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Star City Treasures

Meet Your Neighbors

Founded in 1867, Lincoln, Nebraska has grown and changed. Many early residents had family origins from Eastern and Southern Europe, especially German Russians. Today, melding new and old, Lincoln is truly an international city with citizens whose heritage represents more than 50 countries and at least 5 of the 7 continents.

Americorps logoIn the early 1980’s, the City of Lincoln conducted oral histories of those early settlers. These are currently archived at the Nebraska State Historical Society and are an interesting read. In 2005 the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, in conjunction with the AmeriCorps program, conducted oral histories of today’s Lincolnites. Now you are able to listen to the stories of your new neighbors who have come from Sudan, Vietnam, Ukraine, China, and Bosnia through this cooperative effort with the Lincoln City Libraries. Hear the struggle of parents overcoming cultural and language barriers as they build a better life to their children. Listen to the children’s version of adaptation, and learning to balance two cultures.

We are pleased to bring you this enriching collection of people who live in Lincoln today. Please take a few minutes to meet some of your new neighbors browsing these oral histories and perhaps gain new insight into the challenges your family members experienced when they first settled here.



Adult Interviews

Victoria Welles was born in Moscow, Russia. Victoria came to the United States to marry Jon Welles in May 1990.

Rihab Elhag was born in Khartoum Sudan. She grew up and married in the Sudan then moved to Qatar. In 2003 she and her family came to the United States.

Vanja Ilic was born in Mostar, Bosnia. She came to Lincoln on a refugee visa in April 1999.

Elsa Yosef was born in 1957 in Eritrea, Africa. She migrated to the United States in 1984 as a refugee moving to Lincoln in 2002. She walked 21 days to flee Eritrea.

Hoa Tran was born and grew up in Saigon Vietnam.  He came to the United States in 1975 after being saved by an American rescue ship.

Teresa Steven has lived in Lincoln, since 1988. She was born and raised in Poland. While visiting the United States martial law was declared in Poland thus ending her medical school pursuit.

Munevera Karic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia 2002 coming directly to Lincoln.  She immigrated to the United States in 2002 coming to Lincoln after debating between Lincoln and Chicago.

Ann-Katrin Leppin was born in Hamburg Germany. She moved to Lincoln with her husband in May 2000.

Alberta Canby, Native American was born in Macy, Nebraska. She moved to Lincoln to live with her husband to be in 1950.

Constance Woods-Brown was born, raised and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska. As an African American raised in south Lincoln her mother told her never to go north of “O” Street.

Antonio Hernandez-Olvero was born in Mexico. He came to the United States to find work and has lived in Lincoln since 1975.

Blaine Lyons started life in the Los Angeles area. He was born to an American Indian mother and a Hispanic father. He hit a cultural shock moving to Nebraska.

Fatuma Garbang is a refugee from the Sudan. She came to the United States in 2002 moving to Lincoln in 2005.

Khamisa Abdalla grew up in southern Sudan as one of 14 children. She came to Lincoln in 2000 to make a good living.

Klaus Yurk was born in Kolbermoar, Germany. Klaus has written a book about his experiences coming to the United States following World War II. He began life as an “outsider” but in now a member of the majority population.

Uma Mazour is an artist who was born in Bareilly, India. Uma came to the United States in September 1964.

Siddig Nour immigrated to the United States in 2000. He was born in Umburu, Sudan and educated as an attorney. He practiced his profession in Southern Darfur before moving his family to the United States.

Artem Dudin was born in Vladikavkay, Russia and came to Lincoln in August of 2002.

Ieman Eltakawi was born in the capital city of Sudan, Omdurman, one part of Khartoum. She first came to the United States in 2000 to work on her Masters degree.

  • Interview (38:58, 17.8 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Zheying Yang,  known as Jane, was born in Shenyang, China which is in Northeast China. She came to the United States in 1999 and moved to Lincoln when her husband got a job at the University of Nebraska.

Alem Katema, an agricultural economist, was born in Ethiopia.  She came to the United States in 1998 as a student and as a wife of a man pursuing a PhD.

  • Interview (48:05, 22.0 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Florine Joseph was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1965 she came to Lincoln with her husband to find work.

Oksana Yakushko was born in the Ukraine.  She came to the United States in 1992 to study as an international student and currently is a professor at the University of Nebraska.

Albert Maribaga was born in Wau, Sudan. He came to the United States as a refugee in 2000.

Hien Dang was born in Saigon, Viet Nam now called Ho Chi Minh City. Hien Dang came to the United States in 2004.

Beer Deng was a little boy when his Sudanese village was attacked by government troops. He tells his story of running into the bush to escape only to be confronted by lions.

  • Interview (53:27, 24.4 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Hagar Mohamed was born in the Sudan. He attended law school prior to coming to the United Stats in 1999 as a refugee.

