Renata- Kazan, Russia

Where are you originally from?

Originally I'm from Russia. From Kazan, from your hometown as much as mine.

What made you decide to move?

First, I moved to Spain for studies, and I've lived there for four years total, but I lived in Abu Dhabi and New York as well. My favourite place for living is New York. And maybe I will still come there one day. But what made me move to the U.K. is my husband. I would have never moved to the U.K. otherwise, not because I don't like the country, but because it's just not my cup of tea. The weather, the people, the culture, the development. I thought of that before I moved. So the main reason is love.

Was it a difficult decision?

It was not even a decision. It was a consequence of love again because I knew that moving him to Russia wouldn't be impossible, but it would have been a torture, and probably he wouldn't have survived there.

Why?

Well, first of all, the language. Imagine for a foreign person who already speaks two languages, Farsi and English from birth, also having to learn Russian. Learning Russian is not hard. But learning to live and learning the mentality is hard because my husband's a super honest person. He's so honest. It's incredible. He can not lie. When he comes to Russia, he smiles at every person, talks to every bird, talks to homeless people, and gives people money. So when I look at him, I am like, why?

It would have been hard for him. So we decided to settle where he was born in Manchester. And before moving, I came to visit three times. One time was for ten days then for fourteen days, then for two months and then for five months. And every time I came, I spoke to the customs officers, and I said, look, I'm coming to visit my fiancee or I'm coming to visit my husband. And I thought they're going to say no because if you say to a customs officer, "hi, I have a tourist visa and I'm coming to visit my husband for five months." They would have said no, but in England, they said OK. They've asked me a lot of questions. I've been interrogated three times. I think because a lot of people try to do fake marriages. And when they look at your age, I was twenty three- twenty-four when I first started coming for a long time. So people at the customs were like she's very young, he's very young, are they really together, or are they lying and he is just helping her. So they've asked me crazy questions like do you know your boyfriend's number by heart? It was hilarious because you cannot use your phone when you're interrogated.

They keep it for the moment of interrogation. It's not bad, and it is not like a criminal experience. They don't put handcuffs or anything. They take you to a room, sit with you and ask questions like who is meeting you at the airport and stuff like that. But the funniest one was when I came to move with an immigration visa. It was last year, March 9th.

My room in Kazan is almost empty, it just has my clothes, because I sold a lot of things when I moved. You know, I donated a lot of stuff, recycled, but I've never done it before when I would leave because I knew I would come back, but this time I knew I wouldn't. And my parents told me that they are not going to make room for me in the new house because I moved away. That's how you know that you are a grown-up.

Where did you meet your husband?

In Marbella, Spain, on the side of the road. He was with his friends, and he stopped the car. I was with my friend. We were walking back from dinner, and we were laughing. I don't know if you have this joke as well, but when the garbage trucks pass by, they honk at you and be like, "Hi, how are you?." So we were always laughing at it. There was like an internal joke and the car of my husband and his friends passed by us. And I look at it. I'm like I wish something like this would stop instead. And then they turn around. At the time, I was not ready for a relationship; I had a semester left before I graduated. So he opened the window to speak to us. He started talking, saying, do you want to hang out and stuff, and I said, no, you know, good girls go home at this hour, it was 9:00 p.m. So he was like alright, fine, can you at least give me some places to see in Marbella? Like, I don't know anything. So I said, OK, give me your number.

We came back home, got changed, and had a coffee, and then I'm like, I should text the guy. So I put his number in What's App. And it says he was online two years ago. And I'm like, is that a joke? So I search his account on Instagram, cause you can find people by a number and I found his page and the whole page was covered with rugs and carpets. And I'm like really? So I send a text. "Hi, is this Arian? And he's like: "Oh, hi. How did you find me? I said, oh, you give me the wrong number. That was rude of you." Because I thought he was joking. You know, I thought he's making fun of me. And I also said that he's Moroccan, which is a big insult. They're Persian; they have a different culture. They're not Muslim, which people think they are, but they're not. They have their religion. A lot of Persians are Muslim, but my husband is Zoroastrian. It's an ancient Persian religion. So I didn't know anything about Persia before I met my husband. And that's how we started talking. And then he said, I'm coming to Russia. And I said "Why?", And he said, "Like, well, to have a look at Russia. Can you show me around?"

