“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
This photo was taken shortly after my arrival to N.Y.city as a fresh emigrant. There was a spring and trees were covered with blooming flowers of many beautiful hues. And I remember my though that day: “Flowers are blooming but my life not Yet…”
Keyword here is “YET.” As always, I couldn’t admit possibility of failure, it was just a beginning after all and I was ready for my fight to start my life again…
So here it goes…No, I do not have photos from my childhood, none when I was growing up, none from graduation or any other event in my life. You know, I’m an emigrant and a political refugee to make it even more difficult. I’ve lost everything; my possessions, my family and friends, country, identity… and it feels like I would have also lost my life I lived… before I came to US. My property was confiscated when I did not return in certain time frame, just to be arrested.
So… I came to US one day and now what? Of course, I came here to start all over, start my life all over again. I wasn’t an “economic” refugee, I was “the other” that difficult kind, who came bare handed, who couldn’t bring any money, any possession, nothing. That was the choice. Or need? Need to prove something? Conviction? I do not wish to make analysis of what led to all this, or tell story behind story, although many could find it rather interesting. I just would like to reveal how one emigrant started new life in a new world…
I started in N.Y.C. knowing no one, not knowing way of life, speaking broken English (trust me, no university can teach you what you need in real life, and same is with languages) no experience to prove, no money. As I’ve mentioned, political emigrant couldn’t have it, ever, (just those who could come free with no obstacles could take some possessions with them) so being just a lost soul in a sea of strangers…. It is very difficult for anyone to even imagine how unbelievably hard is start for the emigrant in a strange country. Sometimes even impossible if one is not strong enough. Or at least it was very hard for those who obtained legally permission for US entry in another country from US embassy there.
Such as Germany, to name one. But the interrogation, suspicion, undeserved blame, you name it… that we, legal emigrants, have found as a treatment at American Embassy was very humiliating. We had to wait at least 6 months for visa to enter this country, being left to fend for ourselves, having no status of any kind and at that point belong to nowhere. US ambassador insisted that we are communists… what a joke! I guess he didn’t know that for communists weren’t impossible to get visa directly to US from their own country, they did not need to wait elsewhere, destitute, being humiliated in a process. But I must say that Germans helped, with little money and accommodation to overcome hardship.
In America nobody helped. I’ve earned every penny by working and only “handout,” actually a gift I’ve ever received was one “Kennedy dollar” from grandmother of boy I baby-sit. I still have it. So I cannot resist to mention…what a difference nowadays for any illegal coming here. They have a “roses to smell” comparing what we, Europeans went through.
So, iron will, strong desire, hard work, being ready to accept abuse, being ridiculed for accent, not having resume, cannot prove any experience, going through desperation, loneliness, must accept any work for any money at the beginning… that was my life at the time of “starting over” and I could go on and on. …
And then, at night hit remorse and regret for all loses, family, personal things, such as photos, small collections of personal valuables, not to mention all the rest.. lost forever, knowing that you can never return if regime in your country won’t change…
I could write a book…. While I was babysitting to earn few miserable dollars I was constantly hunting after some regular job, but many companies did not accept me because I had only “green card” and not citizenship status. Can you imagine something like that today? When I obtained my first decent job, I worked endless hours overtime, including weekends, (fortunately company I worked for had a season and appreciated that, but not with money as much, as you can imagine…) they realized my desperate need and acted accordingly.
So I saved and saved and saved, living frugal life to the extreme. At a beginning, when I needed to eat I had to get not only food but to buy also plate and spoon…table, bed…you get a picture. I sewn and knitted my own clothes, cooked everything from scratch (which I do always, but here saving was the key element of utmost importance) taking lunches to work, just to save… There was no rest, no relief, no fun, nothing, for several years. I’m very proud woman and at the time I would have never admitted what I admit today. I just had to work and get ahead, that was all.
So here it is, short story of my humble new beginning… No money, no job, no place to live in a strange world…
But things have a habit to change, if one can help it, won’t they? They eventually did even for me…
Thank you for reading…
Below is a partial translation of the song that very well expresses my feelings at the time. I’m sorry that video is damaged (in the middle) but pictures of people “lost to society” are rather depressive anyway. Singer
Zhanna Bichevskaya was “underground” singer during communist era in Russia.
“Difficult road through life”
Translation by Maya
Difficult is the road leading us through life.
Cruel laws in this world govern
Although those who are stronger
shall bring their journey to the end,
those who are weak are dying on their way.
Autumn is changing into summer every year
and harsh, cold winds are blowing
birds are getting ready for their long journey
and also, only strongest of them shall make it
to the end and the weak ones and helpless
just off are falling.
When soul is feeling so tired and heart
with longing is constricted and twisted
I am looking on grayness of fields where
those birds dead are lying and me…
everything remembering I am watching
with sadness seeing those birds…
and we, people, like them are going from life
to eternity until all is to the end brought up.
When at night we for bitter tears can’t sleep
and plainly from sadness and hardship just meditate…
People also like a large birds from life to
eternity their flights to the end are bringing.
And in heaven our soul soaring to places
dear to us as time is spreading all over
the land on wings towards heaven,
till they are not able to fly any more…