A Family Legacy of Faith, by Kim Bailey
More than 25 members of the Anachenko family gathered around Nikolya Anachenko to sing hymns and read from the Bible as he celebrated his 75th birthday. His daughter Olga Tachan and her husband Gennadiy lift up their voices to the rafters of the packed house as they sang without fear of someone coming in and stopping them.
Sixty years earlier in the former Soviet Union, Anachenko had to hide his faith. Anyone caught with a Bible could be thrown in jail for 10 years. House churches were banned.
“They would let the criminals go but find the smallest things to keep the Christians in jail,” Anachenko said.
Anachenko came first to Spokane to escape religious persecution. Gennadiy and Olga Tachan followed in 1998 with their two children. As Russians living in Kyrgyzstan, the Tachan family had experienced religious oppression before the fall of Communism and then after it ended, they faced ethnic distrust. Jobs went to Kyrgystanis first and respected Russians perhaps next. Christians were at the bottom of the pecking order.
“I was ready to get out of there,” Olga Tachan said. She grew up being teased and harassed for her Christian beliefs.
Olga’s days at school were full of discrimination and oppression. The teachers would ask the Christians to stand up and watch as the other students teased and taunted them. Buses drove by and people spit sunflower seeds at her. All children, including the Christian children, were required to wear scarves around their neck “which we called pioneer scarves,” Gennadiy Tachan said. Christians were not allowed to go to college and getting a job was difficult.
“We had bad hours, or had to work overtime without getting paid. Everyone else would get a bonus but because of our faith we didn’t get one,” Gennadiy Tachan said.
The Tachans left Kyrgyzstan with only three suitcases. Olga was pregnant with their third child, Katherine. They were to take a train from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow, but the train was packed. Gennadiy pushed his way onboard and pulled Konstantin and Tatyana through the train window because it was too crowed to use the door. He found a backdoor to let Olga in.
Eventually they landed in the United States. Free from persecution and discrimination, the Tachan family still faced challenges in America. Trying to learn a language was a challenge but not being able to communicate took a lot more energy, Gennadiy Tachan said. Konstantin Tachan did not know any English when he was thrown into kindergarten half way through the school year.
“I was six years old and if I wanted to get anyone’s attention I had to grab their shoulder,” Konstantin Tachan said.
The grocery store was also an adventure. When the cashier asked if Olga and Gennadiy Tachan wanted plastic or paper, they had no idea what was going on.
Milk had new flavors.
“It tasted like water because we were so used to whole milk,” Konstantin Tachan said.
But they loved that they could buy fruits and vegetables in the winter time.
The parents worked hard providing for their family, each working two jobs. Gennadiy Tachan had gone to school in Kyrgyzstan to be an electrician and now was able to find work as a carpenter at the Ugly Duckling. Olga is a home health nurse assistant. Both Gennadiy and Olga Tachan deliver newspapers for the Spokesman Review and have to get up at three in the morning. But they believe the hard work is worthwhile.
“Here we have hot water. The lights won’t turn off and we have three or four cars, instead of riding our bikes everywhere,” Konstantin Tachan said. “I’m really appreciative and I don’t take things for granted. I thank God everyday. I don’t remember the persecution but I remember the hunger. I remember not having any toys. ”Most nights the family holds strong to the tradition of prayer. Kneeling in a circle, they pray from youngest to oldest, thanking God for all they have received. Each hugs the other as they thank God for their many blessings.