Every day we hear about migrants, interact with them, live near them - well or not so well, but we live together - literally, in a certain location in this period of time, let's say. In addition to our personal experience of relationships in different spheres of everyday life with representatives of those who were not here a while ago, but now it is hard not to notice, we also know about the experience of others - we hear about them on channels and in public forums, in politicians' speeches, in economic statistics - almost everywhere. Migrants appear in a multitude of avatars - as outsiders threatening the local population with propaganda of their traditional patterns and norms of behavior; as workers in the shadow sector of the economy, dumping the labor of local workers; as a link in a long chain of corruption involved in a multitude of illegal schemes and crimes; as figures of income to the budget from the payment of duties, fees, advance payments and for the registration of the process of legalization and even taxes for a white salary; as fashion bloggers or stand-up comedians, as parents of your child's classmate, with whom they became friends; as doctors - at whom you found yourself at the reception.... Whatever hypostasis we encounter, we expect little good from them, because they are different, with their own peculiarities, not like ours.
Migrants and refugees leave their homes because of hunger, fires or floods, because of wars and other disasters. Hoping for a better present and future for themselves and their children, crossing borders, men and women choose a new place of life, which may become their homeland.
Today, despite everything that is happening, Russia is a country that receives a large number of migrants and is on the list of leaders in receiving foreigners, with the United States topping the list. Russia's high popularity rating for migrants is facilitated by visa-free entry for several countries - republics of the former Soviet Union and other preferences for member countries of different unions (such as Eurasian Economic Community). Besides economic incentives, the high level of loyalty to each other of citizens of the former Soviet Union, common historical past and often knowledge of the Russian language serve as a motive for choosing Russia as a new place to live.
For right-wing forces in Russia, as in the rest of the world, who find in migrants the root of all evils, "visa-free travel" and other "perks" a reason to accuse the authorities and businesses of betraying national interests in favor of silver. Migration flows are seen and portrayed by them and their followers as mountain mudslides, as a dangerous uncontrollable element that swallows up civilizations of people. But outwardly "spontaneous" migration flows are regulated by many factors - the level of economic growth, the political situation, seasonality of labor, the cost of flights, currency fluctuations, demand on the labor market, the attitude of locals to newcomers in this or that region... the flow of people, for various reasons oriented to life in another country, reacts sensitively to all this.
*The United States leads the world in terms of the number of migrants living in the country. In 2020, they numbered about 50.633 million people (18% of the total number of migrants in the world), which gives 15.3% of the country's population.
The geography of newcomers is simply amazing, migrants from all corners of the world live on the territory of the United States. The largest number of people came from Mexico - 10.853 million people (21.4% of the total). This is due to the proximity of the country, the long joint border, the presence of a large number of Spanish-speaking (including Mexican) communities, which absorb all new flows of Mexicans. Also influential is the much higher standard of living of the average American compared to the average Mexican, greater career prospects, etc. Other Latin American countries also provide substantial numbers of migrants for the US, e.g. Puerto Rico (1.829 million), El Salvador (1.411 million), Cuba (1.376 million), etc. This has led to the fact that Spanish is now the second most widely spoken language in the country after English, and Latin Americans already make up 18.7% of the total population of the country and their share is only increasing.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a huge number of our compatriots, as well as natives of other post-Soviet countries, fled to the United States in search of a better life. Their total number as of 2020 is over 1.211 million people, of whom about 397,000 are from Russia.
The decision to leave the homeland, to leave for work or study, permanently or for a long time, is a difficult and more often a conscious choice, which implies long-term consequences. Therefore, in each case, men and women who have made such a choice proceed from their knowledge and capabilities, try to find the best route, look for a "hospitable" region with an active labor market and affordable rent, with an understandable mechanism for legalization of legal status, with the presence of a community of fellow countrymen or consular offices. But even such responsible migrants are not always protected from possible obstacles and difficulties on their way, what to say about those who go without really understanding where they are going - not knowing the language, having no idea about the new place of life, the legal norms of their stay there and many other things that would be useful.
