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Profile: After 70 Years, A Diomede Family Reunion

Tandy Wallack, Etta Tall, and documentary filmmaker Lourdes Grobet laugh together in the the KNOM studios, where they stopped by before heading to Little Diomede for a long-awaited family reunion.
Tandy Wallack, Etta Tall, and documentary filmmaker Lourdes Grobet stopped by the KNOM studios before heading to Little Diomede for the long-awaited family reunion. Photo: Grueskin/KNOM.

The Diomede Islands lie in the middle of the Bering Strait. Little Diomede is part of Alaska and has a population of around 100. Big Diomede, just two and half miles away, belongs to Russia.

In 1948, at the beginning of the Cold War, the Soviet government established a military base on the island. The residents of Big Diomede were forced to relocate to mainland Russia, cutting off the Inupiat families that had lived and moved freely between the two islands for hundreds of years.

Nearly 70 years later, the separated families are just beginning to reconnect. KNOM spoke to some of the people working to make that happen. Click above to listen to Etta Tall and Tandy Wallack explain the project and what it means to them to lose — and rediscover — family and a shared heritage.


For more on the complicated relations between Alaska and Russia, check out Story49‘s three-part series: “Through The Ice Curtain.”

Image at top: Tandy Wallack, Etta Tall, and documentary filmmaker Lourdes Grobet stopped by the KNOM studios before heading to Little Diomede for the long-awaited family reunion. Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.