Our US: how Kazakh became an American policeman
Just over a year ago, Daniyar Nurtaz, a New York policeman, became the hero of local and American news chronicles. A native of Kazakhstan helped to give birth to an American right near the metro station in New York. Esquire talked to Daniyar and found out how he got to the USA and what a difficult path he had to go through to become an officer in the New York City Police Department.
How did you get to the USA?
13 years ago, in April 2002 of the year, as soon as the younger brother finished school, we came to the USA with our whole family. I was then 20 years old, my little brother - 17. He wanted to study in the USA, at Columbia University. Our family is friendly, so we went together.
Afraid to let go of one brother?
He was a young guy. I worried about him. Parents worried about us. Two of us did not let go, so we decided to go with the whole family. I understood that financially such an education would be very expensive. He knew that he would have to work while my brother was studying.
What did you do in Kazakhstan before you left?
We had an ordinary Almaty family. We lived in a standard three-room apartment. I studied at the third year of university in Almaty, which I had to quit in order to come to the USA.
Columbia University is one of the most expensive in the US, how was your brother going to pay for tuition?
He is an ambitious and very talented guy. He perfectly knows mathematics, participated in competitions, won prizes. He himself was ready to work, to try, to study here. Brother was ready to do everything to realize his dream.
How did you find your first job in the USA?
First I got a video showroom in Brighton Beach, worked there for a week. They were engaged in rental of videotapes. All customers were Russian-speaking. In his spare time, he opened the self-instruction manual of English and read it. I tried to memorize words, some expressions. I did not know English at all, I learned German at school. I could not even say what my name is and how old I am.
And at what age were your parents?
They were already aged. For them, the move was a very difficult step. My brother and I were confident in our abilities, but my parents were very worried, this move was a serious test.
Did they learn English too?
Yes, parents also began to work and learn English. My father worked all his life in managerial positions, and here he had to work in different jobs. By and large, the fact that we were able to achieve everything in the USA is the merit of our parents!
Where do you live?
We rented a two-room apartment, our parents lived in one room, my brother and I were in another. The area we had was not the coolest and not the safest. We have had clashes with local. I did not know the language and did not understand what they want from me. When it came to me that they needed money, he replied: "I will not give you anything, do what you want."
Scary was not?
There was no fear, as I have already seen in Almaty. We were not offended and eventually deserved respect.
Did your brother's dream come true? He was able to unlearn?
Yes, he graduated from university. He is now 30 years old, he works as a financial analyst at a large bank, and in the evenings he is a professor; he teaches serious subjects at two American universities: statistics, mathematics, microeconomics, and risk management.
How did parents adapt?
Heavy. The first 2-3 of the year mother came home from work in tears every day, wanted to quit and go back. Then we knew only one local family from Kazakhstan. But they left back the same year when we arrived, told us: "There is nothing to do, go back." But we knew for sure: we will succeed.
How did you manage to support your parents?
Three days after our arrival my father had a heart attack. He did not show the experience to us, but, it turns out, it was given to him all this hard. I came to the hospital, could not find my father, because I did not know the language. Even Russian-speaking nurses pretended not to understand Russian. We had no insurance. But in the US there is a law that even if a person does not have insurance, you are not allowed to refuse to provide medical care. Father healed and released. First impressions about the health care system were pleasant. They are a man without insurance, without the necessary documents, with a Kazakhstan passport in their hands they were raised to their feet.
Do your parents miss Kazakhstan?
My mother, being here, began to miss her homeland very much. She had a dream to visit her homeland. And now there are already health problems, but she is still going to go to Kazakhstan.
Does your father have no such longing?
My father has already traveled to Kazakhstan. I was worried about him, because even when he flew to Kazakhstan for the first time after leaving, my tears went out of my eyes and caught my breath. Although flew to Astana. And this is a foreign city for me. So it was easier for me to land there.
How long have you not been to Kazakhstan?
It was 2007 year, that is, 5 years have passed since our departure. But these were the hardest years for our family. In the first 2-3 of the year, it was very hard to be in the USA both morally and physically.
There were no thoughts at all to return?
It was a pity for the parents. I wanted them to come back, but we would stay and try to establish ourselves. But parents did not want to leave us. In the first 3 of the year, we all worked four of us. I used to work on 18 hours, at the same time I learned English. Once stood, leafed through the dictionary. A man comes up to me and asks: “What are you reading there?”. “I am learning English,” I reply. He says to me: “Why do you need English if you work at Brighton?”. I say, “I'm not going to work at Brighton all my life. We live in America. ” It turns out that it was the owner of the store in which I worked. He got mad at me because he did not know English himself. He left, called the manager and asked him to fire me. I was upset, came home without mood. On the other hand, I am grateful to this man for not letting me get stuck in Brighton. Found another job, valet parking. I had a Moskvich in Kazakhstan, and I knew how to drive a car with a manual transmission, this helped me to get a job as a parking attendant. There I realized that the guys who work in restaurants have money. So my next goal was to find a job in a restaurant. Six months later, I got a job at the Baku restaurant. He worked for a week for free, arguing that I could work. I worked for a week, they believed in me and took me to work. Uzbeks guests came there specifically to serve them Kazakh.
