When did your family immigrate to the US and where exactly did they move? What made them come?
My family immigrated to the US in 1991 to escape a Communist country. My parents, grandmother (mother's mother), and great grandparents (grandmother's side) came to Los Angeles, and my aunt and uncle along with my grandparents (father and aunt's parents) immigrated to Detroit, Michigan.
What is the first language you learned? Do you speak any other languages?
I initially learned Russian as a child, although my parents were very proactive about putting me in school to learn English. My mom opened a Russian daycare when my parents bought their first house, and she hired an English teacher to come teach the kids the English language. I began to learn how to speak and read in English, so I would be able to attend my local public school for Kindergarten.
My grandparents from both sides of my family always and still do speak Russian to me. My dad's mother taught me how to read and write in Russian when I was about 5-6 years old. I still, to this day, speak Russian to my family when we get together.
What language do you primarily speak when with your family?
Have you ever visited or been back to your family's native country? If so, how often do you visit and for how long? What is that experience like? Do you have relatives there?
No, I have never been to Moldova, and none of my family members have ever been back to visit. We have a very small family and everyone is in America now. I recently spoke with my uncle and asked him if he ever had any interest in visiting his hometown. His answer was a simple "no." He said he wanted to preserve the great memories that he had as a young boy and man growing up in the town and too much has changed in the past 20 years (all of the buildings and places he and my aunt made memories in have been torn down and rebuilt).
Describe your experience growing up in America as someone who is so closely tied to another culture. How did you feel? What things were easy? What did you find difficult?
I loved growing up being tied to a different culture. My parents have a very tightly knit group of friends who all had children very similar in age. We would always get together weekly, and the parents would chat and eat, and the kids would play! I loved having friends who grew up in the same circumstances as I did!
What type of food do you eat at home? What are some of your favorite dishes?
My parents have very much immersed themselves in their new American culture. We eat very basic foods, but when we have large family and friend gatherings for birthday parties and other celebrations, we eat very typical Russian homestyle cooking. From dishes with potatoes to salads with beets, my favorite dish is mashed potatoes with herring. This used to be my great grandfather, David's favorite dish as well, and every time I have an option to eat it, I do! It reminds me of him! (Fun fact: my brother is named after my great grandfather, David.)
Describe your experience making friends as a kid growing up in the UNITED STATES.
Seeing how social my parents were with their friends, it was pretty easy to make friends as a kid. I was a very curious child, so I always wanted to have a diverse group of friends and learn about other kids' cultures and experiences.
Do you consider yourself as more of an American or that of your parents' native country?
I definitely consider myself more as an American. I am very proud to be a first-generation American in my family.
Are you proud to be American?
Do you plan to pass along aspects of your parents native culture to your children (if you choose to have them)? What parts of the culture do you want to keep if any? If yes, how important is that to you, and how do you plan on doing so?
Yes, I would love to teach my future children the Russian language. As I get older, I have learned to value the different things my parents and grandparents have taught me, and I am very grateful to be bilingual. I hope I am able to pass this on to my future children.
Are there aspects of your culture that you don't enjoy, parts that you know you don't want to pass on?
When my family came to America, they drifted to what they already knew-- other Russian families. I would like to immerse my children to a variety of different cultures and people.
What's one thing you wish people knew about your culture?
That the Russian culture is full of very fun people who love to have a good time and laugh together!
Are there any specific thoughts / inspiration behind the way you took your photos and what you took photos of? Feel free to use this space to express your photographic inspiration for this project.
I wanted to highlight two very specific parts of my life: my life with my family and my life in my home with my "new" family.