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´╗┐Ukrainian Oral History Project

Interview with: Irina Kirichuk

Interviewed by: Andrea Esposito and Jonathan Gurewich

Interpreter: Dee Davis

Transcriber: Andrea Esposito and Jonathan Gurewich

Date of interview: 11 April 2016 at 3:30:00 PM

Interview Setting: Bartle Library, room LSG 552 at Binghamton University, Vestal, NY


(Start of Interview)

Andrea Esposito: Okay, it's recording--Um, so if you wouldn't mind just stating your name and where you were born if you don't mind.

Irina Kirichuk: Okay, sure, my name is Irina my last name is Kirichuk I was born in Russia the name of the town is Kurganinsk. It is a small town, and then when I was three years old we moved to Ukraine and I grew up there in a big city called Kiev, and four hours up from there was a small town called Berdychiv. It's a small town.

AE: So you grew up in Berdychiv or Kiev?

IK: Uh, actually I grew up in Berdychiv. It's like here, it's kind of like New York State. You know how you have upstate where the small towns are.

AE: Mmm that kind of what it was like. It's almost the same idea.

Jonathan Gurewich: And uh, as a kid did you spend a lot of time with your parents? Did you um--

IK: I spent a lot of time with my parents and my grandmother. And I have two neighbors who are Russian, and another one on my father's side of the family. My mother's side of the family there were some and my Father's side of the family had Russians and then also my father had Ukrainians who had escaped and gone to Russia. And so that is how I was born there in Russia, and then we moved to the Ukraine.

AE: Um, so could you tell us about um why they like escaped? Um, to go to Russia?

IK: My mother-- I don't remember exactly. My mother had told me the story when I asked and it was a little confusing, but my mother had a different last name, and I said it wasn't, it didn't seem apart of Russian, and my mother explained to me that the family was from Armenia and then the family all moved because of the war. And it just got very messed up so they escaped and moved to Russia, and then that's how she met my father. My father had been in the army. She met him and then she was pregnant with me. And I was born there in Russia and when I was three then we moved to Ukraine because my father had a lot of family there on his side. They begged him to move there. My mom also had a big family in Russia, so where should we go? They decided to move to Ukraine, but every year they would visit the family members who were in Russia. So we'd go back and forth, but I love the Ukraine side of the family more. I don't know why. Why they picked Kiev, but I did.

AE: Um, so at your visits to Russia what type of experiences did you have there versus in Ukraine?

IK: Oh-- hmm. Well, the two places were different. It was a beautiful city in Russia, and they spoke differently, but a little bit differently. There was a different, there were different words that they used. It was the same types of sounds, but their food was a little bit different also and I just felt as though. Ahh, people were cool. (everyone laughs) My family was cool; we both got along together in both countries really. So in both countries, so in Russia the world seemed different than Ukraine, and I picked Ukraine that I liked better. I don't know why Russia was nice, but it was more hmm, not at friendly, hmm didn't seem as friendly; their habits were more-- how should I say it-- For me, they seemed very strong but Ukraine seemed more friendly. You know like every time you saw someone they said good morning that was different than it was in Russia. So, stuff like that-- Russia wasn't bad, you know it was cool. It was a beautiful city. Everything was there but from my perspective; they were two different places, and I grew up until I was fourteen years old there, in Kiev. Or near Kiev and then I, we moved here, so, and every year I would fly there, to Russia and Ukraine, and just recently I went to Ukraine, but I couldn't fly to Russia because of the war and the problems that are between Ukraine and Russia now. So, I couldn't go visit my family even though they begged me and I told them I can't. So, my family in Ukraine had told me you really can't go there, and I decided myself that I would not go to Russia, so I was disappointed in that. It's not like I support one side over the other; I said I don't care about Putin leave him out of this I love the people and my family. That's all, so it was just different between the two places.

AE: Um, so you said you couldn't go back to Russia, how long was that for, like um time period wise?

IK: Now, this was just very recently, last December 2015 I flew to Ukraine to visit my family, but I couldn't go to see my family in Donetsk. I couldn't visit them because of the war, they were like right in the middle of it in Russia and I have a big family that I could have visited, but-- I, I, I can visit them because I have the birthright to get there, so there is no big deal for me to actually go there, but what if something were to happen while I was there and we discussed it with my family they were all concerned. They were all very worried. And my father said to me no, and so I respected what my father said to me so I didn't go-- And my Russian family members were upset and I told them well once you get to some peace there then I promise that I will come visit. So, hmmm.

JG: So do you remember uh any activities that you would do uh that were maybe different, traditions that were different between your Russian side of the family and Ukrainian side of the family?

