Marina Aloyet's Immigration

Story posted on March 9, 2009 at 6:28 PM

I was two years old when I left what I later understood to be my homeland. My family, consisting of my sister who was six, and my parents, won the lottery (literally) and left years of hardship and oppression in the Ukraine for the United States. We left together with two of my mom's first cousins and their young families, looking for freedom and opportunity in this new land, America. My family told me the story of how we left, how I was just a baby of two years, sitting on the lap of my maternal grandmother in the train that was to take us from Kiev to Vienna, while my parents said their good-byes. I think I remember playing with my grandmother's long hair, and watching everyone outside the train window kissing and crying, but then again, I was told the story so many times, that maybe it was just folded into my adopted memory. Ones memory can play tricks on you, and all along the journey, first to Vienna then to Rome, I could swear I remembered my first bites of Italian pizza, and the chocolate that my mom said was all I would eat along the way. But really, all I know now, looking back with almost thirty years hindsight, was that this journey was a momentous event in the lives of my family, and that the different courses that our new lives took, could not have been predicted. I can go on to tell you of the difficulties our immediate and extended family had upon arrival in Brooklyn, living in small quarters, desperate for jobs, not understanding the language or anything else around them, young children with no known day care to place them in; but really I would rather focus on the opportunity and success that I know my family came here for.

Since HIAS was the key that enabled my family to leave the Soviet Union, and start our new lives in America, it was a common household name around our home. As I grew up, during my educational pursuits and personal travels, my family’s history always fascinated me. Beginning with our roots in Kiev, why we made such a momentous decision to come to America, what would my life been like if we stayed, or how different it would have been if we chose instead to move to Israel. All of these questions plagued me my whole life, and continue to do so up to today. Many journeys of exploration later, including some professional, educational and travel experiences, coincidentally brought me back 360’ to the organization that enabled the start of the journey—HIAS. This summer I returned to HIAS, now in a professional capacity, after living in Russia, Israel, and studying the story of my family’s journey from the Soviet Union, as an example of one success story that returned to her roots, to share in the larger story of the immigrants’ journey.