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Coming to America

Feb 27, 2017 11:22AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

19 year old Olyeg Marlow is a Batavia firefighter in training, but for the first six years of his life he called Russia home. Marlow was born in Novokuznetsk, a city in south-western Siberia. Until the age of three, he lived with his grandmother in her dacha, or cottage, on the top of a steep hill in a small village. Marlow’s memories of the time with his grandmother are few.

“I remember going down the hill behind her house on a piece of cardboard. I remember a train track. And I remember my grandma had a lot of cats.”

The events of Marlow’s early life are unclear, but he recalls leaving his grandmother’s home at a young age for an orphanage.

“When I left her house I went straight to a hospital for half a year. I’m assuming the orphanage wanted to get me checked out,” he explains.

At the orphanage, Marlow’s days were fairly regimented. He would wake up, eat breakfast and then spend some time playing in the park on the grounds of the gated facility. Then, Marlow and the other children would go to the stage on the first floor where they would sing or act.

“The arts were a big part of Russian culture,” Marlow says. “Everyone had to do that.”

Olyeg and his younger sister meet their new parents for the first time at an orphanage in 
Russia.

For many people today, the word immigration brings to mind contentious, contemporary politics, but for Marlow at the age of six, immigration was neither a concept nor a choice. One day in 2002, William and Amanda, a married couple from Batavia, arrived to adopt Marlow and Emma, another young girl at the orphanage. The couple already had two adopted children and they were only planning on adopting one more.

“The orphanage said, ‘No, you want two more. We have the perfect children for you!’” says Marlow. “My younger sister just got there and they wanted to put us together, so when they came and they met us they decided they wanted both of us.”

Marlow describes the day of his adoption as a somewhat confusing but happy experience.

“I met these two people, my parents, and they gave me food and a toy dog to play with. I knew what was happening but I didn’t know how to react. But I was happy because I was getting all these goodies and treats.”

Marlow’s adoptive parents also went out and bought toys for the rest of the children in the orphanage, a tradition in Russia. He says there were also traditions specific to Russian culture involved in the adoption process.

“My mom and dad would tell us these stories of how in the Russian court you would have to bring gifts like fish and apples to the judge. Whatever the court told you, you would nod your head and agree. It’s a lot different there.”

Olyeg and his sister meet 
the rest of their new family
at home in Batavia

Luckily, everything went smoothly and Marlow soon found himself in an American home playing with Legos® and Star Wars toys.

“I remember when I first got home there were two big chocolate labs. My sister came in and jumped on my dad’s head because she’d never seen large dogs,” Marlow laughs.

Though he had to leave most of his belongings at the orphanage, Marlow was able to bring DVDs of Russian cartoons home. He watched the cartoons with his brother and for a time retained his native tongue. But around third or fourth grade, Marlow began to lose his Russian. And while his parents kept Russian traditions alive in the home, his formative years were typically American. He made friends in the Batavia school system, got involved with Strikers soccer and took an interest in fire science in high school. Today, Marlow says he would feel like an outsider if he went back to visit Russia.

“I definitely want to go back. I would feel like such a foreigner though,” he says.

That Marlow assimilated to American culture so quickly is not unusual. According to a research study done by Steven Heine, a professor of cultural psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, younger immigrants adjust to a new culture faster than older immigrants.

“The researchers surveyed 232 people who had emigrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver at various ages, from infancy to age 50… For people who had immigrated to Canada before the age of 15, they identified more with Canadian culture with each successive year they lived there than did people who had immigrated when they were older.” (psychologicalscience.org)

Geneva resident Fatima Figueiredo 
and her family emigrated from Rio
de Janeiro to the United States in 
1999. Today she is an accomplished
artist and proud US citizen.

For adults like Geneva resident Fatima Figueiredo, the process of acculturation did not happen as quickly. Figueiredo and her family emigrated from Rio de Janeiro to the United States in 1999 when her husband’s company relocated. Having grown up in Brazil, Figueiredo had some trouble initially adapting to American culture. She found herself missing the slower pace of life in Brazil, among other things.

