I can hardly believe it’s been more than seven years since the Vladimir and Katya German family faced probable deportation.
Some of you will remember the story of the Walla Walla family and the journey that brought them to the edge of being forced back to Kazakhstan, where they had endured persecution, violence and bigotry.
Although of German descent — yes, you’ve got it right, the German family was of German lineage and living in what was once part of Russia. Save that information the quiz later — history and politics had deposited their ancestors in a country where they were viewed as outcasts and undesirable neighbors.
In 2005, I wrote, “They are loathed by ethnic Kazakhs and considered inferior to true Russians. And always ruled by others.”
It was, by every accounting, a miserable existence.
The Germans (our Walla Walla family that is) arrived in America 20 years ago, sponsored by cousins Dave and LeAnn Tupper, with six-month visitor visas.
Vladimir and Katya immediately began to try and establish residency. They got jobs as soon as possible and enrolled their children, Pavel and Oksana, in local schools. Where those kids did really, really well, by the way.
They worshipped like Americans, free to do so however and whenever they chose.
Katya scrubbed other people’s dirt in her housecleaning business and Vladimir went to work as a mechanic for Mountain Oil. They worked all day apart, then spent evenings cleaning a pre-school as a team. The couple toiled like there was no tomorrow and for this family, there might not be. Not in America.
Those paychecks gave them the funds to seek immigration help.
The first “specialist” they hired, however, took the couple’s $1,200 and disappeared. Meanwhile, visas expired and INS had no record anything was ever filed.
It just got messier and messier, even as Vladimir and Katya paid $1,000 annually for work permits. Happily so, if that meant staying in a free land and being allowed to build a future.
The situation came to a head 13 years after the German family has applied for asylum. The U.S. government had said “enough,” and was preparing to ship Katya, Vladimir, Pavel and Oksana back to Kazakhstan. Back to hell, really. To unprovoked police interrogations, threats, harassment from neighbors and little chance of higher education … the list went on and on.
In May of 2005 the mixed-up muddle got dumped on a court bench in a Seattle federal courtroom. INS played their part, the attorney for the Germans played hers. Played it well, I might add. I know, I was there. Many of us were.
In just over an hour, 13 long, fearful and sometimes painful years got swept under the rug by Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson.
Josephson listened to both sides, considered every component and brought down his gavel. “Asylum is granted.”
I still cry when I recall that moment, and again hear the stunned silence, as if God himself had stopped the universe for a millisecond.
Now it is 2012, and Vladimir and Katya have followed every law of the land. For that, they have finally been granted U.S. citizenship. Here is the letter I received from Oksana last week:
This is Oksana, the daughter of Vladimir and Katya German. The reason I’m writing is because my parents passed their citizenship test on May 2nd!! YAY! We are all so excited for them! I want to do something really special for them so I’ve set up a donation site where people can help fund an international cruise for my parents to take this summer! They are planning on having a big 4th of July celebration and I am hoping to come to Walla Walla and present it to them there and say that it was given to them by the people who have loved and supported them through this whole thing.
The link to the donation site is here: https://everribbon.com/ribbon/view/6172
I was hoping you could get me the contact information of anyone who might be interested in donating to the cause. You could also help spread the word just by telling people about it. But be sure to let them all know that this is a BIG SECRET so not to tell my parents anything about it!
I’m so excited and I really hope this works out!
I told Oksana I could put something in a blog, but that we run the risk of her mom and dad finding out. However, despite being true Americans now, Vladimir and Katya still aren’t very fond of computers, she said. “I doubt they would even know how to access your blog without my help. So I think you are safe to put the cruise information on the blog and still keep the surprise.”
So here we are, folks. I’m handing over this huge secret to do with what you will. But whatever you do, don’t spill the beans to Katya and Vladimir. Promise?