The reasons, I discovered, are the same ones that have brought immigrants to these shores since the dawn of the nation: freedom from religious persecution, economic opportunity, ties to family already in America and attraction to a place that reminded them of the home they had left behind. Sometimes all of these converged at once. The religious refugees, by far the largest group, had first come in the late 1980s. I wondered how they had fared, whether they had put down roots and realized whatever version of the American dream they had been pursuing.
We learned the American immigrant story as children, slogging our way through grade school history classes, gaping at movies and TV miniseries. The oppressed or impoverished immigrant makes his way to our teeming shores, finds an unpleasant bottom-rung job, struggles to learn English and is sneered at and kicked around by those who got here before him, in a kind of immigrant hazing ritual. But -- the story continues -- through dint of hard work and just plain grit, he improves his lot. In a couple of generations, his American offspring are indistinguishable from the general tide of home-owning, beer-drinking, flag-waving, rugged individualists stretching from sea to shining sea. How, I wondered, did the Russians' stories compare to the larger American immigrant story?
For more of Russian's Tale see our & lt;a href="http://www.inlander.com/localnews/localnews.php" & News Section & lt;/a & .