“Promise me that you’ll send letters, I don’t want to lose you Anuta,” pleaded my grandmother with sadness. It was December 7th, 1995; this would be the last time that they would see each other, prospectively until 2003, but little was she aware of this at the time. “I promise,” quailed Anna, inundated with tears of sadness and trepidation of what she was about to enter. It was the day that my mother would be taking her first step into uncharted territory, where she has no relations, no stable home, nor foundation. She was taking a very parlous decision to try and seek a new lifestyle in a distant country. A country where there are limitless possibilities, multitudinous opportunities, and most consequential of all, the chance to be able to start and support her own family.
A few days earlier, Anna was frantically packing her bags; even though she had made the decision to abandon Kharkov, Ukraine over three months ago, the documentation had yet to be filled out. This was beginning to have a negative effect on her concentration, and she was starting to become distraught. Heedless of the fact that she would be overwrought with a sheer amount of tasks to conduct a few days prior to the trip, she left packing her bags to the last minute. This anxiety and pressure to finish packing her belongings for the unfamiliar trip ahead, would unfortunately create a consequence for Anna; she would leave behind one crucial item, her adored locket that her grandmother gave her as a present before she passed away. This locket meant more to my mom than just a monetary value—it possessed sentimental value to her, and this would later on cause intense contrition for Anna. Additional stress and frustration was not what she needed before such a momentous and preeminent journey. Finally, all of the bags were packed, and she despondently climbed into a car for the last time. As her brother, Ilya, drove her to Moscow, where she would converge with her flight at Moscow International Airport, her eyes began to expel tears. Each teardrop signified something that she was leaving behind in her deserted homeland Ukraine, in exchange for something that could not be assigned an appraisal. That intangible, yet extremely vital thought was an emotion sadly overlooked by society. Hope. The prospect that one day, she would be able to provide her children with better living conditions, and with a superior education than what her parents furnished her with.
The last person that Anna saw before walking onto the jet way at gate 21, terminal 4 was her brother; they exchanged their farewells and she continued down the jet way, and then boarded her airplane. As she was walking down the corridor, she thought to herself, “Am I making the correct, auspicious decision?” Despite all of her yearns and desires to return home and reunite with her family, she knew in her heart that this was the right choice to make. Without another second of hesitation, she wiped her eyes free of tears, stepped over the aperture between the jet way and the airplane, and continued to her chair. She devoted her concentration and focus only to getting to the chair; she didn’t want to realize the critical decision that she just made, and out of anxiety, run out of the airplane. This one selection would have an immense impact on her life that she would never forget.
HIAS was benevolent enough to lend eight hundred dollars to Anna so that she would be able to purchase a ticket to New York City. It was a direct flight from Moscow to John F. Kennedy International airport. Coincidentally, since Anna was departing during the holiday season, the airplane was displaying a movie about people’s trust and belief in Santa Claus. It appeared to my mom as a presage. The movie mainly revolved around people’s trust, faith, and reliance; and to my mom it symbolized what she was about to give to America. Her trust. She trusted American to live up to its reputation, and to impart her with an opportunity to fulfill her dreams. Maybe this feeling was just out of nostalgia, but at the time it occurred to her as a very helpful morale booster. After that very constructive movie, there was nothing for Anna to do besides contemplate and analyze the unknown region that she is about to land in. She knew that she would be intimidated by its’ disparity with the country that she came from; and she knew that she would have to work extremely methodically, place every drop of effort into her deeds, and chiefly, be very patient. Success does not come instantly; it’s no different than any reward. It requires perseverance and tenacity to achieve. Accompanying Anna on her journey was just one suitcase filled with her most prized and value material items and five, American-marked bills, worth $100 each, and a mind equipped with the ability to speak the English language proficiently. This would later transpire to be the only thing that gave her any possibility to succeed in this country of prospects.
By the time that my mother landed at Kennedy Int’l Airport, she had already devised an approach on how to achieve her goals. When she disembarked from her airplane, she proceeded straight to immigration. With HIAS’ assistance with the documentation and paperwork, the entire process was effortless. She then proceeded towards the carousel area, but passed by it since she only brought one piece of carry-on luggage with her. When she advanced towards the passenger pick-up area, a group of HIAS representatives were there to greet her. They were very affable, genial, and were there to clear up any concerns that Anna had. The representatives then welcomed her to New York yet another time, while my mom profusely thanked them for their unparalleled assistance in getting her to the United States.
