The Destination Experts

MIR Near & Far

Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Our expert travel planners whether here or in the field representing affiliated partner offices are exceptionally well-traveled and extremely knowledgeable about our destinations. We couple an unrivaled depth of experience with an unmitigated enthusiasm for culture, history, language and geography.

This wealth of experience, personal connections and intuition benefits our clients immeasurably.

Douglas Grimes
President and Co-founder
Annie Lucas
Vice President
Dmitry Rudich
Director of Custom Group Tours
Anne Thorsteinson
Senior Account Manager, Custom Group Tours
Andrew Barron
Director of Service & Support
Joanna Millick
Director of Sales
Amy enjoying the autumn colors at Haghartshin Monastery in Armenia. Photo credit: Amy Stidger
Amy Stidger
Sales Manager
Liz Tollefson
Marketing Director
Jered Gorman
Director of Air Travel/Logistics
Rebecca Morris
Office/Accounting Assistant
Jake Smith
Special Projects
Katya Boyarskaya
Director, St. Petersburg Operations
Elena Kostzova
St. Petersburg Operations
Evgenia Hansen
St. Petersburg Operations
Julia Snigiryova
St. Petersburg Operations
Katya Prozorovskaya
St. Petersburg Operations
Natalia Ryadovkina
Natalia Ryadovkina
St. Petersburg Operations
Luba Rudenko
Director, Ukraine Operations
John Seckel
Director, Moscow Operations
Janna Khaimovskaya
Moscow Operations
Lena Sukhova
Moscow Operations
Mikhail Gerasimov
Director, Central Asia Operations
Alexander Uryupin
Central Asia Operations
Andrey Bayev
Central Asia Operations
Dmitry Kim
Central Asia Operations
Elvira Nadirova
Elvira Nadirova
Central Asia Operations
Abdu Samadov
Central Asia Operations
Vladimir Kvashnin
Director, Siberia Operations
Lida Sherstobitova
Siberia Operations
Natasha Suzdalnitskaya
Siberia Operations
Nataly Chuprova
Nataly Chuprova
Siberia Operations
Oksana Sokolova
Siberia Operations
Xenya Suranova
Siberia Operations
Aleks Bekauri
South Caucasus Operations
Tvalta Sitchinava
Tvalta Sitchinava
South Caucasus Operations

Traveler Reviews

  • "I’ve always been impressed with the way each of my trips has been planned and how smoothly everything has gone. Thank you for your attention to detail."

    P. Howell

    Sumter, SC

    Close close

    Douglas Grimes

    President and Co-founder

    Douglas was inspired to grow the company after traveling to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s on a goodwill exchange between members of the Soviet Olympic volleyball team and players of the sport from 11 U.S. states. He has made over 100 trips to our destinations and is a member of the Explorers Club. Whether exploring archaeological sites in Central Asia and the Caucasus or leading “Inside the Russian Space Program” tours to the Baikonur space launch site, Douglas’s trips have spanned MIR’s destinations since our inception in 1986. 

    Recent travels include Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

    Annie Lucas

    Vice President

    Annie Lucas has been with the company since the very early years. Her background in Russian & Eastern European studies serves her in her role overseeing company-wide operations, systems, and product development. With a passion for out-of-the-way places (favorites include Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), Annie personally scouts emerging destinations and has an extensive travel history. She represents the company at industry trade events in the U.S. and around the globe.

    Recent travels include Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

    Dmitry Rudich

    Director of Custom Group Tours

    Dmitry Rudich grew up in Ukraine and traveled in his home country as well as Russia, the South Caucasus, and Turkey before coming to the U.S. for an international business degree. Since then, he has been from Minsk to Moscow to Vladivostok, across the snow-capped mountains of Tajikistan, and throughout Eastern China. Most recently, he traversed Central Asia with a contingent of Land Rovers and crossed Turkey from Lake Van to Istanbul by train.

    Anne Thorsteinson

    Senior Account Manager, Custom Group Tours

    Anne Thorsteinson earned her bachelor’s in Russian language and history at the University of Washington, followed by a master’s in international relations.