“In Brazil life is more laid back. It’s not fast paced like it is here. In Brazil, everybody sits at the table for a meal, which is something I miss. I feel like here, one person eats at one time, another person at another time; one eats in front of the T.V. while another one is in front of the computer.”

She also says time is more malleable in Brazil than in the U.S.

“In Brazil if someone says ‘come to dinner at 6’ that means ‘don’t come at 6,’ so that was something I had to adjust to. I remember I was always late taking my boys to soccer practice and they were mad at me, so I had to adjust to be on time.”

More generally, an article on rapidimmigration.com describes the four stages of adaptation immigrants go through as they get used to American customs, values and belief systems. In the first stage, the “honeymoon phase,” immigrants often feel a sense of unlimited possibility related to the newness of experiencing a foreign culture for the first time. Following this stage, immigrants may enter a period of hostility based on language and communication difficulties and because of the contrast between their native culture and American traditions. Fortunately, this stage usually leads into understanding and acceptance as immigrants start to feel as if they belong and accept America as their home.

In short time, Figueiredo warmed up to life in America and has since reconciled the differences between American and Brazilian lifestyles.

“Now when I go back to Brazil there are things I miss from here too,” she says. “Sometimes I see people come and they keep complaining that their home country was better in one way or another, but you never find a place that has everything you like. I believe if you come to a place with an open heart everything will go well.”

Though he didn’t have to adapt in the same way as Figueiredo, everything is going just fine for Olyeg Marlow. In a way, it was Marlow’s adoptive parents who bridged the cultural gap for him when he was young, easing the transition by providing a loving home and answering questions Marlow had about his Russian heritage as he grew up.

Olyeg Marlow (front)
studied fire science 
for two years while 
attending Batavia
High School trough a
program at Fox 
Valey Career Center.
Today he is a 
firefighter in training
at the Batavia Fire
Department.

Today, 19 year old Marlow is in the explorer program at the Batavia Fire Department on a path towards becoming a firefighter.

“I’m crew right now,” he says. “I just have to take the state test and then I’ll be able to go on calls. There are five of us who came from Batavia High School together where we each took two years of fire science through Fox Valley Career Center.”

Marlow speaks enthusiastically about his training and his future in the field. He says he enjoys that there’s something different to do every day. And while he sometimes daydreams about what he might be doing if he hadn’t left Novokuznetsk, most of the time he’s looking ahead to his career with the fire department, happy with his life in America and the opportunities that have been afforded to him.

“I definitely think my life is a lot better here than it would have been in Russia just because of where I was at,” he says. “I practically have everything I could want.” 

Ben Scott is the community editor of Neighbors magazines

Today, News Olyeg Marlow Firefighter Immigrant Russia Orphanage Fatima Figueiredo Brazil Rio
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    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Celebrate autumn’s arrival with the Forest Preserve District! Join us for pumpkin painting, games...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/01/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • This field class will begin with an introduction to basic plant morphology needed for tree identi...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/02/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • St. Therese Feast Day Mass

    10/02/2017
    11:30AM — 01:00PM

    Come celebrate the 120th anniversary of St. Therese of Lisieux's entrance into heaven! Feast ...


  • We're celebrating 2 years of giving back to the community with a special Octoberfest-inspired mee...


  • St. Therese Feast Day Mass

    10/02/2017
    07:00PM — 08:30PM

    Come celebrate the 120th anniversary of St. Therese of Lisieux's entrance into heaven! Feast ...


  • Tri-Cities Exchange Club Breakfast

    10/03/2017
    07:00AM — 08:00AM

    Every Tuesday morning, 7-8am, men and women meet for breakfast at Colonial Cafe on Randall Road, ...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/03/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    10/04/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    10/04/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/04/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Learn from the Experts: Fall Tree Identification

    10/04/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    This field class will begin with an introduction to basic plant morphology needed for tree identi...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    10/04/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/04/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • NUHS Massage Therapy Info Session

    10/04/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Are you wondering whether a career in massage therapy is right for you? Explore our Massage Thera...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Nature Tykes (for 3 year olds)

    10/05/2017
    09:30AM — 10:30AM

    In this program, for 3-year olds and their parents, grandparents or guardians, we’ll explore the ...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/05/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Senior Stroll

    10/05/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Seniors are invited to join District naturalists each month on a leisurely stroll through a Kane ...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    10/05/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Little Naturalists

    10/05/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    In this hour-long program for 4-5-year olds, children will discover the wonders of nature through...