IK: Oh yeah, they were very different traditions. Um, hmm, like for Easter the tradition was different we would always go to church and it would be overnight, and then they would make the holy water, and bless us, everyone there and have eggs and cakes and pierogis, and that was a tradition in Ukraine and also we had apples for celebration that was the tradition there. And Christmas time was you know January 7th, was the tradition of Christmas in Ukraine. In Russia it was December 25th for Christmas, but now before the tradition had been the same but it changed around. And, let's see the differences here Russia, now understand that Russia we never followed the tradition there because my grandmother's traditions were from Armenia and my mother, my grandmother and mother came from Armenia so there was that and I was a little bit confused because it is Armenian is it Russian is it Ukraine? I couldn't figure out which one it was. On my father's side of the family they said you had to pick one and I said, but I love them all. I love all the traditions. It doesn't matter to me I love them all. (everyone laughs) I love all the traditions it doesn't matter to me I love them all, so I was just fascinated with everyone's tradition. So like the Armenian tradition was you must when we move to Russia you had to have nice clothes you had to have to show everything polite have food traditions that were handed down that had to be proper and all the family had to get together and stuff like that so.

JG: So, When did you uh decide to come to America?

IK: Well, I never thought about that it, was my mother who did she had made all the plans and my mother flew to Russia and filled out some forms there, and then my mother said to me we're going to, well we're planning to go the US and I was very excited I thought for a visit oh yay! We're going to the US I was so excited. Oh, I loved traveling and then my mom planned this, and something happened and we couldn't make it, and then my mom met. Bush's Father who was the president before.

Dee: Oh, you mean the president before Bush?-- Yeah, yeah he was, he was George too.

IK: My mother met George Bush and begged him to let us in and I remember I was very small and I met him, I didn't know who he was I didn't know he was famous and my mother said this man is from the United States and I said well, oh it's nice to meet you. (everyone laughs) I couldn't hear anything so I just shook his hand and my mother explained and begged him and said please let us come to the US, and he signed the papers; we needed to do that in 1993. So that's when we moved here, and then a few years-- I thought we would be here for a few years and then go back and my mother said no we're going to live here and I said what? I was so upset at that time I was very upset, but and plus I asked my mother why is it that we moved I don't understand why we moved; don't you like Russia, and she said no what she wanted me to see me have a good life for myself here because of being deaf there; were more opportunities here in the US. There are interpreters. In Russia and Ukraine, it is very different it is very different, it is very difficult there for deaf people it's more oppression by hearing people of deaf people there which means they tell you, you can't do this you can't do that and you don't have any freedom like you do here. Here, we have so many more opportunities to do whatever; it is you want and in Russia they tell you, you can't. Like I wanted to be a doctor and they said you can't be a doctor; you're deaf. Here I could've if I wanted to and so my experience. Here, there is a very good life here I could have a good job here, get good money here and earn a good living, but it's a little boring for me right here it's like well-- Let me explain a little bit um, good job, and family, and it's always like very family oriented. With uh in Russia you have good friends and family and you enjoy yourself so much, and once you're done with work you meet up with family and friends and do things and money is not so great. Would have been better there if we had the money with the family. For my perspective, I like Europe because it is more active, there are more things to do. You can keep busy, you can enjoy yourself. Here it's a little bit different. I think I've lived here for twenty- let me see here--yea, twenty-four years I've lived here. When I recently flew to Ukraine I was so excited to go there I know times have changed but I was still just thrilled to being, doing things and being there that time just flew for me. I was there just a week and I said there's no way! You know, I wanted to be there three weeks. I wanted more, it just seemed like not enough time, and here I feel like ehhhh, and (everyone slightly laughs). You know I try to be positive about things and keep busy and have my kids, do things with my kids. So it's a different feeling.

AE: Um, you said that your first few years here you didn't want to be here like is there any particular reason why you didn't like America at first? Or--

