San Jose boy wins top prize in HIAS poster contest

When Rostislav Rybalov's grandparents asked him which prize he hoped to win in a national poster contest for immigrant youth, he replied, "Grand prize."

The 12-year-old from San Jose had already been a finalist in 1999, so he aimed his sights a bit higher in the latest competition.

He was not disappointed. "They told me, 'You got it,'" he said. "I was definitely surprised. I loved it so much."

The seventh-grader at Rogers Middle School beat out more than 100 children who competed in the annual contest, sponsored by HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The theme for the last contest was "A New Symbol for America." Winners were announced in November.

Rostislav's poster is called "America — Steering a Peaceful Course into the New Millennium!" and depicts a ship shaped in the form of the United States, with a dove at its head, olive branch in its mouth. The body of the ship is in the red, white and blue stars and stripes of the American flag.

Several different figures are on deck of the ship, including an astronaut, a Jewish boy holding up a menorah, a clown holding theater masks, an artist, a basketball player and a doctor.

This is to indicate Rostislav's belief in the importance of a well-rounded education, with everything from the sciences to the arts and physical education.

"Education should be in everything, but a little more in what you want to be," he said.

The child with the menorah represents religious freedom. "I think it's very important that all the nations and that all the people from all countries come to America and they have religious freedom to do whatever they feel like," he said.

Rostislav emigrated with his family in 1996 from Kiev, Ukraine.

While his favorite subjects are math and science, drawing has been a hobby for several years.

For his poster, he used several different mediums, including pencil, gouache, watercolor and even some Wite-Out for the stars above, which appear on a black background.

"I like using paints," he said. "I used watercolor for the people, because gouache can sometimes be rough."

Rostislav hopes to become an engineer, and wants to be "a designer of anything that moves really fast, like a plane, motorcycle or car."

His friend Edward Yevelev, 11, from San Jose as well, was also a finalist for the second year running.

Edward is a sixth-grader, also at Rogers Middle School. Originally from Polotsk, Russia, he came to this country in 1990.

His poster shows an astronaut clasping hands with an alien, standing on a map of the United States. In between the two figures is a rocket ship, with a menorah and dove on it. Above them, it says: "We are citizens of the world!"

Edward used watercolor, paint, colored pencils and pastels.

"We should not only take care of our country, but our world, too," said Edward. "There might be other life forms out there. It also shows the future hope that if we can make peace with an alien, we should try to make peace between each other."

Edward enjoys social studies, reading and P.E. "It's fun," he said, "I like basketball, football." He has been drawing for several years, and takes private lessons.

Margarita Zilberman, assistant director of publications at HIAS, said there were a total of four contestants who were repeat winners. "It was no coincidence in that they've done well," she said. "There was a totally different committee this year, and the people in charge were new."

Rostislav won a $1,000 savings bond as the grand prize winner. Edward won a $50 bond.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."