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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

A Family Gathering

The video is of my boyfriend’s extended family enjoying a nice family dinner. The gray-haired woman in the middle is his grandmother, surrounded by her children and her children’s children.

The girl giving the toast to Babushka (Grandma) is Sabrina, Arkadiy’s cousin.

(They’re speaking Russian)

***

America means many things to me (and to everyone, considering the white board by the end of last class), but if I had to describe one idea that I associate with America, it would be opportunity – and with that opportunity comes hope. Hope for a better future, a life in which one’s choices and actions actually have an effect on where one ends up.

This is best demonstrated by my boyfriend’s family. He was born in Odessa (which was still part of the Soviet Union at the time), and his parents, Larisa and Leonid, were been born and raised in the Soviet Union as well.

At 14, Larisa was forced to support her mother, grandmother, and sister by finding a job sewing clothing. She had to throw her father out because he was a drunk who came home only to get money for alcohol.

Larisa was barred from attending college because of her Jewish heritage.

Leonid was forced to join the military, and when he refused to say the oath of allegiance, he was thrown in prison until he complied. While serving, many of his teeth fell out from the horrible condition of the water.

During their early years as a family, they had to wait in line to be given a ration of sugar and all other basic necessities because the government couldn’t pay Leonid or Larisa for their work. Leonid described it to me this way: “By the time the government paid me some of my back salary, inflation meant that the amount of money was essentially worthless.”

So, they decided to move to America, where some of their family members had already relocated. When they got on the plane, they had a toddler and a 2-year-old, and neither Leonid nor Larisa could speak any English. Leonid’s medical degree was not recognized in the USA, so all of his training and his previous experience meant nothing toward finding a job. In America, their family members helped them find jobs that were open to non-English speakers, while both of them took night classes to learn the language.

Arkadiy started kindergarten understanding absolutely no English. There were no ESL classes, no special help for him. Eventually, the whole family learned English, and his parents found great jobs. They own their own house, they raised their sons, and they’re happy.

Arkadiy and Sam are both in college. Arkadiy will graduate this May with a degree in English and Secondary Education. His brother, Sam, is studying computer science.

***
tl;dr – My boyfriend’s family moved from Russia to America when he was five. They left behind a place with no future, no options, and no stability (not to mention religious persecution), to a place where hard work and perseverance actually pays off.

(My Iconic image is both Family and Immigrants, two integral aspects of America)

America is opportunity.

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