Going to work in the service sector - for you it was not something like how to cross over yourself, through your pride?
When I went to the USA, I was ready for any job, just like my parents. When we drove here, we were immediately warned that in America no one expects you that it is a completely different country and you need to forget who you were in Kazakhstan and what you did there.
What did you do after work as a waiter?
Still working as a waiter, I decided in parallel to unlearn a specialty "Tourism". Thanks to this, I was invited to work at the airlineDelta". I had to go through a difficult competition. Two people from our course, including me, were hired by the largest airline in the world. 5 has worked for years in the customer service department. During his work, he met many people from the former USSR, and was able to help many. This work taught me different ways. For example, how to communicate with people, how to calm them down if problems or stressful situations arise. The work was not easy. Then he entered the University of New York, where he received a diploma in international marketing. At the same time engaged in driving cars in Kazakhstan.
Can you elaborate on this?
At first it was a small business. I searched for car ads, bought them. Brought to New York, then sent to Kazakhstan. In Almaty, I had partners - childhood friends. There they realized these machines. Then they sent me the money again, and everything went in a circle. Gradually made a name for themselves, have developed. Then I could already attract more of our guys to work. I tried to help them. I remember how difficult it was to find a job when I first arrived. At the same time I tried to teach children how to avoid problems in this country. Where to live, how to live, helped than I could.
But did this business work exactly until the moment when Kazakhstan entered the Customs Union?
Yes, this is one of the reasons for leaving the business. But I had long planned to leave him, twice or three times threw the case. But I still came back, because it brought a good income. But I did not see a career in the auto business and I understood that it was not for this that I came to the USA. Tried to find something for the soul. I had to see what was happening on the streets when there was no police near. Lawlessness never left me indifferent. I could not do anything legally, I had no rights. The dream of working in law enforcement has long lived in me. Just when we came to America, I had no citizenship and no chance of getting a job in this area. My dream faded into the background. When everything fell into place, it became possible to do what you loved.
And in Kazakhstan, you never dreamed of becoming a policeman?
In Kazakhstan, I had a different attitude towards the police. But we had a neighbor, a policeman. I remember how he put on a holster, a pistol, checked his weapon. Maybe even then this idea settled in my head. In Kazakhstan, the police behave a little differently than here. In the US, the police are a fraternity of like-minded people. When I came to NYPD (New York City Police Department), I realized that I had come to the family. I immediately got 35 of thousands of brothers and sisters who think with me in a similar way. They came to the service not for big money.
How did you even get to the police?
This is a long process that took me 4 of the year. First I passed the test for memory and observation, passed a psychological test. I got good results on exams. Then there were physical exams. I had to drive weight, ran a lot. We were immediately told that if you couldn’t run, you could not even submit documents. There is no such thing to be negotiated or for someone to ask for you. The majority of people are eliminated at the stage of psychological and physical testing. In addition, the background is being seriously tested. There is an initial preparation, then already in the academy a serious preparation for work. Studying at the Academy lasts 6 months, it is also a difficult test, not everyone was able to graduate from the Academy. And to get to the academy, you need to go through a difficult competition, where 15 people claim for one place.
Where in the US are there so many people who want to work in the police, if this is not a well-paid job?
The bulk is the former military, veterans. For them, working in the police is a smooth transition to civilian life. This is a special category of people who have become accustomed to being with a weapon, who, if anything, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of other people. There are many such people in America. That's probably why I like my job. I go to her as on a holiday, and am proud to be a member of this large family.
You went to the police, every day you are in danger, how does your family feel about this?
Parents relate to this with understanding. My father served in the army on Sakhalin. Finished serving as captain. Since he himself was engaged in this, he also prepared me for this all his life. Said: "If you can help - help!". There were situations on the street when hooligans were pestering a guy or a girl, my father never passed by. Apparently, this sense of justice, the need for helping people comes from the family.
How did the incident with the birth in the subway?
I was at the station underground in the subway. At that moment a call arrived on the radio that a woman was giving birth at the station. Then decided to check the platform. I checked - no one started up. There is such a subway station that takes a few minutes to get out of it. There are no stairs, there is only an elevator. I went outside and saw a paramedic. He was going to go down. He explained to him that she was not there. She must be somewhere on the street. It turned out she had already gone out and started shouting that the child was coming out. How to take birth, we were also taught at the academy. While I was getting up, I understood that the ambulance might not come immediately either, since this is Brooklyn’s downtown, which means that there are terrible traffic jams. In his head he scrolled how to take delivery. And he was very happy when he saw the paramedic. We ran to the woman. She lay on the pavement and screamed. I saw that the baby had already started to appear. We got on our knees, and the paramedic caught the child, he himself was in shock. As far as I understood, he was a newcomer. We looked at each other and were delighted. The child screamed, opened his eyes. It was a big kid. But it would be not quite correct to consider this as some kind of heroic act.
