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Korotkovs Come Home

Hot-button topics earn their apt moniker from the hard metaphorical line they draw in the proverbial sand. The debate surrounding these issues can drag on for decades, neither side willing to yield an inch.

It's rare for people on opposite sides of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun control and immigration to agree about anything in these arenas, but a local story seemed to gain universal agreement, and it came to a happy ending on June 25.

The Korotkovs — Alex, Galina, Inna, Yevgeniya, Kristina, and Alex Jr. — returned to the Tri-Cities after going back to Russia nearly two years ago to comply with an immigration order after it was discovered their original petition for asylum had never been processed. The Pentecostal family was finally granted asylum as religious refugees.

I had the chance to meet the family during my internship in August 2007, and reporter Joe Chapman has been covering their story throughout. The Herald also has run some editorials on the subject, and senior photographer Paul T. Erickson produced a slideshow of the Korotkovs' farewell party.

Joe and I had the chance to cover their happy return at the Tri-Cities Airport, where around 60 friends and family members gathered to welcome them back. Alex's uncle Fiodor even busted out a mandolin while everybody waited:

I fidgeted like I always do when there's a surefire peak moment of emotion that I have too much time to plan for. There was some uneven, but decent light where the family was gathered and I hoped they would all stay back as the Korotkovs arrived.

Just don’t rush up to greet them in front of those ugly ads.

I suppose I mentally jinxed myself on that one. From then on, it was a swirling mess of moments as the family split up to be hugged and welcomed by everybody.

Galina cries with joy as family welcomes her back.

This could have been a strong candidate if it was technically stronger and if the background elements would have lined up better.

I like this shot too, but there isn’t enough emphasis on the immediate family’s return. Alex is covering his face and Yevgeniya is partially in shadow in the background (she's the one with the hat below the balloons).

Although I usually hate camera awareness, there is something about this shot of Alex Jr. that I really like.

Inna Korotkov, 16, fourth from left, shares stories of her two years in Russia with her cousins. "I'm never going back," she said.

Vera Rakomina, left, welcomes back her granddaughter Kristina Korotkov, 4.

This is my favorite shot from the take, but it, like all of the above frames, lacked the main players of the story. Sadly, the best photo for the story that day was the one with the ugly ads glaring in the background. It didn’t help that the story had to compete with Michael Jackson's death and Paul T. Erickson’s coverage of Hogs and Dogs and Cool Desert Nights, both of which bumped the Korotkovs’ photo gallery from prominence within a few hours.

The story may not have gotten the play I had hoped for, but it was still a pleasure to cover the Korotkovs' return. Even nicer was that they remembered my brief visit to their home during my internship.

But the best part was that they were finally allowed to return. As we said in the June 30 editorial, Welcome Home, Korotkov family.


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