“We won the lottery!”
It was these four simple words that would change senior Ana Nadirashvili’s life. Her parents had just won a green card from the lottery hosted by the U.S. Department of State as part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This allowed her and her family to move to the U.S.—something they had wanted to do for years.
Nadirashvili was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, an European country bordering Turkey. Over a year ago, she and her family made the choice to move to the U.S., a country she had never been to. Nadirashvili’s father dreamt of her obtaining an American education, which is why he applied to the program, and after a year-long post-lottery process of sending in documents and going through an interview, Nadirashvili was finally able to immigrate.
“Georgia, to me, was a place of happiness and joy,” Nadirashvili said. “It is beautiful and amazing. When I first found out we were moving to the U.S., I was excited but also sad because I had to leave everything and everyone behind.”
Before moving to the U.S., Nadirashvili had seen many different depictions of it, especially California, through movies and social media. Her expectations of the U.S. were set high, but she was sorely disappointed when she came due to the difference in the way people treat one another in the U.S. as opposed to in Georgia.
“The biggest difference is that Europeans, specifically Georgians, are known for their hospitality and willingness to help one another,” Nadirashvili said. “While here, it’s you and only you. If anyone needed any kind of help, Georgians would help without a second to think about it. The U.S. is known for its freedom and equal opportunities; however, I have seen and heard tons of different stories where people of different races or ethnicities are being discriminated against.”
While settling in the U.S., Nadirashvili learned about race relations from her peers and social media. She was shocked when hearing about the outrage and hate crimes that occurred as a result of the pandemic and George Floyd’s death.
“Seeing hatred being directed at people who speak ethnic languages in public places makes me realize that I could be in the same situation at any time,” Nadirashvili said. “It’s heartbreaking that we are in the 21st century and things like that and even worse are still happening.”
Nadirashvili notices that other immigrants are often treated poorly in schools and the workplace, where they are verbally and physically harassed for their accents and culture. She has felt this same hostility whenever people stare at her judgingly for speaking her native language, Georgian, in public.
“People don’t realize or don’t want to realize that they are disrespecting different races and cultures by their behavior,” Nadirashvili said. “People should try to educate themselves or ask someone to help them if they don’t understand why their actions are wrong.”