America is a Special Place
America is a special place.
I was reminded of that this week as I had coffee with Svitlana and Iryna. Both of these women moved to America from Ukraine two years ago. Both are married to hardworking husbands, and both have children.
Over coffee we discussed our families, our work experiences, and the differences between Ukraine and the United States. According to Iryna and Svitlana, the bread is better in the Ukraine, but the people in America are much nicer. In South Dakota, “everyone smiles all the time,” they told me.
Their journeys to America weren’t easy. They dealt with years of paperwork and the complications of moving. Once here, they faced the confusion of a new language, new measuring systems, new practices, and starting over with a brand new life. Both ladies are college-educated and worked professional jobs in Ukraine. Once they settled in South Dakota, Iryna worked in a factory making furniture and Svitlana worked at a meat processing facility. Both jobs placed substantial physical demands on them.
With radical change in most every aspect of their life, at times Svitlana, Iryna and their families were simply shell-shocked. They have grown to love America, but initially, Svitlana said, “there were days when we just sat in our apartment, wondering what we had done.”
I asked them why they did it. Why come to America, when doing so would cause them so much disruption and challenge?
They talked about the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, and about the freedoms Americans enjoy, but there was an even greater motivator for both families to immigrate. “In America, if you work hard, you can find opportunity,” Iryna told me. “I wanted that, especially for my children.”
Our country is experiencing a particularly divided and acrimonious time. Many of us have grown quick to highlight the weaknesses of our country and our fellow Americans. As I listened to the incredible experiences of these two women over coffee, though, I was filled with admiration for them and pride for this country. I was reminded that America is a special place.
It’s a special place for many reasons, but not least because courageous, hardworking, caring, dedicated, talented, and persistent women like Svitlana and Iryna want to make this their home. I’m glad they do.