Hi guys! My name is Iaroslav Bieliei and this is the first part of our story about how we moved to US.
It was a very cold Ukrainian spring of 2014 when our good family friends who live in Orange County, California invited me to visit them. Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity just finished in Kyiv and everybody including myself were exhausted after long 4 months of fight for our rights and democracy. So it sounded like a wonderful idea to recharge and have some fun. I have been to US many times prior to that trip, few times as a tourist and countless times as an amateur competitor back in the days when I used to live in Canada. At that time I did not have a dance partner. Even though my girlfriend Liliia was a dancer, she had a serious dance partner, they were doing really well at all competitions and honestly I was not sure if I want to continue my competitive career. After a little bit of thinking I have decided to accept the invitation from my friends and bought an airfare.
I landed in LAX on May 2nd, 2014 with $400 in my pocket. A date I will never forget. A date I celebrate as a second birthday like many American immigrants.
After a week of staying at my friends’ house, going through Facebook I spontaneously arranged a try out with my future partner Olga at the studio in Hacienda Heights I have practiced in few times in the past. The main motivation for me at that time was a very long pause in my career and anxiety at least to dance with someone and also convenience. Studio was about 20 minutes drive from the house which is considered to be a very close distance in Southern California.
I will be honest, and I know Olga felt the same way - our first try out was very funny. We had a very different idea about our dancing and Olga being many years older then me treated me with respect but like I would be her good student rather a professional partner. That is mainly because of the age gap. When she saw me first time, she was surprised how young I looked ( I was 22 at that time) and thought that it would be a very short try out and we will never see each other again. As we started dancing it didn’t feel comfortable for both of us but I personally was very curious about the way she dances and her knowledge. We finished try out without any plan, but curiosity pushed us to the second, the third and the fourth day of practice. I found out that we went to the same teachers in England and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of common key words and dance technique. Olga began to like me more and she asked me if I can stay to dance with her. Studio she was working at offered me a job opportunity and promised to do all the paperwork so it sounded like a great offer. Great offer except I have never planned to move, I did not have enough money and clothes with me, I had a girlfriend, who became my wife soon, back in Kyiv and I loved my hometown so much that I was completely not ready to make any serious decisions at that moment in time.
I will never forget one night when I finally made up my mind to stay. Being absolutely unprepared for the future but somehow feeling that it opens up a huge window of opportunities I have never seen before. I felt it was a big sacrifice for me on many levels. Leaving family, loved once and friends without any guarantee of the future is always difficult. I was very lucky that they were understanding and supportive towards my decision. I felt like I received a huge credit from them and I said to myself that I have to make it worth it. That day completely changed my life. After calling Liliia and my friends and family in Ukraine to tell them I was staying, next thing on my new to-do-list was to start preparing for my first dance competition with Olga, which was in San Diego and by the way went really bad. But that is something I would love to share with you guys in my next part of the story as well as my transition from Amateurs to Professionals and how I felt about it.
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