My name is Ilona Davidovich and I moved to Sarasota from Moldova when I was 4 years old, the transition I went through was a very hard and important part of my life and who I am now. My story began when I first moved to America with my mother, father and grandmother. It may seem like a four year old would not remember much or face much of a transition but this is not true at all.
My first experience with the language barrier was in preschool. I attended preschool at the JCC and did not understand a word of English. It was really frustrating but I got extremely lucky because there was a Russian girl in my class named Jaklin who had moved to America with her family a few years before! Jaklin immediately became not only my best friend but my mentor; she helped me by translating and making me feel more comfortable. At the age of four I did not speak English but I knew that I needed to learn the language. I picked up on the language very quickly and my parents feared that I would stop speaking Russian so luckily for me they kept pressuring me to read and write in Russian. My grandmother was also a very supportive teacher who helped me learn a LOT of Russian. I will admit it was very frustrating having to learn to read and write in two different languages, but at the time I had no idea how helpful it would be in my future! Of course being in preschool I did not have much of a choice and complaining was no good, I studied with them for years! After preschool I went onto kindergarten where I got lucky again, there happened to be another Russian girl in my class named Ekaterina who also became another one of my best friends! I spoke only Russian to both girls up until I went into second grade and Russian started to become more of a second language to me. But my parents and grandparents did not give up; instead they continued teaching me Russian and pushing me to keep speaking the language.
As a teenager it became even harder to keep up with speaking two languages. Both my parents had good English at this point so I knew I could get away with speaking English to them. But my parents did not give up and neither did my grandparents they constantly told me how important Russian would be to me in the future. Another reason I had to keep speaking was because my grandpa lived in Moldova and flew down a couple times a year. Of course he did not speak a word of English so the only form of communication we had was in Russian. As a teenager my parents and grandparents told me to study with them or I would end up going to college and having to pay for someone to teach me exactly what they were offering for free, of course I did not listen. It was not until my senior year in high school that I realized I needed to start reading and writing in Russian again. I had been accepted to multiple Universities and it was time to declare a major. I knew I wanted to do something internationally so I could use my Russian to stand apart from the crowd. I started trying a lot harder to speak to my parents in only Russian, I even began going on Russian news sites so that I could improve my Russian reading skills. My first year of college was tough especially because I took the highest level Russian course there was to offer. My teacher did EXACTLY what my parents and grandparents had warned me would happen so many years ago. She pushed me just like they did and made me read and analyze a LOT of Russian literature. This would have been so much easier if I had just listened to my parents when they tried to help me when I was younger. But I stuck to it and took two semesters of this extremely hard Russian class and came out reading and writing much better than I had before. I read Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, and many other Russian literary classic writers. I could feel how proud my parents and grandparents were of me it felt great to finally be able to speak write and read the language of the country I had come from. Speaking Russian is not only a part of who I am and embedded within me but it will help me a lot in the future. It has already helped me a great deal this year. I applied to work at a high end retail store and when I was hired the manager told me that he had hired me because I could speak with all the Russian clientele that comes into our store. Consequently it will also help me in my future when I need to get a job relating to my major ( International Relations.) All in all I am not only glad but I am beyond thankful that my parents and grandparents stayed strong and forced me to keep speaking the language that they were brought up with and I hope that one day my children will listen and learn to speak Russian as well.
Presented by Russian Sunday School of Sarasota (941)234-2817