Journalist Vladimir Voina on leaving Russia, buying beer, and the 'foolish' US government shutdown

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Let's turn now to the next installment in our First Days series. These are stories we're collecting from immigrants in the US about their first days in America. Our series is inspired by Philadelphia's South Asian American Digital Archive. Today we hear from a Russian journalist who once wrote for such Soviet-era stalwarts as Pravda and Izvestia. In 1989, he moved to Boston for a journalist fellowship and ended up staying.

Vladimir Voina: I'm Vladimir Voina. I was born in 1936 in Moscow. I was fifty-three years old when I came to America in 1989. It was an evening. I went out on the [??] Square corner, Italian food store with delicate, very good, all kinds of food, showing rounds of beer. And it struck me as something absolutely surreal, not possible even to imagine. I counted eighty-three beers. Yeah, one, two, three, four, five. Because it was so unnatural. We were drinking in Moscow just one round of beer. Beer, beer, there were long queues after beer. Everything I saw was filling me with joy. When I got my bank book, the first in my life, I was so proud of it. I thought, "This is how Americans, well American leaders, are eradicating the desire of the Americans to build socialism, communism, and all that foolish stuff." I was so proud and I was thinking, "Now I am also a part of the capitalist system." Now I am maybe too critical about American life. I find so many thing I disagree with, and we're looking at the TV screen now where was this discussion about shutdown. I find it so foolish, so irresponsible. It's all games, political games. I hate it. It's not serious. You have to create something, not destroy the balance between the two-party system, it's a wonderful thing.

Werman: Russian journalist Vladimir Voina with his impression of life in America. You can hear more First Days stories at\firstdays. And how about submitting your own story? We all have at least one tale of being in a new and unfamiliar place for the first time. Tell us yours at Just click on the orange record button. This is PRI - Public Radio International.