Humans of FHC: Iryna Smyrnova

Katianna Mansfield

More stories from Katianna Mansfield

I am okay now
February 16, 2018

“We were going to visit America to see what it was like and see our friends over the summer, it was cool and sounded exciting. We stayed in my mom’s friend’s house, my mom was seeing this guy, Richard, and then two or three weeks later we moved into his house. My mom told me that we were going to stay here and that she would most likely marry Richard. I was shocked and scared; all of my family was still in Ukraine, I only had my mom and [my little sister] Rita. I moved into this random guy’s house who I’d seen twice in my life, and he had two daughters who I didn’t know. It was hard at first getting used to being in a new family.

Then I found out I couldn’t go to school for half a year because I didn’t have documents. That was not fun. I had to sit at home, but I still had to teach myself everything that everyone else was learning. It would’ve been fine if I had had friends, but I only had [my step sister] Lauren, who was gone to school from 8 a.m.-4 p.m and she would go in her room once she got home. She’d still talk to me and hang out with me, but it was lonely. It was hard to communicate with her, I was still learning English.

My parents hadn’t lived together in months when we moved into Richard’s around July, but my mom wasn’t divorced yet. We didn’t tell my dad or grandma until November. I couldn’t tell them because my dad wouldn’t like that, we didn’t have the document that said it was okay for us to stay here until November, so if my dad knew and wanted to, he could’ve had us brought back to Ukraine, so I couldn’t tell him. I just sat in my room and studied. I taught myself in English. I didn’t want to be held back in school, so I basically had to teach myself what you guys were learning at the moment, like the first semester of biology and algebra. I had books, but English wasn’t as easy as it is now for me. I had to sit there with my laptop and translate half the sentences. It was intense, but I didn’t have anything else to do.

I’d go to youth group activities, but I wouldn’t understand anything they were saying. People don’t realize how much language is part of your identity. When you can’t express yourself it’s like part of you is taken. People look at you differently when you can’t say what you want to say, only what you can say. It definitely changed me as a person.

Life got better when I started school. I started participating, I met a lot of great people, and my English improved a lot. Finally, after three years of living here, this place is finally starting to feel like home.”