Outside of the airport, Anna signaled for a taxi. The response was very quick, as a yellow cab immediately drove up to her. She instructed the cab driver the address of the relative that she would be residing with. Anna was going to live with one of her aunts, a rather unfamiliar woman named Natalie. Since she was very anxious to become acquainted with the person she would be living with for an extended period of time, when the cab came to a halt she quickly got out, paid the driver, and ran up the stairs to the apartment. As soon as the door flung open, she immediately deplored getting excited over the event in the first place. The apartment was repugnantly filthy, rather small, and smelled disgusting. However, it didn’t end there. Natalya greeted her with an annoyed expression on her face, clearly displeased that Anna was going to live with her for at least a few months. “Zdrastvuite,” said my mom apprehensively. “Come in,” replied Natalie ambivalently as she turned around and headed back into the kitchen to finish up her cooking. Living with Natalya turned out to be nothing short of a horrifying ordeal. She didn’t provide Anna with any money for personal uses, only for food. This forced Anna to embrace adult life at a very premature time, and start searching for her first job just two days after her arrival. The next day, when Anna woke up she found a desolated newspaper on the kitchen tabled, with places hiring employees circled in red, and a telephone lying beside it. She immediately picked up the phone and began dialing.
Every place open for hiring rejected her request to work for them, every single one, except one. It was a local bakery situated not too far from her, around a few miles. It wasn’t very well known, and not many people were even aware of its’ existence, but it was still a job. For a menial job, it was just constant anguish and misery. For the first two weeks, Anna had to go through something that they called evaluation week, which basically meant that they were “assessing” her abilities at the job without pay. She was well aware that this was just an excuse to pay lower wages to workers, but since she didn’t really have the option to resign and find another occupation, she played along with it. After evaluation week was over, she passed with an outstanding score and was finally assigned a definite wage. She would be given a pathetic three dollars per hour, not enough to even buy her a slice of pizza. Every day she would return home depressed, seeing that her life was beginning to fall apart. But, she wasn’t an ordinary woman, she had perseverance, and she wouldn’t let a lack of money impede her from achieving her goals. With this drive and determination, she wouldn’t let any obstacle derail her from her main focus. She started attending free English courses, courtesy of HIAS, and got placed in English level 3. Surprisingly, when she was being evaluated for her ability to speak English, she dissembled that she didn’t know to speak it well. She did this because one of her sources told her that if HIAS knew that you spoke English well, they wouldn’t give you any money for subsistence. Perturbed with the thought of being thrown out on the streets the next day, she started attending the classes and immediately excelled. The instructors saw that she had English skills that were clearly higher than the level that she was assigned to, and moved her to the top tier class. In that class, was where she first met my father. He was an immigrant from Russia, similar to my mom, and then instantly bonded when they shared with each other their stories. Anna then explained to him her current living conditions, and he gladly let her live in his house. She started to have an affinity towards my father, and the two attracted. However, she didn’t let her relationship get in the way of her dreams, she still directed her concentration on college. After attending some more English classes, she soon perfected her already impressive English. She was now educated enough to take the SAT, and try and apply to some of the world’s top colleges.
A few months later, her results were mailed back to Anna. She carefully slit the marked envelope, and withdrew the content. Apprehensively, she opened and unfolded the paper, knowing that if she didn’t do decently well on the exam she wouldn’t be able to retake it due to a lack of funds. To her good fortune, all of that stress was unnecessary. Anna Spolnik received a 1600 on the SAT, a perfect score. Without a moment’s of hesitation, she devised a portfolio to send to Princeton University, her dream college. The thought of how she would be able to afford tuition if she got in wasn’t running through her head at that time, only the elation of having a flawless performance on one of the most difficult tests in the world. This was a fine example of how if you have a passion, and diligence, you can drive yourself to achieving remarkable feats.
Unprecedentedly, a girl who came to America with practically nothing was accepted into one of the world’s most prestigious colleges on a full scholarship. When Anna opened up the pamphlet, which informed her of her stupendous feat, tears of joy burst out of her eyes. “I did it, I finally did it,” she thought to herself. She had not only attained, but also surpassed her life goal. Since she had a sizable amount of credits from her university back in Ukraine, she was able to graduate college in just two and a half years; and later discovered her passion for assisting the unfortunate, going on to John Hopkins University for graduate school. After acquiring her PhD, she went on to be given a very esteemed position at a pharmaceutical company named Execupharm. She is still doing the job that she loves most, everyday. None of this would’ve been possible without the magnanimous aid of HIAS, and the greatest country of all, the United States. The country where even a impecunious girl with only five-hundred dollars is able to carry out unprecedented feats and be given an impartial opportunity for success, and obtain herself a luxurious lifestyle. With assiduousness and rigor, and some assistance, anybody’s dreams can be realized.