Sunday, May 23, 2010

white clouds
swim fast
the blue sky
somewhere in the south

- by Artem Stepanenko, age 16

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the distraction of tv

- art by Victoriya Tsygipalo, age 16

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the Japanese American internment experience through poetry

as seen through the eyes of Slavic youth today


My life went through the ground,
And got raised up to the skies,
But I found a way out
In the middle of it all.

- by Sergei, K, age 15


All cold
in a barn
with family
Lost everything
Empty inside

- by Lily K., age 15


different from everyone
away from home
like animals in a barn
hot summers, cold winters
like one big family

- by Lili G., age 16


Empty rooms
Strangers carry out my treasures
Trapped inside these hollow walls
I sit in boredom

- by Liliya K., age 15


Cracked roads
soft whispers
tears on my cheeks

- by Taya K., age 16


Thorns stretch out on wires
Hollow buildings await history
Law breaks our memories
and leaves us all in mystery

- by Victoriya T., age 16


No hitting around,
No sores from the punch,
My life lost everything,
And gained the knowledge of how to
start from scratch
From nothing again, I started it then

- by Alex B., age 15

[Editor's note: This work comes from a high school Language Arts "Oregon History Through Literature" unit. After learning about the experience of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in Oregon, starting in the late 1800s and spanning all the way through World War II, youth wrote poetry about the internment experience]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Letters to Family: The Chinese Experience in 19th century Oregon through the eyes of Slavic youth

[Editor's note: This work comes from a high school Language Arts "Oregon History Through Literature" unit. After learning about the experience of Chinese immigrants to the American West in the mid- to late 1800s, youth were asked to write and respond to letters from the perspective of fictional, historically-based characters who were part of the local Chinese community. In their letters they wrote to family in China about their experiences in America, and their families wrote back. This activity was paired with writing letters to the editor regarding the conditions of Chinese immigrants and the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.]


My dear family,

I'm writing you this letter to tell you what I have experienced working in the United States and how they treat us. I am working here as a builder of railroads. We plant explosives and blast tunnels through mountains. They don't have safety, so a lot of people have died. So much of the building is for the Americans. They are so not fair to us, and I think they never will treat us as people--that I can tell you right now.


We got your mail. It looks like you have had a hard time working in the United States. We are barely making any money and we have no food to eat. I hope that we can move and join you and help you.


Hello my dear family,

I'm writing from America. I have learned their language and their traditions. Everything is new here, and at the same time different and difficult. I miss you all a lot. It's very hard to be away from my family. I have opened my own restaurant and it's going very well so far. There is pressure from everywhere, but I'll handle it.


Hi dear husband,

We really miss you and we remember the time when you were with us. We are happy to hear about your business and that you are okay, but we want to be there with you. I know that it's not possible for now, so remember your family. Good luck.


Dear parents,

My life is harder than it was before I moved to America. Finding a job here is not easy. You've got to put your mind to it and look for work till you get it. It took me months to find it. I finally found it in a restaurant as a waiter. It's not so hard, but still, you need skills for it. I wanted to come visit, but they closed the border, so I cannot go back and forth. As soon as I can, I'll come.

From your son,


I am very sorry to hear this. I think you should come back home and leave that prejudiced country where they discriminate against our people. It's because they're jealous. But until next time, goodbye. I hope to see you soon.


My dear, most loving wife,

Life in America isn't at all the dream we thought it would be. Cooking out in the sun while building the railroad, just to receive a little amount of money. I'm here, but my heart and mind is always with you. It's very hard, but only you keep me hammering, pulling, and simply breathing. I will be waiting for your gentle words.

Your husband Y.Y.


Hello my lovely husband,

Glad to hear from you. I thought I never would. I'm sorry it's hard for you and I ain't there to help. I want to come as soon as I can to help you. We should have never chosen you to go there. I miss you much. Love you.

Your wife


Hello my dear family,

Life here is very hard. I work day and night. They beat me last night because I was falling asleep. Some dynamite exploded out of nowhere while we were building the railroad. I was injured, but I am okay now. Here is some money. I got it for you. Feed the family and get them clothes. If there is some left over, fix the leak in the roof.


Honey, are you okay? I wish you never had left. Is there any way you could come back? The kids miss you. How is life there? Do you have a bed and a house?

Yours only, P.
Love you



I got a job and I have to live here. You can't come here because of the law. I hate it, but I hope somehow you can come here to visit me. I like it here and wish you could be here. My job pays minimum wage and I can live on it.