  • Interview (44:37, 20.4 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Marcelo Arevalo was born in Valdivia, Chile. He is a talented musician who migrated to the United States in 2004.

  • Interview (62:44, 28.7 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Laura Bartels began her interesting life in Paraguay. Her ethnic background is Latino/German American.

  • Interview (59:37, 27.2 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Arnold Mason was born in Vesta, Nebraska. He attended high school in Elk creek, Nebraska.

  • Interview (73:29, 33.6 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Sundus Kalid Mohamed is a Kurdish woman born in northern Iraq.  She is attending college since arriving in the United States in 1998.

Nypiat Ayouk is a Sudanese woman from the Dinka tribe. She practiced dentistry in the Sudan before coming to the United States in 2001.

Joyzelle Godfrey was born on the Crow Creek reservation in fort Thompson, South Dakota.  She came to Lincoln, Nebraska to attend graduate school in 2004.

  • Interview (63:13, 28.9 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Jennifer Bear Eagle began her life’s journey on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Ken Bordeaux is a Lakota native from the Rosebud Reservation in White River, South Dakota.  He has lived in Lincoln since 1961.

  • Interview (97:58, 44.8 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Lucia Morgan is from the Sudan, Africa.  She came to the United States in 1992 and moved to Lincoln in 2004.

Phu Nguyen came to the United States in 1998 as a refugee from Vietnam.  He obtained his BS degree from University of Nebraska Lincoln.

  • Interview (48:48, 22.3 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Dika Eckersley was born in Stockholm, Sweden.  She has lived in Kilkenny, Ireland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before moving to Lincoln in 1981.

Joel Gajardo grew up in Chile, South America. He has traveled all over the world working internationally. He came to the United States on a special visa obtained through a church connection.

Qui Nguyen was born in Vietnam moving to the United States in 1993.

Marcilina Nelida Oliva Cabrera lived most of her life in Cuba where she was a professor.

Nagonda Miller is an African American who was born in Lincoln and lived here most of her life.

Martha Mawien was born in the Sudan. She is a member of the Dinka tribe who has been living in The United States since 2003.

Isai Flores is from San Salvador. He moved here in 2004.

Lela Knox Shanks was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She has been in Lincoln since 1965.

Modesta Putla was born in Kurnool, India. She came to the United States to reunite with her son in 1996.

James White is an African American born in Lynchburg, Virginia, living in Lincoln since 1965.

  • Interview (26:42, 12.2 MB)
  • Transcript not available

Eisa Zeyada was born in Khartoum, Sudan.  He came to Lincoln as a refugee in 2004.



Youth Interviews

Duyen Tu is a Vietnamese youth born in Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War Duyen’s s family scattered to Finland, Norway and Australia. Her family came to the United States seeking better opportunities.

Linda Tran‘s grandma is like the mama in her family because Linda’s mother passed away. Linda was born in the United States and speaks Vietnamese and English as well as a little French.

Linda Pham was born in the United States but has returned to Vietnam with her parents. She would like to live in Vietnam because she thinks she would have more freedom to go where she wanted and because she has a very large extended family in Vietnam.

Michelle Lee is from Pusan, South Korea. She has attended elementary school in Korea as well as Lincoln, Nebraska. Her father came to Lincoln as an exchange teacher.

Alejandra Ayotitla describes her memories of Mexico and how living there differs from her life in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Mirela Kulovac lived the first 7 years of her life in Sarajevo, Bosnia. She keeps in touch with family and friends by email and phone comparing life growing up half way around the world.

Olga Gorelaya came with her family from the Ukraine. She remembers preparing to leave for the United States hoping for better jobs.

George Paul’s parents are Sudanese. George was born in Uganda and moved to Kenya where he grew up. His parents came to the United States believing their children would be better educated.

Papa Kwekuadabie was born in Kumasi Ghana. The hardest part of going to school here was learning the locker numbers and cafeteria number. He first  made new friends in ELL class but still misses his old friends in Ghana.

Hoth Jame D Bilew was born in the Sudan. He thinks life in Lincoln, Nebraska is boring and not as fun as he remembers life being in the Sudan.

Kak Ayaj lived in several towns in his native Sudan. He went to first grade in Egypt and then came to the United States. He speaks Dinka, Arabic, and English. The most difficult thing for Kak to adjust to was learning to read and write English.

Danar Hassan was born in northern Iraq in Kurdistan. He moved here with this family to escape the war. He has returned to Iraq for a visit during the Ramadan celebration.

Zainab Al-Asaby‘s family is from Iraq but she was born in Saudi Arabia. The family’s first home in the United States was In Texas, Zainab’s peers were very disrespectful of her choice to hold on to Iraq’s culture.