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Diplomacy in Action

Former Refugee Embarks on Foreign Service Career


June 19, 2011

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 This story originally appeared as a blog on the State Department’s DipNote blog on June 19, 2011

Date: 02/22/2011 Description: Photo of Minsk. © AP Image

Anya Yakhedts Brunson serves as a Foreign Service Offic

I was born in the Soviet Union in the city of Minsk. I spent my childhood in the 1980's attending school and learning why Lenin was a great man, learning to play violin, practicing gymnastics, and waiting in breadlines. These are the memories that I have from my country of birth. Now that I look back on it, my family encountered challenges because we did not have the freedom to think or do what we thought was best for our family -- not only because we lived in a communist country, but also because we were Jewish.

My parents were told where they could work and my parents tell me that in school the other parents would say derogatory things about the Jewish girl in the class. Since I was young, I do not recall any of these events in a negative way. I think it is amusing now that I can literally say I had to wait in breadlines, because I appreciate so much more what I have now. In general, my experience in the Soviet Union for the first nine years of my life made me the person that I am today.

After coming to the United States in 1990 as refugees and settling in Chicago; my family and I began the long, hard journey of assimilating to the American way of life, which we love and consider our own. I was thrilled at the opportunity to study whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, and pursue a career which gives me an opportunity to defend and promote the American way of life. After my son was born we were able to have a Brit Milah for him, and generally practice as many Jewish traditions as we pleased.

I received my U.S. citizenship in 2000 and joined the State Department in 2006 as a Presidential Management Fellow, where I had the opportunity to work in Pakistan and on the Georgia Desk. I am now in the Foreign Service, about to embark on my first tour in the Dominican Republic.

Editor's Note: This blog is one of a series of individual stories by former refugees who are now working for the State Department. The series is part of the State Department's ongoing effort to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. Each story reflects an individual's experience and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.



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