IK: Well the first time when I moved here I didn't know how to speak English and I didn't know any American sign language so I couldn't communicate, and with my friends I felt like what do I do and my father told me just be patient give it a couple of years, two or three years and then we'll move back to Ukraine and my father said I promise and I said fine. So I was patient, I went to school it was a mainstream school it was not a deaf residential school it was a mainstream school so I went to the school and it was hard to try to lip read and try to learn English and every day I cried and I'd ask my teacher I don't understand can you repeat. And just went along for three years and after that my dad said are you ready to go back to Russia and I said yes dad come on let's go I was so excited I was jumping for joy, but for some reason something happened with my family to try to fly there and my sister was here as well and my mom stayed so it was just my father and I. So my mom wanted to stay in the US with my sister and I didn't want to I wanted to go back, and then I realized and my father said to me, we'll go visit if you decide that you want to stay, you want to move back we'll do that so we visited and realized wow I could see that--I decided I didn't want to stay I had to come back to the US because I, I, I don't know why it just hit me all of a sudden cause deaf people had warned me from Ukraine that you should stay in the US. Because they could see that I was happy. And they were grumpy all the time, and it's not that they were not happy before they were very frustrated with things they were very stressed; they didn't have enough money to pay the bills there was so much going on. There were problems with doctors and I realized that oh my goodness I asked my family and they'd say are you okay? And they said please you should go back. Visiting is fine, but living here is not good for you and I realized after came back I realized that I just have to stay positive and stay here. That was the same with my husband. I married my husband, he's from Ukraine, and he moved here and it was the same sort of thing he was very upset, he was not happy being here he didn't want to stay here he wanted to go back, and he begged me, and begged me and I promised him just be patient we'll see what will happen after one or two years. And I said now this is for me, it's for me, if you love me you should be patient to stay here for a while my husband said okay and he stayed and I felt bad, but I decided if you want to move back to Russia we will or the Ukraine. My husband decided no thanks, I can't, it would be better to stay here so we've been happy here ever since. It's just given me very much opportunity better life here than I could have there. Better job and for me being deaf in the community it was a good opportunity, I had interpreters I had everything I needed here and hmm-- it's just more free, like whatever I want I can do. There they were constantly telling me I can't do things. I tried to learn and they said no, you can't you can't do that you. They would limit me and now it is more free, but it is not as free as it is here, it's not.

JG: So when your parents first came to the United States did they decide to come to Binghamton or did you move to Binghamton later?

IK: No, Um, it's funny, the government had given us tickets for the family to move and because it was through the government's assistance they were giving this away to people who they would say here is where you have to go, and my mother did not know what it was and I was hoping to stay in New York City, that's what I was hoping because I had flew in there and I was just fascinated with that place I loved it so then we stayed at the airport to wait, and they had to check our names and make sure everything was in order, and there was a huge line of people and they'd said where are you going to be going and they told us we were going to Binghamton. So we got on the airplane, little teeny airplane and came here it was so small I had never seen anything so small, but um so we moved here. And we had an apartment, and they, we had everything, it was new because the government helped subsidize it for us and they had apartment, food, and clothes, everything was there the bed, it was furnished! So we were, I was really lucky. And my friend who just recently moved did not get an apartment had to do all of this for themselves, they had to look for themselves, they had to buy the food for themselves, like when I moved here in 1993 they provided everything to me, but now my friend who just recently moved did not get that. And immigration has become much harder it was easier uh when I came, but um and the government told me where to come and I came here and I've never gone anyplace else, I've always been in Binghamton the whole time. My life until I got married, my children were born here in Binghamton, so we're all here. Because I realized I wanted to go to New York City, and I'm realizing now that it's more quiet here it's more comfortable here, I can afford things better here than in New York City. New York is very expensive because I've asked my friends what do you think do you like life there and they said yea but we have to work so much to afford everything so I'll go traveling and have my enjoyment that way.

AE: Um when you uh moved here what did your uh parents do for a living, was it hard for them to find a job or did the government help?

IK: No, uh actually my parents moved here and started going to school. Yea my parents went to school they went to Boces and studied English first of all to learn English, and then the government helped with everything, and my parents and my family for money they started, they gave us food stamps. Uh, we had Medicare we had all the assistance until my father was ready then. My father wanted a job, but he didn't know how to communicate in English yet, so my father got pretty grumpy about that. I think he studied for two years and then he started working from Boces; he got work as a mechanic he would fix lights he was very happy with that. He went along with that, but he felt it wasn't enough, he wasn't satisfied. And I was in my school, just being in high school main-stream here and then a few years later they brought an interpreter for me, my father was working very hard and then went back to school because he wanted to study to be a truck driver, a long haul trucker, so he was successful at that and now it's been about fifteen years, oh maybe seventeen years now he's been that kind of work. He's very successful, he's very happy. My mother never did have a job she stayed home and took care of her children, me and my sister, and my father was the only one who ever worked. And that was all-- And also we didn't have any family here me my sister my father and my mother just the four of us that was it when we moved here we didn't have any other family here, we didn't have any friends we started to build our group of friends, but in the start, at the beginning it was it was very we were very lonely, we were very grouchy, we didn't understand things. But then slowly things built up, and now I have many new friends, and my circle has just grown. And no other of my family has moved here, it's just been the four of us, and my father wants to try to bring my grandmother here and she doesn't want to. She wants to stay there she said my blood is in Ukraine period. This is where I stand.

