by Suzanne Schreiner & r & & r & Like a Good Russian Novel... & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & enior Russian immigrant Yefimiyia claims they are treated "like kings and queens." Well, maybe not kings and queens exactly. Leonid Bergoltsev would certainly say differently. Nastasia Cohen might raise her eyebrows and talk about the lack of health care in the land of the free. The Kaprian children know about being picked on for speaking a different language, and just for being different.

But for all the reasons that brought them here -- religious freedom, especially, but also reuniting with family and the chance for a better future for themselves and their children -- they have been largely successful. They started with little but have improved their lot in a remarkably short space of time -- less than 20 years. Most of them have learned some English -- from passable to excellent -- and combined it with further education to secure better jobs and ownership of their homes. They have started businesses and churches, and now their kids are beginning to have their own families, right here in the Lilac City.

Though they are a world away from Mariupol or Alushta or Novomoskovsk, most of them have found something in Spokane that reminds them of their homelands. They've put something of themselves in this place, too: Improbable as it may once have seemed, Russian stock has taken root in Eastern Washington soil. As in any good Russian novel, the story features an outsized cast of characters, along with plenty of poverty and oppression and struggle. But now they're here, and they seem inclined to stay. This Russian tale seems to be a bit less Tolstoy and a little more Twain.

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