How Russian woman was disappointed in the fight against corruption and went to New York
Oksana Korzun has white hair and indicative biography for the generation. She is no longer investigating at Transparency International, but has not lost her enthusiasm for life, has left for the United States and is promoting ideas of painless emigration from there. She told her story in an interview. Billboard Daily.
We moved to New York in the fall of 2016, after much deliberation, preparation, and several trial periods of life in America. Initially they wanted to travel for half a year in the country and decide whether we will stay or not, but as a result we immediately settled in New York and have not regretted it yet. In Russia, I was a political activist and was engaged in anti-corruption investigations in Transparency International, having got there from a detective agency and having worked in the Investigation Committee. Now I am writing books and I am thinking of starting a full-fledged project to help beginning writers. Although in parallel I continue my investigations.
Who am i
I wanted to investigate crimes from 12 years, playing with friends in private detectives and reading out detective novels. When I enrolled in law, I knew for sure that after graduating from university I would go and catch the criminals. The spirit of adventurism has always been strong in me, there was nothing to lose - and in the second year I started working in a real detective agency. And she quickly understood how this world is different from ordinary life: intense investigation, constant paranoia and looking over her shoulder. As a rule, our clients were people who suspected their wives and husbands, entrepreneurs whose employees stole, participants in apartment wars and sometimes completely exotic characters like the oligarch who checked whether his girlfriends really liked what they wanted to listen to their phone conversations. .
Having gained some experience, I went on an internship to the Investigation Committee. They have a special position for such enthusiasts as I was, a public assistant to the investigator. Perhaps this was the best period in my life (or one of them). Before that, I could not get up in the morning 8 so as not to curse the whole world. But during the internship I flew to our department, and in the evening I was excited to tell my family what we were doing in the morgue today, what an unusual crime we got and what strange things people write to the UK. After a while, everything was not as good as it seemed at first. Some of the investigators in our department knew less than me - students of the 4 course - and were terribly unskilled. In political matters, even the most insignificant, the investigators could not make independent decisions - they waited for the call from above. The management did not respect the investigators, they worked in poor conditions - in overload. And about sexism and hazing you can not mention - these are mandatory attributes.
So when I began to talk more and more about my plans for the future, I decided that I would not go there to work. Although I'm still not sure that I did the right thing.
With my unusual experience, I didn’t have many options for what to do next. Having seen enough of the corruption and poor work of the investigators, I got into the 2010 rally movement and worked as an observer at the elections, I decided to make the fight against corruption my profession. So in my life appeared Transparency International. For the first time in my life I was among like-minded people - and it was a very pleasant feeling. But the investigations we conducted were a weak likeness of what could be done with the capabilities of the Investigative Committee or the police. For more than a year I conducted anti-corruption investigations, wrote to various government agencies, we went to the media, but did not imprison the perpetrators and we could not help the victims.
I was overtaken by the feeling that I had rested against the glass ceiling: I have experience and knowledge, but I cannot bring any benefit to this. Growing further in anti-corruption investigations could become potentially dangerous for me and my family. By that time Transparency I became a foreign agent, I had a feeling of fear and decline, other anti-corruption activists were brought into action, and I searched my own house once a week to throw out everything that could potentially be of interest during a search.
By the time my husband and I are a business consultant in Nival, previously worked at TNK-BP and PricewaterhouseCoopers - they were already seriously considering moving to the USA. We both liked this country, it also reached its ceiling in Russia. We went to America a couple of times and realized that New York could be our city. People from almost all countries live there, life boils harder than in Moscow, and the level of everyday comfort is higher. We decided and began to prepare - I quit, began to tighten the tongue, we were looking for money and opportunities for the first time.
Rental housing and life
New York is considered a city where people are fighting for housing: good is not enough, but what is there is too expensive. But if you have time, you can always find something. Prices are highly dependent on location - you can find an apartment for 1300 dollars in a not very joyful Spanish-speaking area in the north of Manhattan, but if you go down below Central Park, prices are already 3000 – 4000 dollars for a one-room apartment, and in some areas - around 6000 – 8000 dollars and to infinity.
We were first helped by a Russian realtor, because we did not know how everything worked, but the results were so pitiable that we refused it. He taught us very Russian how we should live, and arrogantly reminded us that tourism should not be confused with emigration.
If the search for housing is very similar to the Moscow one, then the very procedure for communicating with the landlord is fundamentally different. This is a business here and you are treated like a customer. Most management companies ask to show a credit history, 40 times income in relation to the monthly price of an apartment (it can be the sum of the spouses' salaries). If this does not work out, a surety is needed. Some homes require an interview with the home council, whose members are looking for people with the same lifestyle and income. We, as foreigners, had to pay for six months, show a ton of papers, the realtor even offered to request an extract of our Russian income to reflect our solvency. In the end it worked out and we got an apartment in Harlem.
