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Crossing borders, overcoming obstacles, starting life over again in a new country. WYSO's radio series The Bind That Ties brings you the stories of immigrants from around the Miami Valley.

The Bind That Ties: Denis Guriev and Lana Gurieva

Denis Guriev and Lana Gurieva
courtesy of Denis Guriev and Lana Gurieva
Denis Guriev and Lana Gurieva

Denis Guriev and Lana Gurieva came to the U.S. 10 years ago from Ukraine. They were young and relatively unattached. Today, they have a family and a business and they say they feel very much at home in the Miami Valley.


Denis Guriev: I started learning English from first grade, so I actually went to the English school, right? And for me, it took about a year to feel like now people understand what I'm sayin. Every time I would, you know, mutter something, a word, I could see in their eye they have no idea what they just said and it just throws me off. So how long how long do you think it took you to....?

Lana Gurieva: Well, about a year, but people were very patient and nice and I was impressed with how patient people are here. Like, you can be very slow with English. You can be very bad English, but people would try to understand and help and actually get information right what you were trying to say.

Denis Guriev: Well, we're meeting a lot of people, right, who are have accents really shy about their accents.

Lana Gurieva: I actually like when people are asking me about the accent. I'm very proud to say I am from Ukraine. A lot of people would ask me, well, where are you from? I like your accent. I was like, I'm very proud, I'm from Ukraine. It's a very nice starter for conversation and I really appreciate people even paying attention to the accent and being interested in me. And I think my accent is a part of me. I don't know if it's, uh, I've been discussing with my friends and with you too like, do we have to get rid of accent? Because some people are thinking that's not very good selling point for us, because sometimes people think, oh, if you have accent, then maybe you're not as educated or maybe not as smart.

Denis Guriev: Two years ago, you were going by completely by yourself opening your business. Right? You had to go to all of these officials, get all the documents and everything. How does that compare? Do you think you could communicate well, they understood?

Lana Gurieva: I was looking for the space for my studio in Centerville, Springboro and Oakwood, and I ended up renting space in Centerville. It was stressful to some point, but I think that getting citizenship is much more stressful than setting up a business in America. I was very confident about my English and still I had points and people didn't understand me when I was opening up my business, at the Centerville department and they would answer all of it, they were patient, they would explain all the documents, all the levels, all the stages, all the fees to pay. And there wasn't any time there's some dark corner where I don't know what to do because compared to Ukraine, it's that country is not very adjusted yet. It's still gonna find a work in progress. How to provide people opportunities who want to have a business.

Denis Guriev: I think when we were growing up, you could hear these stories over and over of this bureaucracy, which basically puts roadblocks in front of you. So if you want to open the business, you better be really committed. All the registrations through and here it was much more straightforward. There was specific process you follow. And now, 10 years later, you've got your own studio. You teach kids basically what you were taught in Ukraine. How good do you think it's stacks what you learned in academy in Ukraine?

Lana Gurieva: I mean, when I was in Ukraine and I remember when there was in 94 and 96.

Denis Guriev: So how old were you? Ten years old?

Lana Gurieva: Yeah. Ten years old and my mother was talking about Ukrainians who moved to America and saying, like people who move to America from different countries, most likely has ended up like, cutting grass or doing low skilled jobs. And it's low paid and they just work a lot of hours like moving here in America. And for the first two years, it was a lot of uncertainty. I wasn't sure what they will be doing after two years, say I've been hired as a part time graphic designer. I loved my job and it was very great opportunity. And I improved my skills as a graphic designer. But at some points in a small company, when you come to a point where you don't grow much and you feel there is not much of a creative projects, you want to do something creative. I ended up in the right place, in the right spot, in the right time, meeting people connecting to them and becoming a part of this community. It felt like we really added something to this country because we really would bring in a lot of skills and talents and feels like we're needed here. And we can also bring benefits for this country and benefit from this country for us as well. And so we feel very fortunate, yeah.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO and was edited by Community Voices producer Tony Holloway. The project producer is Mojgan Samardar.

Mojgan started her full-time work after completing a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence. After a very successful 28 year career as a technical geek, she retired in 2017. While working she attended community voices weekend classes in 2014 and graduated as a Community Voice producer for WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After retirement, Mojgan’s turned to the arts and volunteering activities. She proposed creating community voices stories to highlight immigrants’ voices and contributions in the Miami valley. Her first season production of “The Bind that Ties” in 2020 won first prize in the Radio Documentary of the Associated Press. Season two of the series was broadcast in 2022.