Brian Kuzel and Genevieve Osayame

Recorded October 16, 2016 Archived October 17, 2016 38:26 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk001636


Brian Kuzel (49) and Genevieve Osayame (56) discuss Brian's career in the church, what brought him to Alaska, his work abroad, and what the future holds.

Subject Log / Time Code

Brian recounts his journey from the Dominican community in Chicago to Anchorage.
B initially coordinated with a sister parish in Russia and the Catholic Relief Services in Russia since he studied Russian culture and the language.
B enjoyed traveling to Russia, where he brought supplies to orphanages through both organizations.
B specifies the support two organizations respectively provided.
B describes an area of Russia that experiences typhoons and massive springtime flooding where he trained locals and provided supplies.
B talks about why he couldn't support a community plagued by uranium poisoning or accept 14,000 tons of rice donated to Russia (but located in Germany) by a shipping company.
B explains the first one to two years of pre-training before joining the Dominican Order.
B liaised with Russia for ten years and then helped local parishes with fundraising.
B started working in finance for Catholic Social Services mostly concentrating on grant proposals and grant spending. One grant enabled the support of incoming refugees.
B and G remember an exceptionally welcoming and determined archbishop they both knew.
B claims "the way forward is unknown."


  • Brian Kuzel
  • Genevieve Osayame

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 I'm sister Genevieve. I'm 56 and I'm here with Brian today September 16th. 2016. Brian is a brother in Christ. I call him that I'm 88 Anchorage and I'm excited to be sitting here with him for this story time at Brian.

00:26 Good morning. My name is Brian kujal.

00:31 I am 49. It is October 16th of 2016 here in Anchorage.

00:41 And like I said, I am here with sister Genevieve.

00:46 Okay, Brian. I am really excited to be here with you today and

00:53 I remember we were talking the other day when I was visiting with you and you had said something about

01:02 Haven't been a member of the Dominican community and my eyes went well. That's interesting. Tell me about that and how you went from the Dominican Community to be hating on Korean. You know, it was just a series of questions that led you into your story and I thought that was really exciting and asked if you care to tell me about this story and share weeks, you know some others.

01:30 Thank you. I was for a number of years in the Dominican community based out of Chicago.

01:42 And I did a year.

01:47 Little over a year in Denver

01:50 I'm 4r the novitiate which is like the

01:55 Basic schooling

01:57 And then and then a year in

02:02 St. Louis is where the Seminary was. So I did a year there and then decided that that was not exactly what I wanted to do. So then for a year year-and-a-half I lived in Wisconsin and part of that was teaching High School.

02:25 In in City of Milwaukee and then did odd jobs electrician working in Heating and Cooling until I happened out of the blue to get the telephone call. I was visiting my mother's house and then the phone rang and then she answered it and then

02:54 She had this puzzled look on her face, and then she handed me the phone and said

03:00 Telephone, but you did not say who it was, but she had this funny look on her face, so she handed me the phone and I picked it up and said Happy Thanksgiving and this man on the other side said Happy Thanksgiving to you.

03:17 And at that time I had no idea who it was and then he entered a deuced himself and tell me where he was from and that was now the late Archbishop early. Who is Archbishop in here in Anchorage for

03:36 20-30 years something like that and then

03:42 We had a short conversation interview. And then at the end he said how would you like to fly up to Anchorage and work for me?

03:55 Okay, and I said, well I have no way to get up to Anchorage and then

04:05 Or where to live. I knew nothing about Anchorage except flying through it several a decade or two earlier, but only at the airport. So then he said well I will mail you a ticket and then went once you're here, I'll give you a

04:25 An apartment to live in and then work with him. So I said, okay and then

04:33 I got the airline ticket in the mail and and both he and another priest met me at the gate at the airport and took me to the apartment and they said but you must be tired. We will show you where to sleep in.

04:53 Pick you up at 6 in the morning the next day and the next morning knock on the door already got up to.

