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The Lutskiy's Story

Updated: Feb 14

Ana and Eugene Lutskiy are opposites. Eugene has the charismatic and gregarious personality that you might expect from a social media influencer. He’s well-known on YouTube among Russian speakers, especially for sharing his immigration journey and his quirky videos documenting different American accents. Ana, in contrast, is soft-spoken with a deeply empathetic and intuitive personality and a keen eye for beauty. She’s an artist. She doesn’t like to be on camera with Eugene, but she’s known among her friends for giving warm hugs and having the most festive outfits for every occasion.


The Lutskiys immigrated to the USA from Belarus in 2017. At the time, they had been married for a few years and had a three-year old daughter. In Belarus, Eugene worked as a freelancer in digital marketing, but it was getting harder for his clients to pay. The Lutskiys worried about the general economic decline and growing political tensions. On-and-off for several years, they applied for the green card lottery. They knew their chances were slim; only 50,000 were chosen each year from twelve million applicants. They were finally accepted in 2016, though it took several months to prepare the necessary paperwork.


When they arrived in NYC, Ana was heavily pregnant with their second daughter. The Lutskiys had compiled many years of savings, the equivalent of eleven thousand dollars, which they hoped would be enough to get settled before Ana gave birth.  Stepping out of the cab into New York City, they were shocked by the amount of trash - coke cans, broken styrofoam cups, an empty bag of potato chips littered the crowded sidewalks. This was not what they had expected in the economic empire of the world. 


These early weeks were full of emotions and stress. They stayed in a short-term AirBnB while apartment hunting, seeking medical providers for Ana, and looking for jobs for Eugene. The language barrier and unfamiliarity of everything made each step take longer than expected. 


The Lutskiys were met with a conundrum that many new immigrants face: You need a job to find housing, but you need housing to find a job. At this time, there was a city law that said you couldn’t legally evict children, so when landlords learned that they had a daughter and Ana was expecting, they would not rent to the Lutskiys. Landlords were afraid that if the Lutskiys were unable to find stable employment, they’d be stuck with tenants who could not pay.  Unfortunately, the landlords weren’t wrong. Despite having a driven personality, and excellent, marketable skills, it would take years before Eugene could earn a living wage in the USA. 


After a few weeks, Ana was close to her due date, their short-term rental was ending, their savings rapidly dwindling, and the Lutskiys still had no job and nowhere to live. The next day, they would need to leave the BnB, but they had nowhere to go! They prayed and frantically called everyone they knew in Belarus that might have connections in New York City. Finally, late that evening, an acquaintance of their family returned their call and offered for them to live in her New Jersey home until they could find housing. The Lutskiys cried tears of relief. 


For the next several weeks, Eugene would commute into the city. At first he found work as a plumber, and then as an Uber driver. But the pay was low, and he hated navigating the aggressive streets of Brooklyn. Eventually, they found a small, studio-style basement apartment in the city. But while they were grateful to have a place to live, the cramped conditions were unbearable, and the room smelled of mildew. One day, Ana let out a scream when she smelled an awful stench. Sewage was rising up from the drain in the concrete floor just a short distance from their daughter’s mattress!

 

Ana soon gave birth to a beautiful daughter, but the weeks following her birth were bleak. Eugene was working long hours, and she and the girls rarely left the dingy apartment. Alone in a foreign city with no friends, no familiarity, and no ability to speak English, Ana began sinking into deep postpartum depression. Eugene felt a heavy weight, knowing his family was suffering and he was unable to provide for them.


That fall, Ana took their daughters and returned to Belarus to live with her family. Eugene decided to start over. He packed up his car and drove to Miami. He had heard that there was a Russian-speaking community there and thought he may have better luck finding a good job in the South.  While most people might have regretted their decision to immigrate at this point, Eugene never believed in regrets. He still felt like God had led them to the USA and he held hope that life would be easier once he found a better job. He bought a selfie-stick and recorded every part of their journey, including his long trek down I-95 from New York to Miami.  Unfortunately, finding work in Miami wasn’t easier. Again, he worked as an Uber driver while spending his time-off looking for full-time positions in digital marketing. But several months of applications proved fruitless, and he was barely making enough to pay rent. And without his family, Eugene’s heart was hurting. 