AE: Um, when you were building up your circle of friends did you find them to be more Ukrainian immigrant or people from just around Binghamton in general?

IK: Well, actually I had friends from school from all over the world, Vietnam, Africa I met a lot of people. My first experience when I moved here, I had never seen colored people, people of color ever. Never ever, people from Vietnam, people who were black, people from the world I had never seen. I thought, I said to my father where are these people from their skin is black my father said because really in Ukraine and in Russia it was only white people we're all very the same, very homogeneous. And then I moved here and my jaw would drop you know, it's cold here you have to wear long sleeves and you know I had never seen this sort of thing like fruit in the winter we never had that, they have fruit here in the winter like I said how do you get fruit in the winter, how do you get strawberries in the winter, it's winter, how do you do that!? And my father said, well he was also shocked by this. Oh this stuff is good even though it was winter and there were all these things that were new to us, the clothes that we were weird, we had never seen things like this, my eyes were always popping out my head, you know, he'd say it's not nice to stare at people with your mouth open so close your mouth. Yea, but now I know how it is. And I have friends from Ukraine, there are a lot of people from Ukraine here, a whole lot of people and uh Russia too. So I've gone through becoming friends with them chatting with two of the Russian church's they have, they have a Ukrainian church as well they have lots of different religions from Russia and they don't match me too much. And mine was its, O-R-C-H-E-N, Orchen was the name of the church, and that's the one that I had gone to and they have two languages, they would speak Russian, and they would speak English, it was better for me to help me learn.

AE: So, You went to church when you were a kid and when you got older you stopped going or was it something else?

IK: Hmm, Anytime, in Europe I would go to church any time whenever I wanted to, I could go or not go. Then when I moved here I went regularly it was every Sunday I went, and I was grouchy about that. (everyone laughs) But I had to attend church until I said to my mom why is it I have to go to church, I don't believe in what they teach, and my mother said that's not nice to say, and I said I'm just being honest with you. I believe in Jesus Christ but the church is not helping me at all they tried to explain all these different rules and I feel like what are they. Because my grandmother, my grandmother had told me always you have to believe in Jesus Christ and one God, it's not the church, it's Jesus Christ and she would explain when they tell you these other things, blah blah blah -- All these different religions, different stories and my mother said it's called like a tree. It's like a tree, there's a catholic church, there's a Baptist church, there's all this and I'm not against them it's just my mother and my grandmother told me what's important is in your heart and talking to God and that's it. That's what I follow, so I was patient to go to church until I asked my parents and said to them. Because I can't hear or understand what they say anyway so I would stand around for nothing, it was very boring for me until they brought in an interpreter and then I was more inspired there because I could understand what they were talking about and the topics they were talking about it didn't matter if they were speaking Russian or whatever. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I tried my best to lip read but it was very hard for me because the priest would you know moving around, couldn't read his lips as he was changing his position and it was until it was I was 1993, I graduated I stopped going to church after graduation. That's when I had stopped, then I went once and while for Easter services or Christmas or some sort of special event or if we needed to pray for my family or if there were problems with the war. We would go to church to pray for that, and I still have the faith. I'm never rude to people, I don't mean to insult anybody about church, just want to let you know.

AE: No.

JG: No, not at all, so overall how would how, how was your childhood influenced by your Ukrainian and Russian and Armenian heritage, and how did that uh come with you to America?

IK: Hmm, good question. I grew up, I had a lot of experiences growing up and also I was confused and language was confusing, but I'm really very thankful to my mother and my grandmother for teaching me three languages-- I just grew up the same in all three places in Ukraine, Russia you know. I don't remember all of it. You know I was always playing outside a lot and did that sort of thing and learning how to communicate, but my family, my whole family knew that I was deaf, and so they would teach me a lot, every day they would teach me the three different languages and now I feel like I can speak all these languages, and my two kids as well are learning I'm teaching them as well too. Like how to speak those languages.

DD: You mean-- let the interpreter make this clear, do you mean Ukraine--Ukraine and Russian?

IK: Yes.

JG: And have you ever visited, uh, Armenia, or have you ever engaged in your Armenian side of the family?

