'It's my dream'

  • Elena Bernlohr

    Rebecca Clarren photo

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Elena Bernlohr, who works in Breckenridge, Colo., is from Khimky, a suburb of Moscow, Russia:

"I am three-quarters Jewish, but my mother gave me her last name so that I wasn't discriminated against in school. My father was a very important scientist in Moscow, but they didn't recognize his work because he was Jewish. It is hard in Russia, where $1 equals 28 rubles. The average salary for a Russian worker is $100 a month. Most people can only buy bread and milk. When my father and my stepmother emigrated to Montreal, I went with them.

"I have a degree in railroad construction engineering; I am lucky because I can use my bookkeeping skills from my college degree to work over here. When I first moved here five years ago, I worked at the rec center as a baby-sitter, but now I work for the Breckenridge music festival as a bookkeeper.

"Most Russian girls I know have a college degree and they have skills, but they don't have the language to apply those skills. Most work in the service industry because this county and all other surrounding areas have a lack of workers. They work so much they don't have enough time to enjoy this place. Some of my friends are so unhappy here because they didn't find what they wanted.

"I don't want to tell it that Russians are sneaky and they come over to fall in love with a stupid American, but truthfully, to fall in love and get married to an American is a very good way to escape. It's changed my life. I love my husband; I live in a beautiful home, around beautiful nature. It's my dream."