Do You Know What It’s Like to Be an Immigrant in America?

TESSA LENA
Tessa Lena, who wrote this article, is an immigrant artist, writer and entrepreneur living in the East Village of New York. She is the founder of VulnerableWin, a community in a community initiative designed to restore the art of dialogue and to help people talk to each other over disagreements and cultural differences. Her motto is, “See a fellow human.”
Overnight, many of my friends have become great experts on the culture of my home country — a place they have never visited.

When I was 5 years old, my Soviet teacher announced that America wanted to nuke us for our freedom, and that a missile could hit any moment. That day, I couldn’t focus on my homework, and I couldn’t sleep at night. I was just staring at the window in fear, waiting for the nuclear missile to fly in and burn us all to ashes. I didn’t want to die.

Later on, I learned that it was a blatant lie. Nobody was trying to nuke us. When I came to the States and told this story to my American-born friends, I discovered that they, too, had lived in fear of being nuked. We laughed about the glitch, and life went on.

Fast-forward 20 years, and the Russians are at it again. Vodka-drinking GRU operatives with heavy accents are waging cyberwar against America and inundating us with fake news. I call America home now, and I don’t feel so good.

The other day somebody posted a link to a Russian restaurant with a comment, “Russian food? NO, THANK YOU.” I said nothing, and bitterly unfollowed. I guess they have never tried my mom’s borscht.

Overnight, many of my friends have become great experts on the culture of my home country — a place they have never visited. To avoid argument, I have trained myself not to interrupt them with passionate tirades against stereotyping. I am frustrated with being pigeonholed in a whole new way — the Russian bear now has Vladimir Putin’s head — yet I know that my friends are acting in self-defense. I remember.

But there is something else I will never forget: The year is 2002, and I am in the back of an immigration van, handcuffed to two young Chinese girls who are crying at the top of their lungs, scared even more than I am. Me, playing tough, and the girls, wailing like crazy.

“I hate Chinese people. Why do they come here?” These are the words the driver utters, as he makes sure to drive rough so that our helpless, chained bodies hit the walls of the van.

I feel bad for the girls. They don’t speak English, and in their eyes I can see undiluted animal fear. As for myself, what am I doing in the back of an immigration van, chained to two strange women, listening to a sadist in uniform? Why am I in shackles? Sadly, I married the wrong guy. He was kind and charming when we were dating, then turned abusive on the day we got married. When he realized that he could no longer control me, he brilliantly decided to take care of the “problem” by getting me deported. “They won’t believe you,” he said. “You are a nobody. An immigrant. I am an American.”

Do you know what it feels like when four armed men walk into your apartment, grab you by the hands, cuff you and walk you out of the door as a criminal? If you haven’t lived it, I bet you don’t.

As an immigrant fighting with teeth and claws for every set of papers, hopping from one visa to another, infinitely applying for something and infinitely waiting for something, you get used to excruciating uncertainty — you never know where you are going to be tomorrow, you live in-between worlds. But I know I followed the rules. I followed the rules religiously. And there I was, in the back of a van, banging my head on the hard surface with each rough turn, and listening to the screams of the young women chained to my arms.

Do you know what it feels like? You don’t, do you? Fear and uncertainty sitting heavy inside your chest. No rights. “But Tessa, this was just a mistake. Clearly it was wrong but it was just a mistake. Mistakes happen.” Reasoning sound great when it’s not about you or your family. But when you are on the receiving end, it’s hard to theorize. For a long time, I thought it was just a mistake, my individual tragedy, a one-off horror, something I was going to receive an apology for — any minute now.

But as years went by, I came to believe that the way I was treated was not an exception. Xenophobia toward subhuman immigrants is the default. That’s what they do. They teach us a lesson.

When the news began exploding with numerous immigrant tragedies in the past year, it broke my heart in a familiar way. I know every step of the process, and I know how much it hurts. I have seen this movie before anyone was talking about it. Inhumane treatment of immigrants is not new. Contempt toward caged animals is not new, either.

Yes, I’ve moved on, and when my friends make prison jokes, I laugh with them. I am no longer bleeding, but I remember. I remember crying inside of a jail cell because something is hurting unbearably, because you’re scared. After a while, a guard checks on you, and says: “There is nothing I can do now but if it still hurts tomorrow, we will take you to a hospital.”

I remember the fear of being locked up as a faceless number forever. The fear of being tortured. Food that tastes like urine. Hopelessness.

I remember sleeping on a metal bed in a cold room with next to no clothes on, begging the officer for a blanket. But no luck with that, because the officer doesn’t feel like it.

I remember the hopelessness.

You are an animal who is putting on a smile so that other people think you are not afraid. The callous federal agents who try to break you down, just like they do in the movies. “You must be kidding,” you say. “I am not working for any government. It’s my husband, it’s my cruel husband who arranged for me to be here!”

“Oh we don’t care about that sort of thing,” they say. “Your husband is for you to deal with. So tell me, are you going to cooperate?”