The need to formalize the processes of adaptation and integration of migrants into Russian society is mentioned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is preparing a draft law on the work of relevant institutions. The Federal Agency for Nationalities is preparing pilot programs; the methodology of adaptation and integration is not yet clear. However, this does not mean that now, without these programs and institutions, adaptation and integration of migrants does not take place. These processes occur spontaneously, outside of formal practices. Simply put, the process of migration can be called "successful" or "completed" when "newcomers", yesterday's "strangers" become "their own" - this is integration. But for newcomers in new conditions, in a new place, it is also important to preserve their native language, traditions and culture of their people, of their historical homeland - this is adaptation - adaptation to the conditions of life in a new place with the preservation of their peculiarities associated with the place from which you came.
From the point of view of anthropology, sociology and political science, the processes of adaptation and integration are painful for both newcomers and host communities, who fear for their own safety in the face of growing migration flows, observing the concentration of "outsiders" and their quantitative growth around them. For Russians, the statistics are becoming indicative - there are more and more children with different names, not typical for locals, in the playgrounds of megacities - traditional families give birth a lot. For newcomers wishing to "take root" in their new homeland, the fears and risks are multiplied - it is not easy to fit into the local socio-legal space and become part of the information and cultural context. Experts note that modern migrants are better informed about the place of their forthcoming migration and try to foresee in advance the maximum possible risks, which does not exclude getting into them. Unfortunately, there are people everywhere who hope to "take a chance", that they will be lucky and everything will work out for the best. Surely this happens. But not often. More often such gullible people fall into the clutches of swindlers, draw up false documents, becoming both victims of crime and accomplices.
Non-profit and public organizations on both sides of the border - religious, human rights, trade unions, social support, community organizations - provide great support to migrants on various issues, acting as a kind of safe buffer zone, helping migrants to settle in a new place, to fit into the legal field and socio-cultural context - for which it is necessary to know the language of the country in which you intend to settle. As the number of female migrants grows, so does feminist support for these women. After all, no one understands a woman better than another woman.
Women and girls account for 48 percent of all international migrants.
In 2020, female migrants slightly outnumbered male migrants in Europe, North America and Oceania, driven in part by higher female life expectancy and increased demand for female migrants for care work. In contrast, in North Africa and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of male migrants significantly exceeded the number of female migrants, driven by higher demand for male migrant workers due to the prevalence of temporary work visas and employment contracts.
The report of the International Organization for Migration (Female Migration: Increased Risks and Known Causes of Death 28.03.2023) shows that female migration has remained stable since 1960, when registers began to indicate gender - in mid-2020 it was 48.1% or 135 million female migrants worldwide. The shares of female migration vary by region, with the lowest flows of women coming from Asia (41.8%) and Africa (47.1%). In Latin America and the Caribbean, women account for 49.5%, while in North America and Europe, on the contrary, women predominate: 51.8% and 51.6% respectively. In Oceania, women account for 50.5% of all migrants.
Experts note that female migrants are less protected and exposed to greater risks during migration. Women face difficulties in accessing legal migration and unequal access to protection options, are not always able to choose where they migrate and the conditions of their participation, which increases the likelihood of their involvement in illegal activities, making them both victims of crime and perpetrators.
Women's support organizations or activists from feminist or other civil society organizations around the world try to support other women. Sometimes based on their migration experience, they broadcast success stories, proving that difficulties are surmountable and life in a new place can be happy and prosperous. We talked about this - about personal experience and about realization in a new place - with civil sector experts from Russia and the United States - with women from the former Soviet Union who made their choice decisively and responsibly and achieved a lot in their new place. Now these women are helping other women to make life better.
Yana Sanakina (USA, San Diego, California):
"At the first stage of life in America it is impossible to find a job as a doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc. without adapting your diploma. It is much easier to find a job as a nanny, a dishwasher in a restaurant, a cleaner, a cab driver, or to register as a caregiver for the elderly.
