While a journey begins with the fist step, the destination isn’t always know until arival, or in some cases, a number of pit stops along the way. One local woman learned that lesson first hand after the twist and turns landed her more than 6,000 miles from home in what would become her new home as well as her new country.
Zhanna Chekhoskiy was born and raised in Sochi, Russia, where she worked as a manager of a locally owned retail store. When she was a young adult she dreamed about leaving her country to explore and possibly live in Europe due to its proximity to her home.
Her hopes for Europe were never realized after a chance encounter on a social media connected her with a man from Ukraine that she would eventually fall in love with and marry. Shortly after their marriage the duo relocated to the United States, her new husband was already a U.S. citizen. Before meeting him, she had never thought about moving to America, the 13 hour flight seemed too far away from her hometown.
She relented, and almost immediately began to notice the cultural differences between the two countries.
“It is so different here in Oklahoma. You can go somewhere and people will smile at you as they pass or maybe even say hi to you. This is a nice way to meet new people. In my hometown in Russia, I would go out to the park and no one would talk to you unless they knew you and no one would smile at you” she said.
After four years of marriage, the couple separated, leaving Chekhoskiy in a new country with two young children. After the divorce, Chekhoskiy realized that in order to stay with her children she must become a U.S. citizen. Her new journey began by taking English classes at the Ardmore Public Library with Elizabeth Gaylor.
“She arrived in the U.S. knowing very little to no English and started taking English classes about two years ago,” Gaylor said. “She has grown by leaps and bounds through her hard work to become a U.S citizen.”
For two years, on a weekly basis, Chekhoskiy took English classes and worked on preparing for her citizenship test. In preparation, she memorized the required 100 questions that range from civics to U.S. geography.
During the two years, she met new friends in Ardmore in Lynette Petterson and Eva Ennis who also helped her to get back on her feet and moving in the right direction. After two years, Chekhoskiy was finally prepared for her citizenship interview.
“I love history, so many of the questions out of the 100 were easy for me to memorize. I was very nervous though because I thought my citizenship interview would be a very long process and it seemed scary,” Chekhoskiy said. “My interview only lasted 15 minutes but I had to stay longer because the man who interviewed me said that his computer was messing up.”
Chekhoskiy officially became a United States citizen on May 18 at the citizenship ceremony in Muskogee. She was overjoyed that day because not only did she achieve her goal, she was surrounded by her friends. Although she talks to her parents daily through apps like WhatsApp or Vyber, she considers Ennis her second mom.
“I have always missed home but it is easier for me to enjoy living here in Ardmore because I have met lifelong friends,” Chekhoskiy said. “I am so thankful for the friends I have because each one of them has helped in a unique way that only they could.”