PEOPLE OF LA SAL
Ekaterina Tatarovich Harrison
Ekaterina (pronounced ‘Yeh ka te ree na’) has lived in La Sal for 13 years, but getting there was a journey.
She was born and raised in Russia until she was seven years old. Her family didn’t have any intention on leaving Russia until their lives depended on it. A year before they immigrated, her father, a photographer and a writer, attended a poetry reading where he and other writers read some of their work. Although her father’s poetry was not politically themed one of the other poets read a poem that had a hint of politics in it that the KGB considered offensive. On his way out of the venue the KGB stopped her father, beat him, and threw him in jail for having been associated with something that didn’t harmonize with their ideas.
Both of Ekaterina’s parents were then blacklisted and trouble with the KGB commenced from that day on. But it didn’t stop with the KGB. Because they were blacklisted anyone that associated with them could find themselves in danger from the actions of the KGB as well, so her father and mother soon lost their jobs without any hope of getting another one. With no way to make money, they were forced to sell whatever they had. In the end they were obliged to sell off all of the books from their extensive library that took years to collect and was so precious to them. Soon after, they found themselves living off the generosity of friends. It was no kind of life to raise a family in and there was no hope for a decent future so they came to the formidable decision that they must leave the country. But leaving the country at this time was nearly impossible, because it was 1978 and the Cold War was in midstream.
The only people Russia was allowing out of the country were Jews because of the compliance they made at the Geneva Convention as a result of WWII. And even then, you had to have an invitation from someone in Israel in order to obtain a Visa to leave the country. Ekaterina and her family were not Jewish. Disparaged, they were willing to try anything. They had friends in Israel whom were willing to help and would vouch on their behalf that they were in fact Jewish. Aside from that voucher there was no other evidence of them being Jewish. Suspicious, the officials took their documentation and didn’t give it back. When that happened, it wasn’t uncommon for people to “disappear”. Fear struck the family. They were in an alarming situation. For two weeks danger lurked around every corner. It was the darkest hour before dawn. And when all seemed lost, the sun started to peer over the horizon. The government unexpectedly gave them permission to leave.
With no money for travel expenses they fortuitously met a family who were also leaving the country and, after knowing them for only a few hours, lent Ekaterina’s parents the money to secure passage for their family out of Russia. This loan was actually a symbiotic transaction because those lucky enough to leave the country at that time were only allowed to take 100 RUB (rubles) with them. This family had much more than that and, not wanting to leave so much behind, lent the money to Ekaterina’s parents on the condition that they pay it back as soon as they had the means. It was paid back in full.
Ekaterina and her family made it to Vienna, Austria, en route to Israel, when they decided to apply for asylum. There they were introduced to an organization called Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities was able to grant them refugee status and found them sponsors in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ekaterina made it to the USA when she was eight years old and started a new life. But that life wasn’t easy either. She enrolled in school and even at that young age she experienced an abundance of prejudices from her schoolmates because she was Russian, whose country we were at war with and trust didn’t come easily. She held her head high and did the best she could and finally graduated from high school in Salt Lake City. She then attended the University of Utah and studied art.
One of the many art classes she enrolled in at the U of U was a metal class. There she was faced with even more prejudices, but not because of where she came from. This time it was because she was a woman “in a man’s world”. But her rapture for the art of metal working fueled her through. She looked for work in many of Salt Lake City’s foundries but it was a challenge for her to get hired on in many of them because she was a woman. But she didn’t let that stop her from trying. Her persistence paid off when she was finally hired at an architectural foundry. Soon after, a tremendous opportunity came her way and she was offered an apprenticeship with a highly renowned art foundry in New Jersey called Johnson Atelier. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. She made the move and was able to work with artists from all over the world, including Kenya, Jamaica, China, Ecuador, and Hungary. She was able to work with famous artists like George Segal. She was able to work on acclaimed pieces like the Vietnam War Memorial. She apprenticed there for three years when the landscape of the West started to lure her back.
Ekaterina easily found a job at a foundry in Santa Fe, New Mexico, regardless of her gender, because of the prestigious status she gained by her attendance at Johnson Atelier. After a while at the foundry she decided she wasn’t making sufficient money to move ahead with her art as she would have liked to so she started to look for other options. She left the foundry for a higher paying position with a welding company. Her job was to weld on power plants doing repairs. It required a lot of travel throughout Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. On one such trip to Nucla, Colorado she traveled through La Sal, Utah. As she was driving through, a piece of property caught her eye. She glanced up and had an “ah ha” moment. She felt that this was the place she wanted to be. Upon further investigation she found that there was no work in the area for a metal worker. But La Sal was calling her name so she settled on a job at the local saw mill. Her brother came with her and worked at the saw mill as well. Discovering that they needed a place to stay, her boss offered them a house that he had available to rent. It needed some TLC and he was willing to trade rent for some fixer-upper work. They agreed to the arrangement and wouldn’t you know it….but that it was the very place she fell in love with on her first time through. Eventually it became available to purchase and now remains in the family.
Throughout her schooling and careers she was very active in creating her own artwork. She did paintings, drawings, ceramics, and sculpting to name a few. She sold a lot of her artwork along the way and enjoyed learning and evolving in the trade. Although she enjoys all aspects of art it is sculpting that is her first and most true love and is what she has committed herself to her whole life.
After moving to La Sal Ekaterina worked on small commissions like artistic metal railings and other functional art which led to other slightly larger projects, which then led to even grandeur and more elaborate projects. Her sculpting commissions began to snowball from there and she became a truly established artist. Now, many years and creations later, she is a bona-fide self-sustaining artist whom has produced some of the most elaborate, beautiful, and impressive sculptures and artwork around.
.. .. Visit her website at sculptureadventure.com