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My Story: Nina Geshel

Mikhail Geshel's story posted by Erich Makarov on November 10, 2012 at 9:25 am. Mikhail emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine to Philadelphia, United States in 1995

The American Dream of every family is based on their will, love and faith for this magnificent nation. My family had no greater goal than living our American Dream. To us, America was a land of hope, a land of happiness, a land which would changed our lives. We lived in Kiev, my husband Misha, our son Vadik and I. Our life was not characterized by great success or great grief, rather a burning desire for a different life in a distant yet beautiful land. I graduated from an economics institute, but when time came to find a job, a giant wall seemed to block me from the future I yearned. It was a cold, gargantuan Soviet Wall which stood in my way simply because I am Jewish. I went to interviews every day, and every day I was warmly welcomed and the employers seemed to even appreciate my knowledge. However, the moment they saw that my surname was Geshel, I was rejected: coldly rejected because of my ethnicity, because of my faith. I persisted and after years of searching and rejection, I finally found a job. After such a long and painful search, I realized that I found the job I always wanted, but not in the country I always loved. I lost any sense of attachment to this land; I wanted to leave. Misha graduated two separate institutes with two degrees: one in mathematics and physics, and another in philology. Unfortunately he took a mediocre job as a bridge engineer with no potential for any growth in his career. Both he and I suffered greatly from such a decision. He was a brilliant man, a great mind with infinite capabilities who was to spend his life on a futile, insignificant profession. Society seemed to consume Misha; he was progressively growing sullen and torpid as he watched his own talent waste away before his eyes. He also wanted to leave. Vadik, on the other hand, was growing with every day. His persistence, amicability, and diligence were a perfect combination with his natural genius. He graduated high school with a gold medal -- the highest student honor – and entered a prestigious polytechnic university where he majored in programming. Vadik was our greatest hope: his future was our greatest motivation. Our lives were not in any way dreadful or despicable, but we knew that things could not go on the way they were. We felt unwanted and unwelcome in our homeland. We had what we needed, education, careers, even friends, but a vital ingredient was missing: happiness and pride. There was a certain invisible pressure that gave us very visible pain, a pain which we wanted to escape. We decided to move to the land of the free: America.


            The years of boiling longing to change our lives truly paid off: America greeted us with open hands. Most importantly, we were not young; Misha was already sixty years old. But suddenly something change inside him. A certain spring went off within his soul. He had been waiting his whole life for something new and great, and now he was ready to fulfill his vision. He was ready to live a life he always dreamed of having. We settled down in Philadelphia, and immediately Misha and Vadik set out to accomplish their life goals. Vadik left Ukraine with us before he could finish the institute and get his diploma, but with his knowledge and dogma he quickly found a well-paying job in a large corporation. But no transformation was as appalling as Misha’s. Misha immediately began learning English, and in a bit over a year he mastered the language. Even I was surprised: I had never seen him so oriented and bold in my entire life.  Once he learned the English, he became a mathematics and physics tutor. While he taught in school and at home, Misha also made excellent crosswords which he published to a widely-circulated newspaper and worked on writing and translating Russian mathematics and physics textbooks into English. I was amazed and exuberant. To see the people you love change in such ways was the most joyful experience in my life. The knowledge and years of our lives we put into Vadik were paying off; he was becoming very successful. Our dreams were finally coming true. Soon Misha, with Vadik’s help, moved his lessons onto his own website. Students would email him questions and Misha would answer them for money. Misha spent day and night on this website; he was completely consumed by the euphoria of teaching. These were our greatest days. We worked and we loved it. We loved life. Life had meaning!


            After eight years of delightful and rewarding life in Philadelphia, we moved. Vadik’s corporation was moving him to San Francisco. California was beyond even the wildest dreams for us. America was one thing, but the West Coast, that was paradise. We felt as though nothing better could possibly happen to us. We sold our house and bought a spacious apartment in a good neighborhood in San Francisco. By this time, Misha did not need to work since we had all the money we needed and Vadik was always there to help us. So we enjoyed ourselves. For almost a year we lived in bliss. We lived life to the fullest. These were the happiest days of our lives, and it seemed as though nothing could possibly get in our way. But something did -- something terrible: cancer. Misha discovered giant blotches all over his body one day and we immediately set out to find what the problem was. We travelled to almost every clinic in California to find out, but none could give a proper diagnosis. For over a year we searched for a doctor who could help. We finally found one who explained that Misha had cancer: an unknown and previously untreated form of cancer. That was the end. I knew right there and then that thing would never be the same. It would be a struggle for survival. Misha remained strong. He agreed to let the doctors perform any procedure they felt necessary in order to treat his cancer. He went through chemotherapy and lost so much weight that he was unrecognizable. He was in constant agony, and I sat by his side every single day praying. I wasn’t praying for anything special, just for the life of the man I loved. I realized how meaningless all of this bliss was without Misha. Vadik was even more depressed than I, he also came every day to watch over his father. He had a lot of work, but he did not care. His family meant more to him than money. I could not bear to see Misha in his state. In such a short time he went from being so healthy and happy to being so sickly and miserable. But I saw in his a true desire: a desire to live and to make us happy. He was fighting what he fought for his entire life: for the life he so desperately yearned for, a good life. But after three years of suffering and pain, he passed away. To that last day I hoped that he’d recover, that a miracle would occur, but all in vain. My love died. My happiness died.


My story is not simple. I have lived through much; I have experienced the greatest happiness and the greatest pains; I found myself and I lost myself. But throughout my entire life, never was I as happy as when we moved to America. America changed me. America changed Misha. America changed Vadik. I understand now that Misha had to go, and I genuinely thank God for our lives. What if we didn’t move? What if Misha would have died in Ukraine? He would have lived a pointless life and died a different man. He would not have been happy. But here, he died knowing that he achieved true joy. Although he may not have lived this life for long, nevertheless he achieved what he always dreamed of. I thank this nation for helping him! He had bee


1 Comments

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Irina M.:

thank you for your great story..you wrote about your life and I thought about mine..

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