a degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, NY. While teaching at a number of primary and secondary schools, she also worked in Russian schools, first in New York City, and more recently in Cambridge. Ekaterina currently works at Newnham Croft Primary School during the week and at the Cambridge Russian Academy (CRA) on Saturdays.

She is keen to assist with strengthening relations between CRA and CamRuSS by promoting CamRuSS events in the academy, helping in organising joint events and concerts that are catered to families.

Ekaterina will assist in promoting public interests and strengthening the profile of CamRuSS within the wider community – both in the UK and overseas; searching for new partnerships and joint projects which help to fulfil its charitable objectives.


Olga Starobinskaya

Olga Starobinskaya

Olga is a Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA).  She holds BSc and MSc in Economics and also in NVQ Level 5 in Health and Social Care.  Olga is currently a Finance Director in the NHS primary care organisation and a community pharmacy and also sits on the Board of Directors.

As a new Treasurer, Olga is keen to ensure that the Charity’s finances are transparent and that the Trustees raise sufficient funds to support the important objectives of the Cambridge Russian Speaking Charity.   Olga is also promoting the Charity as a great networking platform for members and the local Russian speaking community united by the “kind, caring and supporting” nature.

She will fulfil her role as a Trustee and Treasurer of CamRuSS and take a lead on:

  • Making sure the charity keeps accurate accounts;
  • Reviewing the charity’s financial performance;
  • Ensuring that the charity has effective financial controls in place;
  • Liaising with independent examiners for an audit on a regular basis;
  • Providing interim and end of year financial reports to the Board of Trustees, the members and the Charity Commission;
  • Making sure the charity’s assets are used only to support or carry out its purposes;
  • Protecting the Society from exposure to any inappropriate risks with the charity’s assets or reputation;
  • Submitting Gift Aid reports to HMRC;
  • Taking special care when investing or borrowing;
  • Complying with any restrictions on spending funds

ANDREI BEJAN – Music Events and IT Assistance

Andrei Bejan

Andrei Bejan

Andrei holds a degree in mathematics and a PhD in Statistics (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 2010). He worked both in academia and industry, and he is skilled in designing, building and analysing performance of complex systems. Andrei’s academic and consultancy work includes projects on communication, transportation, defence, agricultural and energy systems. He is currently building optimisation and decision-support tools for Great Britain’s electricity system operator (National Grid ESO) helping to keep the lights on efficiently while keeping balancing costs down which has a considerable societal impact.

As a trustee member of Cambridge Russian School, Andrei is keen to further contribute to facilitating relations between the two charities (Cambridge Russian School and Cambridge Russian Speaking Society) and help to conceive, discuss, and organise cultural, academic and community events that would be of interest to the Russian speaking community of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire. Andrei is especially keen on helping with organising music events and liaising with the Ukrainian speaking community. Other help can include IT assistance or advice.

OLGA TUTUBALINA – Trustee, Events and Technical Support

Olga Tutubalina

Olga is a geographer specialised in the Arctic and mountains and how they are affected by climate change. Her first degree was in Geography and Cartography from M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University. She then read for an MPhil in GIS and Remote Sensing at the Department of Geography and Trinity College, University of Cambridge, followed by a PhD in Polar Remote Sensing at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI). After a few years of a Research Fellowship at Trinity Hall and SPRI, she returned to Moscow to start a family and a research career at Moscow State University. Twenty years later, she is back in Cambridge, restarting her life and research career at the Scott Polar Research Institute and in the UK. Olga’s studies so far have been on forests and tundra in Fennoscandia, North-Central and Eastern Siberia, volcanoes in Kamchatka, glaciers, glacial lakes and debris flows in the Central Caucasus, the Pamir Mountains, the Tien Shan, the St Elias Mountains and the Cordillera Blanca, agricultural fields in the Central European Plain and Central Asia.

Olga brings to CamRuSS her experience in managing projects and organising events, as well as extensive knowledge of Russian geography and connections with experts in this field.

She has been assisting with various CamRuSS activities helping Ukrainian refugees, including an information helpline, Telegram chat, help with writing CVs and employment, advice on school and university education, and technical support of hybrid cultural adaptation meetings.

In 2023, she will also curate a lecture series on the Geographies of Russia.

