• Elsie Hernandez



Me: When did you come to America?

Stefania: I was ten years and ten months when I left the Capital of Romania, Bucharest. I can still remember the day when we first arrived to America's JFK Kennedy airport in New York City.

Me: What was the process for you to come into the country?

Stefania: My grandfather, my mother's father applied for a family reunification visa to come to America for my parents and their siblings. My father's uncle was a Dr. in Romania and in the 60’s somehow he went to Japan on a ship for work and he saved the life of the captain who was severely ill. For repayment the captain helped him escape the communist regimen legally through Italy and then America. Then, uncle invited my grandfather who traveled to New York and landed a job working for Greeks at a hotdog stand, which are very popular in New York even today. Grandfather finally gained his citizenship and then requested for us to come. I could never forget the day we went to the interview office, because my sister didn’t make it through. She had recently turned 21 that summer and was considered an adult. Therefore, she had to stay behind back home. My father and mother had no choice, they had already sold our property and released their jobs. It was a devastating moment for my family. My sister remained with my grandmother and they found a job for her right away. We even sent a letter to Hillary Clinton who was the senator of New York City at the time but nothing changed.

Me: Once you settled in what were the challenges you faced.

Stefania: At first I didn’t like school and I was very much homesick. I felt trapped not free, back home I had a certain freedom and was able to do things on my own. Here my parents didn’t have that same trust. I was overwhelmed with sadness because I lost my independence. In America the children did not have the freedom that I had in Romania, but I learned to adapt to the customs here.

Me: Has your sister come to America and do you want to go back to your country?

Stefania: At first she resented us for leaving her, but after seven years my sister finally came to America and even though she wasn’t too enthusiastic at the time, today she never wants to go back.

Me: Tell me a little about your family background today.

Stefania: Growing up, back in Romania I was a little tomboy with a pixie cut hairstyle and scrapped knees. Here during my high school years , I was an artist who created a mural that still stands today, the vice president of the student government and chosen as the best dressed in my graduating class. With hard work I obtained a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy and Visual Arts and am working on my Master’s Degree. I currently work in development, volunteer in teaching English to ESL students and also tutoring in the Arabic language. As for my family my mother was a barber which explains why I always had a pixie style haircut as a child. My father is a national traveler who creates convey bands here in New York and goes around the United States to different factories to assemble them. My sister is a nail technician at a prestigious salon in the city and soon to be a mother. The first baby in our immediate home and we are so excited. Her baby shower was just this weekend and the whole family including my uncles and aunts participated in the décor the food and the arrangements of it all. She was very surprised.

Me: You mentioned that after 11 years you finally went back to your country, what was your experience like now?

Stefania: I went back to my country and I was a little disappointed, because my nostalgia was not strong. I thought I would be emotional but the feeling was gone. I felt a great abandonment. When I was growing up, there was so much life in the streets, the children always playing and the people were out mingling. It was different. This time it was the opposite of everything I remembered. During my visit to my grandmothers I was very much pampered. Every morning she awaited me with a breakfast that contained an egg, tomato, cucumbers, homemade cheese, toasted bread and a hot sweet coffee on the side. My grandmother has grown old, but not as much as the city. The city felt like it wasn’t maintained. Time felt like it was a blow and blew over the city and aged it. What's strange to me is minutes before landing back into the JFK airport, I felt an unexpected feeling that New York was the place that I felt like home.

Me: What do you aspire to do?

Stefania: I aspire to use my talents and my modern history education towards my success. I also I want to travel to different cities to explore the identity of the city.

~I found Stefania to be such an interesting young lady full of life and admiration.~


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