I got your letter and I am happy that you are okay. Don't worry about us. You just take care of yourself.

From K.H.


My dear family,

I thought this country would have some respect for us, but obviously they hate us because of how we look. They say we take their jobs, but we have to to not die in this discriminating country. I want to go home, but I can't because I use my paycheck to eat and sleep every day and there is mostly no extra pennies to buy something good for myself, like clothes, shoes or something for my birthday.

Mai Chan

P.S. I used the extra money I had saved to buy paper, pencil, envelope and stamp to mail this to you, so you won't forget me.


Well, life is really hard here too. We can't raise the kids. We don't have any money. I want to go see you, but they won't let us.



Dear Mom and Dad,

My life in America was very hard when I first came here. Finding a job was like a treasure hunt for me. Because I was Chinese, I wasn't accepted, so I ended up washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom at an old cafe. I need money to pay for my room and board. I wish you were here to help me out and support me, but I will never see you again, because they passed a law saying you can't come. Say bye to everyone for me. Love you so much. Miss you!



Dear daughter,

We don't read English, but you seem to be well. We miss you. Your father passed away yesterday. We love you,



Dear C.M.,

I miss you so much. Why did you have to move to America? You are my favorite cousin. I wish life was different, because I'm so tired of prostitution. Life isn't fair at all. Anyway, enough about my miserable life. How is America? Any lovers? Please write back as soon as possible. Tell me when you are visiting. I wonder if the government received my documents, so I can come join you in America. I love you, my favorite cousin.


I miss you so much too. I have one lover. America is great, better than I thought it would be. Thanks for mailing me.


Dear Mother,

I miss you so much. I think about you every day, every minute and second, because you're the only one who's left. I really want to sit on your lap and hug you, but you know I can't. People don't have a heart. But I hope I'll see you in heaven and we will be together forever!

Your daughter.


Dear daughter,

I miss you too. I'm getting letters that say that many Chinese girls work as prostitutes. You better be careful. You can get all kinds of diseases, sweetie, and you don't want to die young. I love you and miss you.


Dear Mother,

It's your son Chan. I'm writing you from my home in America. It is very hard for me to live here. I really miss home. Here they treat me unfairly. They pay very low and everywhere I go, I get discriminated against, because the white people spread racist lies about our kind, saying we are stealing their jobs and they want us to leave. But I'm not going anywhere, because I know one day this will all change. Until next time, goodbye, mother. Tell the family I say hello.


Dear son,

I miss you and cry every day, hoping to see you again. Dear son, be strong. Don't give up. You can do it. Be nice to everyone, and they will be nice to you. Dear son, I miss you, so does all the family. Hope to see you again.

- by students of Azbuka Academy, Portland, Oregon

Letters to the Editor Regarding the Passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

[These letters, challenging the 1882 passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, are one of the writing projects Slavic teens at Azbuka Academy did when learning about the Chinese experience in the American West.]


Dear Editor,

My name is Sara, and I want to argue about the statements in the newspaper. I think that the statement about no more Chinese people allowed to immigrate to the U.S. is wrong. I have a family in China and I want to see them. I think that it is not fair at all. Chinese people are like everyone else. Please rethink it and allow people to immigrate.


Dear Editor,

My name is Jane Williams and I'm from London. I heard about the Chinese Exclusion Act and I'm against it. I think it's not fair that Chinese people have to work harder than everyone and that some of the women have to be prostitutes to get money. I think it's horrible that men can be stoned and attacked at any time. I think the Chinese are the same kind of people as us. I would hate for the law to pass. I will do everything to help for it not to.


Dear Editor,

My name is Sveta Green. I live in Moscow and I disagree with the Chinese Exclusion Act because it is very harsh that the Chinese people can't be citizens of the United States of America. I think people are equal and should have the same privileges.


Dear citizens of the USA,

My name is Tanya and I am from Russia. I think the Chinese Exclusion Act is not fair. It's unjust for the Americans to take away the right to move here from China. Please try to think about it, try to place yourself in their place. How would you like to be separated from your family or not be able to marry a girl from your community? The Chinese are doing dangerous jobs for us and we are trying to separate them from their families.


To the editor:

I disagree with this law, because the Chinese are people and they have families and friends. The government shouldn't use these men as a cheap labor force; it is discrimination. This is a form of discrimination on the part of the American government.

