Mila, Grandmother, SC

What do you do when people can’t understand what you’re saying and it’s kind of difficult?

“I try to be patient with them and I asked them to be with me. Usually if they are kind and caring and they’re worth talking to they will be, and we can end up having a beautiful conversation and we find have a lot in common.”

Mila is a dedicated grandmother, avid cook, and artist in South Carolina. She was interviewed as part of a #Wando High School #schoolpartnership #studentvoice project with REENVISIONED, in which students interview each other and adults in their lives, and reflect together on school and what makes a good life. She was interviewed by her granddaughter, Anna.

Today we have a very special interview. Please say your name and a little bit about yourself.

Hello. My name is Mila. I am a grandma and I was born in Ukraine. I came to America when I was 40 years old with my daughter and I didn’t know any English and now I’m much better in English. I enjoy Oshibana art, which is the art of Japanese dry flowers, and I like to cook for my granddaughter and I like to make other arts and crafts with her for fun.

Awesome so can you tell me a little bit more about what it was like when you came to America?

I came to America with my daughter and didn’t have anything. We stayed with one of our friends in New York and that’s when my daughter and I both went out to look for work. I decided that I wanted to go back to school so I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology, which is hard because I didn’t know any English and I was the oldest one in the class but I enjoyed it so much. After I finish school, my daughter was working as a translator for the Verizon company, I worked as a hat designer with Eric Javits which is a big fashion design company in New York.

That’s really cool!

So what do you think was one of the hardest things when you had to come to the new country?

Yeah it was hard. It was only me and my daughter and like I said we really didn’t know anybody and we didn’t speak any English, but once we started to learn how to speak English and we got jobs everything kind of became a lot easier. The hardest part was not being able to communicate with other people. We figured out how to buy bread and go to the grocery store, but somethings are hard if you don’t speak English in the country and not everyone was patient with me. But I did get to meet a lot of people, and I was so happy that I went back to school even though all the young people in the class looked at me weird. 

Wow that’s kind of crazy…

How do you think that had shaped the person who you are today?

Well obviously being born in Ukraine I grew up differently than someone who was born in America, we do not have a lot of money and we grew up in Ukraine and so we learned how to use what we had, I didn’t have a cell phone or a computer or anything fancy like you do, but I still learned what I had to learn and got a good education and I was able to have success in what I wanted to do.

I was very proud of myself for making it when we got to America. I never thought I would be able to become a citizen in this country and make new friends and get a good job that I really enjoyed and be in a city that I loved, but I did.

I think that helped me whenever I needed to do something challenging that I was scared about and nervous about.

And what is one thing that you did to overcome the language barrier that you had with other people?

Talking with people was the hardest part. But I remember when I was in school I could never keep up with what the professor was saying because he talks so fast and I didn’t speak a lot of English. So I took my recorder and I recorded the lectures, and my friend gave me a dictionary, English to Ukrainian, so I was able to go home listen to the recording that I had made of the lecture and translate it so that I understood what was going on. That’s the number one way that I learned English. And once I was better at English people would start understanding me and helping me more often. But even now that I know English I still have a strong accent so sometimes people get frustrated because they can’t understand what I’m saying

And what do you do when people can’t understand what you’re saying and it’s kind of difficult?

I try to be patient with them and I asked them to be with me and usually if they are kind and caring and they’re worth talking to, they will be and we can end up having a beautiful conversation and we find have a lot in common.

After mom and dad met and eventually had Michelle and I, how did that change in your life?

Well, your mom and I live together until she met your dad and then she moved out and left me, but it’s ok, hahaha. And I was so excited when you were born because you were so sweet and small and cute to look at and to play with. And once you started to get older your mom and dad decided to move, and I really didn’t want to be away from my only family I have an America so I came with you guys. This was a big step for me because the only place I’ve ever lived in America was New York City. And I was nervous about moving somewhere new because I finally knew how to make it in New York. At first we moved to the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, which I didn’t like very much but I was happy when we move to South Carolina because it’s so warm - people are different than in New York. And I got to spend more time doing my artwork and I got to live with my granddaughters.

In your opinion what is the most important thing in life?

My family. I would not be able to do anything without my family.

I do everything that I can to help support you to make you better and everything because I know how hard you work, so I’m trying to work hard with you. And I really enjoy spending time with you and your friends and having big family dinners and being able to drive you to school every morning. And I got to teach you how to drive because your mom refuses to be in the car with you. And I love moments like that, I think that is the most important thing. Because without my family I would not have been able to do anything that I have done in my life. 

Ok so this is my last question, and I know it’s a big one, but

What do you think is the key to a good, happy and successful life?

Like I said earlier family is so so important. But also I think hard work. I could have come to America, been annoyed and tired and give up and not learned English and worked at McDonald’s or something, but instead I worked hard and I learn the language and I met new people and I was able to accomplish so much. I’m so happy I did because I love my life now.

So I think hard work and spending time with people you love - it doesn’t always have to be your family as long as there are people who love you and care about you and you love them and you care about them, then it’s perfect.

10,000 Stories. One Shared Vision.

REENVISIONED is a national movement to redefine the purpose of school.  We believe schools should foster flourishing individuals and a thriving democratic society.  But what does it mean to thrive or flourish? 

To answer this, we're building the world's largest collection of stories about what it means to live good lives and the role schools should play in helping create them: 10,000 stories from people across the country.  We'll use the stories to learn about our shared values and dreams and to create a new vision for why we send our children to school. 

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