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A Journey to Remember

D K's story posted by HIAS on October 12, 2012 at 11:47 am. D emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia to Lincoln, United States in 1993

“Welcome to Lincoln Ends Family’s Exodus,” read the headline of The Lincoln Star when I immigrated to Lincoln, Nebraska from St. Petersburg, Russia due to the life-changing assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Like other Soviet Jews, my parents thought the United States was a country where their children could grow up without restraints; where they would not get bad grades simply because they were Jewish. Thus on April 17th, 1993 my parents and I got onto a plane with the hope that America really was the free country everyone had raved about.

With only two hundred dollars in their pockets and a seven-month old child in their arms, my parents set off on a relocation journey like never before. Upon arrival in Nebraska, a Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society representative and the Jewish community of Lincoln collaborated to provide my family with an apartment furnished with donated items and to assist my father in finding a job as well as to ease my family’s transition to the American lifestyle.

Many immigrants can recollect the most seemingly minute details of their journey such as the last meal they had in their home country or the color of the carpet in the airport when they first arrived to their new home. However, I was only seven months old at the time of emigrating from Russia to the United States, so for me a snapshot taken of my family while being welcomed at the Lincoln Airport takes the place of a crystalized memory. In the foreground of the photo is a young boy and his father with their backs turned towards the camera staring in awe straight ahead. As the viewer, you become intrigued at what it is that they are staring at and when you look over their shoulders you become mesmerized by my parents who are at the center standing next to one another. My mother juggling me, a little baby, in her right arm with a bouquet of carnations and blue balloons she received seconds ago; my father standing right behind her carrying the one piece of luggage we were allowed to bring along. The two of them are beaming with joy and radiating with excitement while my face looks as though I am in complete shock and bewilderment at all the new faces and celebration. This treasured photo is framed and rests on my desk as a sort of time capsule and reminder of the awe I feel towards my parents for having the courage to apply for asylum in the United States, leaving everything behind in order to start a new, freer life.

After reflecting on my family’s immigration experience, I have learned the importance of preserving the past in order to better my own future and the future of those yet to come. It is critical for me to continue looking back at where I come from in order to look forward and know where it is that I want to be going. When asked to write about my family’s immigration experience, I learned to understand the nuances of my shared past with other Russian-Jewish families similar to mine, to not take for granted the freedoms which I have today, and to appreciate the challenges that my predecessors overcame.

My family’s immigration story is still in progress. I do not believe that I have achieved my version of the American dream yet, but to have the opportunity to achieve such a dream and to take pride in my personal identity is all my family ever wanted.