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Born in the Soviet Union, and then adrift after the USSR collapsed, Artem Zhdanov never felt he belonged to any country until he came to Alaska and found his home. The latest installment of Becoming Alaskan.

"Having previously been a citizen of three different countries — the U.S.S.R., Kyrgyzstan, and Russia — he recently obtained his American citizenship. He said he was moved by his naturalization ceremony, something that doesn’t happen in Russia, where he became citizen at age 16 after simply completing paperwork. “It was the very first time in my life I could say, ‘They actually welcome me here. I can belong.’”"


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David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


A winding path brought Chidozie Menakaya from Lagos, Nigeria, to Fairbanks, Alaska. The latest installment in "Becoming Alaskan."
When I landed back in Fairbanks and walked through those airport doors, I was relieved,” recalled Chidozie Menakaya after returning to Alaska from Lagos, Nigeria. “I thought, ‘What does that mean if Fairbanks gives me relief?’” Then he broke out laughing.

The Literacy Council of Alaska helps immigrants in Fairbanks find their way to work, success, and citizenship.
“In the borough there are over 10 thousand people who don’t speak English as their first language. That’s over 10 percent of our population,” explained Mike Kolasa, the council’s executive director, adding, “Last year we had 175 English language learners students.”