The best difference from the Moscow rental market is that the apartments are rented empty, renovated, there are no bursting in owners with the requirement to move out immediately, and in the house itself there is a superintendent or super. This is such a personal housing office in one person that takes care of the house and breakdowns; he usually lives in one of the apartments and is available at any time. Somehow our neighbors moved down from the top, and there they began to prepare an apartment for a new tenant. One night something happened that I was afraid even in Russia, - flooded. After the call, our super Bart in his pajamas, an African-American of 50 years, came to us, looked at the ceiling phlegmatically, called his workers. After a while the water stopped flowing, and he went to bed, telling us goodbye that everything would be fine. So it was.
Despite the short term in America, we have already managed to run into doctors. It turned out that contact lenses, which in Russia can be bought in a vending machine in a supermarket, are medications, and you need to get a prescription for them. I didn’t have insurance, so the inspection, the recipe and the discussion of what my lovely accent cost 700 dollars. True, it later turned out that the question asked at random whether they had any discounts worked, and I suddenly got rid of 200 dollars.
In pharmacies, serious medicines are not sold in the public domain, everything must be prescription. Local pharmacies are generally a mixture of a supermarket, a cosmetics store, a hardware store and a small department with pain relievers and vitamins. But many Russian medicines, including even antibiotics, can be freely purchased on Brighton Beach.
People in the city and attitude to Russian
In New York, you can look like you want, speak in any language you like and do any things - and you will always find your like-minded people. I read that Americans are afraid of silence, and it seems to me that this is so - everyone wants to communicate terribly. Strangers make compliments on the street, standing next to each other in a line are ready to share their life stories, and the neighbors know each other and go to visit.
At the end of December, all the neighbors in our house in Harlem staged a festive party in the lobby: we prepared food for each other and talked, and one of our new acquaintances raised a toast to the recently deceased neighbor.
During the time when news about the deterioration of immigration conditions due to Trump's initiatives was sent, an occasional woman, upon learning that we were from Russia, asked if we were safe and if we needed help.
And once in the park, my husband ran past policemen who pushed the criminal in handcuffs into the car. The husband and the policeman met their eyes, the latter smiled and asked how he was doing, and after receiving the answer he returned to his criminal.
Attitude towards Russians in New York - from indifferent to positive. Most, of course, do not care: Russia is too far away and not very interesting, people are still focused on local events.
But with the local Russian, we try not to encounter much, except for our circle of acquaintances - it is likely to find Trump fans, fans of Putin and the Cold War. During the US presidential election in New York liberal, Brighton Beach massively voted for Trump with his anti-immigration rhetoric, which is very funny, considering that former immigrants live there.
We decided to celebrate the move, starting a cat, which I dreamed of for many years. In New York, most have dogs or cats, and pet stores are on every corner. We decided to take the animal from the shelter, because no one gives out cats freely: according to the law, pets should be neutered under the threat of a fine.
Cats in shelters are not free, the price for them can reach 300 dollars, but they give out an already tested, vaccinated and castrated animal. To get a cat, we had to have an interview, give our working resume and specify three referees, one of whom should be a work colleague. After receiving all the recommendations, the volunteers come home and check the house for safety: are there any nets on the windows, poisonous plants, dangerous bottlenecks. In the end, we did get a cat, but the feeling was that animals are cared for more here than people.
Since I am now working closely on a new book and promoting a written one, I had to find a place to work. Coworking is good for everyone except the price. For example, WeWork - the most popular network coworking, offers free beer and a monthly subscription for 400 dollars. A small coworking family look in Harlem will cost 250 dollars. The rest is approximately in between.
For myself, I found the perfect solution - I work in the New York Public Library. Anyone can come there, it’s quiet there, there are always free places and a slow Internet that does not allow one to indulge in procrastination. The place itself is breathtaking - and the atmosphere is conducive to work.
Like many immigrants, I was faced with difficulties. She felt like a stranger, didn’t want to leave the house and once again collide with people, was very tempted to return. As a result, having thoroughly studied the topic of adaptation of emigrants, I wrote the book “How to move to another country and not die of homesickness,” where she set out everything she could find about it. One large Russian publishing house wanted to print my book, but then it turned out that their general director was an ideological opponent of emigration, and they refused to cooperate.
I released the book myself and became an enthusiastic self-publishing. After about six months of living in New York, I began to notice that I more and more like this city, I began to feel here as my own.
Life in America helped me relax and look around. In Russia, we constantly fought for something, lived in suspense because of the feeling of anxiety and the fact that everything would be worse. There was no strength left for doing something else, such as creativity. Here people have a completely different attitude - it also helps us to change our priorities.
Regardless of how our story ends, the move was one of the most exciting experiences in my life, which I would repeat without a doubt.
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