Lost in my memories or America the Beautiful!

1991, January 5th: my husband, my 13 month-old baby and myself sitting at the Sheremetevo Airport waiting for our plane to take us to America. It’s delayed for 12 hours due to the first President Bush’s war on Iraq, but it’s OK because we are going to America and we will wait as long as we need to…..after going through Soviet customs patrol we don’t mind waiting as long as we are out of here forever!!!!!!!!!!
…. we are boarding, we are on the air…we are landing…. we are in AMERICA!!!!
The immigration office in JFK cleared us and we were on our way to Detroit, but due to our original delay we had to stay in New York overnight.
My husband’s cousin came to meet us at the airport (they moved here 2 years earlier) and they brought us some food. This was the first time in my life we ate strawberry and grapes in January !!! We were in AMERICA!!!!
…… Another “American” amazement that night was the fact that our baby slept through the night and our sheets stayed dry. Hello Pampers!!!!!!!!!! We were in
America!!!
We were placed in the hotel by the kind people of Jewish Family Service to spend the night. The following day we had our first “American meal” and it was…..
Kentucky Fried Chicken!!! For breakfast!!!! I still have a very soft spot for KFC (just kidding). Shortly after our breakfast we were transferred to Laguardia airport and were on our way to our permanent home – Detroit!
My brother was the one who met us at the airport and took us to his place. Driving through Detroit was not what I expected, it was actually scary! When we finally arrived, we got the royal treatment!!! My sister-in-law prepared a feast for us and invited all their neighbors to meet us.
It was a non-stop 2 week celebration (our apartments weren’t ready and we lived with my brother’s family for 2 weeks). It was the best, worry-free time we had upon our arrival.
My sister-in-law, in my mind, was an authority! She was already driving a car and speaking some English, we completely trusted and relied on hers and my brother’s expertise.  One episode is worth mentioning here:  “Grocery shopping”.
We went to the store to buy some food, where she tried to explain to me about the coupons (keep in mind I just left hungry and empty Russia).  I could not understand for the life of me how they work and guess what …I got dizzy and fainted right there at the A&P store.  It was a fiasco!!! I have never seen such a huge amount of different products, there were 6-7 different types of milk, butter, bread, never mind everything else. At that time not only did I have to make a decision on what to buy and also had to apply some kind of coupon to it, it was way too much for my soviet brain and I fainted. Needless to say, to this day I dislike coupons!!!
Soon our little  “vacation” was over and we were on our way to become Americans.
Steps, steps – little ones, big ones.
Stumble, stumbles – little ones, big ones.
Wins, wins, – big ones, little ones.
Losses, losses – big ones, little ones.
We made the best of our immigration/transitional period-4 months of doing nothing but learning the language and the rules of an American life, but best of all we were creating friendship, which lasts a lifetime.
Here is the funny rule that stuck in my mind: ” women must shave their legs here in America!” (for some reason our instructor at Jewish Vocational Service had to share this valuable info with us).
I want to mention one other episode that helped us to become Americans.
Jewish Family Service arranged for us to meet with a young American woman, who by the way wasn’t Jewish, to come to our home to teach us the language and some interesting facts about the life here.

Our first English lessons with Cathy.

Cathy Jean was her name.  She would come over twice a week on her days off to talk to us.  I really don’t know how we communicated with her, because she did not speak any Russian and we only knew few words in English. She introduced us to credit cards (I wish she didn’t 😉 ), she opened our eyes and helped us to see her world. One day she took us to a shopping mall and bought me an outfit, without any reason to do so.  She was the very first American we got to know and she was absolutely fabulous. Our lessons with Cathy ended when she moved to Texas. After that we saw her a few times and every time we saw her she would tell us how proud she was of us. …

We have been pretty lucky compared to some other immigrants; we had our family and our friends to go with us on our journey. Looking back I regret only one thing: the loss of my father. He passed away only 4 years after coming here and could not see the success of his children and grandchildren. Oh, how my daddy would have love to see all of us now!
January 5th 2011 will be our 20th anniversary here,  I remember getting my citizenship and thinking, this is it: I am an American now! I am proud to say YES I AM.

My Citizenship Certificate .

Every time we travel to Europe for “some culture” I am happy and anxious to go  back. I learned to love my city of Detroit, it no longer scares me, It’s my HOME!!!
I love this country with all the good and the bad, with all the right and the wrong, this country gave my family and me a chance and therefore I am saying Happy Anniversary America the Beautiful! Here is to YOU and to the next thousands years together.!!!

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About Ariana

I came to USA about 20 years from former USSR. I am an American Citizen with a heavy Russian Accent. My two boys always make fun of my English. I love to write, I usually do it for me, but if you would like to stop and leave a comment it would be great! I ‘d love to share with you my American World with the hint of my Russian Personality.
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5 Responses to Lost in my memories or America the Beautiful!

  1. Amanda says:

    Oh my goodness, Rada! What a story you told here. I often wonder what the first experience of “America” is like for people who have immigrated. How scary it must be to come so far…so many miles between what is familiar and comfortable to what is strange and frightening. I love how it’s been almost twenty years, and all these wonderful details are still fresh in your mind. That picture is just precious. Would love to hear more stories about what it was first like in Michigan for you and your family!

  2. Audrey says:

    I have tears in my eyes after reading this! You journey to America is similar to many who immigrated and it’s what you read about and see in movies (“Moscow on the Hudson” comes to mind with your grocery store experience). Though the journey to America may have been scary and difficult, we who are fortunate to have befriended you and love you, are happy that this journey landed you where it did!

  3. Leah says:

    What an inspiring and amazing story! Thank you for sharing it. We Americans tend to take for granted what we’ve always had. It’s nice to be reminded from a fresh perspective how lucky we are. Loved your grocery store experience. I too dislike coupons and find them overwhelming!

  4. melissa says:

    rada,
    i met you shortly after you arrived here!! i remember your baby.
    amazing. xo

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