I was a young curious girl. I had a dream with unique perspective. My early perspective, more like a desire, was to travel around the world in order to observe and experience life in different countries. America was on my wish list. It was my first American dream.
Growing up in the Soviet Union I heard many stories about life in the American capitalist society. Most of the stories in newspapers and on television described discrimination or violations of human rights, and showed poor people living on the streets of New York City.
People in the Soviet Union were told by government leaders that only rich people -- capitalists -- could afford to have a car and a house, get a better education, and live a fulfilling life. For other social classes the American Dream, to have a better life and move ahead financially -- the Soviets told us that was impossible. It was Soviet propaganda.
My first American dream became a reality in 1991. When my husband and I came to this county on visitor visas to visit his uncle, whom he had never met before, I began to observe and experience life in the capitalist society. Sounds easy? After only a few days of our observation and experiences here we made a tough and risky decision: to stay. We decided to stay in this country legally, make it a permanent home and enjoy the full benefits of this society. We didn't want to live in the shadow illegally.
It was not easy to achieve this goal. First, we were denied political or religion asylum. Second, we couldn't get green cards -- residency status based on family connections because, according to the immigration rules, uncles and aunts aren't a family. We had no choice but to fight for our rights and find a way to solve our situation. We didn't want to go back. It was only a one-time opportunity to better our family lives.
It took almost nine years to finally receive a residency status in 1999 and bring our children to the land of opportunity. Thanks to our immigration attorneys from Cleveland and an owner of a local company who sponsored my husband and supported our family, we were granted permanent residency through the Department of Labor. It was not easy to achieve our goal and cost us $30,000. But it was worth every penny.
My first American dream started when I was a young girl. Who knew back then that my dream would become a reality? My first American dream became an umbrella that covers small dreams. The small dreams have grown with my experiences in America.
The longer I stayed here, the more dreams I had. In order to achieve them I had to create a positive psychological environment. By doing so, I learned not be afraid to hide my thoughts or to be terrified of who thinks what about my viewpoints.
I've learned to speak my mind, which would never happen in the Soviet Union. I've learned to express my views freely, which is harder than saving money for small, replaceable things.
It's been 16 years since my first American dream became a reality and I continue to observe and experience life in the United States.
As a naturalized American citizen, I say, "Don't stop dreaming. To have a car, a home, a better education, and live a fulfilling life is possible in America. Why do you think so many people are coming and want to stay here?"