  • The Holmstad Helping Hearts

    10/05/2017
    01:30PM — 02:30PM

    Findings from an Alzheimer's Association survey released in June 2017 show that while people over...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/05/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • A cooperative program between the Town and Country Library and the Kane County Genealogical Society.


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/05/2017
    08:00PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • Breakfast for a Cause

    10/06/2017
    07:30AM — 09:00AM

    Please join us for breakfast, fellowship and our program: Moving Up From Poverty: Three Steps Fo...


  • Moms Connect

    10/06/2017
    09:00AM — 10:15AM

    St. John Lutheran Church at 7214 South Cass Avenue in Darien, IL will sponsor a new Bible-based s...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/06/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Story Time at Creek Bend Nature Center

    10/06/2017
    10:30AM — 11:00AM

    Treat your child to Story Times at Creek Bend Nature Center. This popular program series is for c...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/06/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • FREE Monthly Family Story Time

    10/06/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30AM

    Join us for this month's free Story Time featuring a spring theme. Spots are filling up quickly. ...


  • Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens

    10/06/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    This darkly funny farce pits the eternal battle of pure evil against innocent fuzzy goodness. Dr....


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • I Love A Piano

    10/06/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    ESO favorites Rich Ridenour, piano and Brandon Ridenour, trumpet, will bring the house down with ...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/06/2017
    08:00PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • Live Entertainment: DJ

    10/06/2017
    09:00PM — 11:55PM

    Join us on historic Bourbon Street in Jambalaya at Pheasant Run Resort every Friday for live ente...


  • Women's Fellowship Breakfast

    10/07/2017
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    St. John Lutheran Church at 7214 South Cass Avenue in Darien, IL will host a Women’s Fellowship B...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/07/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/07/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens

    10/07/2017
    03:00PM — 05:00PM

    This darkly funny farce pits the eternal battle of pure evil against innocent fuzzy goodness. Dr....


  • Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens

    10/07/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    This darkly funny farce pits the eternal battle of pure evil against innocent fuzzy goodness. Dr....


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/07/2017
    07:30PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • I Love A Piano

    10/07/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    ESO favorites Rich Ridenour, piano and Brandon Ridenour, trumpet, will bring the house down with ...


  • Live Music

    10/07/2017
    09:00PM — 11:55PM

    Join us on historic Bourbon Street in Jambalaya at Pheasant Run Resort for live bands every Satur...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/07/2017
    09:45PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • Bourbon Street Brunch

    10/08/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    Join us on historic Boubon Street every Sunday for a unique brunch buffet! Enjoy all your favorit...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    10/08/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/08/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • I Love A Piano

    10/08/2017
    02:30PM — 04:30PM

    ESO favorites Rich Ridenour, piano and Brandon Ridenour, trumpet, will bring the house down with ...


  • Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens

    10/08/2017
    03:00PM — 05:00PM

    This darkly funny farce pits the eternal battle of pure evil against innocent fuzzy goodness. Dr....


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/09/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Tri-Cities Exchange Club Breakfast

    10/10/2017
    07:00AM — 08:00AM

    Every Tuesday morning, 7-8am, men and women meet for breakfast at Colonial Cafe on Randall Road, ...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/10/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Family Talk

    10/10/2017
    07:00PM — 09:30PM

    Finding an ancestor's town of origin can be exciting. Once this piece of information is found, on...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    10/11/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    10/11/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/11/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    10/11/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/11/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Nature Tykes (for 3 year olds)

    10/12/2017
    09:30AM — 10:30AM

    In this program, for 3-year olds and their parents, grandparents or guardians, we’ll explore the ...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/12/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Little Naturalists

    10/12/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    In this hour-long program for 4-5-year olds, children will discover the wonders of nature through...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/12/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • NUHS Student for a Day (AOM/BS)

    10/12/2017
    03:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Student for a Day program provides an opportunity to understand student life at National Univ...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/12/2017
    08:00PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


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