4 local emigre kids win honors in HIAS annual poster contest

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Four Bay Area emigre youths nabbed high honors in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society's annual poster contest.

Runner-up Marina Sirota, 14, of San Francisco won a $250 savings bond for her drawing in this year's contest, which was themed "This Land was Made for You and Me."

Finalists Edward Yevelev, 9, of Santa Clara; Rostislav Rybalov, 11, of San Jose; and Marianna Volpin, 15, of Los Gatos each received $50 savings bonds.

All the winning posters will be featured in the HIAS children's art calendar for the year 2000.

The New York-based HIAS, a resettlement agency for immigrants and refugees, sought artwork from kids ages 4 to 15 who were once refugees themselves. More than 300 children entered the contest. Winners were announced last month.

Sirota, 14, drew five people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, symbolizing America's diversity. Behind the characters loomed the faces of presidents carved into Mount Rushmore.

"A lot of different people live together in the U.S. and there is no discrimination," Sirota said. "I put many people on the map and added some symbols of the U.S. The presidents are there because they are the people who made it happen."

Born in Moscow, Sirota moved to America with her family in 1995. "My dad is disabled," she explained. "We thought he'd have more opportunities here. Also, there are more ways to get a higher education here."

Sirota took up drawing the summer she moved here. The budding artist has won a few other awards for her work and had a personal exhibition at Jewish Family and Children's Services in San Francisco.

Yevelev's drawing depicts a clock surrounded by images of important events in America's history.

The overall message, Yevelev said, is that "America is a really nice country, because even though it's been through a lot of changes, the country is still alive."

Originally from Polotsk in Russia, Yevelev and his family left for the United States in 1990. "Because we were Jewish they didn't like us so we had to leave," he said.

Volpin, who was born in Kursk near Moscow and came here eight years ago, drew an elderly Jewish man offering a Torah scroll to a young boy. In front of the characters hangs a picture showing Nazi terror in one corner and a restful America in the other.

"I tried connecting everything," Volpin said. "The past represents our future and we have to remember that to make things better. The old man is passing on history to the young boy."

Rybalov's drawing, with a "welcome to my home" message, shows the Statue of Liberty gripping a small boy's hand. The figures are surrounded by such symbols as a computer, a baseball bat and a menorah.