ALLA VIKTOROVA – Trustee, Events and PR

Alla Viktorova

Alla graduated from Moscow State University, Faculty of Journalism, and holds a degree in Russian literature and Russian language. While studying at the university she started to work as a journalist for a daily national newspaper in the news department and covered many Russian news events (including the terrorist attack in the Beslan school and the Nord-Ost siege). She continued to work as a journalist and later as an editor and a Managing Editor for Russian national newspapers and monthly magazines. During her last 8 years in Russia, Alla headed the editorial office of a Russian business magazine and was responsible for all the content produced by the magazine’s authors as well as promoting the magazine among its target audiences. She participated in organising many business events (workshops, talks, conferences, debates) on retail, Public Relations, management, and marketing.

Alla accumulated expertise in online promotion while being a content writer for a retail company. She was responsible for writing analytical articles on trends and developments in the retail industry, white papers for the company’s clients, email newsletters for subscribers and posts for the company’s page on Facebook.

On arrival in Cambridge Alla started delivering Russian lessons, always trying to provide her students with a full picture of the events taking place in Russia’s political, economic, and social life.

Alla helped to run a Russian-English online conversation group in 2020/21 and recently became an active volunteer for CamRuSS, realising initiatives focused on supporting Ukrainian refugees in Cambridgeshire. She is also involved with organising cultural adaptation events and helps to coordinate ESOL classes.

She will assist with organising and promoting CamRuSS events, writing and translating texts and media pieces as well as securing funds for CamRuSS Ukraine initiatives among other charitable activities for the benefit of the local community.

ALEXANDRA (SASHA) ARGUNOVA – Trustee, Safeguarding Lead

Alexandra Argunova

Sasha holds an MA in Social Work from Warwick University as well as a BA in Business and German from University of Birmingham. Sasha was born and lived in Saint Petersburg until 2002 when she came to complete her A-levels in Somerset, UK. While studying for her undergraduate degree, she co-ordinated a number of volunteering projects and became passionate about working with people in difficult circumstances. Sasha qualified as a social worker in 2012 and since then she has worked in child protection, working for Edinburgh City Council and Cambridge City council. She has gained extensive experience in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

Sasha took on responsibility as a Dedicated Safeguarding Lead at CamRuSS in summer 2022. In her role Sasha is responsible for safeguarding issues at events and activities organised by CamRuSS.

Sasha will continue to deliver regular training for volunteers, and review and update Safeguarding Policy in line with the current governmental guidelines.


Sayana Namsarayeva

Sayana Namsaraeva is a Senior Research Associate at the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit, Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.   After graduating in China Studies at the University of Saint Petersburg, she did her MA degree in Comparative Ethnography at National Chengchi University (Taipei).  She was awarded a PhD degree  in Political and Cultural History of Pre-modern China at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Moscow, RAS), held research positions at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology  (Halle, Germany) and taught as a lecturer at the Institute for Studies of Religions at the University of Bern (Switzerland).

Throughout her academic career spanning over twenty years, her research interests embrace a wide range of topics in  China and Mongolia studies,  Continental Colonialism and Border Studies, with a particular attention to Borders and Borderlands in Inner Asia. She teaches a course on ‘Borders and Borderlands in North Asia’ for Inner Asia Paper at the Department of Social Anthropology. In an effort to address environmental challenges, she also pursues a practice-oriented agenda with a focus on natural resource management – transnational waters and foraging Siberian medical plants during times of global health crises. In addition to her research interests, Sayana  has a number of international PhD students, including students from Russia, and she facilitates  scholarly academic and students exchange between the UK and international scholars doing research in Inner Asia.

Sayana was recently promoted as a member of the  CamRuSS’ Board of Trustees after the introduction of a number of successful initiatives hosted by the CamRuss to support Ukrainian guests in Cambridge. As well as supporting CamRuss, she is also one of the founders of the Cambridge Mongolian-speaking Society – two distinctive cultures she equally belongs to.

Sayana sees her contribution to CamRuss in promoting multiethnic and multi regional diversity of  historical and present day society in Russia, as well as in attracting to CamRuss activities more of the UK based researchers doing research in Russia and in the Post-Soviet space.  Specifically, she is involved in generating new ideas and strategies  to attract potential contributors for cross-cultural events and projects; in increasing UK public awareness about current anthropological research of  Russia.

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