SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The founder of the Slavic Community Center fears an unfortunate backlash toward Minnesota immigrants from areas of the old Soviet Union. Gedaly Meerovich is also the founder of a charter school in Minnetonka that features Russian language and culture.
Meerovich emigrated from Ukraine in 1980, settling in Saint Paul and raising three children. He emphasized the appreciation and patriotism of the "Russian" arrivals.
"I am completely surprised," said Meerovich, referring to the ethnicity of the marathon bombing suspects. "I am completely outraged because the Russian community appreciates the welcome what Is American society, government, community, give to us, welcome, to start new life and this is not what typical Russian, Russian kids, Russian people would do because we appreciate (our) new 'motherland', what is accepted us."
Meerovich admitted that not everyone finds American life to his/her taste. "Yes, we have some family who do not like system and go back to Russia, but it does not mean they hated it. It does not mean they violented (sic) it. It does not mean they try to do this kind of thing."
Meerovich said there are an estimated 60,000 persons from the former Soviet Republics living in the Twin Cities area. The charter school in Minnetonka opened in September as a K-6 school, with 86 students. Presently, he said, there are 131 students and the intention is to add one grade level a year until it is K-12. The school is not an "immersion" experience. The students speak English, but take classes in Russian language and culture.
Meerovich noted that the Marathon Bombing suspects were of Chechnyan heritage and that Chechnya and Russia were engaged in a separatist and, later, religious war for many years. That is, their families came from a culture of violence.
"To my understanding, living 10 years in the United States, you should be over whatever happened back in Russia, happened in Chechnya," said Meerovich.
Ruslan Tsarni of Massachusettes, uncle of the 26 and 19 yr old bombing suspects, was visibly upset at the impact of the bombings on their family and heritage. "I say to Dzhokhar (the 19 year old), if you are alive, turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness from the victims, from the injured and from those who are left. Ask forgiveness from these people," said Tsarni. "He put a shame on the Tsarnaev family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity."
Tsarni called the bombers "losers" who were "not being able to settle themselves and thereby just hating everyone who did."
The two bombing suspects' father is reportedly back in Russia. The older of the two brothers spent 6 months in Russia last year, but it is not known where he was or what he was doing.
Tsarni echoed Meerovich's statements of the positive feelings of immigrants from that part of the world toward the United States.
"I respect this country. I love this country," said Tsarni. "This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being."
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