05:10 Anchorage and how I how I started my first day on the job here in Anchorage and what was the job thing at it was?

05:25 At that time there were other staff people I was working with but initially it was too.

05:34 Work

05:36 Really to fold one is the Catholic church has a mission Parish in Russia and knowing the geography and Russian language is to work with Catholic priests there as well as to help Parish there whether it's to bring supplies to Russia or or books or

06:08 That sort of thing and the other part of the job was to there's another Catholic organization in the United States called Catholic relief services, which is more humanitarian charitable organization.

06:28 To assist them because they were closing their office, but they wanted to keep some of the work going in their office was in Russia. So they closed their office, but me since my office was in Anchorage now that I was able to continue many of their projects meant over the years to

06:54 Travel back and forth between Anchorage and and throughout Russia

07:03 Then I took questions on my mind one was we never curious to know how the official got your name, you know and how he knew you before getting the car had mentioned or you had mentioned that I had taught and before that I was

07:25 Yeah, I did mention that I was in the Seminary studying to be a priest.

07:34 Prior to that. I had learned Russian in Russian culture. And obviously when I was there one of the things as a Dominican I wanted to do my Ministry work in either in Russia or Ukraine or or that part of the world and after leaving there, so maybe I could do that to my other way.

07:59 And then I said, I have no idea how that will happen. And then

08:05 And then he called me but obviously he just did not come with my name. So he must have obviously had talked with maybe some other priests or other Dominicans that and then say yes, Brian can be found here. Unfortunately, I've never asked was able to never even thought of asking him. How did you come up with my name or why did you ask me to come but I was certainly many many times. I was able to thank him for bringing me up to Alaska go. That means you like it. Oh, yes very much. So, how did your mother feel when you mean she was the one that received a phone call when you can relate to hear what happened? Well, actually she just Shrugged her shoulders and said okay because by that time

09:00 Are you dumb some not much, but some traveling overseas. So and then she knew that I had.

09:12 Had done quite a few years of college focusing on Eastern Europe and Russia. So she knew I knew I was aware of and can hold my own with the languages and cultures, you know, your job what it entailed what you deduct some of the experiences you had traveling back to Russian. Asian countries, just to do humanitarian Ministry us.

09:48 Yes, primarily what I call the exciting part was not being here in Anchorage. But over in Russia, we most of our

10:02 Projects our Focus was assisting children in orphanages and the Russia maybe still today. There's like four or five different kinds of institutional orphanages. I know unlike the United States now where most of the kids put in our put in like foster care so there with the regular family.

10:28 Over in Russia. Everybody is still in put in this disease large.

10:34 Holmes hospitals some just like here are actual orphans with no mother no father.

10:42 And then some would be similar to hear that. Maybe the mother is too busy or too poor and the father is either working or abusive or both are abusive. So here in Alaska in the United States. They would just take the children and put them in with another regular family over there. They do the same, but they put them in this large.

11:10 I'm home with so they could be with like 50 other children. So so it's really not a home environment it to you.

11:22 Very different. So any anyway, we would one of our focuses work on both the physical health of the children as well as the

11:35 Who is even like emotional health because we would bring over even things as simple as like crayons coloring books or games.

11:47 For when it's cold on the outside and Russia as it is here in Alaska, give them some activities to do inside and then in the summer even things as getting shoes or balls or that's so they can run because of course they have energy that they need to find things to bring over so they can run and play outside.

12:18 So this so that was that was a big as well as food because they had very little money for food. I mean the the the the haunt so even things like for infants like formula and baby food, so we did a lot of bringing formula.

12:42 I'm not course.

12:44 Some candies and some treats, you know, like if it's a holiday or someone's birthday to bring some nice little small treats for them. We did not know who had a birthday when but so we would give them to the the administrators and Sav when they have a birthday or a holiday give them.

