Written and edited by Jane Kitain.
Retold by Alina Kitain.
“Love give me strength, and strength will help me through.”
‘Romeo and Juliet’, William Shakespeare.
It began when I was just a girl. I was always very adventurous and care-free. When I grew into the age of adolescence, my free spirit was able to wander. As I matured, I began to take every experience I could and turn it into something extraordinary. As a young adult, I retained my child-like innocence, but gained a new sense of inquisitiveness. This trait of mine, in my opinion, was what helped me get through one of the hardest times of my life when I was only fifteen: my immigration.
Because I was so venturesome, I was excited to see what a new country, America, had in store for me. I was at an age when I was just beginning to understand the world and to open myself up to new experiences. Because of this, I didn’t argue with my parents to stay or bicker over their decision to immigrate. I was ready to leave Russia and see what else was out there in the world. But I wasn’t excited because of my destination; rather I was anxious for the whole journey.
To my disappointment, the trip wasn’t as great as I had imagined. There were many people all around me and too much going on. Most of these people were immigrating from Russia and were in many ways the same as my own family. Many of them were also Jewish and followed the same conservative principles as myself.
I wanted to meet new people and new cultures. This desire of mine was finally met when we, a Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union, had to stop at Italy for a couple of months to get the security clearance from the US State Department. Italy showed me a totally different view of the world. I was met by a diverse group of people with many different values and beliefs. They were nothing like me, and that was what interested me. Ironically though, this was also what led to my nostalgia. After my first great impression, I quickly realized that the next couple of months would be very hard. I was living in a place that felt nothing like home to me. I didn’t speak the language and no one around me understood my ways. I was just a small-town Jewish girl living in a totally new realm.
Days passed and I began missing my old life. I just wanted someone to talk to, a friend, someone who would understand me. Soon, through some miracle, I met Mario. He was an Italian boy around my age, who happened to live very close by me. Though we had almost nothing in common, we became great friends as soon as we met each other. We learned to communicate by understanding each other’s hand motions and we even taught each other some words from our native languages. I was happy to have finally met a friend, but soon I realized how much more he was to me. I began feeling something toward him that I have never felt before. I loved spending time with him. There were times that we could sit together without saying a word, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Mario was my first love.
We spent these couple of months together very well. Every day I was finally happy to wake up in this new world and know that I have someone there for me. But these months passed by quickly and my time in Italy was coming to an end. I knew that leaving was inevitable but I still pleaded my parents to stay. I knew that if I left, I would never be able to see Mario again. Our lives would become so separate that we would be forced to move on along our own paths.
Days later, I found myself leaving this nation and going on to my final destination, America. As I finally got there, days seemed by pass by like a blur. I couldn’t forget Mario and promised myself that I would work solely to collect money and return to Italy someday. It was hard to see my past fade away as Mario and I stopped talking as much. I enrolled in school and worked a night shift to collect the money I needed. I dreamt that my life would one day return to those short weeks I spent in Italy. I remembered the feelings and missed them deeply. But every morning I would wake up and it would be just a dream.
Finally after years of living my life in America, I worked up the courage (and the money) to announce to my family that I would be going back to Italy. Mario and I had already talked about this move, but both of us knew that we’d be taking a risk. We have grown up a lot and the feelings we once shared may not be there again. Though my family took this announcement to heart, I knew that it was the right thing to do. I knew that I had to follow my heart.
Upon arrival, to my joy, seeing Mario brought back all those feelings I once knew. All those feelings I had longed for came rushing back to me. By the look in his eyes, I could see that he had felt the same. Because I had someone like him to support me, I was able to adjust to my new life with little effort.
I am now living a life that I never expected for myself, but somehow I knew that it was meant to be. I live happily with Mario and my kids in Italy. Though it is hard for them to fully understand my roots, we frequently visit my parents, their grandparents, to make sure that they are acquainted with their whole family. I always tell them the stories about my childhood, which helps them connect to my heritage.
Although I know that my mom would want me living much closer to her, she is happy that I am living the life that I have always wanted. She knows that I keep my family ties strong and neither she nor I regret any of my decisions.