TTHE TOLSTOY FOUNDATION, which assisted the Grubers to emigrate to Salt Lake City, was organized in April 1939, when Alexandra Tolstoy, the youngest daughter of Leo Tolstoy, and Titiana Schaufuss called together a group of artists, intellectuals and professional people who had left Russia and settled in the United States. They formed an organization to aid Russian refugees and created a center of Russian culture, naming it for the great author, philosopher and humanitarian, Leo Tolstoy.
Throughout his life, Tolstoy, the author of "War and Peace," taught the importance of concern for others. Alexandra tried to follow in his footsteps by leading the agency toward humanitarian goals, until her death in 1979.Today the Tolstoy Foundation has grown to assume responsibilities around the world, with a staff of experienced counselors and administrators, and offices in six American states and 12 foreign countries. Many of the staff people were once refugees themselves.
The original aim of helping refugees from Soviet Russia has been extended to assistance for those people who flee "any form of oppression" in any country, when requested by a responsible body. The foundation has agreements with the governments of the United States, Canada and West Germany, to provide resettlement services.
Since 1948, the foundation has settled 42,000 refugees in the United States, but numerous other nations also receive refugees. The Salt Lake office of the Tolstoy Foundation was opened in the fall of 1979. Since then it has resettled and assisted over 3,000 political refugees from such countries as the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iran, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos. The agency has helped the refugees to start their new lives in Utah, emphasizing early employment and self-sufficiency, resulting in one of the lowest refugee welfare dependency rates in the nation.
The foundation supports the refugees for the first 30 days, sets them up with an apartment, helps them find employment, and enrolls them in classes to learn English. Everyone from physicians, professors and ballet dancers to plumbers and shoemakers emigrate, and most are married with children.
According to Joanna Marciniak from the Salt Lake office, herself a Polish refugee, finding employment and learning English is very difficult for most refugees. She says that most require two to three years to learn English acceptably, and many cannot find employment even if their English is fluent. If they do not find employment after the first 30 days, they are given welfare assistance.
Currently, there are more than 500 Russian emigres in Salt Lake City, according to Sherman Roquiero, coordinator for Refugee Relations for the state of Utah. Roquiero maintains that most learn the language more quickly than two years. His office tries very hard to help them find work within the first six months, and many are proficient enough in English to do that. He agrees that employers often hesitate to hire Soviets - making the adjustment process more difficult for them.
Yet, in Joseph Gruber's opinion, there is no Russian community here. The Grubers did not know the other Russian emigres before they all traveled to Salt Lake City, and they still only know a small portion of them - those who also attend the Greek Orthodox Church. Roquiero says that there is a very small Russian community here, but that most Russians "tend to keep to themselves."
According to the Grubers, many Soviets who would like to emigrate because of their disappointment and frustration with the government do not because of the difficulty of leaving family members in the Soviet Union. Yekaterina hated to leave her brother and sister in the Soviet Union, but Joseph has no other family there.
Lily H. Miner is the Utah Director of the Tolstoy foundation, and the office is located at 2330 S. Main, Suite 11, phone, 486-4781. The foundation encourages volunteers who would like to work with refugees and those who could donate household goods or personal items to help in the physical adjustment of refugees.