Transition to life in the United States may be somewhat smoother for immigrants who marry a citizen of their new country. But attaining professional success, or adjusting to social and cultural differences, is still up to the individual. In this edition of New American Voices, we report on the Russian bride of an American lawyer and her experiences.
Brown-haired, blue-eyed Lidia met her husband, Dan Rupli, when he was in Russia on business for a telecommunications company. Introduced by a mutual acquaintance, they had dinner in a Moscow restaurant, and love blossomed. Lidia says that one of the things that attracted her was that Dan Rupli was so different from the Russian men she knew.
"Just because he grew up in this country of freedom, liberty and human rights, he was different," she says. "He was more independent, he was, I would say, more freedom-oriented, and the way he was speaking and the way he was acting, he had a lot of confidence in himself and his country and what he was doing."
After a two-year, long-distance courtship, Lidia and Dan Rupli married and settled in the small town of Frederick, about an hour's drive from Washington, D.C. Lidia says that she enjoys living in the suburbs. "I grew up in big cities in Russia, so I'm a city girl. When I moved to America we used to live first in a rural area, and now we live in a suburban area," she says. "The li fe here is very, I would say, quiet, not hectic, not much transportation, not so many people as in a big city. But that's what I like. I like this provincial style of life."
Lidia's husband has a law practice and is active in local politics. Lidia Rupli took courses and passed the examination to become a real estate agent, selling houses in the Washington area's booming real estate market. Although she seems comfortable in her new life, she admits that it was not all smooth sailing. "Some things were difficult to get used to," she recalls. "There was the language barrier -- I hope that my language has improved since the time I came here -- and it was a little difficult to adjust to a new economical system. I found out that it was difficult to find an equivalent job to the one I had in Russia. I'm still looking for it."
Back in Russia, Lidia was a trained chemical engineer with a degree from Moscow University, who for five years worked as a project engineer on the Caspian pipeline, being built to transport oil from Kazakhstan to tankers on the Black Sea. Even with this background, though, she couldn't find an equivalent job in the United States. She explains, "The barrier is actually because nowadays, everybody is applying on the Internet. I guess maybe this is the problem. Normally, the employers - they don't see you, they only see your resume. So it's very hard to be invited for an interview, that's what I found. Of course, I'm sending my resume everywhere, and I don't lose my hope. I hope one day I will be invited, and I will get a good position."
In the meantime, thanks to her husband's involvement in politics, Lidia Rupli, too, has become active as a volunteer. She licks envelopes for political candidates' mass mailings, carries signs, staffs polling places, and with her husband has attended a national political convention. She says that even growing up in the Soviet Union she was always interested in how the political process works, particularly in democratic countries. "It's very exciting, because people really care about politics here," she says. "And they're really very much actively involved. And if they like a candidate, they strongly support their candidate, and they do anything they can possibly do. In the Soviet Union we were not encouraged to participate, and the whole process was very different."
Lidia Rupli's enthusiasm extends to many other aspects of life in the United States. "It's a beautiful country. I think it may be the most beautiful country in the world," she exclaims, "It has everything - deserts and prairies, mountains, oceans, forests, everything! It's a country of wonderful, friendly, generous people. The more I learned about America and the people, I learned that it's a different attitude towards life. People are more free in this country. They can say anything they want. And people are more confident."
Still, there are things that she would change. "Some things I found a little disappointing. For instance, I found that the cost of life is very expensive here," Lidia Rupli says. "Housing is very expensive, and medical care. For some people I found out that medical care is unavailable, and that's what I wish would be improved in the future."
After three and a half years in the United States, Lidia Rupli has some words of advice for prospective immigrants planning to come to this country. "First of all, to people who want to immigrate to America I recommend, first, that they learn as much about America as they can," she says. "Learn American history, American culture, and really love this country. Because you can adjust to a different environment, to a different culture only when you fall in love with this country. And then this love will help you to survive, and to get success. Miracles happen here. As a famous writer, Thomas Wolfe, said, 'Miracles not only happen here. They happen here all the time.'"
Lidia Rupli herself is waiting for her next miracle -- finding a good job as a chemical engineer.