But nothing is impossible! Many doors open with English, you just have to want to do it. Many women with diplomas /but without knowledge of the language/ stay in the "new" profession of nannies for a long time, and sometimes forever. Lack of time, family worries, language barrier and uncertainty in their abilities drag newcomers into the struggle for survival.
There is another category of women who immediately set the right goals and strictly follow them, but there are few of them, alas...
Maintaining social status in America as a refugee is not an easy task. The exception is that layer of society, which in the homeland remained a business that brings dividends or has a financial safety cushion. It is easier for a Russian-speaking woman to become her own in "that circle" than for a man. The availability of education, external and internal attractiveness, sociability and amazing adaptability of our compatriots conquer the local society.
There are many self-sufficient women in my circle - lawyers, doctors, teachers, programmers... who have built successful careers in America".
Mastebegim Oshurbekova (Russia, Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region):
"Women arriving from Tajikistan to the Russian Federation today, compared to the 2000s, find it easier to maintain their social status. Not everyone can work in their specialty, you have to go through several stages - it depends on what specialty you have, but you have to confirm your qualifications and your specialty has to be in demand. If you want to work in your specialty, there are a lot of opportunities. Now our women work in all spheres: trade, medicine, education, banking, civil service and even the police. Russia is a country of opportunities".
Zara Gottlieb (USA, San Diego, California):
"In my experience, in the US it is not particularly difficult for migrant women to maintain their social status or find a job in their specialty, at least I have not encountered gender discrimination. Of course, a lot depends on language proficiency, experience, and qualifications. But as a rule, if you have the right skills and are willing to retrain or do additional education, there should be no problems with employment.
A professional approach and the desire to realize yourself are extremely important here. In the US there are really a lot of opportunities for those who are ready to learn and develop, regardless of gender. That is why I believe that women here have no more difficulty than men in maintaining their social status and working in their specialty".
Diloram Narmetova (Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia):
"Many of our compatriots who came earlier know Russian because they were educated in the Soviet Union and could get a job in their specialty. But also some chose to work outside their profession, were ready to lose their social status and professional qualifications, because less skilled labor was paid more - for example, a baker, confectioner or painter sometimes earned more than a teacher or a nurse. Now you can't get a job without knowledge of Russian, or you will depend on one employer, God willing, if he turns out to be decent".
Researchers note that under some equal conditions with men, such as language skills, women show better results of integration into local communities. This is due to the greater flexibility of women's psyche - greater readiness to accept new and unfamiliar things, readiness to change and adopt new practices, to learn new things, including a new profession, a new way of life - if a woman has such an opportunity.
Zara Gottlieb (USA, San Diego, California):
"Coming to the United States at the age of 37 with zero English, I was able to not only learn the language but also achieve professional success working as a federal interpreter. This experience shows that willingness and ability to learn is key.
Learning a language in a new place is not only possible, but often a necessity if you want to become a part of the country you have moved to. As you integrate into a new culture and society, language skills become your tool for professional growth, social interaction and, ultimately, successful adaptation. Knowing a language opens doors to you that remain closed to those who do not know that language. Although I know people who have lived in the US for 15-20 years and don't speak English. Can I say, are they unhappy, probably not. It probably depends on what happiness is for a person.".
Yana Sanakina (USA, San Diego, CA):
"Learning English in America should be a priority! You want to be successful in a new country - learn its language, culture and traditions. My mistake was not being confident in my language abilities, because I had studied German before coming to America, so English was not easy for me in America. To adapt quickly, you need to be in an English-speaking environment, especially for children. They learn the language much faster and adapt in a new environment, you just need to be patient and try to be good friends with your children during the difficult time of adaptation.
Lack of English language delayed the development of my business... However, 16 years later, I dream in English, freely switch in conversation from one language to another and enjoy learning the international traditions of different communities in America".
