Research Paper: Cultural Family

Pages: 10 (3447 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … family's emigration from the Ukraine following the breakup of the Soviet Union is examined. In doing so, the positive and negative features of my life before and after the emigration will be reviewed and a determination made as to what the long lasting results will be.

Walking through the broad confines of the JFK airport in New York City on my arrival in the United States was a wonderful, exciting experience but one that was equally filled with fear and concern. Waiting in line with my parents and older sister, I was looking forward to starting my new life but already missed my classmates from my school back in Kiev. I had enjoyed my life Kiev but knew that my father and mother were anxious to leave the uncertainty that was taking place in our old country. The Soviet Union was breaking apart and the country that my parents had grown up in no longer existed. My father decided that instead of staying and waiting to see what was to happen he would take his chances in a new country. Several of our neighbors had left Kiev for the United States shortly before my father and mother decided to come here. They liked it and so my parents thought, "Why not?"

Having been raised in a strong Russian Orthodox family leaving my grandparents behind in Kiev was not easy. Grandparents, especially grandmothers, occupy a special place in the Russian family, and leaving them was particularly difficult. Looking into my grandparents' eyes as we boarded the train in Kiev was the saddest day of my life. Knowing that I may never see either of them again was painful. I will never forget the looks on their faces as we pulled away. I had always been close to them and had wished that they would come along but knew that this was not possible. My mother's parents were active in political affairs in the former Soviet government and were determined to remain behind and help the new Ukrainian government get established. They were both highly educated economists whose services would be needed by a government that was new and attempting to instill confidence in the eyes of the public. The breakup of the Soviet Union came with many uncertainties and the state of the economy was one of the biggest of the uncertainties. Similarly, my father's parents were also actively employed but, unlike my mother's parents, neither of them was in particularly good health. My grandmother, Tina, was a pharmacist but was only able to work part-time at the time that we left Kiev due to heart problems that left her too weak to work more than a few hours a week. My grandfather, Gregory, who was a Kiev police officer, still worked full-time but was getting ready to retire. The uncertainties caused by the governmental breakup in Moscow, however, made his ability to retire questionable because no one really knew what the status of the government pensions might be (Radio Free Europe, 2011). Everyone was hopeful that matters would work out once the dust settled but no one was certain what might happen. In any event, everyone knew that grandparents would never leave the land that they had always lived and now that the Ukraine was again separated from Russia my grandparents were eager to help build the new nation.

My entire family had grown up under Communism and it had not always been easy. As I indicated earlier, my family is deeply religious and our customs are deeply entrenched in the Russian Orthodox religion. My grandparents and parents were never permitted to openly practice their religion during the rule of the Communists (Bourdeaux, 2006). For my father's parents this was not a major problem. They were both active members of the Communist party and, as such, they had abandoned most of the practices and traditions of the Church but for my mother's parents it had been very difficult (Papkova, 2011). Grandma Anna, my babushka, and Grandpa Vladimir had both been born after the Revolution but their parents had fostered the traditions and beliefs of the Church in both of them and they were joyous over the fact that once the Communists left office they were permitted to openly practice their religion (Gaskova, 2004).

Standing in the long line at JFK waiting to pass through customs gave me plenty of time to think about what I had left and to speculate as to what lay ahead. Neither of my parents were particularly well educated and, although my father had a job waiting for him working for a Russian businessman, we were all prepared for the reality that I our lives would be changing remarkably as I looked around me in line I could tell from the looks on the faces of others like ourselves who were entering America for the first time that they were all feeling a combination of fear, excitement, anxiety and hope.

The breakup of the Soviet Union had fueled a mass emigration from Russia and former Russian satellite nations (Hardwick, 1993). For nearly fifty years the opportunity to leave such areas had been non-existent and now as many as possible were taking advantage of the situation. My parents were like many of their generation who were willing to leave what they had always known for an opportunity to experience life in America.

The first few days after we arrived in America were the most difficult (Hoffman, 2006). I was only nine years old and spoke virtually no English. The family that sponsored our arrival could not have been nicer and they provided for most of our physical needs but there was little for me and my sister to do. There was little that we understood so watching television or listening to the radio was a waste of time. We had brought several books with us from the Ukraine but after we finished those we were at a loss. During this time we did manage to grow much closer. My sister, Anna, and I are 5 1/2 years apart in age so she has always looked upon me as somewhat of a bother but, like me, she was initially bored as well and all we really had was each other. Years later I would realize that those few days were particularly special because of how it forced us to grow closer.

In Kiev, our family consisted not only of my mother and father and my grandparents, it also consisted of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and godparents, etc. We were always getting together for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries (Advameg, Inc., 2011). Hardly a day would go by when I did not see one or more of my relatives. This all changed when we arrived in America. Now we had no one. For me, a nine-year-old little girl, it was devastating. I had gone from living in close proximity to my entire family to feeling virtually all alone. I was quite sad.

Within a few days my mother walked me to my new school. My parents had discussed the possibility of my attending a small school operated by the local Russian Orthodox School where I would be surrounded by other boys and girls what has emigrated from Russia but they decided that I should experience living in America as completely as possible. When I walked into that classroom I wanted to crawl into a box. I felt like every eye was fixed on me and I knew that I was going to be facing days of not being able to understand anyone or anything. As I stood there my anxiety was extremely uncomfortable but to my surprise and, everlasting gratitude, it also began my adventure toward becoming a true American (Mahovskaya, 2010). My teacher and classmates embraced me from the beginning and within a few short days I began learning English and feeling a part of the social structure of the school. In many ways, my immigrations status made me a celebrity and my strong Russian accent was the source of much amusement for my classmates.

Today, those early days are just a memory. I have lived in America for almost thirty years and think very seldom of my old days in Kiev. I still miss my grandparents, two of whom died just a few years after we arrived in America, and I am proud of my Ukrainian heritage but I consider myself an American.

For me and my family the transition from being Ukrainian immigrants to full-fledged Americans was a short one (Magocsi, 2011). Both of my parents were eager to leave the perplexing political situation in Kiev and the uncertain economic future. Neither my mother nor my father were particularly political and had not incorporated the Communist philosophies into their thinking. In the case of my mother this was surprising in that both of her parents were heavily involved in party politics and strong adherents of the Communist economic theory. My mother, however, had rebelled against… [END OF PREVIEW]

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