Russian-speaking residents urge Federal Way to hire a liaison

The city caters to Korean and Spanish-speaking residents, but what about the Russian-speaking community?

Roughly 20 of Federal Way's Russian-speaking residents showed up at the March 16 city council meeting, urging the city to employ a Russian-speaking, or Slavic, community liaison. The city has a Korean and a Hispanic liaison, but nobody to help Russian speakers feel more at home in Federal Way, they said.

"For me, it's not a problem," resident Serg Lobodzinskiy said. "I don't have to have a liaison, but I do know many people who could get some support."

A Slavic liaison could help build unity in Federal Way, those in the small crowd said. A liaison would bridge both culture and language gaps, Lobodzinskiy said. The position could be used to keep Federal Way's Slavic community up-to-date on local government happenings, he said.

Translation services would be useful, Lobodzinskiy said. Many of the younger immigrants speak English, but several older Slavic immigrants do not.

"Language is still a huge barrier between the immigrants and the (city) officials," he said.

A liaison would greatly benefit Russian-speaking business owners, resident and business owner Lina Pastars said. Pastars is interested in what's going on in Federal Way, but often relies on customers to fill her in, she said. Lobodzinskiy, who owns a real estate business, said a liaison would be a huge assistance to individuals wanting to start businesses or build homes in Federal Way. Understanding the city's building codes and permitting process are complicated. Differences in culture and language between applicants and city staff adds to the confusion, he said.

Lobodzinskiy said some of Federal Way's Slavic community do not feel welcome here.

"It's more difficult to do business here than it is to do in smaller towns," Lobodzinskiy said.

Federal Way resident Nikolay Kvasnyuk told the council there are many Russian-speaking immigrants in the city — and not just Russians speak the language. Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians and citizens of the Baltic States, among several others, also speak Russian, Kvasnyuk said.

In Federal Way, 4,452 residents age 5 and over speak an Indo-European language (other than English or Spanish) such as Russian at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006-2008 American Community Survey of Federal Way. According to the same survey, there are 1,167 Russian and 1,809 Ukrainians residing in Federal Way. There are 1,679 Polish residents in Federal Way, the survey said. There is no available census information on Federal Way's other Slavic populations.

Council member Mike Park and deputy mayor Dini Duclos said they see the need and support the creation of a Slavic liaison position. Duclos suggested the city partner with the Chamber of Commerce to create the position. City manager Brian Wilson said he is interested in exploring the possibility of hiring such a liaison and will consider how that would impact the budget during the upcoming budget process.

Check it out

The city has employed a part-time Korean liaison since 2001. It has employed a part-time Hispanic liaison since 2008. There are 10,854 Federal Way residents that speak an Asian or Pacific Islander language at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006-2008 American Community Survey of Federal Way. There are 8,907 Federal Way residents that speak Spanish at home, the survey said.

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