13:08 A lot but just enough so that they so they feel like special. That was a big a big part of what we did over there. Okay. Okay. So was this thing like on behalf of the advances of Anchorage or was it for the national office? This was primarily

13:31 Most sort of both it was

13:35 Primarily from the Archdiocese here. But also I mean that part was strictly the from the

13:48 Archdiocese and from the the National Organization I work for would be like if the orphanage had problems like they had no the floor was bad or the the the heater for heating system was bad.

14:07 Things like that, then we would have money to repair a floor or if they

14:15 We're out of mattresses and beds that sort of thing said, okay, we will order and purchase 50 new mattresses because the mattresses are so old some things like that as well as also to get encouraged that the teach the children the small ones, but the because even when you're 14, 15 16, you would still be somewhat still be in these these orphanages. So there we would try to team them up.

14:54 To learn some some skill or or if if they lived like in a rural place and then we maybe would get in touch with some Farmers so they can leave the orphanage and then collect eggs or learning how to milk cows and of course the bad side cleaning out the barn and then like learning how to like process the milk from so they can sell the milk and and I imagine also like how to make butter so the whole thing so so if they wanted to be a farmer they would at least have some idea of what it would be like to actually do that and then in the orphanage

15:48 Remember, we tried to encourage others like they wanted to be a baker and I'll have to make them prepare cakes and Breads and stuff like that.

15:59 Does any particular explain stand out for you from those years of Walters? There is some so many good memories of different. I know the ones unfortunately that stand out the the the most are are the ones that were so big that there was

16:24 An impossible situation but one one that I do remember that was positive that we actually had is the one part of Russia that has every once in awhile. We'll get hit with typhoons or Every Spring flooding from the the snow melt. And then also they would also have the there they don't call them hurricanes. But if you like a hurricane so they would be flooding and then the local

17:01 There they call it something but it's similar to the National Guard would be called out so they would have troops to assist people that are flooded in their homes, but they had very old all the equipment that would not work and they were short not enough people to assist everybody. So we created something one to purchase. These are called zodiac that's like a inflatable boat with New Motors that the actual National Guard with a collet are able to use an Excel boat to get people are bringing supplies to people and then meet myself being insecure in the United States as in boy scouting or with boy scouting would take these teenage boys and teach them some

18:01 Skills like how to assist how to throw a rope to somebody that maybe drowning or how to teach swimming skills. And then so they became helpers to the

18:16 Due to some of the National Guard.

18:21 So they also received some training. So maybe they thought I can also maybe be in the National Guard because they have some training and they get through to get outside about that. I think that was a very good very positive.

18:38 Hey, and then some that the one that was in Russia was the worst meaning.

18:46 Obviously used to see I saw a lot of suffering with the one one that I remember the most is one part of Russia.

18:56 Used to have

19:01 They mine for Uranium which of the course radioactive. Do you have all these miners that were now old and retired that?

19:14 Had very little income and they were constantly sick and and discovered that when they were younger and Mining all of the what's called tailings from the basically gravel that they wanted to make their own houses. So that's a yes, you can use this gravel to make your the bricks and stuff. But of course there were so radioactive. So they were living inside these radioactive home. So, of course, they got all sorts of cancer and stuff. And of course the water of course was also through there. So the water was very unsafe. So they'd the entire town.

20:02 Tim said we need help and move but for us that was because you would have to move the entire town.

20:12 Some place just to get them out of there and then

20:19 Of course, that's enough have to treat them for Radioactive.

20:24 And that was course we couldn't do that cuz you know, you're moving thousands and thousands and thousands of people.

20:37 Sorry, we can't.

20:41 So how do you find there's one other thing? Actually another this'll take a short?

20:49 Time is also the only other time I've generally only other time I said no doing that was I was actually I was in the Anchorage office and I got a call.

21:02 From the initially was through the national office, but it was actually a shipping company that set up we have some food that we would like to donate to Russia.