Mastebim Oshurbekova (Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia):
"Knowledge of the language - no matter what country you are in - is necessary. Before going somewhere, a person should be ready for it. In the first waves of migration to Russia, it was very difficult for women coming from remote regions of Tajikistan, especially young women who missed school during the civil war, who got gaps in their education, and today it is difficult for them to learn Russian. Now, thanks to a bilateral friendly agreement between our countries, Russian-language schools have been opened in Tajikistan, and in Russia, universities in Tajikistan accept Tajik applicants with excellent grades and winners of Olympiads at the expense of the budget. Yes, today women need to know Russian - and this gives them opportunities for good jobs".
Ignorance of language, communication isolation in a limited community deprives women of confidence and the ability to protect themselves. Trusting fellow countrymen or other guides, intermediaries or recruiters, these women become a tasty victim of fraudsters, risking to lose not only their own money, but also the right to be the mistress of their lives.
Diloram Narmetova (Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia):
"When a woman who has come to Russia for the first time has those whom she can trust and who can support her - provide her with accommodation for the first time, help with work - she has time to look around the new place more closely, without fuss and fear of being left on the street in a foreign land. In our country, women rarely come on their own, only if there is a very desperate situation in the family - no breadwinner, no one else to earn money and something else so terrible...".
Close or distant relatives or fellow villagers try to support their fellow countrywomen, becoming guides for them in immersing into the Russian socio-cultural context, launching the process of integration into the local community - helping them with housing and work, document registration. a woman's financial independence or some kind of financial cushion, giving her the opportunity to find a job without panic of social breakdown, to have the opportunity to learn the language if necessary and to spend more time studying the practices of successful adaptation.
Here we should also note the risks of such spontaneous integration - because the "land" guide often includes shadow schemes of "legalization" - employment contracts with non-existent companies, fake registration at the place of residence, fake or covering only emergency (already free) medical care under the VHI policy. Employment is also often based on verbal agreements (or correspondence in messengers), often with daily payment with the estimated cost per hour ranging from 150 rubles per hour (dishwasher) to 2,000 rubles per hour (welding or finishing work with expensive materials and technologies, for example) and higher.
Zara Gottlieb (USA, San Diego, California):
"Successful adaptation and integration in a new place rarely depends on factors such as gender, age or even education level. In the US, where the culture promotes meritocracy, individual skills and adaptability are key.
I especially want to emphasize the importance of language skills and the willingness to continually learn. If a person has a good command of English and a willingness to learn new things, he or she has a good chance of successfully integrating into American society, regardless of other factors. This willingness to re-learn and develop is often a critical factor in successful adaptation. But in my practice, many of our immigrants, especially 45+ do not go to learn the language, but go for available jobs, which are mostly low-paying".
Mastebegim Oshurbekova (Russia, Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region):
"Yes, we work hard, we try to adapt our women, we communicate with them often, we help in solving their problems. We involve them in different cultural events so that they feel needed and realize that they can adapt here. We conduct a lot of different trainings - we tell them what is going on here and how it works. We also work for the local community so that they learn what kind of people Pamir Tajiks are, what our culture and traditions are, and they are unique. We are also involved in charity work, we take care of social institutions - orphanages.
Recently we participated in a regional project - we re-translated films about local sights into Pamir language so that our fellow countrymen knew where they had come and could tell their relatives about local beauties. The Ural Mountains are not as high as our Gorny Badakhshan, but mountaineers are people with a special character, we have a lot in common - not much to say, outward severity, but readiness to help in any problem situation. Concerts of our Pamiri musicians always gather full halls, not only our compatriots come, but also the Urals, it turns out that they also know our famous singers. We also organize a lot of sporting events, tournaments between different nations and many other things, and rarely do we get to spend a weekend with our families.
Sociologists confirm that migrants are more motivated to achieve success, demonstrating "competitiveness"/entrepreneurship and "survivability"/adaptation to new conditions. They assimilate local social practices, develop their own cultural peculiarities (communication, for example), form new cultural ethics of communication - both positive - respect for elders, care for elderly neighbors, and not so positive - disdain for women, for people of other beliefs or lifestyle.
