Editor’s note: Christmas Bureau recipients come to the bureau for food vouchers, toys and candy. Reporter Rebecca Nappi is collecting recipients’ stories.
Ages: 60 and 20.
Live in: Vera lives in North Spokane; Yelena lives in Spokane Valley.
Yelena: We are from Belarus. We came here in 1991. I was 3. We have 12 children in our family. The oldest is 36, and the youngest is 16. We have seven girls and five boys. And we have 15 grandchildren. Mine will be the 16th – I’m due next month.
Vera (translated by Yelena): What does she miss about Belarus? Right now, nothing. We’ve been here for 17 years. When we first came, she missed the relatives she lived around.
Vera: They didn’t have Christmas trees in Belarus. They’d take a tree branch and make rings and circles out of them, like paper rings, and glue them with potato starch because they didn’t have glue or tape. Her momma would bake little breads. Usually they had dark bread, but when the holidays came around, they had white bread. Her momma would sew dolls out of fabric, and they would play with those.
Vera: What does she like best about the United States? Around the holidays things in the store are on sale. You can get it for cheaper than regular prices.
Yelena: Around Christmastime, because we had a big family, all 12 of us in the house, we’d come to the Christmas Bureau and get presents. You wouldn’t get help like that in Belarus.
Yelena: I’m fluent in both languages. We had Russian school in church, and at home we always spoke Russian. My doctor is so amazed I speak English without an accent. He’s like, “You’ve got to teach your children Russian, too.” I have two little ones – they are 2 and 1 – and I only speak Russian in the house with them.