21:20 I said one. What is it and in what quantity and they said well currently it is sitting in port on a ship in Hamburg Germany and I've focused on the Pacific side of

21:44 Russia so it isn't completely the other side of the world. And then what would you like to donate rice rice because I know there is one real way so maybe put it there and somehow get it across on by train.

22:08 Maybe rent a box car and then said, okay.

22:13 How much rice are you talking about? And

22:18 Even if that was a shock because it was $14,000 tons of rice. So it's the entire ship tons of rice. Yes.

22:30 That's a lot of rice. It seems a lot of rice so that I'm thinking thinking thinking is it

22:39 Thank you, but no.

22:43 That's the entire ship is nothing but rice if he so I said that I can't handle that much rights.

22:53 And then getting add across from halfway across the world and that much quantities. So then I give them I can't help but maybe one of the training places that same National Organization that maybe you can it's closer to Germany to make a vacant and this would have been in

23:20 Then the area just north of turkey and Iran has very small country called Armenia that also has earthquakes and maybe there because it's much much closer and a much bigger organization. Here's the contact information for Russia. That's impossible contact. Wow, so

24:03 What happened you how do you spell the word? Novitiate?

24:11 Set of Queen back now to see everybody is that what movie she ate, some people may not understand what it is of interest to best simplify. There are.

24:28 Not only the Catholic Church Orthodox also have similar training. It's for like retraining or almost like Like Preschool. So you're your you have normal job, whatever normal means and then it's a. Of either one year or two years. Were you get to put your like I suppose I met a 4B to put your toe in the water Anton. Okay, I think this feels good, but it's basically a year of you get to try to see if this how it feels a feels good. So there's a lot of active Ministry and working with other people and you get to try different types of activities. And then of course since it is at least four men mostly but not

25:24 Always to go to become a priest and if not a priest then to at least share in some sort of communal life and then four sisters. I never went through that Dominican sisters, that would also have some sort of Novation. So you would also get to learn if this I like this or I really don't like and of course it did give us the other people their superiors.

26:01 Des Arc. Yes. I think this man or this woman. What would be a good fit Thor sorry, you're not a good fit. So maybe look elsewhere. So it's basically a trial. For both me. And how long did you work in that position as I work in that position for about 10 years and 9 years 10 years until the office over in Russia closed and the Russia office closed.

26:39 In Russia

26:43 My work was there was not enough work. So.

26:51 Ended up ending that that position in that office closed here in Anchorage is well and so for a year, they said while we're not going to just let you go because you have a lot of other tools and skills. So then for a year, I just helped the local church here do fundraising this with the local Alaska parishes really focusing on what we call second collection. So there be like a collection for Latin America or the collection for Africa. Africa is so help organize like if there are guest speakers.

27:51 Go to the different parishes and then make sure the different churches and parishes would have their extra envelopes and and usually and inserts into the ball can just explain why there is a collection but again, like another like a short story of you know, somebody that was assisted by the collection.

28:19 So I did that for a year, which gave me time to to think about what I wanted to do.

28:28 And then that I said that was good and had some use but I already knew that did not really like doing that. I mean it's good, but it was not something that I wanted to do long-term and so as it happened.

28:48 Not with the Archdiocese, but with Catholic Social Services, which is up here. That is what it's called. But it's Catholic Charities in other parts of the country and my job was to work in finance in finance. My job was to

29:13 Write Grant proposals and to ensure that the money was spent exactly as it was requested and then provide an accounting not only have the money, but if if if if we ask for the money or funding to do this particular project and then also to provide outcomes that said by providing money. We hope to increase

29:46 And I'll productivity or increase.

29:51 What whatever that that that it went to good purpose not just because course money is very limited. So as

30:02 2

30:05 2

30:08 Because yeah people want to know that the money actually helped friend since we went one of the the main projects.

30:20 Here locally in

30:24 Anchorage was homeless shelters. So it was obviously not money.