IK: No I never have. I never visited there, but, it, I've never gone to visit. I've always visited Russia and Ukraine. It's been-- hmm-- I moved here and we would go back every year, and then I didn't visit for ten years and finally I just recently went in December. I flew there and I was very thrilled because I was so far behind seeing people and Ukraine has changed a lot because I haven't seen it in ten years! There were many changes there-- Yeah it's different now. It wasn't like it was when I was there, it's not like my Ukraine, I liked how it was before. Now with the changes-- Hmm-- It just feels like-- It's confusing, it's startling, because it's changed. Now they have mixtures of uhh people of color, people intermarry with people of color, so that's a big change. It's more expensive to live there now-- and people seem all grouchy all the time, it's like-- and I realize that, oh, I do not want to go back, I'll go to visit, and that's all, and that's just my opinion. Yeah, I don't want to go back. But, I do have a house there and I miss my family there, but just to visit, and see everybody and do that, and then come back here. When I came back home I missed it here so much it's like the opposite of how it used to be, I don't know.

AE: Umm did you take your family with you, when you visited Ukraine recently, or?

IK: No, I went by myself. I went by myself. Next year we're definitely going with the family. My kids have never been to Ukraine, my daughter's never been to Ukraine because it was ten years ago. My son was two years old, eh, or, no he was nine months old when we went, or, we went when he was nine months and eighteen months and he doesn't remember anything of that, so we've decided that next year, we are, I am going to go with my husband and my two kids and we've decided we are going to fly there to get this experience for them, to get this exposure for them. And also-- I'm hoping that Ukraine and Russia will have ended the war by then and they'll be at peace, so that we can go to Ukraine and then go visit Russia to Donetsk back home. I hope You know I'm hoping, I've I've promised my family we're going to go there. And, and also to go to my family in Armenia, my mother has a huge family there in Armenia, and-- and, also, some have gone-- to, to Israel and I've never visited there either-- so they keep saying, "when are you coming? When are you coming" I say I will-- but-- yeah-- my only tie is really to Ukraine, I feel pulled there, that's my favorite place. I don't know. Hmm.

AE: You can go.

JG: Have you been to other parts of Ukraine? Uhh, in other regions, maybe in the east, or the west?

IK: Uhhh-- I have gone a lot to the east, in Ukraine, umm, hmm, the name of the town is-- Zhitotymer. It's a very small town, and I would go to Kiev, which is the big city, and also-- Lviv is a big city there as well, that is very strongly, Ukrainian, people's traditional dress, and it's more like the countryside-- it's more like the countryside-- so I've gone travelling there, and on my father's side there are a lot of people who live there-- in Donetsk, and also part of Ukraine also, so I've travelled to visit my family there, and also-- it-- let me see what's it called-- oh, Crimea-- also in the Crimea. Do you know about Crimea?

JG: Yes.

IK: Yes, that's, I went there, and that is part of Ukraine but it's already been stolen by the Russians. But yeah, and I would always travel in different cities, in different cities around big cities a lot, I would go to my father would always take me travelling with him, a lot.

JG: And, when you would travel all over Ukraine did you notice a very big difference in the culture of these different places? Or was it mostly the same?

IK: It was a little different-- like, the buildings would be different, the architecture, but it was the same food, it was the same clothing, but the buildings were different the churches were different they had different shapes in the different places. And also museums were a little bit different in the different places. And you know, cars would be different (laughs) sometimes they'd have the older cars that I'd never seen (laughs) before-- And the houses were beautiful, they were like, they looked like museums themselves. They were just-- I don't know what to say just amazing houses, and some I've I've never seen I said, "dad is that a museum?" he said, "No people live there." I said, "What, really? The house would look like a museum." He said "no really it's a house, really." But yeah, they're beautiful. And also-- they had an old house like from-- what would you call it-- uhh what's it called-- outside where they cut the plants, a house, where they it was like old fashioned, it was very fascinating that people still lived there, and I asked my father about this "Do you mind asking them?" because people don't understand me when I speak sometimes so I asked my father to ask,. He said "hey, my daughter wants to know how you live, how you protect yourself from the, oh, from the water coming through the roof that was made from plants?" And they would cut down trees and use this for their roofs and it was amazing to me, it was very old but still was working so it was very cool-- yeah.

AE: Umm, did you travel other places besides Ukraine and Russia?

IK: (long pause) Uhh-- yes I have gone to Poland, ummm where else-- Germany-- hmm where else-- Germany-- and well here I've gone to like the Bahamas the Dominican Republic, things like that, but in Europe, growing up when I moved here at 14, I moved here, so, what I'd done is more travel around the U.S. and in the U.S. I've gone to Puerto Rico, I've gone to the Dominican Republic; I've gone to the Bahamas, Mexico, things like that, on vacation. Always like during the summer. But, I still travel, I love traveling, I love learning about different places, I love all the differences of how they are and the different countries. Now last year were supposed to we were planning to go to-- Italy, we were planning to go to Italy but it never happened.