    She has studied Russian in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok, lived in Budapest, and traveled throughout Central Europe, Central Asia, the Baltics, Balkans, and Russia. Most recently, Anne spent time in Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

    Andrew Barron

    Director of Service & Support

    Andrew Barron studied Chinese and Russian in college and spent a year living and working outside of Beijing. His travels have taken him across China from Xi’an to Lhasa, on an extended overland expedition from Shanghai to Urumqi, through Chinese Turkestan, and from Western Russia to Mongolia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan at the heart of Central Asia.

    Joanna Millick

    Director of Sales

    Joanna Millick was born in Warsaw and speaks a host of Slavic languages. Her experience in Poland as a tour manager complements her master’s degree in international studies. She has led groups through the Balkans and along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Joanna is our resident expert on Jewish Heritage tours in East and Central Europe, and has led tours to Holocaust sites in Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. She most recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates.

    Amy Stidger

    Sales Manager

    Amy Stidger hails from Texas where she earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. She has studied Russian in Moscow and Voronezh, Eastern Armenian in Yerevan, and has traveled around Europe, Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Her recent travels include Georgia and Azerbaijan.

    Liz Tollefson

    Marketing Director

    Liz Tollefson grew up in Delaware, where she earned a degree in mass media communication. Her love of adventure, the arts, and the internet brought her west to Seattle, where she has found a way to combine all of them at MIR. Liz has explored Western Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania as well as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

    Jered Gorman

    Director of Air Travel/Logistics

    Jered Gorman was born in Seoul and lived in the Netherlands and Germany as a child before settling in the Pacific Northwest. Jered studied in Guilin toward a degree in Chinese studies, and he has traveled throughout China, Mongolia, Southeast and Central Asia, Europe, Turkey, and Georgia. 

    Rebecca Morris

    Office/Accounting Assistant

    Rebecca Morris was born and raised on a small farm in Washington State with 10 horses of her own. She recently returned to the Seattle area after spending five years in Anchorage, Alaska, working with a center that specializes in treating patients with PTSD. Rebecca has traveled extensively around the globe, including several MIR destinations — the Balkans, Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

    Jake Smith

    Special Projects

    Jake Smith earned a degree in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Washington. While working on his degree, Jake’s participation in two study-abroad programs in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan reinforced his passion for Central Asia. Jake went on to spend six years supporting educational and cultural exchange programs in Central Asia with an international nonprofit, four years of which were based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. His most recent travels include China, the South Caucasus, and Kamchatka.

    Katya Boyarskaya

    Director, St. Petersburg Operations

    Katya Boyarskaya was born in St. Petersburg into a theatrical family, graduating as a drama theater critic and historian from the College of Theatrical Arts. Besides theater, English language has always been her passion. In Soviet times, Katya’s hobby was guiding for Intourist during vacations as a way to meet native English speakers. During perestroika, her hobby became her job; she has worked with MIR for more than 20 years as a guide, tour manager, and now director of the St. Petersburg office.

    Elena Kostzova

    St. Petersburg Operations

    Lena is chief accountant in MIR’s St. Petersburg office, where she has worked for more than 10 years. Earlier, Lena’s career focused on trade show business, but she prefers the travel business most of all, as she helps bring people together on MIR tours. In her free time Lena enjoys gardening at her dacha, where she spends time with her family and hosting guests.

    Evgenia Hansen

    St. Petersburg Operations

    Born and raised in Soviet Leningrad, Evgenia Hansen earned a Master’s Degree in Art History from St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Art. A one-time resident of Denmark, Evgenia is fluent in both Danish and Russian, and she has traveled throughout Europe pursuing her love of art history. In her free time Evgenia likes to study Russian history and escape the city to enjoy nature.

    Julia Snigiryova

    St. Petersburg Operations

    Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Julia graduated from St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University with a master’s degree in state and local management. Fluent in Russian, English, and Ukrainian, she has lived in Ukraine and traveled throughout Eastern Europe. Her favorite travel destination is Thailand. She is a huge fan of mountain biking and currently aims to learn how to snowboard.

