My name is Paulina. I am from Ukraine.
I’m Dimaggio. I’m from England. Manchester. I know her from seeing her at a bar once. She was just any pretty girl that watches football, so I was like, all right. That’ll do, that’ll do.
I was going to school in New York, and I was spending all my time just drinking and hanging out in Brooklyn instead of going to school. So, my mom made me drop out and move in with her in Philly. I was actually going to go home back to England, but then I just really liked Philly, so I stayed.
I ended up here through my parents. They knew someone here who said we could stay with them for a month. They said, “All right, Philly it is.” And we just never moved. It was in the summer, so I started sixth grade here…not knowing any English.
The year before we left, I think my Grandpa was like, “You’re going to America!” He was really mad about it. I didn’t know what he meant. My parents won the green card lottery. In Ukraine, so many people are trying to move out. You literally put money into a lottery, and if you win, you get a visa or a green card. So, that’s how we came here.
It wasn’t like they’d dreamed of coming for a long time either. I think my dad’s friend was the one who was always trying to go. He was always playing the lottery and telling my dad, “Why don’t you just do it? What’s the worse that could happen?” And he put it in, and the first time, he won. Coming here, I imagined Hollywood, basically. I imagined it was always sunny. Someone told me Philly was near the ocean, and so I imagined “near the ocean” meant that I could just walk to the beach. I imagined celebrities everywhere and warm weather.
When I got here, I was in ESA for like 3 years, or all through middle school. There were a lot of immigrant kids at the school that I went to. There was a whole section of the school that was for people in ESA, there were just so many of us. I think maybe one or two others from the Ukraine, too. There were a lot of kids from Russia. I think a lot from China, and Columbia, and I think also Vietnam.
I came with my parents as well. My mom got a job for a company that was paying double what she was getting paid in England. And they had this ill moving deal, paid-for apartments and all. My mom says I was thirteen when we moved, but I distinctly remember it being just before my fifteenth birthday, because we went to New York for my fifteenth birthday.
I went to high school in Atlanta for two years. I was supposed to go in on ninth grade but they bumped me up to a junior, so I only stayed there for two years. It was all right. It’s not like it was that easy just because I spoke English either, I was in the south, so nobody understands anyway. There was one other English kid but he had moved over when he was like eight. He was also from a pretty well-to-do family. I’m from England where you get drunk in the park at like thirteen, and steal cider, and try to make out with girls and break windows. He was not from that part of England.
My mom’s family is from England all the way. And then back-back, my dad’s family is from Jamaica, and he’s first-generation English. He was the first child born in England, but all his brothers and sisters were born in Jamaica, apart from the younger ones. He’s always playing some daft radio music, all the time. I’ve got a pretty good selection of records. He was always telling me what he was into, but I wouldn’t listen straight away, I would be busy listening to whatever I wanted to listen to! But now I’m getting a little bit older, I’m actually kind of into the music he was always telling me to listen to.
I’ve never been to Jamaica. Until recently, until probably four years ago, I hadn’t had a chance to go back. I wanted to go other places. Until like four years ago, I was like, “Why would I want to go to Jamaica? I live in America, I’m from England. I’m not a beach guy, and I don’t want to see family I’ve never meet before because they don’t come see me.”
I’m a resident. I’m just going to apply to get my green card renewed. I don’t think I’ll go for citizenship, just because I don’t think I’ll stay here forever.
I got my green card at the airport when I came. They took our fingerprints, and I think I was too small to fingerprint. We waited for like an hour. I didn’t get my citizenship until three or four years ago. That was kind of weird because, to me, I was already living here for over five years. I already considered myself American. I think I’m always going to be Ukrainian. Even with my parents, they always get me to speak Ukrainian with them because they don’t want me to forget. Also, I think I tried to have a dual-citizenship, but Ukraine doesn’t allow it.