30:31 Just for the shelter no electricity, but also to assist the homeless people either find jobs or teach them how to

30:42 Look for jobs, and then another one is that many people may not know and I know it's controversial. Is that here in Alaska? We

30:57 Have agreed to accept maybe 90 refugees a year, which is not much but to ensure that they are brought here safely and then they learn a skill.

31:14 And English so they spend time learning English.

31:20 And then a scale and and then there were some stuff people like I had mentioned the farming so there's not a big opportunity for farming so we teach them how to do gardening so they are able to sell their practice English and sell their their their vegetables at the farmers market in the summer. So they so they learn English communicate with other people.

31:48 And also earn a little bit of money so they can they can they can

32:02 So you really were that comes to my mind is word fulfillment. Yes. That is a very good word.

32:12 It felt very fulfilled about what you did. Yes, I did.

32:17 Good. Wow, so I actually I would like to say something you said about sex picture of holy and when you say that that invited you here and you know, I appreciated your skills and what you need ID for you. When I came in to encourage. My committee had asked me to come study the possibility of mission. That was really why I came here. I must say I have a great tribute to at Bishop Foley, you know and

32:50 A great respect for the Elite Archery Shop. He was one of the only person I can say and it will come in. I'm talking about me and Beyond even my community because he encouraged and decided to just meet up and said, you know, there is something that I've always wanted and this is that can be involved in this kind of thing, you know, visiting assisted living homes and son and he repeated it over and over again to this friend because I pointed totally be he just said ETB probably has to go to need every time he told them he threw so hard. He has a sister doing eventually win. The other man joins me. He was always asking how we doing, you know.

33:49 Johnny Depp's repeating this Simi Valley assisted living homes, and we really still looking into that just because of that that was dating him there to him because he said the way many people in there who had a street reality but once it goes into the assisted living homes to be disconnected from their faith you no answer it would be worthwhile to really reach out in that context. And so we do have our sisters that go into assisted living homes to visit the residents. Who are they so and then I remember when my spiritual Rakim he even invited us to come to his home and entertain those was willing even offer to come to a chapel and celebrate my throat, you know, there is no other person and I see no other person that I had given events, you know of I'm talking about the Iraqi and cleric that we received.

34:49 Like that from I am full of respect for him as the one you say that I said. Oh we have that in common. And that's a great Testament through a tree shop holding a great Testament. He was very welcoming. I think it would be a very good description of him also, very fiery because he never he never I believe never asked a question. Like is this possible for him? He's like no it is possible and the how will we get it done? I'm not if it's possible to get it done said no we will do it, but

35:30 Like I supposed going up on a farmer be like a stallion or like a bull's just like his head we go down and push forward. That's how I remember him. But very gentle. Yes, very nice welcoming. Just like what he did with your very very welcoming and open and I see you really like to go but she talked about him. So you you're lucky to have had years of working with him and really got to know him and I don't like him in the Little Italy Tapatia has always always remember him my community.

36:13 Well, thank you so much for sharing. And I don't know what the queen would you like to talk about it you have lots of experience is like so yeah. Yeah, what's the way forward now and what are your plans are really The Way Forward is still really unknown except at least temporarily.

36:37 That I will be leaving Alaska so that but like I said to temporarily or because I will always keep that door open to come back. But at least for now I will be leaving Alaska and looking for other opportunities. I hope you did that's funny that we change, you know, General Dynamics, you know that we never know whenever I know that's related to me about life. We'd sometimes it's not where we are looking at that they possibilities come from you know it sometimes it's just where we are not even thinking about what we did not been for that phone call. I never would have even considered Alaska or Russia or

37:29 Anything else but oh, well, I'm glad that you had a good time. You know that you're yes to that call was worthwhile. So

37:40 I was going to say when you miss Alaska but the god of Providence providences. Do you know what find you say something like rain Sunshine? What if that's the best thing to keep a good spirits and I hope you can continue to do that blessings for you and thank you for having this time. I'm glad I'm happy to have had this time with you. Thank you for sharing.

38:22 Thank you.