Now comfortably ensconced in Anchorage, NAC warehouse pro Dion Bourdukofsky’s career journey led him from the Aleut island community he calls home.
Dionisy (Dion) Bourdukofsky’s heritage is evident in both his name and his childhood spent on Saint Paul Island, a remote, volcanic island located in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia home to the largest Aleut community in the United States.
“I went to school in Saint Paul, but I left for boarding school in Sitka during my junior and senior years of high school because our local school there on the island only went up to tenth grade,” Bourdukofsky said. “Plus, my parents wanted us to experience life outside the island.”
According to Bourdukofsky, the 40-square-mile Saint Paul Island has one school, one post office, one bar, one small store, and one Russian Orthodox Church, all located in a single town: Saint Paul.
“Everyone knows everyone. My sister, three brothers, and I spent a lot of time fishing for halibut with friends. We never had our own boat though – my dad used to say it’s better to make money as a deckhand than to pay money for your own boat,” he laughed.
Moving to the big city
After finishing his senior year in Sitka, Bourdukofsky headed for Saint Paul and started working in the commercial construction industry on heavy machinery. He spent three years as a commercial fisherman and in 1999, on his 30th birthday, quit and announced his plans to move to Anchorage.
“My dad thought I was joking,” he said. “I moved to the big city and I don’t think I even looked for work for a whole month.”
When he did start looking, Bourdukofsky said he was presented with a choice between unloading cargo for a fuel company and unloading planes for NAC, after a hiring manager recognized him from a safety class the two attended on Saint Paul Island.
“Northern Air Cargo offered me two dollars more,” he said. “So, I went into Flight Support. I got to see a lot of great places. My favorite place to visit was Nome. It reminds me of home – the people are really friendly, they would ask me where I’m from and when I said, ‘Saint Paul Island,’ they all knew of it or knew someone from there.”
After four years in Flight Support, Bourdukofsky accepted the position of Passenger Ramp Lead for Northern Air Maintenance Services (NAMS), where he worked for three years.
In 2006, Northern Air Cargo (NAC) began regular routes to Deadhorse near Prudhoe Bay and the oil fields of the North Slope. Bourdukofsky said he felt at home in the frozen north and spent the following three years checking freight in and out for NAC before he was laid off in 2009.
“But I liked the area and that two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off schedule,” he said. “So, I decided to join Carlile (Transportation) as a Loader Operator.”
Five years later when work on the North Slope began to fall off, Bourdukofsky came back to Anchorage, and to NAMS. He began work as a Ramp Lead in 2014 and in late 2019 joined the warehouse team at NAC.
He said he’s comfortable in Anchorage – most of his family lives in the city now – but he still misses home.
“I liked it when NAC flew into Saint Paul,” he said. “We don’t anymore, but my Dad still comes out every three or four months.”
According to Bourdukofsky, he’s definitely found his home at NAC.
“I might just stay in the warehouse now,” he said, joking about his circuitous career path. “I’m a people person. I like talking with our customers and helping with their shipments, whether they’re sending or receiving. My grandma used to say that you should always talk to people – you might learn something.”