Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Alekandr Ryvlan inside his home at Booth Manor

Housing resident has amazing backstory

Added on Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Written by Craig Dirkes, writer and photographer at The Salvation Army Northern Division headquarters.

Alekandr Ryvlan is proof that there are incredible stories behind people served by The Salvation Army.

I spoke with him last week during a routine visit to update our photos of The Salvation Army’s Booth Manor senior housing complex in Minneapolis. Ryvlan was kind enough to allow our team at to photograph his apartment. While making small talk, I asked a simple question: So, where are you from?

An astonishing conversation followed. Here’s what Ryvlan told me:

Ryvlan, 86, moved to Minnesota 14 years ago from his lifelong hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. He’s a scientist, and spent much of his career working at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. One of his responsibilities there was testing the hulls of icebreakers. In doing so, he twice visited the North Pole.

“It was very dark and cold – but Minnesota is colder,” Ryvlan said with a laugh.

Alekandr Ryvlan in his reading nookHe loves science books, and has an entire library of them in a reading nook he built inside one of his closets (pictured). He’s even authored several books himself, he said.

Remarkably, science represents only the first half of Ryvlan’s career. During the second half, he was an Olympic coach for the Russian downhill ski team. He coached at a Russian school for Olympic athletes, and also spent time as the school’s principal.

“I still ski – I have a season pass to Welch Village,” the octogenarian chuckled, adding that his two favorite places to ski in the U.S. are Copper Mountain in Colorado and Red Lodge Mountain in Montana.

Ryvlan moved to the U.S. to be closer to two of his three kids. His son lives 15 minutes away in Plymouth. He also has two daughters – one is studying medicine in San Francisco, Calif., and the other lives in Italy with her husband.

Housing programs aplenty

Ryvlan is one of dozens of Booth Manor residents with an amazing story to tell. The place is filled with people from all over the world, living out their golden years in the 21-story facility next to beautiful Loring Park.

Booth Manor exteriorBooth Manor (pictured) is a 154-unit independent living complex for seniors ages 62 and older. Built in 1977, the facility has been filling an important local need for affordable senior housing for nearly 40 years. About two-thirds of Booth Manor residents are subsidized by HUD or other assistance programs, while the remaining third pay the market rate of less than $600 per month.

“Our focus is on providing ongoing support and care for people as they get older,” said Steven Godfrey, lead social worker at Booth Manor.

Hundreds of other people served by Salvation Army housing programs have incredible stories, too. In addition to Booth Manor and several specialized housing programs, they benefit from the Twin Cities Salvation Army’s three other primary housing facilities:

  • Harbor Light Shelter: The state’s largest homeless outreach facility. Provides emergency and transitional shelter for an average of more than 500 people every night.
  • HOPE Harbor: A 96-unit supportive housing facility for low-income single adults and the chronically homeless.
  • Booth Brown House: A youth housing facility providing emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing.

Thank you for making these important housing programs possible by donating to The Salvation Army.