Finding the place called home

   One of this month’s theme stories 

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Luda

Photo: courtesy Ludmila   

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Here and below: InterestEng.photos

     Scenes from the small town in New England where Ludmila and her family now live

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PEOPLE who aren’t afraid of adventure greatly improve our world. After four long journeys, Columbus never found what he was looking for. Still, he opened up a new world that would change the old one forever. Many people who leave for new lands don’t find what they are looking for either. But many more find a new home and a new life, and help unite our world. Millions of people dream of finding a new life. This is a story of the patience and hard work that isn’t usually dreamed of:


     When I first came to America I didn’t think it was to stay. I was invited by a dear American friend to come, along with my daughter, for the summer. I had concerns about coming. I would be so far from Russia—and from my family and friends. If I needed help, they couldn’t help me. But then I said, “Why not?! Who knows if I’ll ever have an opportunity again to show my daughter America?” 

     In my family we were four children. I was always the explorer. I looked for new opportunities and loved new things. I remember very, very well the day I decided to stay in America. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. It was the day that summer my friend asked me to marry him. I thought hard about it. I was divorced at the time and so we both thought a lot about what would be best for my daughter. But that day I made the firm decision to make a new life with a wonderful man. We became a wonderful family—loving, supportive, close—but finding my way in a new country was harder than I ever dreamed it would be.

      That first year was one of the hardest years of my life. I missed my family, my friends, my work. I lost all the social connections and support we depend on. And I lost the professional status I had. In Russia I have a doctorate degree. I was a professor of biology at a well known university. But here I was nothing. It was as if I was a deaf-mute [a person who cannot hear or speak]. I still couldn’t express myself in English or understand what other people were saying. It makes you feel very stupid. It’s an awful feeling. Even my daughter refused to speak Russian to me because she wanted to be like her classmates and not stand out as different. At times I wanted to leave; at times I cried. At times I felt desperate to go back. Now I laugh because people tell me, “Please don’t lose your accent! It’s so beautiful!”

     When you first arrrive, you don’t realize that you can no longer be what you were. You can’t work in a job that equals your education from your old country. My educational degrees and work in Russia had no meaning here. That was the biggest surprise.  

     My second year here I worked as an assistant to a realtor. The realtor planned to have a special showing for a house he was trying to sell on an island. We sent out invitations to lots of people. The day before the showing, the weather turned bad with thunderstorms due the next day. So my boss told me to e-mail everyone and cancel the event due to the thunderstorms on the lake. When I wrote the e-mail, I had to stop and think about how to spell the word thunderstorm. I spelled it “sounderstorm” because they are so loud. I was so embarassed when I discovered my mistake. The funny part is, everyone thought it was a clever joke and not a mistake!

     I went back to college and got a new degree in a very difficult field. I am now a Registered Dental Hygienist. That is a professional who gives preventive dental services and educational dental services. But before I earned that degree, I had to be willing to do things I would never do in my own country. For awhile I worked in a restaurant. It was a wonderful place to work, but it was hard because I had advanced skills that were not being used. I wasn’t satisfied because I wanted to do so much more. Only I knew who I was and what I could do. Still, getting my first job was a big victory. I was grateful for the job. It was at a Chinese restaurant and so they didn’t have a problem with the fact that I had an accent! The people were very supportive because they understood what I was facing. I remember the day the owner of the restaurant had to leave at noon. He said to me, “Answer the phone while I’m gone!” I said to him, “What?! I can’t answer the phone!” But he left. So I learned the hard way, but I did it! It was not just understanding people on the phone. I had to learn what all the things were on a Chinese menu!   

      I’ve always been a positive person, but my Russian friends now say, “You are so calm and confident now!” Maybe it’s because I’ve found a home that makes me happy without losing who I am. I’m no longer completely Russian—and not completely American. But I’ve found home here and that’s more important. When you think about it, I actually feel that’s a good thing. It’s proof that people who are different can live together happily and strengthen each other.  — Ludmila 

Ludmila’s native language is Russian. After much dedicated effort, she is now fluent in English.

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 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com