I grew up in the former Soviet Union. We had very little there, and I remember always being worried if we would have food the next day.
During the stormy days of the collapse of the Soviet Union, I came to the United States as a refuge with my mother. We had two suitcases, $100 in our pockets and basically no English. My father had died, and I wish no one will ever have a similar experience, as we did, of the years prior to his death, the manner of his death and the impact all of this had on our lives from the moment I was born.
I was placed in high school in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Brooklyn. People constantly got shot, and the school had metal detectors installed for good reason.
In addition, I did not understand the vast majority of what the teachers were saying. The future didn’t look bright. We had no money, no resources, no opportunities, no language.
My first job in the United States was cleaning bathrooms with my mom. My mother was always crying because of many things, including about a tiny first-floor studio apartment that took her 30 years to pay off in the former Soviet Union. We had to hurriedly leave the apartment behind and had no time to sell it while trying to escape the country before the Soviet government would draft me into the mandatory two-year military service for all 18-year-olds.
My second job was delivering furniture in buildings with no elevators.
My third job was as a waiter.
The world was full of life and opportunities, but we could not connect to any of these with no advice, no skills, no education, no money, no language, and seemingly no clue.