Living scared and in unrest was not the life Ivan and Irina wanted for themselves or their 3-year-old twins, Max and Valerie. So, in November 2022, they moved away from the only life and family they ever knew in Russia and came to Los Angeles.
The oppression had become unbearable for Ivan and Irina. “I want the freedom to read what I want to read and not live afraid of doing something wrong and going to jail or getting beat,” Ivan said. The move has been challenging, but worth the freedom and peace they are currently experiencing. “We understood we couldn’t see our family and friends for a long time, and it makes us sad, but we needed to do it for our future.”
Ivan and Irina were able to move into a short-term rental when they first landed in America, but after a few months, with no credit established or proof of income, they were left with no place to live. “Places kept asking about our credit scores and finances and this made it very hard,” he said. Ivan knew he needed help, and while searching online he came across the Housing Authorities of Los Angeles. “It was the Housing organization that told us about the family shelter.”
Ivan and Irina reached out to Home Again in hopes of finding shelter, but they found more than that. “From the beginning, we were depressed about the situation of not being able to find a home, but being here has been a great experience,” he said. Being in a foreign country and not knowing anyone can feel isolating, yet since being at Home Again Irina said the new people they’ve met have really helped. “We were strangers and after a couple of weeks we are now friends,” she said.
Having a community has given Ivan and Irina hope knowing they are not alone. “We realize they are good people and nice people, and everyone helps each other,” Ivan said. “It’s like a family.” Being at Home Again gives Ivan and Irina more than just a place to sleep at night. They have access to classes to succeed beyond their time at Home Again. “We are taking the finance classes and the parenting classes, and the staff are helping us save and find housing.”
Not having the pressure to find and maintain housing also gives them the ability to establish themselves as a family here in America. “We are able to breathe here and make some (progress) with the needed documents to get housing and search for jobs,” Ivan said. Even though in Russia Ivan was an electrical engineer and Irina worked in marketing, finding jobs here has been difficult. “I have a huge working experience with international projects, but here I go into interviews, they like my skills and experiences, but then they don’t hire me.” Ivan is currently working installing car entertainment systems but hopes to find something more stable once all the necessary documents are finalized.
With two small children, Irina is thankful for the shelter, the staff’s love for children, and the opportunity for playtime. “I think they (the children) are OK,” she said. “They have fun here with the other kids and they like the books and toys.”
Recent warmer weather also provides an opportunity for them to spend time as a family outside, and take time to adjust to their new lives. “We really like all that California has—the weather, the museums, and the music. It is a beautiful place to be a family.”
Ivan and Irina are also enjoying the liberty of thinking and speaking without fear. “I can be free here to say what I think, and I can disagree without going to jail,” he said. “I can feel the freedom and I am not scared anymore.”
Ivan and Irina look forward to raising their children in confidence, knowing they can ask for help. “We are grateful for Home Again and the opportunity,” Ivan said. “Their help is appreciated, and it takes away the stress. I wanted a good education for our kids and opportunities—I can get that here.”