And you know, slowly, slowly everything developed. And he proposed in Kazan. In Koltso (A Shopping mall in Kazan). Two months into our relationship! I didn't say anything. I accepted the ring. "I suppose I'll accept the ring and let's see how it goes." So it was like a promise ring. He was hilarious, he didn't bring the ring, he bought it with me. I picked it. He said to me, oh, you know, my mom likes silver rings. Can I ask for your help? So I picked one. I, like, tried it. And then he turns around, and he says that he wants to marry me. That's not how it's supposed to be. So that, I think, was very unusual.

What was the most challenging part about leaving?

For me, the most challenging part about leaving was understanding that you're leaving forever. That you're not leaving for two weeks or months, to just visit friends and then return, you're leaving forever. That's it. Your life is in another country. I was like on and off in Russia at the time because I graduated from university. I came to U.K. and the majority of 2018 I spent here, in U.K. Five months, then two months and then I was staying in Kazan, waiting for my visa.

What made you decide to move initially when you went to study in Spain?

I think partially because of my parents. So since I was a baby, my parents always dreamt of me going abroad for various reasons. My mom's main reason is that life is very fair abroad for the most part. You know, you can be a simple human being. You don't have to be anybody's friend or anybody's uncle to... You know what I'm talking about (Make it in life).

The way the woman is perceived in Russia is not the way I want to be seen. Let's put it this way, you know, because in Russia if you gain weight that won't be left unnoticed. Like I've gained a lot of weight for the past three months, I am the biggest I've ever been. And nobody says anything to me. So they let me go with my life.

Well, you were travelling to different countries and living in different countries. Have you ever felt homesick or lonely?

More, yes than no. And I think that in every country was a different homesick. So in Spain, because I've had a lot of friends from my hometown and it was like Kazan outside Kazan. We were doing the same thing. We bought a shisha for ourselves, we put it in the car and smoked it outside, all of those things. So I didn't feel homesick, and I was going home every five, six months. So it was not that bad. And it was quite close, just six hours away, so not bad.

But when I moved to America, I started feeling homesick, especially when my mom came for the first time. She made me dinner after work. I came home by 10 p.m., and I had buckwheat and chicken, you know, how mom makes it. So I was like, wow, I wish I could have this all the time because I usually come home and there's nothing like an empty apartment. So I had to order food or make food. I even wrote a poem. I have it recorded; I can send it to you if you're interested because I published a book last year.

It's called The Thoughts of an Immigrant. I put all of my poetry there because most of them are written in immigration, and I have a poem that says it's time for me to come home. Whenever I listen, anytime I feel homesick, I close my eyes and I imagine where I can be if I was in Kazan so that soothes me.

What are other topics that you've covered in the book?

Love, broken love. Love with distance. A lot of them are about understanding my mom when I left. Because I remember she said to me, during the first two weeks when I moved to Spain, she walked into my room, opened my wardrobe and was smelling my clothes. And that made me think like, do I have a scent? And then I asked my husband, do I have a scent? And he said you smell like you.

And I put just a couple of pictures in the book as well, just like little, you know, a few that I have taken around the world—only three of them. So, you know, thoughts of an immigrant, Part one, because I have a little more than that, but some are not worthy of publishing. So they're always going to be with me. But some of the ones that are worthy they are published in my book. When they asked me what you want on the front cover, I said, I want it to be white because when you move, that's what you see. A blank piece of paper, a blank slate. That's how, you know, you write your own story.

Have you ever found yourself in a challenge?

Yeah, I would say yes, two times. Not in Spain, because in Spain I was in university, you know, and it was fun. In Abu Dhabi, neither because it was very short. America, because I didn't want to leave and wanted to find a job, wanted to get the visa. This was beyond impossible.

And I had to go. So when I came to Russia, I was harassing every person with America. I would meet my friends, and they would say something, and I would be like, "In America, it is better." And it was horrible. Disgusting. But what can we do? I think now it wouldn't be the same, because when I came to U.K. and when I had my first night when I moved here, I went to buy bread and I come to the shop, and I said, "Hi, what aisle (american accent) is the bread at? And the lady looks at me and She's like, my love, It's not aisle, it [aɪl] (british accent).

I'm like, can I go home (Laughs). They correct you here very harshly because obviously, they like British English to be British English. So that was the hardest. And then when I started looking for a job I've done my CV, the way English people like to see it. And I got a couple of refusals in favour of English people. I was thinking, my God, I'm not going to find a job.

So would you say you're feeling unwelcomed in England?