But for newcomers, with all the desire to become "their own" in a new place, it is also important to preserve their traditions, cultural peculiarities, as well as their native language. Linguists note that already the third generation of migrants (grandchildren) often do not know the language sufficiently - because they use only oral everyday speech among relatives and fellow countrymen.
Feeling the need to preserve not only the language, but also the traditional way of life - as far as possible, new residents, yesterday's migrants support the work of Sunday schools to study their native language and the basics of religion, amateur creative groups, collect libraries and participate in festivals of national cuisine. Such work within communities is often supported by the enthusiasm of women, who find it important to instill ethical norms and moral guidelines in their children, familiarize them with the traditions of their people, and motivate them to continue preserving them.
Yana Sanakina (USA, San Diego, California):
"America is a country of unlimited opportunities! I never tire of repeating it, but I believe that one can be a full-fledged member of this society by preserving one's native language, culture and traditions. The school of etiquette appeared not by chance, because here in America, I realized that my family values, instilled by my homeland and parents, help me to remain myself and improve, to be unique and bravely open doors. Knowing the rules of etiquette practically made me respect and listen to my opinion. I am proud to say that I was born in Uzbekistan, but I am Russian and my great-grandfather was Ukrainian. For Mexicans, blacks, Asians it is not a usual model of behavior, but I always instill in my students (I have them from multinational families) self-respect, love and pride for their ancestors and reverence for the country that sheltered us:).
My "social gestures" are appreciated and respected in America, at least by adequate people.
And about local cultural shocks, which I still experience sometimes, I dare to say that I do understand - in such a variety of cultural and other differences in our country there is a natural deformation of communication. And it doesn't help our children to learn etiquette; it's easier for them to live by the local rules of free American society".
Zara Gottlieb (USA, San Diego, CA):
"Preserving one's native language and culture in a new place is not just a matter of desire, but rather a matter of discipline. For example, I read a lot in my native language (for me it is Russian, although I am Uzbek by nationality), but I noticed that my grammar still deteriorates. Therefore, I limit myself not only to reading, but also to communicating with fellow countrymen. Regular practice of speaking and writing, as well as watching movies and listening to music in my native language help me to keep my language skills.
We in the U.S., cultural specifics and traditions are maintained through family holidays, national dishes, rituals and even through simple behavior in everyday life. For example, we celebrate important dates and cook traditional foods. As a blogger, I also talk about our history. The most important thing in this matter is probably the intention to keep yours, and consistency. No one can preserve your culture and language for you if you don't do it on a consistent basis".
Mastebegim Oshurbekova (Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia):
"I don't see any difficulties in preserving the tradition of my own people. Tajikistan has 1000 years of history - it is a rich history. The culture and traditions of this nation have been preserved before us and will be preserved after us. The cultures of Tajikistan and Russia have kinship ties and have been developing according to the same standards for almost a century. Therefore, we have no contradictions here. Of course, the task of each of us arriving in Russia is to respect and support the culture of Russia. Russia is a multinational country, which gives us the opportunity to preserve our tradition and culture - they are as respected as the traditions and culture of Russia. Culture is everything a person has, a link between his inner and outer worlds. Culture is a bridge of friendship".
In this way, living side by side, communicating every day on the streets of megacities, in production workshops, on construction sites and agricultural fields, locals and migrants create social ties, gain and accumulate experience of relationships and form their attitude towards each other, coinciding or not with the stereotypes popular and demanded in their "native" communities. Everyday practices of communication and cooperation and the experience gained from this for both locals and newcomers - migrants and refugees who find themselves at the /relatively/ final point of their migration route - is the private "brick" that eventually makes up a block of public opinion on this or that issue, which is reflected in the results of various studies and becomes the reason for political trends, reflected in the news, which also have a huge impact on public opinion on the attitude of locals and migrants to each other.
For practitioners - public figures, representatives of civil society, communities, human rights defenders and activists from associations and organizations helping migrants and refugees - successful adaptation and integration of "wards" into the host community is also an indicator of the effectiveness of their activities. By providing social and legal support, publishing educational materials, providing necessary legal assistance, activists hope to prevent the growth of migrantophobia and social segregation in the society by acting as an adaptation mechanism.
