The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

How after 20 years in America I returned to Belarus because of a novel on the Web

'06.01.2022'

A source: lady.tut.by

Our heroine at the age of 35 years decided on a gamble: through an intermediary who promised to hire a nanny for an American family for a fee, she flew to New York without money (1992 year) and knowledge of English. In the country of arrival, Irina Kravchenko had no relatives or friends. Oddly enough, the mediator kept his promise, and already on the second day Irina went to work. Why, after 20 years, she returned to Belarus, Irina told lady.tut.by.

Photo: Shutterstock

“I thought - will I really work for a penny all my life?”

“I'm not really risky,” says Irina. - I’m cold-blooded and confident, I would be a scout! Flying to America was not scary. Maybe someone who has been patronized and supported by parents since childhood and who has not had to overcome great difficulties in life would be scary. I am not spoiled by fate: I grew up in a village, with my aunt, from childhood I got used to independence and work. She graduated from the Polytechnic Academy, worked as an engineer in a construction cooperative.

What happened in the country in 1992 year, it makes no sense to retell. The financial situation was very difficult, there was no work, plus everything I was experiencing divorce and separation from the children whom my ex-husband had taken to Germany. I remember how I came to Germany to visit them — they had been living there for a year, and my husband, as an immigrant with two children, received a good allowance from the state.

Compared to how people lived in Belarus then, it was such an abundance! Yogurt in the fridge! No matter how my mother’s heart ached, I knew that in Germany children would feel better. She herself decided to move to America.

There were a whole group of us, future nannies, from Belarus. Upon arrival in the country we were met and taken by bus to New Jersey. Already on the second day, I started working as a nanny in a family of Russian-speaking immigrants. She lived in their house, received mere pennies, but it was necessary to start with something. Three months later she moved to an English-speaking family, began to learn the language and could already somehow communicate. When she got the chance to get a job as a packer in a Polish store in Brooklyn, she quit and moved to Greenpoint (a district of New York, where the Polish diaspora traditionally resides).

The first years of life in America were the most difficult. I thought: will I really work for a penny all my life? I see only one way out - to learn the language and get an American education.

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“In order to pay the first installment for housing, I didn’t buy anything for two years”

I went to school to train cosmetologists. I quit my job at the store, as my studies took up all my time. Unemployment benefits amounted to 150 − 160 dollars per week, school fees cost 108 dollars per week. With the remaining money, I somehow survived, rented a room in a disadvantaged area of ​​New York, it happened that I was malnourished. Living with Polish immigrants, I learned Polish. Studying with the Americans on an English-language training program, I pulled up English. I did not communicate with representatives of the Russian-speaking diaspora at all.

After six months of training, I passed the exams for a cosmetologist license. I went there, where they took me - to the hairdresser. On the day I was given one or two clients who could not even leave a tip (in the USA, most of the cosmetologists' income is generated by the tips that clients leave for the procedure, the recommended tip size for the cosmetic procedure in New York is 18% of the cost of the procedure. - Approx.edited).

At first, I was afraid of people, even afraid of touching my hand! I earned 30 dollars a day, did not complain, I understood that experience is my earnings. A month later, there were more customers, better tips, I earned 40 dollars a day, which seemed acceptable to me. The next place of work was the spa, where a friend recommended me (she had been working there for some time). Then another salon, better. Gradually grew to the position of a cosmetologist at the prestigious Manhattan spa on 5 Avenue. My clients were wealthy people - some of them left tips in the amount of my daily income.

Now you can save money on the purchase of your own home. At the age of 40, I applied for joining a cooperative in order to build an apartment in Southern Brooklyn. The idea was planted by a Polish friend. Poles are very punchy people. From this area to Manhattan, where I have work, it takes more than an hour to get there, but I was glad that I could finally live alone, in my own apartment, without neighbors.

The initial installment for housing was 5000 dollars (late 1990's). I scraped this money at the cost of increased savings. I didn’t buy anything for two years. When, after paying the fee, I forked out a blouse for 17 dollars, for me it was such a lot of money!

“I was sure that things in my homeland were nowhere worse”

And now the apartment is built, the work brings a steady income, I travel a lot, I am actively involved in sports.

But ... My personal life does not work out, I don’t have close friends, I work on 10 − 12 hours a day, and return home by night. On holidays and weekends, when people relax, have fun, go on dates, musicals, theaters, I work - this is one of the minuses of working in the beauty industry.

The flow of customers increases sharply on the weekend, so the owners of beauty salons, hiring cosmetologists to work, set the condition for them to work on weekends, and rest themselves in the middle of the week. Beauty salons, spas, as a rule, are open on all days of official American holidays, except Christmas. And only on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve a slight relief is made - a shorter working day. I wanted to lie corpse on my weekends, but I pulled myself into the pool, doing yoga, playing tennis, and cycling. This helped to survive bad moods and keep fit.

