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January 2020: teen-2-teen

Immigrant parents share experiences

by Leona Petrovic

America is largely a nation of immigrants. Excluding the Native American people, many who call themselves American have roots tracing back to Germany, Italy or any number of countries. My parents, too, hailed from over the Atlantic. My father is from the Czech Republic and my mother comes from Russia. Their origins have shaped me and influenced the way I look at the world. I have my own experiences of growing up with immigrant parents, but my experiences don’t represent those of all second-generation Americans.

My parents grew up during the time when communism was largely prevalent in Europe. Through secondhand experience, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it would take for someone to leave their home and set out for a country whose culture is totally alien, and with a language barrier as well.

I’ve had the firsthand experience of watching my parents carve a life for my siblings and me out of the oft-heard and largely unattained “American dream.” Growing up with that sort of determination right before my eyes has given me my own determination not to let all the hard work of my parents go to waste.

There are differences between my family and a family that has been in America for several generations. We eat a lot of traditional Russian and Czech food, like vareniki (or pierogies, which are dumplings stuffed with potatoes, cheese and onions), or knedliky (another type of dumpling, but this time Czech and filled with berries or fruit). Though we use English at home, my parents will still speak their birth languages to us, and we’ll reply in our own broken versions.

But these are all superficial differences. These are differences pertaining to food, to language and to tradition. In my opinion, immigrant parents are no different than any other parents. They have as fierce a desire, if not fiercer, to do what’s best for their kids, to do what needs to be done, and to succeed in becoming a contributing member of American society.

Leona Petrovic, 15, is a homeschooled sophomore in high school. She is involved in the Rugby Community Orchestra and has been in several Village Arts theater productions. She enjoys reading, writing and playing both flute and piano. Leona is the daughter of Mirek and Julia Petrovic, members of Verendrye Electric Cooperative.