It was an exciting beginning, a new shift in thinking that somehow after we all have been here, in America, for quite a while, had already become “Americans”, we can feel closer together as “Russians”, supporting each other, preserving our culture, keeping our language alive and well, sustaining the need for our children to recognize who they are, living as one community of so many in the second most diverse city in the Nation.
If I could only remember all the details about how the CRAFT got started!
I know for sure it was the time to do it. Not surprisingly, the idea to form an organization that could bring together the Russian speaking immigrants, originated as a result of dialectical development when “quantity” began to become “quality”.
By 2010 the number of Russian speaking residents in Anchorage had grown considerably greater compared to just a few families and a small number of individuals, who moved to Anchorage during the “first wave” of immigration in the early nineties. In the following years, the geography of the steady flow of new Russian speaking arrivals also had expanded significantly. If the original “transplants” from Russia were the people who came mostly from the Russian Far East, mainly from Magadan, then in the next ten years, at the beginning of the new millennium, the newcomers arrived from various parts of Russia and from different republics of the former Soviet Union, like Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and others.
The population of Russian speaking children attending Anchorage public schools had been gradually increasing as well. For the past 10 years, it has stubbornly stuck at the 2 per cent of the entire student body of the English language learners in the Anchorage School District. By 2010, the annual Russian Language Olympiada had been already up and running, and the first and only Russian Immersion Program in US had been started by Elena Farkas and was successfully moving forward
It was the time when American and Russian “honeymoon” had whined and the euphoria of mutual self-discoveries diminished, but our Russian -American identity had solidified.
It was the time! By 2010 some of us, the native Russians, had attended one too many parades on July 4th, when we were enviously gazing upon the glow and glitter of the cultural costumes of the Polynesians, the Hmong, the Laotians, the Koreans, the Filipinos, the Latinos…, wondering “why can’t we do this, too? Why are we, Russians, and other Russian speaking members of this vibrant colorful community so isolated? Why don’t we add our tone and our voice to this company?” Perhaps one more reason why I was so eager “to belong” was that by then I had been member of the Russian-American Colony Singers and simply could not wait to show off my gorgeous blue Russian sarafan made by my friend Natasha Girard.
It was the time to do it! On one chilly Saturday in November 2011, Natasha and Leonid Kokaurov, Lena Farkas, Zlata Lund, and I (all from Magadan) agreed to meet at Title Wave book store on Northern Lights Boulevard to brainstorm the ideas about the mission and the purpose of the new organization. We decided to adopt the name The CRAFT of Alaska (Center for Russian-American Friendship and Trade). That was the name of the business organization where Natasha and Leonid had worked previously.
On November 21, 2011, The CRAFT of Alaska held its official meeting at the BP Energy Center. It was our belief that we needed to stick together and support each other in the new place we call our home. It was our hope that more people would join CRAFT to mutually enrich lives by connecting with one another. It was our love for our wonderful language and culture that charges us with the responsibility to pass all the best to our children
Co-author of the CRAFT Bylaws
Member of the Revision Committee
Former Member of the Board of Directors