    Katya Prozorovskaya

    St. Petersburg Operations

    A St. Petersburg native, Katya Prozorovskaya has proudly called this city home for all of her life. After graduating from St. Petersburg University, Katya worked in several different professions, but her love for travel inspired her to seek out a career where she could pursue this lifelong passion. She now works in MIR’s St. Petersburg office and continues to travel to various destinations around the globe. In her free time, she enjoys attending performances at St. Petersburg’s fantastic music and theater venues, as well as spending time at her dacha with her husband and daughter.

    Natalia Ryadovkina

    St. Petersburg Operations

    Natalia Ryadovkina hails from the far northern city of Arkhangelsk, Russia, where she graduated in 2007 from Pomor State University with a degree in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, specializing in English and French. Natalia has since relocated to St. Petersburg, Russia where she built over a decade of hospitality experience working with several upscale hotels prior to joining our team. Natalia is a life-long student of foreign languages and history, and she enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.

    Luba Rudenko

    Director, Ukraine Operations

    Luba Rudenko is, first and foremost, Ukrainian. Fluent in Ukrainian, English, Czech, and Russian, Luba graduated from the Foreign Language Department of Uzhgorod State University in western Ukraine. She led tours for nearly two decades in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and has traveled extensively as a tour manager across all the former Soviet countries as well as India, Malaysia, Turkey, and beyond.

    John Seckel

    Director, Moscow Operations

    In 1997, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Madison with a BA in Russian and International Relations, John Seckel moved to Moscow and has lived there ever since. After a year of teaching English, he took a job with a non-profit organization focusing on international education, facilitating travel/study programs to the U.S. for Russian students, teachers and community leaders. Fluent in Russian and extremely knowledgeable about how things work in Russia, John has directed MIR’s Moscow office since 2006.

    Janna Khaimovskaya

    Moscow Operations

    Janna was born and raised in Chita, Siberia, where she worked in ecological tourism, leading river rafting tours, treks, and survival trips. She’s lived in Moscow for more than 10 years, and has worked for MIR for seven years. Janna is head of MIR’s Group Travel department and speaks fluent English and Russian.

    Lena Sukhova

    Moscow Operations

    Lena was born and raised in Moscow – a true Muscovite! She’s worked for MIR for more than 15 years, and heads up the Private Journeys department. Lena speaks English and Russian, and enjoys historical romance books and Moscow’s art scene. She loves traveling inside Russia just as much as she loves traveling outside of Russia.

    Mikhail Gerasimov

    Director, Central Asia Operations

    Mikhail heads up MIR’s office in Tashkent, Central Asia. Born in Moscow, Mikhail has lived in Uzbekistan for more than 20 years and has worked for MIR almost the whole time. He speaks Russian and English, and says his favorite countries are Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, the United States, Uzbekistan, and New Zealand.

    Alexander Uryupin

    Central Asia Operations

    Alex is a Tour Specialist in MIR’s Tashkent office. He’s a native of Tashkent, fluent in Uzbek, and also speaks Russian and English. Alex’s favorite countries are the U.S.A., Germany, and – of course – Uzbekistan.

    Andrey Bayev

    Central Asia Operations

    A Tour Specialist in MIR’s Tashkent office, Andrey was born in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and today lives in Tashkent. He speaks Russian and French and enjoys traveling to Russia, Ukraine, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, among other places.

    Dmitry Kim

    Central Asia Operations

    Dmitry was born in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan and today lives in the city of Tashkent. He has worked as a Tour Specialist in MIR’s Tashkent office for many years. A talented singer and chef, Dmitry speaks Russian, Korean, and English – useful since his favorite countries are Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, the U.S., Uzbekistan, and Korea.

    Elvira Nadirova

    Central Asia Operations

    Elvira Nadirova is a native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan and a graduate of Tashkent State Technical University, where she participated in USAID projects that allowed her to apply her accounting background on a global scale. Elvira enjoys studying homeopathic medicine and spending time hiking and exploring the mountains outside of Tashkent with her daughter.

