Russian Legacy

Jun 5, 2010 | 2010 Articles, Reedley News, Teens

by Kristalyn Patzkowski

Perspective; it is a device both writers and artists must learn to utilize. Seeing as I am both, a writer and an artist, I am required to observe and examine situations from different points of views. In fact, I often find myself criticizing my own life. At first glance, it seems idealistic. I have a family who loves me, a tight group of friends, and a very promising future. Yet, I have a secret — a burden to carry. I am not the “all-American” girl everyone thinks I am. I was born in Russia and moved to Reedley when I was young. As I get older, I wonder how my life would be different if I had stayed in Russia. I have concluded that my life would not be as open to the same opportunities that I have now.

Kristalyn past

Shortly after her adoption, Kristalyn's not yet four years old

Adoption was a long transaction; yet, I ended up gaining something valuable: a family. What I know of my bloodline is very little. My mother was a single parent trying to raise a family. Seeing as she had three children prior to my birth, the act of feeding even one more tiny mouth was too big of a burden for her. So my mother put me up for adoption just days after I was born. Three and a half years later, I boarded the airplane that brought me to this land of liberty. I am told that I ran straight to mom when we arrived at the San Francisco airport. “Mommy,” I exclaimed. She took me to a cozy little house in Reedley, and it is there that I reside now. Not long after I settled in, I met my grandparents. I quickly formed a bond with them as well as with my two uncles (neither of them lives in Reedley). They are both married and I have six cousins that I love dearly. Every member of my family knows my passion for writing, and I am happy to say that they are my strongest supporters.

Kristalyn present

She's now an American teenager

Being an American citizen (for about 13 years now) means wanting to live the American Dream. With that comes the desire and drive to finish my education. I am currently finishing my sophomore year at Reedley High School and planning to attend a college. With my nearly flawless GPA and perfect scores on the High School Exit Exams, it has become perfectly clear that I am going to be accepted into the prestigious university of my choice — now all I have to worry about are my SATs. I’m not quite sure which university I want to go to, but I know that my American opportunities will open several doors for my education. I doubt that, if I had continued to live in Russia, I would even complete the simplest of education.

Since I first arrived in America, I have taken to my mom’s religion. My mom is a Mennonite and she is the one who first took me to church. I had not previously been taught about God’s love and therefore did not know that anyone could love him so strongly. In Russia, I was not taught that there is a God who reigns over the heavens and the earth and loves all people. Here, I went to Vacation Bible School every summer and Kingdom Kids every fall and accepted Jesus into my heart, but I didn’t understand what it all meant. It wasn’t until my seventh grade teacher got me started writing, that I learned I had something to give. Since then, I have used my gift of writing to get closer to God and spread his everlasting love. I don’t entirely know his complete powers, but I know that his plans for my life are just barely opening.

Russian in Reedley
by Kristalyn Patzkowski

“I was born in Russia.”
Those foreign words—
They haunt me.
Like they don’t belong to me,
Like I’m living
Someone else’s life.
An outer body experience.
Maybe I died and didn’t know it.
It is a ghost and
It is a part of me.
It is always going to stay with me.
But I am her, and I am now
In this small town.
I am alone, and I am alive;
Yet, nothing seems real…
Not anymore.

My life as a Russian-American has been a pleasurable experience so far. I have received love and support from my family, the beginnings of an education, and love from God. I have inherited many American traditions yet I still have Russian blood. I can’t say that being Russian is the main focus of my life, especially since I can’t speak the language anymore, but it does play a role in the person I am becoming. I hope, as I get older, I will become more connected with my roots and, who knows, maybe I will return to the land of my birth one day.

Kristalyn’s full bio, which we don’t usually have a space to share:
“Well, I was born on December 23, 1993, in Russia. I was adopted when I was three. I flew in a jet and a lady accompanied me here. My mom met us at the airport. I started kindergarten at Washington Elementary School when I was five. I was in a speech program for about three years, so I learned how to speak English that way. After being in this country for about 13 years, I have forgotten how to speak Russian. I attended T.L. Reed for my middle school years and, now, I am currently a sophomore at Reedley High School. I love math and chemistry. My least favorite classes are World History, P.E. and, surprisingly, English. I don’t enjoy writing assignments, but I love to write poems in my own time, and on my own terms. Ironic, isn’t it? I also really enjoy playing the flute in the Big Green Marching Machine. Sometimes that presents a problem, because I was born with a left club foot. I’ve had a few surgeries on it, yet there are some days when my foot doesn’t like to cooperate with me. But life moves on.”

Kristalyn Patzkowski is 16 years old and an ongoing contributor to our Teen Talk section, but prefers writing that is not assigned, especially poetry.


  1. I enjoyed reading the bio on Kristalyn. How exciting. My father was born in Russia many years ago. He has told us many stories about his life there. I am glad that he came to the US and that I was born an American. He told of the many hardships living there. So thankful to be an American. Would love to read more from Kristalyn.

    • I was really young when I came to America, so most of my earliest memories are a little fuzzy. The reason why they are engraved into my memory, though, is that my mom and my grandparents tell me all of the stories. For instance, when I first arrived, I didn’t take naps in a bed or a crib (I had both in my room). I actually preferred to sleep in the remains of a box that had once delivered toys to our front door. Sometimes though, my grandparents will tell me stories of my relatives who also immigrated from Russia and struggled through great hardships. My great-grandmother, Marie Wittenbrg Frieson, came to this country by boat, in 1913. She was only 12 years old!

      .-= A previous submission from Kristalyn: “Pirates” =-.

  2. Kristalyn, this is beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing! I am so very proud of you, and excited about your future. You have so much going for you and you have the heart and soul to live a GREAT life. I admire your strength, will, and determination! I wish I could give you a big hug right now!!! 🙂

    • Thanks! As I get older, and wiser, writing becomes more important. At first, it was for my own recreation but, now, I think that others can relate to my story. …I miss being in your class, but I’ll get to see you in Academic Decathlon. So when I see you tomorrow, I’ll give you a big hug!

      .-= A recent submission from Kristalyn: Poetry Corner: Monthly Contest Begins =-.


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