So today I took an Uber from my house in the north Chicago suburbs to Midway International Airport to catch a flight back to Houston, TX thus ending an exciting and life-changing summer.
My Uber driver, Yefim, had a thick Eastern European accent and spoke decent English. After some light conversation, he asked me where I thought he was from. A couple incorrect guesses in, he told me, “My accent is from the Soviet Union.”
I was slightly caught off-guard. I’ve never heard someone actually claim to be from the Soviet Union. Usually, anyone from that area credits their accent to one of the fifteen states that were a part of the failed communist mega-country.
He told me he moved to the United States over 25 years ago, and I was intrigued about his life in Soviet Latvia, so I asked if he would tell me a little bit about it.
“Well, I am from current-day Latvia, but all the countries under the Soviet Union had to speak Russian. Schools taught in Russian…everything was Russian. Even if you were from another language, it was always Russian,” he explained. Going on, he said, “It was illegal to be a Christian and go to church. If you were caught, going to church…well, you would have a lot of trouble.”
“Do you feel like people born in America take for granted the freedom that we have here? The freedom to speak whatever language we want or follow whatever religion?” I asked him.
Yefim laughed and nodded saying, “I won’t speak for all Americans…but yes. America is the best country.”
I agreed, of course, and I went off on my typical speech about how in no other country do we have even close to the same freedoms we do here in America but how we are so close to losing that.
“You know, I came here with two suitcases – that’s it. And now I have a family, a good job, a beautiful home, and I get to take a vacation every six months. I couldn’t do that in the Soviet Union,” Yefim passionately explained. “So many people come here and talk about how they hate America. There are thousands who want to be here and would love to come and work and make their own life.”
America is truly the greatest country in the history of the world. We are home to the greatest innovators. We lead the world in every capacity. There is and never has been any country like the United States of America.
Yefim is the perfect example of what an American is. While he may not have been born here, he is full of ambition, tenacity, and resiliency. He emigrated from Soviet Union to pursue a life characterized by freedom and prosperity and not communism and misery.
Something he told me, I will never forget. Yefim said that the greatest decision in his life, after starting a family, was to come to America, and I’m so glad he did because my hour-long Uber ride was a much-needed reminder of the power, beauty, and passion of the American dream.