IK: because everything got messed up, we had a lot of conflicts. So again we're hoping, we're hoping that we'll go sometime maybe during the winter we'll see. But, I, I really want to go to Spain. Yes, I, I have promised that I'm-- and so we'll see, we'll see when that will happen. Because my kids have school, and their sports and all that I can't ignore my kids I want to leave once they finish school we can go as a whole family. So--

AE: Umm, so, h- for your kids-- umm-- how have you been exposing them to-- the culture that you may have grown up with, or do you go, like, go more towards the American culture, or a hybrid of both?

IK: I use both, we have a mixture of both that we teach them. Sometimes my kids will be like-- they'll find out something they'll see a picture they'll say that's really cool I've never seen a house like that and then I'll explain to them that it's like well that was like from my grandmother and grandfather's time you never met them they had died and they'll say if they had different clothes back then and I'll explain that, and the food, I explain about the food sometimes my husband and I still speak Ukraine at home. We and my kids will listen say what is that so we teach them that too, and always when we go out we speak English, but at home we speak Ukraine my husband and I talk abo- talk all the time in that and my kids don't if we don't want them to know some of the words sometimes-- We'll speak and they don't get it-- So I'll hide what I'm saying with my husband sometimes by them not understanding and also I'll speak to them and they'll understand but I want them to be able to speak back to me in it and they're not so good in that. They just know a little bit, of, of speaking back to me. If it's something difficult they can't do it, but uh I've been thinking of setting up, maybe, because I have umm my mother in law and my uncle, they're willing to have my children stay with them for three months during the summer and learn how to speak the language there so I've been thinking about that and uhh we have the food we have the culture sometimes though they'll ask me, "how did you meet dad? How did you meet?" And I said well he's from Ukraine and they love listening to that story they love hearing about other countries and also my father also explains to them as well, and he'll tell them about his experience and his history in Ukraine, and all that, because he had more experience than I did, so he can explain everything and my kids are just fascinated they'll ask him questions forever they're fascinated with this and then they say now how the toys are different than they are here they don't have these kind of dolls, like, different kinds of toys, and they'll ask my dad about that. And cars that are different, and I have dolls from I have twelve dolls and my kids would say wow why do you have them I've never seen these kinds of dolls and I would explain well this is is a tradition from where I grew up and it was cool. So now, I allow them to play with them. They've noticed the cars are different and-- you know, like, valuable silverware and cups and from Ukraine I show them and they say "oh so this is from Ukraine it's very decorative" it's like clothes also that have a lot of stitching on them from Ukraine, a lot of embroidery, and they say now why's that? And I say it's a tradition that they have in Ukraine for that. And sometimes they'll find something in school and say "hey mom look what I have there's a book from Ukraine it's talking about a story from Ukraine and they will read that a little more. And I've explained everything to them they ask me if they want to know I explain to them because they love it and sometimes I'll say to my father "can you explain to them in more detail about what they're asking (Andrea laughs) and they're just, huh, wrapped attention to him, and it's, I'm shocked how many questions they have about it and he always explains everything they ask, he's always done that he always explains and sometimes I try to bring them to church to see how it is-- how they have Ukrainian eggs, things like this Ukrainian art, at the church, things that are different and they'll say this is really cool oh these are all Ukrainian? I say yes they are they say why this is why they have the building this way because? And they have very popular wooden eggs and wooden spoons and things like this that they have in Ukraine.

AE: Umm did family from Ukraine ever visit you at Binghamton?

IK: No, hmm. We've tried, we tried to get a visa for them but it's not easy to do. So, we've tried, huh, we tried to bring them here we tried to bring family to visit and one problem, this biggest problem is the visa. I don't know why that is, you have to put down you have a job you have to fill out all this stuff and they still denied them a visa so I don't know why I don't know why there are many times; I think maybe about thirty times we've filled out a visa application so it's been every year and it's never been accepted, never been approved. And, so we're always the one's to go there and visit, and and I don't mind, I don't mind, I'm not complaining about it, that's how it is. Also, they can't really afford to come here. Like for example, here if you have $100, there it's like 2,500, so, it's-- they work and they earn like $20 a month. So, there's no way they can afford coming here. Hmm. And it's uhh the different economy, we have very different economies-- many Europeans or Russian or Ukrainians want to come here and get jobs here to earn the money, they don't want to live here they want to get the jobs here, and-- (Dee clears throat) the problem is having no one can speak English. So-- and also, I'd ask my family how can you eat how can you afford to eat they said well first we have to buy food we don't have anything left for for clothes, or for their electronics things like that, but thank God that I'm here and this is good here and I always support them I will give my family things they need I will give them what I can what they need.

