Coming to this country was not like something out of the movie “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy.
Everyone has their own unique experience and I would say my families’ experience was no different. Writing this essay could not be better timing since tomorrow will be nineteen years since my family have immigrated to the United States from a small little place called Rogachev, in Belarus.
Growing up in the Soviet Union was not the easiest for my parents as well as grandparents but amidst the tough times great memories remained, therefore the transition was not a very easy one.
On December 18, 1991, my parents, grandparents, and I boarded a charter flight in Moscow to New York City. It was a long fourteen hour flight where not even a snack was served. While everyone was starving, my grandpa happened to have a few slices of bread with him that he gave me to munch on being that I was only three years old at the time. The only possessions that my family took with them were a few bags of clothes and leftover money from selling their house.
When we got to Brooklyn, we settled into an apartment on 65th street in Bensonhurst. It was a one bedroom apartment with the five of us living under one roof. My grandparents slept in the living room while my parents and I had settled into the bedroom. I am still baffled as to how all three of us fit in the queen size bed.
My dad and grandpa found our furniture on the streets of Brooklyn and dragged it to our apartment. Settling into our apartment, my parents needed to have an income flow to be able to pay the rent every month, therefore my dad took on his first job in a lumber store for five dollars an hour with absolutely no English skills.
My mom took on a job as a cleaning lady, cleaning the homes of Orthodox Jewish households. Even that wasn’t enough to sustain a household, and over time my dad had to take on another job during nights as a video photographer. Life was definitely not easy. My grandparents experienced nostalgia as well as severe depression and that took a huge toll on my parents.
Not only did they have to work around the clock to make ends meet, they also had to come home after an exhausting day at work and listen to their complaints. I remember there being a time where my mom winded up in the hospital due to exhaustion and my dad being told by his physician that if he doesn’t stop working crazy hours then he will die at a young age.
Although times were tough, I truly believe my parents where one of the lucky ones. They had a lot of support while they were on their way up. My grandparents played a large role in raising me. They took me to school as well as picked me up from school. My grandma would help me with my homework, while my grandpa would teach me the Russian alphabet so that I wouldn’t forget the language. Thanks to him, I know how to read and picked up the language even more so.
My parents are now working professionals and have been through hell and back to be where they are today. I am immensely proud of them and look up to them daily as my role models. I wish such strength on everyone for not all people can put up with the hardships my parents had to face.