Russian and Ukrainian women in the US: Their First Steps

People are curious. They always ask what I think about the United States when they find out I am from Kazakhstan. On the other hand, in the back of my mind I am thinking about what kind of impression I am making on them.

Learning to drive, speak English and fit into the culture was challenging. Thank goodness I had my son, mother, and Russian friend Olga in the United States also. We all took the journey together and I enjoy looking back on my first days here.

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The first step - looking for a job

Olga and I both needed jobs. Her husband suggested we put resume together and look for an internship for the experience. She had noticed an organization willing to help women who were small business owners.

We met and went to the office offering assistance. She told them, “We are from Russia and want to open our own business. We are willing to get experience by helping other small businesses.” The woman seemed to be very interested. Olga said she needed a business on a bus line. I needed only day hours so I could be with my son in the evening. She promised to call us soon, but never did.

Russian accent always betrays you

One day I went to school with my son. A little girl asked me what language I was speaking. “English, I hope,” I answered. At that a little boy said to me, “I going on a cruise soon.” “Oh,” I said “Are you going on a ship?” The entire room started laughing.

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I was very surprised and wondering what was so funny. A cute little girl said, “Did you say Kyle was going to ride on a sheep?” Suddenly I knew why they were laughing; yes to them in my thick accent I had said sheep.

Asking for help is very easy

Finally when my husband and I purchased sod for our new house along with our neighbor I learned how helpful and friendly Americans were. The sod came unexpectedly on a sunny day when it was 100 degrees outside. My husband was working but said, “If you go over and offer to help Carl first, he will probably help you but we have to get it out before it dies.”

My mom and I went over and offered to assist Carl first. He was very grateful but by lunch he wanted to take a lunch break. Carl, who was a vet and very physically fit, said he would buy. We assured him we were fine and needed to keep going before the grass died. He looked tired and shocked but would not be out-worked by two women. With sweat running off his face he kept working.

Be hardworking and little crazy woman!

Late in the afternoon we finished and moved to our yard. In a few minutes James showed up to help us. Days later Carl’s wife asked me if we had survived the laying of the sod. She said Carl spent a couple of days in bed with a bad back. Apparently he “had never in all his life seen two women who worked so hard.” He probably wanted to call us slightly crazy.

Americans taught me to be patient, to never give up, to laugh and to ask for help when I needed it. Some of my best memories are from my early days and months in the United States.

By Anna Sokolova

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