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To Immigrate

Naomi Petrovsky's story posted on June 20, 2012 at 11:40 am. Naomi emigrated from Jerusalem, Israel to Boston, United States in 2001

The story is written by Camp rsm councelor Naomi Petrovsky

To immigrate means to “come to live permanently in a foreign country”; these few words, however,cannot possibly describe the undeniable connection I have to Russia, Israel, and America. They do not capture the confusion I felt at four years old, baffled at the very small amount of soldiars at the Canadian airport. They do not describe the dedication and endurance both my parents showed in passing the US Citizenship test- replaying the audiobooks and tirelessly testing one another over the kitchen table. They do not even begin to make sense of the many Skype calls between myself and my babushka and dedushka- whereit was imperative to align our schedules due to the time zone differences just to talk about our days.

Nonetheless, the word “immigrant” does describe my family and friends who have risked their livelihoods and gave up their familiar surroundings in order to move to a completely foreign country- all to provide better opportunities for their children and the generations after them. This is a feat that I consider incredibly noble and is the sole reason why I look up to so many of the people in my life. Two of those people are my parents. After living in Russia until they turned 23, they made the decision to leave their home and move to Israel with plans to eventually settle in the United States. Although I find it incredible that they were only a few years older than I am now, it was imperative for them to escape the communist ruling and fight for their freedom of expression, leaving even their parents behind. Within both of their families, there were relatives who were refused admission to universities because they were Jewish, were torn away from one another and were forced to move all across the continent.

Although they dreaded leaving their families behind and were anxious about their future, upon their arrival to Israel, they were overcome with a sense of excitement and anticipation for what was to come. They were taken aback by the exquisite smell of orange blossoms blooming, the velvety navy blue sky and the lavender sunset behind the Dead Sea. Over time, they adjusted by renting a small apartment, acquiring jobs and having my brother and me. However change was near again: after the comfort of living in Israel, my papa was asked to relocate to Canada. My parents were familiar with changing homes but this transition came as a complete shock to me. I was upset leaving my friends and was confused why there were no other people who spoke Hebrew or Russian. In addition to my lunch and supplies that were put in my backpack every day for school, my mama also included slips of paper that had common phrases for me to give to my teacher in order to communicate. It was difficult for me to make friends and I longed to go back to my home. After staying in Edmonton for a few years, my papa announced that we would have to move yet again. However, my parents had looked forward to this change for many years. America seemed like a country filled with opportunities and a community where everyone had a place. There were people that my parents had known for years and we immedietly felt welcomed.

Although the United States has provided our family with experiences that we would not have otherwise been a part of and has given my parents true stability, they have looked back with regret over their choices. I personally feel that I have missed out on a strong connection to my extended family. It kills me to know that I can only see my babushka and dedushka once a year and that when my other set of grandparents passed away, we only heard this news through a phone call in the middle of the night. I am extremely connected to my grandparents and I envy my friends who have their grandparents live in the next town over. My entire life, I was convinced that I had no cousins, aunts or uncles. When I visited Russia, my mama surprised me with a birthday party. I was shocked to find out that I had so many relatives and beamed when my dedushka had to rent more tables to fit everyone into his house.

I do not remember much about my personal immigration and must rely on my parents to teach me about our extensive history because I was so young. However, I feel that by immigrating as a child, I have learned to adjust much easier to new situations. It has helped me learn to accept people who are different from me because I made friends from all different places. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many people who shared the same type of history with me. My best friends are immigrants from Russia, Ireland and India and it is amazing to me that regardless of where we come from, we share so much in common. More importantly, knowing what my parents have gone through, makes me value the histories of other immigrants. I feel connected to other immigrant students in my college and even took part in an academic course which focused on immigration and politics. In addition, I plan to volounteer as an ESL tutor in the fall for new Russian immigrants.

America: land of the free and home of the brave; land of opportunity. I am proud and grateful to not only be included in this idea but to also consider it my home. This does not mean, however, that I have lost sight of my history and my past; Russia and Israel, both places that I once called home, will always be a part of my past and, more importantly, a part of me. Immigrating has given me a whole new perspective on life and while it was the right choice, nothing in life comes free: of course there are consequences and there have been hardships. I can only hope that, as I cope with these obstacles, immigration becomes an easier and less taxing experience. In the meantime, I am so thankful for the opportunities given me and I will never forget the sacrifices that my family made in order for me to have a better future, so that I could truly be the best I can be.