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Stories abound among old-timers in Woodburn who still remember the trauma of this trip. One recalls losing a toddler along the way and then rushing frantically back to find her on the side of the muddy trail. Eventually the group decided to go to Brazil, where they had been offered free land and safe haven. But where are you going? Hearing this plan, several of the leaders of the Southern California Russian community reacted negatively, asking how Russian foods could be grown in such a tropical climate and if they were aware that neighboring Chile seemed to be moving toward a Communist government.

Two long years later, because of problems finding funding for their trip to the United States, most still lived in Brazil on land donated by the government. Life proved to be extremely challenging in this unfamiliar climate. We could not grow potatoes or beets, and so we had no borscht. So what is life without borscht? It just could never feel like home there, you know?

With the sponsorship of a few Russian Molokans in Woodburn, almost all of the Old Believers from Brazil migrated to the rich farmland of the Willamette Valley. Less than one year later, another group of Russian Old Believers from New Jersey who had come to the United States from Turkey, where they had been living since their escape from Russia in the late seventeenth century arrived in nearby Gervais.

There are now about two thousand Old Believers living in the Woodburn area. In a story that has become legendary among local Russian-speaking residents, the minister of the tiny Russian Pentecostal church in Woodburn the only one of its kind in Oregon at the time asked his congregation to sponsor refugees from the Soviet Union when he heard about Gorbachev's new and more open emigration policies in Several years later, Pastor Ben Shevchenko's church finally received word that one of the families it hoped to sponsor had been approved, and the family was now on its way to Woodburn.

This started a chain migration that exploded after the Soviet Union dissolved and that continues to this day. Overwhelmed by the numbers of new arrivals in the early s, the church in Woodburn asked the largest refugee resettlement agency in Portland for help.


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Family reunification is a top priority of U. Slavic refugee leaders are beginning to play a role in reshaping the politics of our region. The Slavic Coalition, for example, provides a voice for the Russian-speaking community to ensure maximum opportunities for gaining county and city funding and political power in the urban region. The coalition was founded three years ago to advocate for youth success, family stabilization, and elderly support for the area's Russian-speaking residents.


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Membership grew and galvanized around the issue of local American teachers sending notes home to Russian-speaking fundamentalist parents warning them not to use spanking to discipline their children, advice those parents strongly disagreed with. Despite the whiteness of all of the members of the Slavic Coalition, Slavic members now serve on advisory committees and participate in funding decision-making bodies for this mixed-race, multicultural group.

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Two leaders of the Slavic Coalition were also recently appointed to serve on the Portland mayor's new advisory board in support of immigrant and refugee issues in the metropolitan area. Another Ukrainian-born leader in the Salem community, Anya Sekino, currently serves as the cultural competency coordinator of one of Oregon's major state agencies headquartered here in Salem. As did many other immigrant groups before them, migrants from the former USSR are changing the face of Oregon.

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The most visible changes are in our economic landscape, with the more than four hundred Slavic-owned businesses now operating in Willamette Valley towns and cities. Retrieved 28 August — via Google Books. Retrieved 28 August Seccion Amarilla. Russian diaspora. Belarus Poland Ukraine.

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Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim

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