In 2016, 3529 European received immigration visas to the United States. Nonimmigrant visas – tourist, student, workers – 136665. Each year, some of the recipients of nonimmigrant visas, after going to the US, decide not to return.
The seller Alex (all name was changed) told us his story, how he received refugee status in the United States and built up life from zero in a new country. If you also wanted being heard – send us your story and we will publish it! Further, the story will go from the first person. Enjoy!
I loved my life in Russia until the moment I made a “came out”. I was threatened in social media and by the phone, somebody constantly painted my door. Once I came home and saw the inscription near my apartment: “Here lives a gay.”
My employer asked me to quit from the press center of the Deputy Mayor of Moscow for town-planning policy and construction. The assistance of my boss play on my sense of responsibility – said that if her boss finds out about my orientation and public disclosure, everyone will have to quit. I think this would not happen, but then I wrote a statement of resignation at will. Of course, I was uncomfortable, but when you live so daily, you perceive it as a part of reality.
Then my grandmother died in and left me a small flat in Khrushchev style. When my mother told me about it, within a day I decided that I would sell it and go to the US – my friends were already living there.
For me, a 40-year-old man who didn’t know another language except for Russian, people who helped at first with adaptation, and money-without them moving would be an adventure, which I would not have decided at that age.
We did a tourist visa together with my mother – I already knew that I will never return, so it was important to me that she could come to me. In an interview at the consulate, I was not asked about immigration intentions, but I knew that I would apply for asylum. So do many refugees – they enter the country as tourists, and during the next year, they try to change the status.
I rented a studio in the Russian-speaking part of Brooklyn, began to learn the language and study the city: my mother and I went to Broadway musicals, celebrated my birthday and her, just walked.
When my mother returned to Russia, I easily found free lawyers: in the US, legal companies commit themselves to help people who do not have the money to pay for a lawyer. They helped me to prepare and translate a package of documents – proof that my life in the homeland was really threatened.
Such papers help convince the immigration officer to provide asylum, and they had me – a certificate of detention from the police station, where I got after a protest action on defending gay rights in a homeland, notes, and interviews in the media.
I met about 10 times with representatives of this company, during this time we had time to discuss everything: from my childhood years to the last days of my stay in homeland country.
Lawyers do not like to make predictions but said that I have high chances of obtaining asylum, and then get the green card. The case was ready after a year, we submitted the documents in 2015, and since then I am waiting for the interview. This is normal – there is a very large turn of those who want political asylum.
The work permit was given to me 9 months after the application was submitted. The money I had by that time was already running out, and I got a job at the store – sorted the nuts. I get $ 9 an hour if I worked 40 hours a week. If he worked overtime – for every “extra” hour they paid 1.5 times more. It is not enough for New York life, but my salary of the nut sorter was still higher than the salary of a press officer in Moscow.
On the next job I sold fish: I took the goods, cleaned carp and perch. In the present day – I sell salads. The store in which I work is located not far from Manhattan Beach, most buyers are Russian-speaking, but 15-20% are Americans. With them, I communicate in English, this is enough for my language, but no more. Now I regret that when I came to the US, I did not study harder, but I explain it by the fact that I needed time to recover emotionally.
In January, I’m going to return to the language courses, so far there is not enough time – I work 55-57 hours a week. Physically, I get tired, of course, but morally – I rest. This is the best team for my entire work life.
We have guys from Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, we all speak Russian, we like to communicate with each other. Another important moment for me: I do not lie anymore. I do not tell everyone about my orientation, but I do not hide it either.
If they ask me, I honestly answer that I’m gay, but I do not invent ridiculous stories about my girlfriend, divorce or unhappy love.
I dream of learning the language well, getting a green card and going to college. I think I can do social work. And now I am happy to do what I do: this year my mother visited me for 4 months, and I was able to pay for her tickets and show the best Broadway performance.
When you sit in the front row, and you see how the main character looks at my mother directly in the eyes – you are proud. Because you’re just a salesman in a store, but you can, without sacrificing anything, just live and make mom happy.