Me, with my crushed middle-class arrogance, my useless 4.0 GPA, and too little experience in street fighting, eating it all up. You are an animal who has to put on a smile so that they don’t eat you. It’s a mob feeling. Cruel, infectious, senseless.

In my case, it ended well. I won. I am innocent. I am in America, and I am here to stay. But when I celebrated my victory, I did not think that years would pass, and other immigrants would be living my humiliation, while I would be freshly stereotyped based on my ethnicity.

Back in the day, I was saved by the power of friendship. As I was going though my ordeal, many of my coworkers at the time wrote powerful letters in my defense. Others chipped in for a lawyer. It took a village to save me, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to win without their trust and their support. I can’t help but wonder whether they would still feel good defending me if it happened today. In the age of collective anxiety and social media, would it be acceptable to trust a Russian-American? I don’t know — do you?

This article was originally published on Fair Observer. The original article

NOTE:
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s (or EuroCircle’s) editorial policy.
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MORE ABOUT TESSA LENA

Website: tessalena.com/speaking/
Twitter: #twitter.com/TessaMakesLove

New York – Nov 15 2018

COCKTAILS & CONVERSATION AT MAGIC HOUR ROOFTOP

Join us for our pre-thanksgiving rooftop party at this midtown hotspot with incredible views of the city, delicious food, extensive cocktail menu and even some put-put golf.

No Cover when you say EuroCircle at the door and RSVP by 5pm on November 15th
Dress Code: Festive Fall Colors (recommended but not required).

The event will be cash bar with $10 vodka special throughout the night and food available for purchase.

LOTS OF GIVEAWAYS for the first 50  guests.

Gift Bag Sponsors:

Red Cap Holistic – Newly Released Lip Balms
Follow them on Instagram @redcapholistic
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redcapholistic/
Website: www.redcapholistic.com

AudioBooks BookShop – Audiobook vouchers for a free audiobook
Follow them on Instagram: @audiobooksbs
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/audiobooksbs
Twitter: @audiobooksbs
Website: www.AudiobooksBookShop.com

Halsa – Aromatheraphy Roll – Ons
Follow them on Instagram: @HalsaEssentials
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HalsaEssentials/
Twitter: @HalsaEssentials
Website: www.HalsaEssentials.com

GuestBox – Mini Giftboxes with an edible treat!

Follow them on Instagram: @ShopGuestBox
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShopGuestBox
Twitter: @ShopGuestBox
Website: https://guestbox.co

Vitar Engergy – Energy Mints

Follow them on Instagram: @goviter
Website: www.goviter.com

Special hosts include:

Yaya Rey
Industry Rules Magazine
Maria Cervi, Greece

Feel free to invite friends, the more the merrier.

Alexandra and the EuroCircle New York Team

New York – Oct 24 2018

EUROCIRCLE Presents:  Masquerade Party


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Join EuroCircle for our Masquerade Party at this hotspot!

No cover when you say EuroCircle at the door. When you arrive make sure to get a wrist band for the $10 Vodka drink special and you will be directed to an elevator to go to the rooftop. The rooftop is fully enclosed!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Time: 6pm-Midnight
Where: PHD Terrace @ the Dream Midtown

Dress Code: A Masquerade Mask, dress for ladies and nice suit for men (dress code is recommended by not required)

Food Menu available for purchase throughout the night!

Featured hosts:
Sonia Gradetzki, Bulgaria
Katarzyna Czarnecka, Poland
Ahmet Bodur, Turkey
Diana Cristea, Romania

Hope to see you on the 24th!

Alexandra and the EuroCircle New York Team

New York – Sep 25 2018

EuroCircle’s Fall Rooftop Party

Join EuroCircle for our annual fall rooftop party at this Midtown Hot spot and help our NY Organizer Alexandra Spirer celebrate her birthday!

No cover when you say EuroCircle at the door.  When you arrive make sure to get a wrist band for the $10 Vodka drink special and you will be directed to an elevator to go to the rooftop. On the East Terrace is the only area that you can get our drink special as that is where we have a reserved area. Food and their full cocktail menu are available for purchase. The rooftop is fully enclosed so the event will be on rain or shine!

Everyone is welcome to go to any part of the rooftop but won’t be able to get the drink special outside of the East Terrace as mentioned above.

Featured hosts:

Ahmet Bodur, Turkey
Maria Cevi, Greece
Diana Cristea, Romania

Models Against Addictions will be hosting with us and encourages everyone to take the catwalk challenge and spread the word.

Here’s how to take the catwalk challenge:

1. Film your #catwalk on your phone
2. Do not forget to use the hashtag #catwalkchallenge#modelsagainstaddictions
3. Please nominate 2 people to do the #catwalkchallenge
4. Upload your video on any of your Social media: Instagram or Facebook.

Feel free to invite friends the more the merrier!

We look forward to seeing you on the 25th!

