Russian emigré realizes the American dream
BRECKENRIDGE – Many people work for years to get a taste of the American dream. Russian emigré and Breckenridge resident Tatiana Kaufman was fortunate enough to experience the dream all at one time – she gained her U.S. citizenship and opened her own business on the same day. Kaufman opened The Golden Phoenix in La Cima Mall on Dec. 13, the same day she traveled to Denver to be sworn in as an American citizen. It had been almost six years since she emigrated from her native Russia.Insider her quaint, warmly painted store, Russian trinkets like nesting dolls and handpainted tableware line the walls, and an assortment of imported Russian chocolates entice visitors who walk through the door. The souvenir shop doubles as Kaufman’s office for her blossoming Feng Shui consulting business – Kaufman’s real passion. The petite blonde sat behind her small desk while she talked about her experiences starting a new life in the United States.Before she moved to Breckenridge on the last day of 2000 to be with her now-husband, Richard, Kaufman had seen pictures of the mountain town, but never visited. Coming from a bustling city of 500,000 people was an adjustment, but Kaufman has acclimated to a quieter lifestyle in a town she said reminds her of a European village.Kaufman, who had a mechanical engineering background from home, enrolled in English classes at Colorado Mountain College as soon as she arrived and got a job at the drug store on Ski Hill Road, where she still works.
“It’s special. People here they just love it. They have an education, culture, they take any job because they want to live here,” she said.She and Richard met online, which Kaufman acknowledges some people may have doubts about, but “it’s very romantic if you’re smart, if you ask a lot of questions,” she said.Their correspondence was strictly friendly at first, but when Richard visited her in Russia for the first time, there was an instant connection.”I tell him we met each other last life, I’m sure,” she said.Richard proposed and arranged for his future wife to move overseas on a fiancé visa. Kaufman sold her apartment in Russia, left her family and friends behind and headed for the embassy in Moscow. But a glitch with her paperwork (hers was switched with somebody in Beijing) almost put an end to her journey before it began.”They were like sorry it’s not going to work because we don’t have the proper paperwork,” said Richard, after stopping into his wife’s shop.She waited in Moscow for two weeks over Christmas, while Richard, back in Colorado, straightened out the problem.
“I was in tears through the holiday,” she said.Finally on Dec. 31, 2000, she arrived in Dallas, but the process of becoming a citizen had only just begun.Per the fiancé visa, the couple had 90 days to marry, which they did and applied for permanent residency status. After they’d been married for three years, Kaufman was allowed to apply for citizenship. Immigration officials told the Kaufmans they would likely have to wait two years to hear anything, but 10 months later they got the phone call. “We were just thrilled,” Richard said.Six years, countless sets of paperwork and thousands of dollars after Kaufman moved, she would become a citizen.Coincidentally the day she was instructed to travel to an auditorium in Denver for the ceremony was the day the Golden Phoenix was set to open.Kaufman joined 200 or 300 other immigrants representing 67 countries in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before being sworn in as U.S. citizens.
The ceremony was an emotional one for Kaufman.”It’s like a second homeland. Of course, I’m still Russian, it’s in my blood, but it’s my second home,” she said.After having gone through the arduous, but legal, citizenship process with his wife, Richard said it bothers him to see illegal immigrants who sneak into the country and live here without the proper paperwork.”We jumped through all the hoops, we did all the stuff – they should have to too,” he said.Kaufman prefers not to concern herself with how others may have ended up in the country and instead focuses on living her own life and running her new business.”I love this shop … here is just perfect for me,” she said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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