My boyfriend, Rostyslav Chen or as I call him: Rosty, is originally from Ukraine. When he was younger his father was a winner of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program which is essentially a lottery where 50,000 random people win Green cards each year. Winners may also bring their immediate family members.
“He played it, the lottery, for like five years, it was his last year playing and then he won,” Rosty said.
At the age of twelve, Rosty and his parents stepped off a plane and entered their new home, the United States for the first time.
“Seeing it live and just being in the U.S. doing the most ordinary U.S. things was pretty incredible for me. Even the yellow school busses would be amazing because you would see those, you know, in the movies and you would have it associated with the movies and America,” Rosty said.
Now him and his parents have been in the US for eight and a half years. Rosty said that when they first came it was difficult because of the language barrier and not knowing many people. However, his parents were determined to overcome these obstacles.
Since coming to the United States, Rosty hadn’t been back to Ukraine to visit family members until this last May. Meaning he was unable to see family members including his siblings in person for the past eight and a half years. Before the trip he was excited to reunite with his family members.
“It just ended up being my parents and just me [that came to the U.S.]so my siblings didn’t come. So it was very difficult because the rest of the family was there. My parents have visited a couple times since we came here, but this is going to be my first time going there in eight and a half years so it’s going to be exciting,” Rosty said.
Part of the reason he had not visited Ukraine for so long was due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.
“It’s not really that much of a concern I guess. People are pretty tense, but it sort of goes on, like my friends never expressed it as problematic to where I live and we do not live that far off,” Rosty said.
Despite the conflict, people continue to go about their day to day lives. However, that is not to say that signs of the conflict are not apparent, especially at the capital Kiev.
“May 9th is when they celebrate victory day in soviet countries or post soviet countries like Russia and Ukraine. Those type of celebrations usually involve like parades and veterans walking down and stuff like that. But it’s a very soviet thing and after the conflict with Russia started they’ve pulled back on the celebrations,” Rosty said.
Rosty described the trip as anticlimactic when it comes to the country itself.
“I definitely want to visit back more just because I hadn’t really realized I had that many family members that I should keep up with. But certainly the country itself I don’t care for, it’s more of the people I want to visit,” Rosty said.
Rosty and his family members did pretty typical things like exploring the city, going out to eat and simply visiting. However, it seems clear that the people he saw were what made the trip.
For more on this story , you can listen to the Undercurrent’s latest episode “Unfamiliar Territory,” or find us on iTunes by searching “The Undercurrent,” with the red and black logo.