    Abdu Samadov

    Central Asia Operations

    Born and raised in Samarkand, Abdu Samadov is full of inside information about his hometown. He has studied in England and the U.S. and is fluent in English, Farsi, and Russian. Abdu guides MIR’s travelers throughout Uzbekistan and enjoys sharing his knowledge with other travelers.

    Vladimir Kvashnin

    Director, Siberia Operations

    Vladimir was born in Mongolia but has lived in Siberia for most of his life. He has explored the rivers, lakes, and mountains of Siberia and the Russian Far East region as well as Mongolia, and loves designing outdoor and adventure trips from helicopter flights to kayaking on great Lake Baikal. Working with MIR since 1995, Vladimir is now responsible for two MIR offices in Siberia – Ulan Ude and Irkutsk – covering the area from Novosibirsk south to Tuva and north to Yakutia. His favorite hobbies are traveling and ice fishing. Vladimir has a commendation from the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, honoring him for developing incoming tourism in Russia. He has ardently supported the World Wildlife Fund for the past 20 years and continues to show his dedication to the preservation of Siberian wildlife as a member of the organization’s Golden Panda Club.

    Lida Sherstobitova

    Siberia Operations

    Lida was born in Irkutsk, and earned two degrees – one in geography from Irkutsk State University and the other in English and linguistics from Irkutsk State Foreign Languages University. She also completed the Irkutsk State Courses for Translators, and continues her Ph.D. studies. Lida began her career at MIR as a local guide, then joined the Irkutsk office as a full-time manager. Lida loves winter sports – especially freeride snowboarding – and enjoys summer biking in the Arshan Mountains.

    Natasha Suzdalnitskaya

    Siberia Operations

    Born in Ulan Ude, Natasha earned a degree in English and linguistics. After living in Israel for several years, she joined MIR in 2006 and now heads up the Ulan Ude office. Natasha coordinates MIR activities on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal.

    Nataly Chuprova

    Siberia Operations

    Nataly, grew up in Uzbekistan, and at the age of 18 settled in Russia. She studied at Kazan Federal University, where she earned Bachelor degree in theory and practice of translation from and between English, Russian and Italian. Nataly worked for two years for one of the boutique hotels in Irkutsk before joining the Siberian team in Irkutsk as a trip manager in 2019. Nataly enjoys yoga and swimming and has decided to finally learn how to ride a bike to better explore the Baikal region.

    Oksana Sokolova

    Siberia Operations

    Oksana is a bookkeeper in MIR’s Siberian office. She graduated from Irkutsk State Economics University with a degree in economics. Oksana loves to travel with her daughter, Miroslava, not only overseas but to Siberia’s Lake Baikal as well. In Irkutsk Oksana is famous for her children’s handicraft classes.

    Xenya Suranova

    Siberia Operations

    Born in Ulan Ude, Xenya received her degree in English and linguistics from Buryat State University. She joined MIR in 2005 as a local guide for the Lake Baikal region. In addition to guiding, Xenya also manages logistics for Buryatia from MIR’s Ulan Ude office.

    Aleks Bekauri

    South Caucasus Operations

    Aleks (Lekso) was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. After graduating from the American Academy in Tbilisi, he studied economics at Bard College in New York for a year. He has a degree from Ilia State University, with a major in Business Administration and Hospitality. He has worked in both the public and private sectors. Aleks is fluent in Georgian, English and Russian; enjoys sports and singing. Aleks has been with the South Caucasus team since 2018, working on multiple projects in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    Tvalta Sitchinava

    South Caucasus Operations

    Tvalta spent her university years pursuing fashion design at I. Nikoladze Art collage in Tbilisi and multimedia design degrees at Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. She has worked professionally as a graphic designer and photographer, as well as spent a decade teaching university-level design courses. In 2017 she embarked on a path in the field of tourism and never looked back. Tvalta speaks English and Russian in addition to her native Georgian.