- by students of Azbuka Academy, Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Enemy

[Editor's note: After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time. This is one of the poems.]

Weeds of anger fill my soul
My cheeks fill up with fire
Crackling dirt as I walk down the road
A sign of enemies coming

They shoot their arrows into the air
From the bow that breaks in sorrow
The childish cry of victory
The smell of blazing fire

I turn to glance, my tribe has won
The cry of babies, the shouting of mothers
Chaos erupts like a flaming volcano
In the soul we all are winners

- by Liliya Kharitonenko, age 15

Swings after the war

by Fred Vasilchuk, age 14

Swings after the war
Nine years it lasted
With a clear sky after the rain and smoke
Silence after the noise

[photo credit: Wyrdcrow]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cherry and her family

- by Sergey Salyuk, age 15

My name is Cherry.

I want to have a beautiful house and a lot of bread and cooked meat,
a nice garden, planted with vegetables and fruits.

I have a nice husband and a little dark child and a very poor house.

I have a fear of war and not enough food and my child having diseases.

I fish with my husband with nets to have something to eat at home.
It's hard to fish and pull the net out of the water with a lot of fish.

My name is Cherry and I love my husband.

[Editor's note: After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time. This is one of the poems.]

I had a family

- by Sveta T., age 16

I had a family before
I had people I loved
I still smell the baked, brown, glazed chicken made by mother.
And I still remember the day I was taken away forever.
They rushed into my home,
grabbed me and never let go,
the last words heard from mother and father:
stay strong and never give up.
Tears roll down my cheeks now,
wanting to stay with mother and father in our home
and wanting some of that yummy, mouth-watering chicken.
Here the days seem like years
and the chores aren't the chores that I used to do at home.
And now I miss them even more
and wonder do they miss me and want me home?

[Editor's note: This poem describes the experience of forceful removal of Native American children from their families to attend government-sponsored boarding schools. The poem is the result of an English class project examining local history through literature. After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time.]

Sunday, May 9, 2010

just a girl

- by Natasha Dumitrash, age 17

like a flower
I grow
and the flower blooms
remember me as a smart one
when they ask about my beauty
answer them with guarantee
never have doubts about me
I was gentle like a white rose
loving like a romance between two
I never questioned others
lived my life with no regrets
I'm strong like a leaf in the tree
holding on through all four seasons

[Editor's note: This poem is the result of an English class project examining local history through literature. After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time.]

My name is J Shaun

- by Andrey German, age 15

My name is J Shaun
I grew up in Oregon
where the forest was green and the flowers were colorful
where people were nice until white people came along.
They took three sons from me
I taught them well
I thought all of them would come back
but only one of them showed up.
Now the forest is brown with very few trees left.
I called them the white monsters riding weird creatures.

[Editor's note: After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth in a high school English class were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time.]

I am a warrior and I am afraid

- by Iosif Dumitrash, age 16

I am a warrior and I am afraid.
I am in a war,
holding a gun and running scared,
killing more than I thought I would be.
I am not afraid to die.
I am afraid for my family and how they will survive.
I am hungry,
feeling my stomach sucking in to my body.
I am thirsty and would even drink the blood of a rabbit.
I am going hunting for snakes and rabbits,
eating bugs when I can't hunt,
waiting for the war to be over so I can go home.

[Editor's note: This poem is the result of an English class project examining local history through literature. After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of someone new or established in the region during that time.]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here Is to History: Conversations from Early Oregon History

[Editor's note: These dialogues come from a high school Language Arts "Oregon History Through Literature" unit. Students were asked to create and take on fictional characters from the early to mid-1800s in Oregon and to have conversations on paper with each other from their character's perspective.]


William: "My name is William Smith. I am twenty-three-years-old. I am coming to Oregon from England. My reason for coming to Oregon is for land. I am going to plant plants and sell them back in England. I am also coming to Oregon to tell the Indians about God."

Beth: "It is very nice to meet you, William. My name is Beth, and I'm twenty-one years of age. Those are very interesting thoughts. What kind of plants are you going to be growing? Are you coming here with your family? The reason I'm coming to America is to find big, beautiful stones that sparkle. The Americans call them diamonds, I believe."

William: "Oh, yes. Diamonds. I've heard. I am not much of a looker. No, I came here by myself. My family died on the way here. We didn't have enough food. I had a brother. He was ill when we decided to travel. My parents were old and did not get enough food. I did my best to keep them alive. How many people are in your family?"

