Victoria - 1951 Coffee Graduate Series

Victoria - 1951 Coffee Graduate Series
person wearing hat standing in front of brick wall

Moscow’s city center is very beautiful. People really like the Classic style of architecture - lots of gold. But then the style changed and people started liking avant-garde. My husband and I had a small business -  I was the architect and interior designer, and he was the general contractor. We had our business for 17 years. Most of our portfolio was private houses, restaurants, and beauty salons. 

Life in Moscow was very similar to here. We have Starbucks and the same shops as here. But if you go about 100km (about 62 miles), it’s another situation. Most people work in big cities, because that is where life is. Outside of the big cities, lives are not good. Russia is a very big country, but a very empty country. Coming to America, there wasn’t too much of a contrast, but the contrast was in the people. In Russia people are not too tolerant - the young people are better, but older people think differently. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were planning a long family vacation to America. At that time there was a political situation and my husband had some problems. It was a hard time. We thought about it a lot and decided to seek asylum in America. In 2018 we flew to Los Angeles and then sought asylum in San Francisco.

My husband speaks English very well. But for me, I didn’t understand when people spoke. When my husband went to work, I sat at home with our children. I felt a lot of discomfort here, especially for my children, because our lives changed and not in a good way. We couldn’t even send our children to school for six to eight months. I thought about getting a job and I tried, but I couldn’t because my English wasn’t very good, so I stayed home as much as possible. I thought I’d never be able to find a job here. 

person standing leaning on rail in front of the seaThe good thing is that in America, people are more friendly and usually help me. I feel discomfort when I can’t say something, but in America people usually say, “Don't be shy, it’s okay.” So I feel better after and I feel supported.

I like America, people are more friendly. People smile a lot here. And I like that when my kids go to school they’re learning about LGBTQ issues too. I love the thinking in America: you can be whatever you want to be. In Russia, the politics, the laws, and the president are not good for everybody. But I do miss Moscow because of my close friends and family, and now I can’t go back. For now, Russia is closed for me.

I learned about the Barista Training Program from my husband, who met Cynthia (1951 Coffee’s former Recruitment Specialist) at the Asylum Orientation. First I thought, “I’ll try it, but I’ll never find a job.” Then I thought, why not? I love to cook and I love the smell of coffee. After all, Starbucks in Moscow was one of my favorite places, especially since they had non-dairy milk options. 

I think the Barista Training Program is a very good thing, because it helps people feel better. If I didn’t go, then I couldn’t try and be a cashier in a cafe. Graduating from the program gave me the confidence that I can work in America. I had hope for my future in America. 

On graduation day, I spoke with someone from Mazarine Coffee and they offered me a job a few days a week as a cashier. I thought it’d be a good idea to give it a try. I’d wake up at 4:30am for my 6:30am shift. The first day was terrible! I was supposed to have someone helping at the other register, but he called in sick, so I was alone. There were a lot of people and a very long line. I even forgot my PIN. I literally forgot everything, like I was empty.  But I was determined to keep trying.

Person wearing a hat standing in front of an art installationIt was a big surprise for me that I could work after the training program. My life was better and I felt better because I had a schedule. I’d work till 12:30pm and then after go pick up my kids at school. It wasn’t big money, but it was something and it was good for our family. 

When I worked, everyone spoke in English, so I had to practice and it was really good practice too. When I went to sleep, for about two to three months, I’d keep repeating the menu in my head. 

But then coronavirus started. I want to keep working in the cafe, but for now we’re all waiting for when this will end. 

When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to draw something and that I wanted my work to involve drawing. I never thought about being an architect because that’s a family profession, and my parents are not architects. My father is a cook and my mother a dressmaker. I went to art school and took an art studio class for about six years when I was a child. When I went to college, I realized I liked architecture.

When I’m not drawing architectural details, I love drawing flowers, butterflies, fish, lizards, and other bugs, small drawings using graphite, liner, and colored pencils. Recently I lost most of my photos, but my Instagram has some of my drawings.

For my future, I’m starting to sketch again, because I really want to build up my portfolio. I’d also like to pursue being a tattoo artist, but need to find a training program first. Maybe after COVID.