AE: Umm what do you and your husband do for like employment here?

IK: My husband-- well was laid off two years ago. He used to work for Pepsi he was the manager at Pepsi. And he was laid off. So I now am a Hairstylist and Cosmetologist, and I love it I love my work.

JG: Have you always wanted to be a hairstylist?

IK: Uhh umm when I was little, I'd would always go to the salon and watch and learn how they did things with nails and dream that when I grew up I could do this, but what I really wanted to do was become a doctor. That was my dream to become a doctor. And then, I was told no; you can't you can't you can't you can't. It's a long story but I decided to change and try for my second path, which was hair styling and I love it it was really my dream, has always been to be a doctor growing up. I told my parents I want to be a doctor I want to be a doctor; I promise I'm going to be a doctor but then life just messed me up. Hmm. But, I love doing hair, I get to meet a lot of people, all the people who I work with know I'm deaf, they know I can speak somewhat, and, if they speak quickly I don't understand I have to say "can you slow down?" and then I understand them but uhh me and my boss, we get along very smoothly. Everything works out and the customers who come in works very smoothly we've never had a problem (knocks on table) and I have to knock wood after I say that. Of course! But I'm very happy with that. Now before, I had worked as a teaching assistant and this was for kids this was for three years and I had to quit that, and then, I went back to school, to study Cosmetology, and I've become certified and licensed and so now I have my job and I'm very happy with that. And before I-- just stayed at home and watched my children and my husband had worked for Pepsi for many years and once he was laid off he tried to find a job and he was unable to. So we're waiting to see if he finds a different job.

AE: So how long have you been working as a hairstylist and Cosmetologist?

IK: Ahh let's see it hasn't been long time, it was just recently let me see-- let me see-- hmm-- four months, four or five months four or five months-- hmm-- since licensed, since being licensed.

AE: So, umm, you said it was a, uh, cool story about you and your husband met? So, like, you care to share?

