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Two Professors, Two New Lives - 2002-04-12

English Feature #7-33482 Broadcast March 20, 2000

Each week in this program we will bring you the voices of new Americans – people who have emigrated to the United States within the last ten or so years - talking about their reasons for coming to this country and their experiences here. Today - two such voices.

Ada Mykhailovskaya was a professor of English at Moscow University in Russia when she decided to emigrate to the United States. That was in 1992, just after the Soviet Union had fallen apart, and as Russia was experiencing the turmoil that accompanied the beginnings of democratization and privatization. Mrs. Mykhailovskaya explains why she came to America:

"One reason is that I was always jealous of those people who had a chance to visit some English speaking country. It was only the members of the Communist party who had a chance to travel to America, to England, to other countries. That’s why I was so excited when a chance finally presented itself, and I went to see my distant relatives in America. Then I had a chance to find a job, and I decided to stay. Another reason is that we were totally robbed by our government. And after so many years of service, more than 30 years of service, me and my husband - I’m a university professor and my husband is a highly-qualified engineer - we ended up with zero savings. So we came over to America to start a new life and to try to survive, and that’s what we’re doing."

Ada Mykhailovskaja and her husband, Viktor, live in a small one-bedroom apartment overlooking Washington. They make their living giving Russian lessons to Americans. Mrs. Mykhailovska said, in the beginning, life in the United States was very exciting.

"At that time I was so overwhelmed, and so excited that I was one of this working crowd in America, it’s really hard for me to find the words that could express my feelings. I was so excited. I had a job, a job I loved – I was teaching Russian – that I wasn’t thinking of anything else. Now, after all these years, my feelings have changed. I am less fascinated by everything now, I am very much used to this very comfortable, easy life, I am now used to see clean, beautiful, comfortable places all around me. But we miss the intensive cultural and intellectual life that we had in our country. The tickets to concerts and theatres are so very expensive that we cannot afford to go to concerts and theatres now, which we did so often in our country. So we actually miss this intense intellectual life that we had."

And what does Mrs. Mykhailovskaja like most about America?

"The thing we like most is the triumph of democracy. There are many negative things, there are things we don’t like. America does have its problems. But we are very thankful, we are very grateful to this country, and we believe that it is the only country in the whole world where democracy truly triumphs."

Dr. Zarni comes from a part of the world very different from Mrs. Mykhailovskaja’s Russia. He emigrated to the United States from Burma ten years ago as a student. Now he is a professor at a university in Chicago, Illinois. When asked what he likes most about America, Dr. Zarni’s answer echoed that of Ada Mykhailovskaja:

"I think the idea that power emanates from people, not a group of university professors or, like, college students or activists or military or businessmen or –women, or any other organization such as the church. It is not the government and the rulers that decide what is good for the people, but it is the people who decide what is good for them and elect a government that would execute what they consider the best ideas or programs for them."

Next week on New American Voices Dr. Zarni will talk about how he came to the United States from Burma and about his life here.