Beth: "Oh dear, I'm so sorry! But I feel your pain. My mother passed not long before I left. And my Papa stayed in Italia. But I came here with my older brother. He's very rich and decided to put that money somewhere useful. He's going to help me with the diamonds."

William: "I am sorry, Miss Beth. Well, best of luck to you and your brother. Hope you find everything you're looking for."

Beth: "Thank you, Mr. William. Best of luck to you too. Farewell."


Isabell: "My name is Isabell Swan, and I'm coming to America to find my grandmother. Also, to find love... I'm a faithful follower of God and I want to come here to spread the word of his love."

Sakalama: "Dear Isabell, in your religion, what does your God do and what are his powers? What type of love are you looking for? Don't look too hard, because your true love could be always right next to you without noticing. And if you are the faithful believer, you should have your soul mate following you and finding the connections between you two. Let your true love find you instead. Sincerely, Sakalama, a.k.a. Bird"

Isabell: Oh my dear Sakalama, I listened to your advice and love found me! We're getting married. I'm so blessed. My God is the all mighty. He has the power of all. He made my planet and galaxy, all of existence."

Sakalama: "I am extremely happy for you, my dear child. I hope that your love will last for decades and will continue like the stars in the sky. I see that we are different from each other, but I do relate to your life. I do hope that your God will continue blessing you with happiness. - Bird."


Stella: "Hello, my name is Stella Garbachova. I'm coming to Oregon to save the people."

Lulu: "Hello, my name is Lulu. Where are you from?"

Stella: "I come from Paris. And I'd like to know who you believe in and what kind of belief it is? Do you think I have the chance to save many people in this place? What kind of food do you eat? Is it safe here?

Lulu: "In the Takeima tribe, we believe that our best chance for productive lives depends on our learning useful skills and the English language. You might have a chance. We eat lots of foods. One of them is corn. It was safe here until the bad people started coming."

Stella: "Why and when did the bad people come? Could you please tell me where I can meet them? Maybe I could stop them and save them and tell them about God."


Bill: "My name is Bill Gates and I'm a missionary that came to Oregon in 1812 to give people a chance to know the Bible and to save their souls."

Bob: "My name is Bob and I was a fighter for twenty years. No more."

Bill: "Now I call on you to fight for religion and to kill people with the word that is given in the Bible."

Bob: "This is the end."

Bill: "For you the end will be if you don't save your soul."


Oleg: "My name is Oleg. The reason I came as a missionary to Oregon is to tell Native Americans about my religion and try to convert them to forget their religion and believe in mine."

Chiku: "My name is Chiku. I've been a fighter for ten years. I will fight for my people and my beliefs. I have and I want to be free from the white religion because I trust my beliefs that have helped me every time in war, hunting and family life."

Oleg: "Ok, then we will take your kids away from you and send them boarding schools and we will teach them the religion we believe in."

Chiku: "I will kill you now or then, but I will kill you and your family when this happens. Our people will fight till the end and I bet our people are stronger than yours and pretty good with shooting arrows and throwing knives."

Oleg: "You and the other Native Americans will be asked nicely to move onto reservations. If you won't, you will be forced to move there in a while. If you fight, we will kill all of your tribe."

Chiku: "You are taking our land and now you want war after we did good for your people. You are so greedy that you shall die here."


Seth: "My name is Seth. I decided to come to Oregon, because of the land and to preach to the Indians. Also, a lot of my family came to Oregon and I want to be with them."

Abhilasha: "Hello, my name is Abhilasha. It means 'wish' or 'desire.' I wish we weren't being chased off our land. We don't mind sharing it with you and we're very friendly. Why do you want to preach to us? About what?"

Seth: "Abhilasha--very beautiful name. You sure do seem friendly and so are we. We want to preach about the good news and salvation. It's very important to know about it."

Abhilasha: "Thank you! I see. That sounds interesting, but I'm a little bit confused. What is the good news?"

Seth: "The good news is that God died on the cross for us and our sins. There is much more to that, but I prefer talking about it in person."

Abhilasha: "That is very interesting. I want to know more. We should meet soon to talk about it."


"My name is Safia. My husband is Sabal. We have two kids, Sakki and Salima. We came here to Oregon for fishing and animal fur."

"Really? How old are your kids? Where are you planning to live? You should join our group. We are the best. We fish together and hunt for deer together."

"My kids are twelve and thirteen. We are planning to move close to your tribe. We love to fish and hunt. What is your tribe's name?"

