— Photo by Kevin Miyazaki
Kazuko Kinoshita Copeland, 86
How old were you when you arrived?
I was 16 years old and came with my father, mother and 3 brothers.
How long were you there?
We were there about a year.
What is your strongest memory from the camp?
My strongest memory from camp was the weather. I was a girl from Los Angeles, and the dry wind in the summer and the cold wind in the winter was so different and harsh compared to California weather.
What did you do after you were released from the camp?
I went to Denver, Colorado, and lived with a Japanese family. In order to leave camp, I had to have a sponsor so I wouldn't become a ward of the state. We didn't know the family who took me in, but they were friends of some of our family friends. I stayed there with 2 other young Japanese-American women who left camp about the same time as I did. I stayed with the family in Denver for about 9 months and worked as a clerk in a drugstore. They were very nice to us. After 9 months I left Denver for Chicago, where my older brother was living and working. In Chicago the Quakers helped me and other Japanese-Americans find work and places to live. I ended up with a job in a printing company helping the printer and living in an apartment with another young woman.
How do you feel about Heart Mountain and that time in your life?
I have never been bitter over what happened. At the time, and to this day. I believe it was wrong for the U.S. government to take away our civil rights. Going to camp changed my life, and my life certainly turned out differently because of camp. I didn't get the education that my family and I had planned for me. I also learned that things can change quickly and that we have to make the best of life's situations.