IK: Hmm, ok! I was here, and my best friend was getting married, and she sent me an invitation said you have to promise to come back to Ukraine for my-- to be the maid of honor for my wedding. And so I flew to Ukraine, and I stayed there for one month and a half. I stayed with my grandmother that time, and my grandmother was ill, also she had a stroke so I was taking care for her. I was going between her and my friend's house, and then my friend had her wedding, and I asked her who that guy is over there? And my best friend said "Oh my, he's a handsome guy!" I said yeah, but who uhh, do I know him?" "No you've never met him." "I said fine, but, that, was my husband." And my best friend said that they said to her, who is that girl over there? She said, she's beautiful. I said well yeah, (all laugh) so that's kind of how it went. And I had a boyfriend already at that time, so, it it just happened my best friend's wedding and I met him. We looked at each other it was very nice; we chatted and he spoke very fast and I said now uhh speak a little more slowly so that I can understand you. So that's where I met him at the wedding and then we just fell in love right away, it was very quick, and then-- he didn't know that I was from the U.S., because I didn't tell him, and he knew that I visited my grandmother all the time, he knew where I lived there with my grandmother every day he would come to visit and help and do that. And then, at the very end, we'd been dating maybe I'd say, oh, two months, no no no, two weeks, two or three weeks; we were dating, and I said to him, "you know I do have a boyfriend." He said I don't care; I do not care where's your boyfriend he's not here right? I said "Right! I just want to tell you the truth you don't care? Ok fine." So we dated, and-- he showed me around new buildings and things that I'd never been. So, I got to learn about these new places; I'd never visited before and finally I said goodbye I won't see you and he said what are you talking about you're teasing right? And I said no, I'm not! I won't see you again! This is it. And he thought I was joking. And I said no, I'm not joking I'm telling you the truth. And he said yeah right sure; I'll see you tomorrow and I said no, I'm going to be, going I'm flying away tomorrow and he said no no, I don't believe you, you're teasing so, he gave me a kiss I flew away. And, he stopped by my grandmother's house and says "where's Irina Where's Irina where is she?" she says well she doesn't live here she was just visiting she lives in the U.S. and my husband was shocked, but I had I had already told him he didn't believe me (Dee laughs) he thought I was teasing. So, ok fine. So, he decided to ask my best friend whose wedding I went to he said do you have Irina's address. Do you know how I can contact her? She said well fine and she gave him my address, so he kept in contact with me he would write to me back and forth and while I was here-- the boyfriend I had here-- I mean-- it-- I really had forgotten about the man who's become my husband, I'd really kind of forgotten about him. I got his letter and I thought hmm-- who's that? Huh-- that name I don't quite remember. So, I, so I wrote to him I said "I'm sorry I don't know who you are" and he got very mad. So, then he sent me a picture and then I said, "huh it looks so unfamiliar, oh shit! Yeah I know who that is, yeah" So we kept in touch, we kept in touch, and, he told me he wanted to date me he wanted to keep in touch and it happened that my grandmother became sick again; we were very worried and my father was supposed to fly there but he couldn't make it. He had to work, he wasn't allowed to take time off, so he asked me if I wouldn't mind going. So, I said sure and I went and I stayed for two months with my grandmother and took care of her after her stroke she was in the hospital and I had to pay for her bills and do all the stuff involved with that I took care of her and then the man who became my husband, he uh, he came to visit again, kept in touch, and he asked me to get engaged with him after three months of dating. I turned him down, second time he asked me I turned him down. And my grandmother said to me "I like him!" and I said "I know, I know" and my grandmother said "I want to see you married, I'm still alive I want to see you married before I die" I said "I know grandma I know I know but don't rush me I need to have the right guy, I need to find the right man who I love!" and she said "he seems like a nice man" and my grandmother said to me "remember, don't think about money" I said "no I'm not looking for money I'm looking for love. My grandmother said to me, when she, you met him, I met my husband and we were married in two weeks. I said Grandma that was a long time ago; it's different now she said you have to follow your stomach do you have butterflies there? You have to follow your heart do you feel love there, then do it! And I thought hmmm, but, I decided go ahead and get engaged. And so I got engaged with my husband and married him very quickly. And then, he stayed in Ukraine, it's funny, umm it was like, we were married, we didn't, I didn't have the dress or anything it was just the two of us went signed the papers and that was it. And, there were fifty people who were there, the same age as me, had a party, we didn't have any family at all. And my parents had no idea that I was married, my father knew I was engaged but he didn't know we'd actually gone in and signed the papers and made it legal, so, when I flew back, he said well why didn't you-- why did you go back to the U.S., he wanted me to stay in Ukraine, I said hang on a second I have to go there I have to talk to my father, so I flew back and I told my boyfriend uhh-- we're broken up that's it he was mad and I said well ohh uhh ohh well I love this other man. So, that's how I told my father that I'm married my father said "you're supposed to wait, you're supposed to have the dress, you're supposed to have everything." I said, "ehhh, doesn't matter" He said ok fine. Next year, we'll have the family, we'll have the wedding; we'll have a huge affair when you get married. And I told my husband well, you're going to have to come here to the U.S. and my husband said no he wanted me to stay in Ukraine! And I said but, but I'm going to college I'm going to be stuck he said I don't care you can start here in Ukraine and so I was very angry at that-- and then I told him well fine, we should get divorced he said "what! We just got married!" You want to get divorced? I said because, I love you but I don't want to stay here. So, I said if you love me, then you'll come with me. He said ok, so he came with me here, and he was grumpy for a while, but as it went on like after a couple of years, I said I will always be there with you we were always helping each other I would help him translate things he would go to school and he'd say he wanted a job I said you have to be patient you have to focus on school first he didn't want to do that and finally he's the smart guy but after two or three months he would pick up English just like that and he got a job and he just took off and-- like my father (snaps fingers) it was like my father just right away didn't care about the schooling. Who cares, just get the job and he picked up English very well and now he he does very well he doesn't write so well in English but he speaks very well; he knows how to speak. So, it's very amazing. So we've been married sixteen years now hmm. Yeah. And-- also I, I was thinking about my grandmother had said see? You're still married, and she was there when we were married and then it was a few years after that my grandmother said I want to see grandchildren! I said we're trying! We're trying! And then I was pregnant and my grandmother died, so, I always promised my grandmother-- grandchildren but I was very very close with my grandmother and grandfather there, very close to them, but, my mom's side of the family my grandmother was, I would see her, she was very sickly I never met my grandfather on my mother's side. My father's side I saw more often my grandmother and my grandfather and all the family there. Anything else?

JG: I think we're uhh I think we're uhh-- good?

AE: Uhh yeah, I think we're good. Thank you so much.

JG: Thank you so much.

IK: Mhmm you're welcome.

JG: It was very nice to hear your story.

AE: It was very nice thank you.

IK: Well thank you!

(End of Interview)