It Is All Worth It

Anna Simpson

May 29, 2024

It Is All Worth It

    My heart is pounding, almost jumping out of my chest. My palms are sweating, I can barely breathe… I am thrilled, I can hardly contain myself. I can’t wait to share the grand news with my grandmother.

    After all, she has been the key figure who allowed it all to happen. What an adventure it has been over the last few months. No, it has been really years… But it is finally over.

    I am running across the garden where my parents and grandparents were growing their vegetables and fruits, catching my breath and anticipating the look on my grandmother’s face…

    I burst open the doors, and the smell of peonies and freshly baked apple pie hit my senses. Aww, how I love that smell — grandma’s home always smells of happiness.

    I pass by a big wall clock resembling a clock tower, and I smile. Its distinct bells at every hour, capturing the flow of time, have always mesmerised me. My great-granddad found it after World War II, buried under the ground. It was antique with its unique design and, probably, very expensive. I wonder if brave Ukrainians tried to hide it from the nazis and never came back for it. I could only imagine what that clock witnessed.

    Bam! Bam! Oh, two o’clock. Time for lunch.

    I enter the kitchen where grandma is cooking my favourite potato pancakes — no one makes better pancakes than my granny. How did she know it was a special occasion?

    “Oh, honey, you are here. When did you get back from Kyiv? I had a feeling, so I decided to cook your favourite dishes. The pork roast and potato pancakes are almost ready. You have to tell me all about your interview.” Her warm smile and cheerful chatter are full of anticipation.

    All this time, she has been rallying my pursuit of the impossible dream. She has been encouraging and supporting me while everyone else was either treating me with a silent judgement at best or open ridicule at worst…

    “People like us don’t go anywhere. Save yourself a massive disappointment and get a reality check,” was a common response from the naysayers of my surrounding every time I shared my dream.

    But not my grandmother. From the very beginning, she was on my side. She has always been.

    I am keeping the dramatic pose, trying hard not to give away the news. But grandma knows. She always does. At times, I feel she knows me better than I know myself. My deepest secrets.

    “Well?” She looks at me with a cheeky smile.

    “I am going to America!” I just blurt out, unable to contain my excitement.

    Her eyes are welling up with tears of joy. She comes rushing to me and gives me the biggest hug. We start laughing, and she tells me how proud she is.

    I am telling her all about the cold, wet weather and how I managed to leave the umbrella at home, rushing to make it on time to the American Embassy. How I got wet. It is so silly.

    I tell her about an unemotive moustached immigration officer who was conducting my interview. I was preparing for that visa interview for a long time, making sure all my paperwork was intact and going through all possible questions, but the moustached man was so intimidating that I couldn’t remember what I was actually saying in response to his questions. When I walked out of the American Embassy, I wasn’t sure if my visa request was approved or not.

    Well, it was. And I have never been happier. I am telling grandma that I don’t fully realise what it means — going to America. But I am going to America! Me, on my own? Having all the odds staked against me?! Pinch me! I feel like, at any moment, I am going to wake up. But persistence, determination and all the hard work paid off, and it is not a dream. It is a dream come true.

    We talk about my plans upon arrival and how I am going to pave my way in the land of opportunities to find my own opportunity. I am going first to New York and then to New Jersey. I don’t know much about those States apart from the Statue of Liberty in New York City — the symbol of freedom. But it doesn’t matter. I will figure it out. I always do. I am excited to meet the green lady with a torch.

    The tales of the land of milk and honey are interrupted by the burning smell. Granny forgot about the last pen pan of potato pancakes, which are beginning to burn.

    “Let’s celebrate your first big victory with style. I have some soda in the fridge. Go and fetch it. Together with the sour cream for the pancakes.” Grandma instructs as she is putting the pancakes, roast pork shoulder and a fresh green salad on the dinner table. It all smells divine. All is homegrown and fresh. The day couldn’t get any more perfect.

   “I am going to miss her cooking in America”, I am thinking as I am walking towards the fridge. They don’t know how to cook like my grandmother in America. No one does.

    A slight wave of sadness washes over me. I wish granny could come with me. All her life, she has stood firmly for freedom, growth and opportunity — all the values America has been built on. And it is granny who deserves to be rewarded with the trip to America to start a new chapter, to have a better quality of life… After all that poverty, war, famine, and communist persecution, she deserves to live and enjoy life…

    But it is not her path. I guess her dreams (whatever they were) have transmuted into my big American dream…

    I am putting down the soda and the sour cream on the table, and I start feasting on the deliciousness. She says a lot with her eyes, but we both are silent for a little, totally concentrated on the lunch.

    Apart from her amazing cooking, I’ve always loved her stories. As a teacher of the Ukrainian language, my grandmother knew how to tell a captivating yarn. She is a winner in my eyes and my role model. She taught me a lot about life, dreams, perseverance, and what is good and bad.

    She was born and grew up in a small hut in a rural and remote Ukrainian village. That hut had no beds to sleep on, no sink to wash off, no cooker to cook on… There wasn’t even electricity or floors. Primitive is not even the word; medieval existence was the setting where my granny and her four siblings grew up.

    There was a fireplace in the middle of the hut, which gave warmth, light and the ability to make a hot meal. Hay, covered with animal skins, served as beds for the family of seven. Amazing!

    She never looked at suggest ‘the hardships of her life’ her life hardships as blessings to be grateful for. She practically didn’t have any pleasant memories from her childhood and youth years. She was too busy trying to escape her drunk father, calm her constantly frightened mother, and survive the war, famine and communist persecution. There was no room for happiness and rejoicing in the beauty of life. Nothing was beautiful. It was dark and intense. Yet, she persevered. She survived despite the odds.

    Her story is not from rags to riches kind. Yet it is full of inspiration. A demonstration of the strength of the human spirit and the force of perseverance.

    “Granny, do you have any regrets in life? If you had a chance to start all over again, what would you do differently?” I ask her.

    “You know my life has been hard, honey. But all the journey has brought me to this moment — seeing my granddaughter courageously realising her dreams. It all has been worth it.” She responds with a smile, and I feel a hot tear rolling down my cheek.

    To get inspired more about my journey and discover how to share your stories, click here 

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