How Having Immigrant Parents Changed Me

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.


6:00 AM, small industrial town of Zhodino, Belarus. Summer 2008. I reluctantly boarded the bus, immediately noticing that it was absolutely packed. The bus, of course, was to my grandmother’s dacha, a cottage where she grew and tended to what I have always considered to be an absurd amount of crops, all by herself. After standing cramped like sardines for an hour, and then walking along a muddy path for twenty minutes, we finally arrived at my grandparents’ dacha. I was absolutely exhausted, but we were just getting started. At any given moment in the next seven hours I was being forced to dig or pick some sort of crop out of the ground.

Through all of my tantrums and complaining that day, my grandmother continued working and just kept telling me to do the same. When 2 PM finally rolled around, I was so happy to be going back to her apartment that I found the energy to run through most of the muddy path. Once we got to the bus stop, however, I was devastated to learn that we were not going home, but to the local farmer’s market. My grandmother spent the next 2 hours selling the crops she had unearthed that day, while I was passed out with my face on the raggedy old tablecloth she used.

For my parents, that full day of manual...

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