 

The following year, Ana and her two daughters moved back from Belarus to join Eugene in Miami. But their idea of tropical paradise was quickly disillusioned. Miami was very hot and humid - so different from the cold, brisk weather of Belarus. Ana hated Maimi. Once again, she was lonely in a strange city that only seemed hospitable for Spanish-speaking immigrants. 


One day, the Lutskiys got a call from the same woman in New Jersey who had graciously housed them over two years earlier. She owned a rental property in Philadelphia, and she welcomed them to move in and give Philadelphia a try. So once again, the Lutskiys packed up their belongings and decided to start over, for the third time. They had now been in the USA for nearly three years. They wondered if Philadelphia would be any different. Would Eugene find employment? Would the living conditions be better than New York? 


They moved into their friends’ 1950’s row house. Though outdated, it was spacious with three bedrooms upstairs, and a good-sized living area and an open kitchen. The previous renters had left the house in poor condition and very dirty. In exchange for a very good rental price, Eugene was able to install new flooring, fix broken things, and improve the space. Ana scrubbed until the floors, walls, and cupboards were clean - Belarusian clean. Their girls excitedly decorated their new room with matching twin beds and handmade artwork.  And shortly after their move, Eugene found a great job in digital marketing which allowed him to work from home. For the first time, they were beginning to feel a sense of stability and security.


 But just as the Lutskiys were feeling hopeful and settled, in 2019 the political tensions in Belarus were increasing. President Lukashenko had been elected during Belarus’ first “free election” in 1994 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But his highly authoritarian government quickly lost most of the national support. In the 2020 election, Lukashenko was seeking his sixth term in office and the press hailed that Lukashenko had a sweeping majority of the popular vote, but citizens were not fooled by ridiculous propaganda. Following the election, anti-government riots broke out and protesters were tear gassed, arrested and shot in the streets. Cities invoked early curfews as people went missing.  The Lutksiys feared for their parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They followed the news with heavy and broken hearts. They felt helpless, watching it all unfold from far away. This was an emotional time for their family. Like most immigrants, the Lutskiys felt torn between growing roots in their new life while still holding a deep connection with their heartland. 


But eventually the riots subsided, and Ana returned to Belarus for a short visit with her parents. Seeing her loved ones and being in a familiar culture was a balm to her soul.  In Philadelphia, Eugene joined the Army National Guard and became a proud United States Citizen. Ana joined an ESL program where she began studying English and made friends. When she passed her citizenship test, her new friends threw her a joyous congratulatory party with hotdogs, chili and other American staples. Ana dressed herself up as an American flag! 


So much has changed for the Lutskiys since they arrived in the United States. Life in Philadelphia still isn’t perfect; like all Philadelphians, the Lutskiys struggle with mice in their home. But their largest rodents by far are the two rats who live in their basement, named Tim and Mischa. They have a colossal cage, and Ana has designed an intricate maze of cardboard boxes around the room-  a real rodent Taj Mahal. While domesticated pet rats may seem strange to some, it’s no surprise to those who know Ana. She sees what is loveable and finds beauty where others see none. 


Now, Eugene has grown his skills in digital marketing and has a lucrative business. They have many friends and a supportive community. Their girls are attending a local elementary school while studying Russian in the evenings. They don’t want their daughters to lose their heritage.


Their years of struggle in the United States have given the Lutskiys a true passion for helping other immigrants. As many Russian-speaking refugees and asylum seekers flock to Philadelphia due to the war in Ukraine, the Lutskiys are quick to network, find furniture, give rides, and meet other tangible needs.  Eugene continues to inspire and advocate on his YouTube channel.  While their first years here brought suffering, they believe they’ve made the right decision to find opportunity in the USA and give their children a bright future.


The USA is finally beginning to feel like home. 


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Dear Lutskiys, I am inspired by your resilience. THANK YOU for bravely telling your story. 

I will forever be grateful that God brought you here and blessed us with your friendship. 









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