Why I Left The USA for SA

Why Did I Leave The USA for SA?

Let me start from the beginning.

When I was around 13 y.o., back home, in Russia, I started watching the tv show called “Wild Angel”, and I, like plenty of girls, fell in love with the characters of the show. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school back then. I watched other shows besides that one – latin, european, american. I loved that life – so interesting, diverse, eventful.

And there came an idea! I wanted to become an actress!

From early childhood my friends and I performed for our neighbors, and it seemed they liked it. My dad would help us with music and decorations, and we all had so much fun!

Thanks to the tv shows that I watched, I understood that Acting – is the most wonderful profession in the world. You can be anyone you want, new roles, new characters, new locations. You will never get tired of routine. It’s simply a dream!

I started thinking about how to become an actress, what I needed for that. Moscow was out of question, as I thought without connections you can’t get through, besides I wasn’t a big fan of Russian TV shows and movies of that time. My favorite of all was and still is “Muneca Brava” (“Wild Angel”). Such emotions, passion, love! It made me cry and laugh.

I decided to move to Argentina, where it was shot, and start acting there. I started learning Spanish and at that time it was better than my English.

Later, in high school, I had another idea. If I wanted to be an actress, why would I not move to the capital of movie-making – Hollywood? Well, of course! Why didn’t I think of that before?

I started learning English, went to University to study languages and after my second year went to the US for the first time! I will never forget those first moments at JFK. Everything looked like in the movie, New York blew my mind with its’ beauty. I fell in love with America and decided that I will do anything I can to move there, to the country where all your dreams come true! That summer I also met the love of my life.

A few years went by, I graduated from my University and moved to the USA. I was so excited and eager to move that I didn’t even wait to get my diploma, my mom got it for me.

That summer I spent at my camp, where I’d go almost every summer apart from the summer of 2007, because I wasn’t given a visa (but this is another story), and then moved to NYC. Went to a language college, worked as a background actress on a few sets, signed up for some acting classes, spent lots of money on them and headshots, but it didn’t lead anywhere. I had less and less gigs, worked as a waitress at a Pakistani restaurant, at a hookah bar, distributed flyers, but my finances weren’t the best. Apart from that the apartment that we were renting with a friend had bed bugs and we were freaking out. That beautiful New York that I fell in love with 3 years ago didn’t seem too pretty anymore, and definitely didn’t look like a place where all your dreams come true.

It was the end of 2008, that economical crisis was in its’ full bloom and we started thinking about moving away. I wanted to move to Hollywood so bad, it’s there, in Los Angeles, they shoot all the movies, there is a movie capital!

We started looking for a job, but with no luck. The closest job to California that we found was at a small ski resort town Frisco, Colorado, and we decided to go. One freezing cold December day we bought Greyhound tickets and hit the road. It took us about two days to get there. I felt really bad, fever, coughing and being so cold – it sure didn’t seem any glamorous, I didn’t care about the beauty that was flashing behind the window of our bus.

We arrived to Colorado, worked there for almost a year, made some money and decided it was the time. We wanted to go to Hollywood. We at first went to a friend of my friend to Arizona and started looking for a job from there. No luck again. The closest place to LA where we found a job was in Sacramento. Also California, but not LA. Anyway, we decided to go, but it turned really bad. We got there, paid for the apartment, but were lied to. We were told there was no job and we had to wait, even though they assured us before that there was one for us. We obviously weren’t happy about it, called the person who we contacted originally for the job and by the evening there was a job. We had to clean the reception hall after the wedding, which we did. Job is a job and we did it great. We got paid a little for it. Later in the evening, when we were about to go to bed, the man that gave us the job called me and invited me for an evening stroll. I explained him nicely that I came to Sacramento to work, not hang out. It did make me feel uneasy, we pushed all our suitcases to block the door of our room, just in case, and tried to sleep. Couldn’t get much sleep and woke up pretty early. When we went to get some breakfast and unblocked our room we saw that man sleeping on our couch with plenty of empty beer bottles and sunflower seeds around him. In out living room, that we paid for!

It scared us even more. I called my friend from that summer camp, that lived in a city nearby. Fortunately he was in Sacramento and quickly got to our place. We quietly moved our stuff out, the guys threw our bags in the car and we woke the man up. He wasn’t too happy about it, but when he saw big black guys (we later found out that Armenians and the Black don’t like each other too much), he became super nice and friendly. He said he didn’t have our money as he gave it to the owner of the apartment (apparently things changes since yesterday when he was boasting about how many apartments he owns here) but he will send us the money when he gets it. We weren’t stupid and knew it wasn’t going to happen. We were just lucky enough to get out of there. God was with us and He helped us.

The guys dropped us off at the Greyhound station, we thanked them and paid for their gas and went back to Arizona. Stayed there for a couple of weeks and decided it was time to go to LA while we still had the money.

