I am grateful to live in America

Anastasia Spytsya

My mother and I had a conversation last night. She is planning a trip to Ukraine this summer and she told me, “Anastasia, whether you want it or not, you are going with me to visit your grandmother.” I got quiet for a minute. I did not want to disappoint her by saying that I do not want to go back even for two weeks to visit. I do want to see my dear grandmother who raised me, but on the other hand, I do not want to remember the past.

I was 15 years old when I found out that I would be immigrating to the U.S. I was excited beyond words. I could not wait to become a part of the American culture, probably because it looked “cool” on TV. When I lived in a developing country, I thought America was perfect. Now, I know that even if this country is facing so many difficulties, it is perfect in my heart.

I do not want to say that I don’t like my native country. I value my heritage, hard history and my background. But I cannot be a patriot of a political system that made my parents leave their lives and start from scratch in their 40s. I cannot be a patriot of a political system that forced millions of Ukrainians with higher education to immigrate and become illegal immigrants and work as cleaning ladies or construction workers in developed countries, so they just can afford to feed their children.

In 2004, there were about 30 students in my graduating class, myself included, who had parents overseas. I did not see my mother for three straight years. Her pictures and weekly phone conversations would substitute her hugs and kisses. Many students would come back home from school every day and instead of parents’ love, we would see our grandparents’ support. When my little cousin was born, her mother had to go to Greece to make some money. She was absent for so long, that my cousin started calling my mother “mother.” No, I cannot forgive the Ukrainian political system for making us go through this pain.

A week ago I had a conversation with one of my good friends, who is about to graduate medical school with honors. This girl is fluent in English and speaks French – she is a genius. She told me she’s been job hunting. And guess what hospitals told her? She needs to pay $8,000 to get a part time job as a doctor. If she pays that, her official monthly salary will be $300. No, I cannot forgive the Ukrainian political system for wasting intelligence and instead of hiring people who are specialists, they hire children of the “important” people.

I cannot forgive the Ukrainian government for making it practically impossible for bright young people to build a successful future because they don’t have the means to pay for it. I cannot forgive the fact that so many families had to fall apart because of the political system.

However, what I can do is constantly thank America for opening her doors to my family.

You know, we often complain about how much America sucks and how everything is messed up in this country. In this time, it appears that American patriotism is waning. Many Americans, especially radical students who haven’t seen real life, seem unappreciative of America’s precious national heritage and the great price which so many paid for; they have not known great hardship or imminent danger to their freedom. I think we should sit back for a second, take a deep breath and re-evaluate the big picture.

In America we have every means to live any kind of life we want. We have an opportunity to receive a higher education even if our parents work as janitors. We have an opportunity to do the job we love and get paid for it. We do not need to go to school for something we don’t love doing in order to get a job in the future. You have an opportunity to stay close to your family if you choose to and be happy. We have a right to change our government if we choose to.

We have a right and an opportunity to do everything we please to do. We have enough courage and strength to overcome the difficulties our nation is facing. We need to fix what we have done wrong, and we need to value what we have done well. What else do you need? You have an opportunity to live a happy life. I do, too. For that, I am thankful.

Anastasia Spytsya is a senior Russian translation major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]