As I walked into the Stevenson House, I noticed that everyone waiting to meet us was smiling. They seemed genuinely happy to see a big group of 63 girls walk into their midst. We were there to interview the residents of Stevenson House about their lives and learn a little more about their immigrant pasts. I sat down in front of a friendly looking Russian woman, and right away I started to get nervous and I thought to myself, “What it I blank on what to say?” or, “What will I do if she can’t understand me?” However, with the help of my grandmother as a translator, and the fact that Ninel Breslau was, and is, a sweet and understanding woman, this experience was incredibly rewarding and inspiring.
I learned that Ninel used to be in an orchestra, that many people in her family are painters, and that she survived WWII. As I listened to her, I thought about how my father’s parents had told me about their immigration stories from Russia. I thought about why they came to America and how their lives might have been different if they had not come years ago. Ninel, a more recent immigrant, emigrated many years after my grandparents, so maybe she lived some version of the life they left behind there.
The residents of Stevenson House took time out of their day to talk to us, and to let us interview them about their lives. I got to establish a connection with one more person in the world, and I learned a lot about both her and myself from it.