by Cori Hilsgen
Chuck Czech and Mary Christen Czech, husband and wife, were recently awarded a bronze “Telly” award for a documentary called “Arrival: Women’s Visions for a New Home.”
“Arrival” was selected from almost 12,000 entries from 50 states and five continents. Telly awards are judged by a high merit standard and do not compete against each other. They honor the best film and video productions, groundbreaking online video content and outstanding local, regional and cable television commercials and programs. Winners receive a silver or bronze award.
“Arrival” is a half-hour documentary produced by KSMQ public television and funded in part through Minnesota’s Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Chuck is a production manager at the KSMQ station which is a PBS affiliate television station located in Austin, Minn.
“KSMQ is dedicated to telling the stories of Minnesota,” Chuck said. “We deal with Minnesota culture, history, arts, public affairs, agriculture (and) education. Arrival is one of several long-form documentaries we’ve produced in the past couple of years.”
“Arrival” was aired in April as a companion piece to “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” a movement promoting women’s rights worldwide. It features four local women who immigrated to central Minnesota. These women traveled from various parts of the world and had different experiences when coming here. All sought to create a better life for themselves and their families.
The four women are Anisa A., Janette Yiran, Mayuli Bales and Florence Orionzi.
Anisa A. is a refugee from Somalia. She fled the civil war by a dangerous boat trip to Yemen and then moved to the United States. She works as an interpreter in St. Cloud.
Yiran came from Cameroon and is the current executive director of the African Women’s Alliance and is a graduate student at St. Cloud State University.
Bales traveled from Mexico and is the current director of Casa Guadalupe Multicultural Communities. She also serves at the Diocese of St. Cloud’s Multicultural Services office.
Orionzi fled the war in Uganda and eventually came to Minnesota. She currently acts as board chair of the African Women’s Alliance and is a graduate student at St. Cloud State University.
These women speak about their travels, how highly prized education is and how different educational systems are in their countries of origin. They also tell about how they are empowering themselves to be successful, how proud they are that they are able to give their children a better life and many other things.
“There’s an old saying ‘Ideas divide while stories unite,’” Chuck said. “That is, there are potential barriers to fully understanding someone who’s different from us – language, culture, religion, national origin – but we can develop a better understanding if we heard their stories. Stories allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes for a brief moment. And that’s what we hope ‘Arrival’ accomplishes.”
The Czechs have lived in St. Joseph for 20 years. When PBS national announced it was doing a documentary on the “Half the Sky” book, Chuck began looking for local angles of new Americans coming to Minnesota. He said at first he had trouble connecting with people in new immigrant communities.
Mary works at Tri-County Action Program, a federally designated Community Action Program for Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties which offers opportunities for the economic and social well-being of residents. She came on board as co-producer of the documentary because she was able to talk to people in her network to see who would be willing to participate. Women who were interested came forward to share their stories. The Czechs couldn’t use all of the stories because they had limited time. They were only able to include these four women’s stories.
“Working on ‘Arrival’ was a labor of love for me,” Mary said. “The women who shared their lives with us and trusted us to get their stories right are truly heroic. They left everything they knew and loved to make better lives for themselves and their loved ones in a strange, new land and they share their gifts with us to make our community better.”file://localhost/private/var/folders/nf/bq88_g695gj7psflhbnpswpc0000gp/T/Cleanup%20At%20Startup/InDesign%20Snippets/Snippet_308134BFD.idms
Mary said Minnesota has always been a destination for immigrants. In 1900, it wasn’t unusual for many different languages to be spoken in different areas of St. Cloud. At that time, 29 percent of our total population was foreign born. If you look around the area, you will see currently there are still immigrants and refugees coming, but they are coming from more diverse regions, she said.
“Our goal in making the documentary was to foster more understanding of the new Americans in our midst,” Mary said. “Having our work recognized nationally was a bonus.”
To learn more about the “Half the Sky” movement, visit halftheskymovement.org. To view the documentary visit youtube.com/watch?v=ao8qkC8pKUM.