GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF)- Elena Ciocanu came to the U.S. from a small eastern European country three years ago. Before moving here, she had never left her native Moldova or seen the ocean. This Fourth of July, she’s reflecting on the opportunities that this country has given her.
Elena Ciocanu dreamed of being a musician as a child growing up in Moldova, but her father had other plans for her.
“He wanted me to be an office worker like everybody else,” she said. “Because that’s what you can be there.”
After earning a clerical degree in Moldova, she set her sights on something more.
“I always dreamed about America,” she said. “You know [the] ‘American dream.'”
Her decision to immigrate was bold, since she’d never traveled beyond the Moldovan borders. Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is one of the poorest European countries, relying heavily on agriculture. Elena knew she could do more if she could make it the U.S.
According to Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans were in the world’s high-income group in 2011, living on more than $50 a day, compared to just seven percent globally.
“There’s a lot of people talking like you can do pretty much everything if you have desire and you’re pretty much hardworking,” she said.
The trip over was expensive, but her family made it happen. She lived in Michigan, Chicago and Seattle, supporting herself as a hostess and a caregiver and earning enough to repay the debt for her trans-Atlantic passage.
“It was a great chance for me you know to go [to] Seattle and start a career, start something new.” Ciocanu said.
She did indeed start something new in Seattle– a family. She met and married Brent, a chemical engineer from Tennessee. They now have a 16-month old daughter. Last August, work brought them to Grovetown, Ga., where they are living their own American Dream.
“My American Dream is to be here, to have a family, to be free, safe” she said. “And to do what I like.”
Right now Elena is focusing on raising her child, but she still finds time for her music. She said coming to America and pursuing the American Dream was everything she thought it would be and more.
“Everybody talks about it, but experiencing it, it’s total[ly] different,” she said. “And it is real.”