By Nika S. (Georgia)
I’m originally from Georgia or Abkhazia. There are so many versions of the historic heritage of this territory, that I have no idea where my birth place might have belonged at the time I was born. That’s why I prefer to call that place “the land of the palm trees near the Black Sea.”
The first ten years of my life I spent in a surrealistic atmosphere. I’m very grateful for that experience because it had a great influenced on me and made me think about a career in the film industry as a film director. Since that time, all my life paths have led to the movie theatres. That’s why I chose New York. Museums, theaters, and independent film industry make this city very attractive to me.
As you can see, I’m a typical pilgrim and a crazy dreamer. I always keep in mind Emma Lazarus’ poem (“…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”), and I think that I too am the right person for New York. One of my family members immigrated to America about one hundred years ago. His name is Viacheslav Savitsky and he became one of the first Russian actors in Hollywood. It’s a pity I’m less qualified than he; he was a well educated and intelligent person, and I’m not that impressive with my cockney English. His first city in America was New York, too.
When did I meet New York for the first time? I remember that day very well although I was a little bit nervous – an okay feeling for the first date. My flight from Frankfurt landed in New York later then I thought it would, and I found myself standing alone in big hall among hundreds of people from all over the world, with a book of Chekhov’s writings in my hand. Someone might bring the Bible on a voyage like this, but I prefer Chekhov’s novels because they are a treasure of human types, and can be really useful in a big city like New York.
I remember my first attempts to speak English. It was a horrible experience: I was not confident, and I immediately got the same accent as Gorbachev. I remember the homeland security officer who started to speak with me in Russian and wished me luck in achieving my dreams. I will always remember his last words, “Welcome home, Veronika.” I was pretty sure that I had finally found my home. I remember the taxi that brought me at night from Queens to Midtown. I remember the taxi driver who was talking the whole time about the financial crisis and his family’s needs, and finally asked me for $100 for the fare. I remember the first views from my window, lights of the big city, the sounds of horns, and a variety of different voices.
“What’s the purpose of your visit?” was the first question I heard from my conversation partner at the International Center. It’s really a great question for every immigrant to hear in order to clear his or her mind.
What, the hell, are you doing here, Veronika? This city is sick of people like you. Veronika starts to cry. Sink or swim – there was nothing else to choose from. At that moment, I was conflicted about New York – I felt I was not very lucky and l got myself into some unfortunate adventures. But now, after five months, I feel more comfortable. Yes, I grew up and I am happy about that. I did it really fast – sometimes it takes ages to become an adult.
Hopefully, I discovered the true meaning of a happy life – communicating with the right, positive people who really appreciate you as a human being. I started to work on creative projects. I met Sean Lennon, Devon Aoki, Jake Hoffman and some singers from the Harlem Gospel Choir, and I am happy to mention that I got to know a lot of actors and actresses.
It is not enough just to land at JFK. If you’d like to see New York, you should also be brave enough to reinvent this enigmatic city, to make it your own. After five months, I finally started to love New York!