One's own experience can be a great inspirational example. All of our heroines did it. It can be so for everyone who makes a conscious decision to move and prepares for the trip based on a variety of sources, who feels the strength and ability to confront problems and overcome difficulties.
Yana Sanakina is the publisher of the women's magazine "Gorozhanka" for Russian-speaking women (San Diego, California), ), organizer of fashion shows, concerts and beauty contests, piano teacher and etiquette teacher. She was born in Uzbekistan and came to America from Novosibirsk with her two daughters. She lived in San Francisco and other cities of Northern California, but for 5 years she has been living in the southernmost city of California on the border with Mexico in the resort city of San Diego. When asked why? Jana answered: "Friendly people, climate and mountains remind me of my homeland... And I also love the ocean, it inspires me and fills me up".
Zara Gottlieb is an immigration counselor (San Diego, CA):
"I moved to the U.S. 14 years ago, and like many migrants, I had my light and dark days. At first everything seemed foreign and incomprehensible, and it took me a long time to realize where I was and what was happening to me. However, as time went on, I realized that it was as if I was living aimlessly. It was this realization that became a turning point: I had goals and a desire to change myself.
My son is now a successful businessman and my husband is a computer engineer. Happiness for me is understanding that I live in this country and that here I have opportunities to realize myself. The emotions and experiences I have had have been a valuable experience that I would not trade for anything. Now I am happy and grateful for everything I have".
Diloram Narmatova is the Women's Coordinator of the Uzbek community "Ural-Uzbekistan" (Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia):
"I came to Russia a long time ago, got married here and had my children here. I went through a lot - I worked so much and so hard that my arms and legs were taken away, I had no strength and no sleep because of fatigue... Now I am a businesswoman, I have my own store, but I am still ready to take any job - I work as a manager in cleaning, sometimes in a cab. Because I need to maintain the level I have reached - I need to pay the loan for the car and maintain the house we live in. My children, thank God, are very happy, I work so hard for them, I want the best for them. They help me - they study for excellent marks, my daughter will be a doctor, and my son is studying to be an agronomist, my son helps me in the store, my daughter does the bookkeeping, she submits all the reports on time. My husband also works tirelessly. In the evening we all gather at the table at home, share what happened during the day... We have a lot of friends here - both among our fellow countrymen and locals of different nationalities. We live like everyone else. I like it in Russia, I made the right decision to come here. We often go to Uzbekistan - it's nice to visit there, but I choose to live in Russia, only maybe I will move to the south, closer to the sea".
Mastebegim Oshurbekova is the president of the Sverdlovsk regional public organization "Tajik Diaspora Didor" (Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region, Russia), and the director of the enterprise "UralMigrantInform":
"By profession I am a teacher of English and German languages. My diploma is confirmed in Russia, I even upgraded my qualifications at university and could have worked as a teacher in Russia, but I didn't have to." In the diaspora she is respectfully called "Mualimma" (teacher, scholar), and she herself reads that "...helping fellow countrymen is a mission that cannot be abandoned. Yes, it is not easy, often my family comes second, I am tired and work without weekends. But I realize that my participation, my time and attention are important not only for my family, but also for my fellow countrymen who need help. But there are also many pleasant moments in such work - I can bring our problems to a high level, communicating with representatives of the authorities of both Russia and Tajikistan, participate in their solution, I understand the specifics of the work of agencies here and there, I try to reconcile differences... It is nice that my work is highly appreciated - I am awarded with letters of thanks, I am included in public councils. But for me the reward is when I see that it is time to rent a new office - because this one is already cramped, we have so many new people here, so many young people! Our young people are no longer distinguishable from the locals, but our guys and girls think it is important for them to know their parents' native language, they want to be familiarized with the traditions and culture of our people. It means that I am not working in vain, there are those who will continue our noble work".