Back on the bus, back on the road. The setting sun was so beautiful – warm and promising, that everything is going to be ok. By that time we already stayed in the US for over a year and for some reason never though of going home. I still don’t know, why not. Probably because we were so young and reckless, who knows.

We arrived to LA quite late. On the way I saw a big yellow Carl’s Junior star and I told my friend, “Look, the star is smiling at us! We will make it work!” We smiled at each other and the fear sort of went away.

We stayed at a hostel near LAX. Finally we made it to the city where all the dreams come true. We couldn’t really see anything at night, so we waited for the morning to break, but it didn’t bring us what were were expecting. It was a cloudy, rainy day, dirty part of the town and plenty of homeless people.

We started looking for a job and an apartment, and were lucky enough to find the both quite quickly. I joined Central Casting, signed up for acting classes, and my crazy LA life began. It wasn’t easy but it was interesting. I started as a background actor, new movies and TV shows, graveyard shift at Abercrombie and Fitch, and auditions. I started taking classes to get rid of my accent, found friends that were as interested in the movie-making as I was. We started writing and shooting webisodes and short films. It was really interesting. One of our shorts even won “Audience Favorite Award” at a film festival. I started booking more and more stand-in jobs, was learning what’s happening on sets, but it didn’t go any further than that.

I started hearing more and more that really little depends on your talent in Hollywood

  • If no one knows you;
  • If you don’t have a big following in social media;
  • If you don’t have a rich dad that will sponsor your movie;
  • If you don’t want to show your private parts to the whole world;
  • If you don’t want to sleep with anyone…

your chances are tiny to make it in Hollywood.

If you want to act, do it yourself – that’s what I understood. Put together a group of young independent filmmakers, write, shoot, edit, post it on YouTube and Vimeo, show your work in different festivals. I think this is the only way to make it there now.

As the time went by my passion for movies started to go away. I wasn’t excited to wake up at 4am after my graveyard shift at AnF to go to the set. I got tired of that.

My love moved to the USA to be with me. This was the only thing that gave my joy and smiles the last two years in the states. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I lived in the USA, I drove my own car, I shared an apartment with my love and my friend, I worked on multiple sets, on different TV shows, a couple of more years and I’d get my citizenship. What else do you need to be happy?

There was something that I was missing. My Russian friends that I spoke to shared similar feelings. They weren’t happy. The stereotypes about Russian actresses were still alive – if you are Russian, you can only audition for a role of a prostitute, a stripper, a girlfriend of a mob guy, a drug mule. Those who weren’t in the movie industry were telling me that they are just tired of this life – work-home-work. When they would go to Russia to visit their family they would feel happy and wouldn’t want to go back. A lot of them moved back to Russia.

I started thinking, “What am I doing in the USA? Why am I here? My family is back in Russia, the closest people are so far from me. My love moved here for me but wasn’t happy here in the states. Something was missing here for him. What what could it be? It’s the USA! The best customer service, everything you can think of – you can find anything here!”

He opened my eyes. He is from South Africa and a vert sporty guy. He used to go rock-climbing, play cricket and play bunch of sports after work, he used to going fishing and camping on the weekends.

Even though LA has plenty of possibilities, there are so many people, so many cars, crazy traffic and you can’t do as much as he’s used to back home, apart from work.

The USA is a wonderful country for single immigrants, I think, for those who wants to build their own business, and have the family later, for those who found their love and found themselves. Konrad opened my eyes to the fact, that all these years that I stayed in the US I didn’t live, I excited. I love traveling but I didn’t really do that. I worked, worked and worked, and because many of my friends lived the same way I took it for the norm. But where was life? Where were hangouts with family and friends? Where were starlit nights somewhere at a camp site? Where were the rest and multiple activities that I liked? That’s what I was missing out on and he knew that.

When we found out that I was pregnant, we put a list together of advantages and disadvantages of staying in the USA and moving to SA. South Africa won easily despite of all it’s problems. I was also thinking of going back to Russia, but he doesn’t speak Russian and it would complicate our situation a bit.

I’ve been living here in SA for 2 months today. It’s a beautiful country with plenty of opportunities – nature, sport, outdoors, traveling, outings with friends… I feel like I’ve been out with my new friends here during these 2 months more than during 7 years in the USA. Why? I didn’t have any time back there – work, work, work.

I haven’t found my new passion yet – acting was that for me for many years, but that passion is gone.

Now I want to be the best mom and life partner that I can be, and the new passion will come, I know it will, with the time but it will.

I think about the USA at times. America will always take a special part in my heart. It made me stronger, showed me what I’m made of, made my believe that God is always with me, that He protects me. I will be forever grateful to this experience, to the wonderful friends I met there and those who helped me along the way. I also feel like no matter how wonderful America is, it’s not for everyone, maybe it’s just not for me…

1 thought on “Why I Left The USA for SA”

  1. Dear Olia,
    Thanks for sharing–you are a great story teller! Also congrats on the baby I’m sure you will do the right thing… Being a great mom can be the greatest passion ever!

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