A Walk in our Shoes will be a walking tour and audio tour documenting the impact former Soviet Union immigrants had on a single neighborhood- the Richmond District of San Francisco.
I am an immigrant. My family came to San Francisco from the former Soviet Union as refugees in 1991.
The neighborhood that I grew up and and returned to as an adult to raise my own family is known as ‘Little Russia’- and the influence of immigrants from the former Soviet Union is present in everything around us- from the famous domes of the Holy Virgin Orthodox church to the famed piroshki at the local bakery to the familiar sounds of a multitude of Slavic languages which can be heard on most of the streets in our neighborhood.
My parents and I have been in this country for almost thirty years and we too have had an impact (both large and small) on our community. My family operated a Mexican fast casual restaurant at one point (and the nearest competitive restaurant was owned by a Japanese family!), I brought my diverse viewpoint with me as I engaged throughout my youth in volunteer projects with the YMCA and Friends of the Urban Forest and as president of my senior class, and today my children are involved in Russian Jewish cultural programs sharing our language and customs through music and dance.
All of these experiences have inspired me to look at the connection between where we come from to what we bring with us wherever we go- our culture, our language, our food, our energy and passions- and how we impact the community around us.
Today, especially today, when we talk about building walls and closing the path to refugees and immigrants, I am increasingly motivated to explore the contributions and the impact of immigrants on their communities, particularly at the micro level. I want people to experience immigrants by walking in their shoes and seeing the paths they have created for those that come after them.
My goal is for this project to serve San Francisco residents and visitors by connecting them to the history (and the present) of a vibrant neighborhood.
My hope is that exploring how one group of people helped shaped one neighborhood can inspire empathy for today’s refugees and immigrants.