"Our name is Tututni. Yes, you should join us. We would love you. Come!"

"I have heard of you. I will talk with my family first."

"I hope to go fishing with you soon!"


Bill: "My name is Bill Montgomery. I have decided to move along with my family to Oregon. We have heard that there is great soil and much of it there. I want my family to have a better life. I dream of my own big farm and house. Also, of building a church for us and the natives."

Lila: "Hi, my name is Lila. I am sixteen-years-old. I very strongly agree with you. I love the fact that Oregon has good soil. That is also why I love Oregon! I want to start coming to church also, but I don't know where or how."

Bill: "It is very nice to meet you, Lila. I have a son your age. You say you want to start going to church. We'd be more than happy to have you join us. We don't have a building yet, so we gather in our homes. You are welcome to come over and go with us."

"Really? Will you meet us? I would be more than happy to! Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. We can also build a church together. What do you say?"


Victoria: "My name is Victoria Walker and I'm coming to Oregon to tell people about God and to help the poor."

Chaska: "I'm Chaska. I would like to know about your God and I would like to know how your God helps you."

Victoria: "I think my God is the best. When I need help, I go to my room, close the door and just pray. After praying, I hope and believe he will help me. And yes, God helps me a lot."

Chaska: "Well, we believe in the Great Spirit and we think that he knows what is best for Indians. Also, to get something, you need to give something. What does your God want from you?"

Victoria: "My God just wants me to tell his Word to the people who don't know Him. Also, I want to help the poor and homeless. I hope you will welcome me as your friend, and let me tell you about my God."

Chaska: "You can tell us about it, but don't try to force us to believe in it. Also, you can help the poor."


Sarah: "I am Sarah Dear, and I'm coming with my family to Oregon because I want the Indians to learn our beliefs and to be saved."

Kachika: "My name is Kachika Puchi and I come from a Native American tribe. I help my parents with the younger children and I love bead work. But there are different people coming to live on our land. They want us to believe in their God! We have our own gods. What do you want from us?"

Sarah: "I don't want you forcing yourself and believing in my God. I just believe that my God is the best. Also, I want you to believe in that. You don't have to. I want you to know that there are lots of others who believe in my God, or say so, and some of them will come here in the future."

Kachika: "That is amazing. Because I didn't know there were other people who believe in your God. What is your God like? What kind of sacrifices does he like? And, thank you for not forcing us to believe in your God."

Sarah: "Our God is loving and forgiving. He knows what's best for us. He gave us forgiveness. His Son died for our sins. We don't need to make sacrifices to get his help. He gives it to us because he loves us. Tell me what do you believe in and what is your God like?"

Kachika: "Your God is like my gods, but my gods didn't die for their sons! Our gods need sacrifices because if we don't give them sacrifices, they won't give us food or water."

I: Victoria Kharitonenko & Kristina Pleshakova
II: Kristina Pleshakova & Natasha Dumitrash
III: Julia Salyuk & Sveta Trivol
IV: Aleksandr Bakhmatov & Yonatan Tzafir
V: Sergei K & Alex Bakhmatov
VI: Taya Khrupina & Yana Yukhimchuk
VII: Tanya Kulikova & Sveta Demenko
VIII: Yana Yukhimchuk & Taya Khrupina
IX: Tanya Popovich & Tania Kuzmich
X: Tania Kuzmich & Yana Korneychuk

On the Waves

by Gennadiy S., age 19

Our ship was tossed
By the Atlantic waves
We were on a trip to America
On the Atlantic waves

And then we came to Astoria on horseback
And built homes and began a new life
But I always hear in my dreams
Those Atlantic waves

And now I sit on the mountain
Near my house
Near my new neighbors
And look at the Pacific waves

[Editor's note: This poem is the result of an English class project examining local history through literature. After reading poetry, fiction and non-fiction representing various groups who lived in or came to Oregon in the 1700s and 1800s, youth were asked to write a poem from the perspective of one of the residents or newcomers.]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


- by Yana K, age 16

Immigrants don't get respected. I wonder why, do you?
They're just like normal people.
But why do we get treated differently?

Some say their feelings have been hurt,
and some say it has been physically.
But I say: why? Are we different?

Maybe the difference is color,
or accent that you don't understand.
But aren't we still the same people
in heart and in the brain?

Why can't you respect us?
Why can't you just be nice?

I guess it's because we're immigrants.
Is that why?