immigrant, weird, foreigner, stupid russian - that's what they called me
Moving to America
*Please note: those in my blog have been contacted for approval and given a final proof copy prior to publishing live.
I was born in Ukraine and moved to America when I was five years old. I remember going with my grandma to the farmer’s market so she could sell our household items just for a little money or a loaf of bread. My grandma would work at that market during the winter and summer. The recreational parks had very little rides that were like your traditional theme park. I remember one of my favorite rides were boats --the kinds that sway back and forth like swings at six flags, but these boats---our parents had to be on both ends and push the boats to sway. Almost like a swing, but on a boat. I remember winters being very, very cold… COLDER than BUFFALO--- yeah, I said it! Summer’s were hot and all the kids were friendly and played outside, ALL DAY LONG. There were nice, beautiful areas and there were poor, very poor areas. You were either extremely wealthy or poor. We were considered poor, working class. There were crooks, many of them, and corrupt individuals that would do horrible things for a little money and sweep it under the rug—no matter their status in the working chain. My family decided to move to America for a chance of a better life for us, the kids, and our future generations to come. Along with Chernobyl being fairly close to where we lived.
June 1995, my family and I packed up our things and left Ukraine on what was a very rainy and sad day to this five-year-old. My best friend Alina, was moving to Israel with her family, while my family was moving to America. During this time, many people in our town wanted to move for a chance of a better life. The two options most people were taking at the time was either Israel or America. My dad’s family moved to Israel, and my dad and my mom’s family moved to America…
The night before the move, my parents went out with their friends to celebrate their last day. On their way home that night, they were in a car accident with a drunk driver, and they hit a light post with their car. I was five years old at the time, so obviously have no memory of it, but all the family secrets came to surface as I got older. All I remember was that my dad was walking with a cane and a cast on his foot, the day of the move and my grandfather carried all of our heavy belongings. We did not take many valuables or belongings and burned most of our family photos. I wish I had these photos of my elder relatives, but I only have a few. We had to choose the important things to take with us and get rid of and sell the rest.
The day of our move had to be strategically planned, because of the corrupt thieves and murderers --- YUP, CRAZY I KNOW--- waited and heard from word of mouth of the families that were leaving. They would then rob them and sometimes kill them. They used to do this all the time to these families, unless you were ‘protected’. They used to do this because when people knew or heard word that a family was moving away from the country, they typically have all their cash on them, valuables, and any other expensive belongings, which gave these thieves the perfect opportunity to rob multiple people for heavy amounts of cash and jewelry. My grandfather took care of EVERYTHING. He paid the correct people, and we were literally escorted by what seemed like body guards from our home the day of the move, all the way through security in the Airport. From there, we were on our own and considered safe. I have stories about my grandfather that will ROCK YOUR CORE--- he was such an AMAZING and SELFLESS man. I remember the airplane we took from Russia to JFK was HUUUUGE and the food was amazing..I tried American Grape jelly for my first time on that flight and fell in LOVE. Hahaha…
We first arrived to New York City, and then from there took our last flight to Buffalo. We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment complex off of Kenmore Ave. We had NOTHING. When I say nothing, I MEAN NOTHING. We used to go get free food from certain churches in the buffalo area, and I was that kid that the school would bring a ton of goodies and gifts to their house, around the holidays because of our income. I was that charitable basket gift kid recipient. I loved trying all of these new things. I tried cantaloupe and fell in love, and frozen WAFFLES with butter and syrup—LOLLLLLL---DELICIOUS! This was the means of survival for us for a while, taught by none other than--- my grandfather. He taught us you do what you need to do to survive. He taught us that the state we were in was not permanent and he saw the bigger picture. He taught us to work hard for the things that we wanted and the life we imagined for us came to fruition.
Adjusting to a new school was difficult, yes. This road is not and has not been easy. Kids were mean, yes. Kids parents were mean to my parents, yes. Did we get talked about because we were poor and different--and get called names? Also, YES. But, let’s end on a positive note here… You have the power to make your life go the way you want it to. If you want something, you have to work hard for it. If you want to change something, change it with full speed. Life is too short. Be happy and work hard, not just for yourself but for your kids, and their kids, and for their generations. That’s what my grandfather taught me. <3