Monday’s community meeting zoned in on the issue of immigration reform. The program, entitled Immigration Stories, highlighted the historical hardship endured by Latino and Jewish immigrants in Worcester and Central Massachusetts. The four panelists included Andrea Suarez from Uruguay, Fabiola Inzuzna from Mexico, Diana Golshirazian from Iran, and Natalia Krupitsky from Russia. They shared their immigration stories and specifically focused on why they left their home countries, the hardships they faced once they came to the US, the assistance they received in the US, and advice they would give to incoming immigrants.
Andrea Suarez, from Uruguay, shared the reason she immigrated to the U.S. twelve years ago. At that time, South America was going through economic turmoil with high unemployment rates and her father worked at a place that was about to be shut down. In addition, her sister needed medical treatment that was not available in Uruguay. Her family decided that Boston was the ideal location because of its good quality hospitals.
Diana Golshirazian, from Iran, immigrated to the US as a religious refugee. She and her family came to the US in 1979 although they lacked the proper paperwork and passports. As Jews in a Muslim country they were prohibited from obtaining passports and other similar documents. Diana also feared that her children would not have a future if they remained in an Islamic country like Iran because of the social restrictions imposed on Jewish people. Regardless of the constraints, she was able to come to the US with her family with assistance from a family friend in Iran.
Natalia Krupitsky received an opportunity to immigrate to the US from Russia when she was 51 years old and when her son was 11 years old. She reflected on the hostile attitudes Russia had towards Jews and their treatment as secondhand citizens. Natalia decided she did not want her son to live in that kind of society and brought her family to America for political safety.
These immigration stories from the 4 panelists highlighted that life in America was not a life without some setbacks and hardships. The two oldest members of the panel, Diana Golshirazian (Iran) and Natalia Krupitsky (Russia), discussed the difficulty of having to learn English. It was necessary for interacting with others and for starting the process of assimilating into the American culture. Unlike Andrea, who came to the US at a younger age, it was hard for Diana to learn the language quickly. In her native country, Iran, Diana did not have the opportunity to practice her English before she left because, “In Iran if you spoke English, it was looked down upon” . There was a fear that someone who spoke English was becoming westernized. Aside from the language issue, Diana had a hard time balancing both being a daughter and mother. She delayed her wish of getting her masters for longer than she would have liked. Andrea (Uruguay) and Fabiola (Mexico) both had a hard time finding funding to pay for college. Because they were not eligible for financial aid, they had to find private scholarships that would allow them to pursue their dream of college education in America.
Although they’ve all experienced hardship in America, the panelists also shed light on the enormous assistance they’ve received. For Andrea, her high school and college mentors were very helpful in leading her through the whole process of preparing for college. For Natalia, the Jewish community and the state of Massachusetts were an enormous help. The Jewish community helped her family with finding housing, preparing for job interviews and helping them immerse in American culture.
To conclude the panel, they had advice for incoming immigrants. Andrea suggests learning English prior to departing from their native country so that when they come to the US, it won’t be too overwhelming. Andrew believes, building a network of your own community and people outside of your cultural background will facilitate getting adjusted to the American culture. For Diana, America is the land of opportunity only for those that are willing to work hard for what you want. In addition Natalia said, “Don’t expect to be welcomed if you don’t want to work hard. Don’t expect things to be handed to you unless you cannot reciprocate.”
Photos by Demet Senturk