But you still saved human life?
At work, I was appreciated for doing work that I should not have been responsible for, since my main task was to patrol the post under the ground. Everything happened quickly, so it was necessary to quickly make a decision. This is a rather rare situation. Every day we find lost people, prevent robberies, catch criminals, there are accidents. People thank us for the work every day, but this is not considered heroism. And for some reason this situation was considered heroic, although, in my opinion, this is also part of the work that we do every day. We chose this job precisely to help people. If a natural disaster or act of terrorism suddenly happens, people run away from the problem, and the police, on the contrary, must go there and save people. This is just our job.
Have you seen a woman with a child after this?
In the morning I went to her with flowers. She recognized me, was delighted, kissed, hugged. We took pictures with her. She herself was shocked. She just went to the hospital on the subway, and she began a sudden birth. So she decided to leave the train. She pressed a button help and said she was giving birth. Because of this, 911 received information that it is on the platform. And she could not wait and began to climb up. When she went out and caught a taxi, she already understood that the child was leaving. All this happened within some five minutes.
And she did not want to call the boy Daniyar?
She asked for my name and surname, but, frankly, I don’t even know what she called her child.
Have you been rewarded for this act?
This is all a long process. But the information reached right up to the NYPD executive. I got a call from his office, thanked. They promised that there will be a conversation. Perhaps some day will come when policemen will be awarded, but this is not a quick process. Usually give something like a medal, a small strip, like the military.
Children will be something to be proud of!
Probably. But for me this is not the main thing. The first task is to have children grow up decent people.
Would you agree to let your son go to the police?
I probably wouldn't want that. Because to die is only one of the risks. A lot of police lose their health. I saw people who are in wheelchairs and can only move their mouths. It is very risky. But if he chooses this path, then I know that I can not stop him. He's a stubborn kid. When I leave for work, I see how he looks at my uniform. Looks at how I put on a bulletproof vest.
How does the majority of the population treat the police?
For the most part, the population is grateful to us. And we have an appropriate attitude towards people: if a person fulfills all the requirements, then it is clear that he is a respectable citizen and just made a mistake somewhere.
Since childhood, most people are accustomed to the fact that the law is one for all and must be respected. Everyone here knows why a policeman stands at this intersection. Everyone understands that he works in the public interest, and not to earn something extra. We are where there is a problem, not where there are none.
Is there really no corruption in the American police?
I have not heard about police corruption. I have never heard that someone offered something or someone took something. Something appeared a couple of years ago in the news that in some restaurant a policeman extorted some amount, but he was quickly arrested.
Do you think there will ever be the same respect for laws in Kazakhstan as in the USA?
I would like to. When I come to Kazakhstan myself, I try not to break. Once I broke the rules in Almaty, showed my New York rights, explained that I no longer live in Kazakhstan and forgot the rules. I was released. That is, not everything is so bad in Kazakhstan.
Cases of racism come across?
Generally the police call blue - blue. It is like a separate nation. No one looks at the face, they look at the form. Nobody says, you are a white or black policeman, everyone is turning - an officer. We are all from different countries, we all communicate as equals, we are all US citizens. Although people are constantly interested, ask where I'm from. Because, according to them, I look like a big Chinese. My accent is not Chinese and I'm bigger, so they can't understand where I'm from. I have a Russian friend from Kyrgyzstan, he also works with me, with whom we speak Russian, and they cannot understand what language we speak.
Have you already received US citizenship?
Yes, in the 2008 year. If some competitions are played by the United States or Kazakhstan, then we support both the United States and Kazakhstan.
And if the United States played against Kazakhstan?
Well, when Golovkin fights with the Americans, we cheer for Gena.
Does the blood take its toll?
In the USA, everyone has this: the local Irish support Ireland, the Italians support Italy, etc. That is, in order to become an American, it is not necessary to give up their roots. What attracts this country? Here you can pray to any god, have your own rituals, have your life values, and everyone will respect your choice. There is no such thing that if you come from Kazakhstan and live according to your customs, then you are condemned. Everyone, on the contrary, wonders why this is anyway. Just yesterday I talked with a colleague from the Dominican Republic, he was very surprised that we eat horse meat.
Who are you in the shower?
I am a Kazakh. He was born, and they will stay. No matter where I live, I still know where my home is, where my childhood passed. When he worked as a waiter, one day there came cool guys. They learned that I was from Kazakhstan, came up, hugged and cried both. It turned out to be two brothers, Jews from Kyzyl-Orda. They came here at the age of ten. They tell me that their house is there. Although they have everything here, in the center of Manhattan they are engaged in a rather serious business. But for them the homeland is Kyzyl-Orda, even if there is dirt, there is dust and there was nothing, but they were born and raised there. Even though they are not Kazakhs, they consider Kazakhstan their homeland.
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