Best,

Alexandra and the EuroCircle New York Team

New York – Aug 28 2018

END OF THE SUMMER ROOFTOP PARTY

Photo Credit to Lily Zivkovic, Sonia Gradetzski, Krista Altook Tassa &  Alexandra Spirer

Join us for our magic hour rooftop party at this midtown hotspot with incredible views of the city, delicious food, extensive cocktail menu and even some put-put golf.
No Cover when you say EuroCircle at the door and RSVP by 5pm on August 28th. RSVP Here: http://www.eurocircle.com/euro/new-york-aug-28-2018/
Dress Code: Summer Chic (recommended but not required).

The event will be cash bar with $10 Stoli vodka specials throughout the night and food available for purchase.

Featured Hosts:

Krista Altook-Tassa, Estonia
Lily De Zivkovic, Croatia
Sonia Gradetzski, Bulgaria
Diana Cristea, Romania

Look forward to seeing everyone on the 28th!

Best,
Alexandra and the EuroCircle New York Team

New York – Jul 15 2018

Join EuroCircle as we watch the finals of the World Cup Finals which we will watch live coming from Russia. Who are you rooting for?

Doors will open at 10 am with the finals starting at 11 am sharp.

Say EuroCircle at the door when you arrive and you will be directed to an elevator to take you upstairs. We have a reserved area of tables for our group. Drinks and food are available for purchase.

Featured Host: Frank Breuer, Germany

We look forward to seeing you on the 15th for a fun day of soccer!

Best,

Alexandra and the EuroCircle New York Team

About PHD Terrace @ Dream Midtown: inspired by a luxe penthouse, experience an intimate indoor floor and an outdoor rooftop space with impeccable views of Midtown Manhattan and Times Square.

New York – Jul 24 2018

EuroCircle’s Annual White Party

Photo Credit to Lisa Zari, Dave Warren,  Alexandra Spirer

Join us for the annual fun summertime rooftop white party!

Attire: Wear white, head to toe (we encourage everyone to wear white – any shade is fine- but it is not required)
If you show up in a hat or fascinator, you’ll look even more fabulous!
Let’s  do what we do best – party in style.

NO COVER with online RSVP by 4 pm on July 24!
The drink special will be $10  Absolut drinks.  Food is available for purchase.

There will be great music playing throughout the night!

Join us – and bring a friend/s who have never met us!!

Hosts:
Diana Cristea, Romania
Natalia Kotroutsos, Greece
Martina Bankova, Bulgaria
Ahmet Bodur, Turkey
Alexandra and EuroCircle New York Team

New York – June 28, 2018

Join EuroCircle for our Summer Soiree hosted by David “Avocado” Wolfe – one of the world’s leading authorities and proponents of healthy living.

We are excited to have David in town to host our summer soiree at the amazing Megu.

We will be celebrating his cover & feature in Industry Rules Magazine and his partnership with DilogR.com.

No Cover when you say EuroCircle at the door and RSVP by 5pm on our website.

There will be great happy hour drink specials from 6-8 pm as well as a specialty non-alcoholic healthy mocktail created by David himself that will be on special for $10. Food is available for purchase throughout the night.

Dress Code: Dress to impress – summer colors

We look forward to seeing you on the 28th!

For any press & sponsorship inquiries please contact Alex via email

Best,

Alexandra and the EuroCircle NY Team

About Megu:

Megu, the finest Japanese concept & Sushi Bar that left an enduring impression on New York’s dining scene, marks its highly-anticipated return reincarnated with a fresh culinary perspective and curated bar presentation, set amidst an evolving cinematic schema that exquisitely harmonizes the art and science of contemporary gastronomy.

Situated in a posh subterranean setting beneath the iconic Dream Downtown, the infinity-mirrored staircase descends into the Kimono Room, Bar and Lounge, reminiscent of a slightly futuristic shoji screen.

To the right, guests are greeted by a scroll-laden suite which offers a front row seat at the sushi bar or private dining room. To the left, the Main Dining Room is framed by a visual tapestry of exotic Asian motifs set against a backdrop of customizable lights and 3-D activated imaging, seamlessly transforming the room as diners indulge their senses. The metamorphosis of refined Eastern cuisine, seductive ambiance, and meticulous service, Megu introduces an unparalleled event and dining experience for even the most discerning of palates.

New York – June 30 2018

Join EuroCircle in the Hampton’s for a fun day of Polo and Cocktails!

This is a ticketed event and are limited!  BUY TICKETS HERE

Polo is back in the Hamptons! The Polo Match & Cocktail Party will be held in Bridgehampton, Saturday June 30, 2018, hosted by Rachel Zoe. The Match and Cocktail Party will take place between 4pm to 7pm. As guests enjoy the thrill of the polo match they will have access to an open bar paired with hors d’oeuvres and preferred seating. Only 400 tickets will be available so please purchase your tickets today! This event will sell out. Free parking. Rain or shine.

Hope to see you in the Hamptons!

Best,

Alexandra and the Eurocircle New York Team