Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Margaret Lekanoff
Margaret Lekanoff
Margaret Lekanoff talks about discovering her roots in Unalaska.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-16-01

Project: Unalaska Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Margaret Lekanoff
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Sections

Discovering her roots

First time in Unalaska

Ray Hudson's newletter

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Transcript



Margaret Lekanoff: This is a story of when I came to Unalaska for the first time, again. When I was fourteen years old, I lived in Cordova, Alaska.

My name was Margaret Vahlbusch. My father's name was Bert Vahlbusch My mother's name was Shirley Vahlbusch, whom my father had divorced two years prior.

I had a brother, his name was Mervin. After my father and mother divorced my father went out and drank a lot and did weird things and stayed out all night and brought women home and I became very rebellious and very jealous.

This was my dad and, you know, some other woman couldn't have him, etc. etc. So I started running away from home. It was my way of being rebellious.

And, the third time I ran away from home I was in the police department. I had turned myself in. And my dad came to the police department. And he was very angry with me and he said, "You have two choices."

He said, "You can go home to your real parents or you can straighten up and stop running away." I said, "What real parents?" He said, "You have another family. You're from the Aleutian Islands and you're not, you're not what you think you are."

I had thought at that time that I was Caucasian. I thought I was Baptist. That I had one brother. I had no idea that I was from the Aleutian Islands. I had no idea that I was an Aleut. I didn't know these things. I mean, you know, looking at me you could never tell.

And, I chose to come home but I didn't know how to do it. So he told me that my mother's name was Ann Bereskin and that my name was Margaret [Swetsoff].

And it was completely Greek to me. It was a name I'd never heard before. So I wrote a letter to this lady, her name was Ann Bereskin and I wrote Dear Ann, My name is Margaret. I think I'm your daughter.

I got a letter back and this lady said please come home. I came home when I was fifteen years old. We got to the airport and I looked out the window and I saw all these dark complected people standing right there and I couldn't figure out what, well, they must be waiting for somebody and I looked around and I said, but I'm the only person on the plane. I got off the plane. I stepped outside and someone hollered "Muggins!"

And I didn't know they were talking to me. Pretty soon people were all over me, hugging me and kissing me and telling me that they were so happy that I was there.

I had found out years later that I had my brother. Michael, who is a couple years old than I was, was going to graduate from high school and come and find me.

I was adopted out of here when I was five years old. I had no idea that this was a different life. I mean this was completely different for me.

That was when I came home to my Aleut family and I'm glad I'm here. I'm not telling you what year that was but I was 15.

And I have another little story about Mr. Hudson. (Laughter)

Mr. Hudson used to write this newsletter for the school, I think it was. It was called The Humpy, if I'm not mistaken. Humpy something. Right. Okay.

Community one. Some of the teachers worked on it. I got this newsletter from Aleutian Merck and on the front cover it said, "Pubic Works".

I'm serious. "Pubic Works". Mr. Hudson walked into the store and I said, "Mr. Hudson this is a very interesting newsletter you put out."

He said, "I don't want to talk about it." (Laughter) He turned around and walked out of the store.

Ray Hudson: Thanks Margaret, spelling has never been my strong point, that's for sure.