A long way from home
From Siberia to Iqaluit

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 08/00) - She was thousands of kilometres away from her own turf, but Oxana Kharuchi felt like she was home.

So, when it came time to pack up her suitcases and hop on a jet bound for home -- Salekhard, Siberia -- she was more than a little nostalgic.

"Frankly speaking, I'm very sad (to be leaving Iqaluit). But I'm very happy to have had such opportunity to come here to such a nice place, to meet a lot of kind and nice people here," said Kharuchi, who was posted in Iqaluit for the last two months.

Invited to study Nunavummiut by the territorial government last fall, Kharuchi said she overcame her initial homesickness in order to do her work.

"I was invited to come Iqaluit to see how people live here, how the Government of Nunavut works, how it deals with indigenous people of the North. It was very useful for me. I found out a lot of information," said Kharuchi, an employee of RAIPON, the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North.

A non-governmental organization, RAIPON deals with various indigenous groups and focuses its efforts on the protection of human rights and culture, as well as education and health.

Kharuchi said the things she learned about Inuit and their relationship with the GN gave her information that will be helpful in assisting the people she works for.

"Here I see that the government really does try to improve the living conditions of Inuit," she said.

Kharuchi also noted the strong similarities that exist between the Nenetz -- the indigenous people in her own community -- and the Inuit.

"Nenetz people look like Inuit people," said Kharuchi.

"When I first came to Iqaluit, some people thought I'm Inuk. They spoke with me in Inuktitut, but the language is absolutely different," she said.

"There are a lot of similarities -- traditional food, clothing, culture. It's also the Arctic," she said.

And just as it should be, Kharuchi was introduced to a truly Canadian winter pastime that quickly became her favourite way to spend her free moments.

"For the first time, I've gone Ski-Dooing. Every weekend I go Ski-Dooing. I find it great. I like it very much."