It is not unwelcomed but, the problem with England is because it's a country of immigration. Not as much as America, but a lot. And the big, big community here is Pakistani community and Indian; these two are the biggest. They are already not considered to be immigrants. To be honest. So people in England eat curry as much as they eat fish and chips and they love it, and it's very integrated. So it's not about being welcomed or un-welcomed, but people thinking if you move, you have to inherit the English culture, the English behaviour, the language, the traditions, the holidays, everything the U.K. people do. And they don't like immigrants for one simple reason. A lot of people abuse the welfare system. So they are here to just, you know, get the benefits. That's why they consider if you're an immigrant, you have to prove to them that you're not the bad one, but a good one. Oh, and now the funny part that it's hard to show because if you can not get a job and cannot, you know, pay taxes or work, you come back to being the bad immigrant. It's a closed circle.

How were you able to find a job at the end of the day?

Very interesting story and I have mixed feelings about it because my husband's friend has a wife and she was working in a hotel, which I was looking for a job in a hotel because that's my career. My husband asked her if that's OK, if we send your CV, check it and see what you think. And my most significant point was, please don't take me because I'm your husband's friend's wife. Because I'm not like this. I don't want a similar thing like in Russia happening here in the U.K., but I met with her, and she looked at my CV, said it's worthy, and passed it along to the manager. At the beginning of the interview, he was like, no, you don't have the experience and I looked at him, and was like, what do you mean? That's my whole career. I was so shocked.

You've been all over the world getting that experience!

Pretty much but in England, funny enough, if you do not have experience in the U.K., you do not have experience.

They're very proud of themselves, especially in Manchester. Manchester's symbol is a Bee, a hardworking Bee because it's an industrial town and people call themselves "Mancs." There is even a particular dialect of English called Mancunian English, and they are so proud of being from Manchester, it's ridiculous.

And you had to adapt?

You have to be super proud, as well. God forbid, you say something terrible. Especially as an immigrant, it's unacceptable to do so, so I don't. So I came out of the interview; I knew I'm not going to get it. And then another manager came out. We just randomly started talking and she said, you know what, I think I have a job for you. I'm like, wow, OK! Because it was the same hotel, but different departments. And she had a position which I've never done before. I had zero experience in sales. I am terrible at sales. I cannot lie. I mean, it is going well, I think so...

So I'm just waiting for the pandemic to be over because I've applied to many other jobs just to see. But now I know that if you can't find a job in a country if you get rejected if you don't have a job at the moment, it is for a reason. It's not because you're bad. You know, because people complain, they feel down, they feel like they are not worthy. I felt like that a couple of months ago, and I realized that it was just not the right time. But now I know it's the right time. After the pandemic is gone, I feel like any career I want to try now, in the U.K., I got it. Like I know what to say, I know what jokes are appropriate, I know what not to say, how to not look at people and what to wear.

What would you say you're most proud of?

The fact that I've done everything myself. For example a lot of people come to my parents to this day and ask how I am, when my mom says, she got married, they say "Oh, how did you manage this?." They think that my parents paid money, or did something, found me a husband or something. They didn't do anything, whatever I have now and whatever I do, the way I speak, the way I look, what I wear, the house I live in, I worked for it. It was not because my husband and I sat and waited for the star to fall to make a wish or buy a lottery ticket.

Are there any rituals and traditions that you still maintain that remind you of home?

In our relationship, we've agreed that we're meeting each other precisely in the middle. So he's Persian born and raised in the U.K. Therefore, he mixes two cultures in himself. I combine my family with two cultures in myself. So we celebrate everything, for example, Easter in Russia, Easter in the U.K., and Nowruz which is a Persian New Year. We celebrate everything!

For the wedding, we did a Persian wedding and a traditional wedding. My mom brought Karavai (Russian traditional Wedding celebration bread with salt) we did Karavai as well. So we try to blend it all. I cook Russian food all the time as well as Persian food. I've learned to make his favourite food because his mom always cooks. She's a fantastic Chef. So I've learned from her.

The only problem now is the language because we both speak English and this is our common language, but he doesn't speak Russian he knows like ten words and I understand Farsi very well, but I can't speak. They all speak between each other. He speaks with his mom and dad in Farsi. And if you hear it so much in the past three years every day, you start to understand what they are talking about. I can say simple stuff like my name is Renata and the food is good. But I'm afraid to speak more. I can maybe get drunk and try, but I also had to learn how to dance because Persian people dance a lot. It's fun, but I am horrible, so I had to learn, I even took classes funny enough.

On a summer morning as winds pick up and clouds roll, the air fills up with the sweet aroma of freshly mowed lawn and crisp ozone.

Renata remembers the mornings in Kazan when the grass has just been freshly mown outside her house, and when the air fills up with ozone right before the storm is about to cover the city.

Buy Early Summer Morning Candle Here.