Over the 20 years of life in New York, there has never been a desire to come to Belarus, to see how things are going on at home. I was sure that things in the homeland were nowhere worse. But when I turned 55 years old, I thought about where I will live after retirement.

The retirement age for women in the USA is 65 years. Since I immigrated already in adulthood and worked for the first five to seven years in low-paying jobs, I could not count on a normal pension. Medicine in the USA is not free; insurance covers only part of the cost. For example, I paid for the dentist at my own expense. What about other expenses? New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and even with average US earnings, you have to infringe on yourself in many ways. It was clear that the American pension I had earned over 20 years of hard work on 10-12 hours a day would not be enough even for a living wage in New York.

I was thinking about moving to Poland or the Czech Republic. Polish I know, Czech is similar to Polish, countries are inexpensive, why not?

But ... Want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.

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“Having discharged from the Minsk hospital, she said:“ I remain in this country! ”

I was found on a social network by a classmate with whom we once had great sympathy. He is divorced in Minsk. I am divorced, but in New York ... For some time we corresponded, and then he called to visit him.

Going to Belarus was scary. Relatives living in Europe told me directly: “You’ll fly to Belarus, get out of the airport, hit you on the head and find them in the Pinsky Marshes.” Or they won’t find it. ”

Husband, hearing about this, laughed. I have it abnormally honest, abnormally good, there are no more such people! I convinced that there was no need to be afraid, that he would meet me at the airport, everything would be fine.

And so I flew in. At the border control, she foolishly said to the officer who checked the documents: “Why don’t you smile?” So blurted out, on a blue eye! He looked at me sneakily and said: "You will stay here and leave, but we live here."

We drive with my beloved on the way from the airport to Minsk, and my jaw begins to sag. We are going on such a good road! Such beauty is around! At the entrance to Minsk, where a field had begun before an architectural institute, a huge region grew up. Clean, beautiful, and people like dressed!

It was then that my friend explained to me that many go in the same, but expensive, that a good thing will cost a third of the salary. In America, people change clothes every day, it’s not at all customary to wear something from clothes - say, a sweater - for two days in a row. If you came to work in the same way as yesterday, your American colleagues will conclude that you walked somewhere, drank and did not spend the night at home. When my husband now saw me changing my clothes every day, jokingly chided: they say, why do you boast in front of people.

It was also surprising that women everywhere wear high heels. It’s now in Belarus they began to wear sneakers for dresses and you almost never meet a girl in labutenas, and seven years ago - heels all around ... I’m used to dress comfortably. I remember that my mother-in-law, seeing how I was going to the Komarovsky market, said: “Would you wear heels or something! You’re going to the market! ” It’s ridiculous to say in the market — I couldn’t see the carrots on the counter, because I got used to being washed, bright orange — they don’t sell another in American stores.

For 20 years I talked mainly with Americans and Poles, and therefore in the first months of my life in Belarus I didn’t speak Russian, I stammered, inserted English words and phrases into my speech in order to better express my thoughts and describe the situation. Over the seven years of life in Belarus, it has adapted, it’s just still hard to get used to the rudeness of service workers and to the fact that people do not respect personal space, do not keep distance. If you stand somewhere in line, they’ll come so close that they’ll almost lean.

Well, smiles. Rather, their absence. Where does this myth come from that in the USA people smile with fake smiles? When I, having settled in Belarus with my new husband, flew to New York four years later to settle some business, I felt such joy at the fact that they smiled at me at the airport! Not because their protocol obliges, but sincerely. I realized how I was missing this! Simple human affability.

But smiles, smiles, and with age, other factors begin to bother much more: social security, accessibility and quality of medical care. When I (after moving to Minsk) had a health problem and had to go to surgery, I said goodbye to life: I thought that in the operating room I would be waited with an ax. And there - a female surgeon, seven assistants, modern equipment ... They moved to the ward, and there the bed is comfortable, modern, and a separate bathroom, and they feed deliciously - I did not even ask my husband to bring me food, this simply was not necessary. And most importantly, all this is for free. Having checked out of the hospital, I told my husband: “I remain in this country!”

Having moved to Belarus, I learned to cook again. In America, there was no time for this, I did not go to the stove, did not cook any complicated dishes. Now I cook so that you lick your fingers! Fond of gardening, I enjoy spending time in the country. These are simple pleasures that would not have been available to me, had I stayed in New York. I do not regret my American period. I am one of those people who, when asked “would you like good or interesting events to happen in your life?” Always answered: “Interesting!”

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