Since the day I was born, I felt like I’ve had to overcome some type of difficulty. I would like to share my story with you, not because I want anyone to pity me, but I want to show you a person, who against all odds, has succeeded and made something of herself.
I was born in the city of Andijan, Uzbekistan in 1983. At the time of my birth, there were some delivery complications and I was immediately taken away from the room. After two days of not seeing me, my mother wondered why the medical staff had not brought her child to be fed. The nurse responded to her, “do you know what type of child you gave birth to?” I was born with severe seizures due to a complication during delivery. They told my mother there was no reason to fight for my life because I would be permanently mentally and physically disabled.
Despite hearing that, my parents ignored the doctor’s advice and with Hashem’s help, my mother and father did everything possible to save my life. They got me the necessary medical help to be able to live a decent life. These complications however did have a lasting impact during my childhood. I only started to speak at four years old, and barely even so.
When I was nine years old, my parents immigrated to the United States and I entered the public school system in third grade. After two years, my parents decided that they wanted to give me a Jewish education and they sent me to a local Queens yeshiva. There, I was placed in fourth grade with a second-grade education level. As someone already struggling with Russian and English, having to learn Hebrew at the yeshiva was even more difficult. After spending two years in the yeshiva, my parents saw that I was struggling academically. For them the solution was to put me back in public school, and they did.
When I went back to public school, I was 13 years old and still struggled with the three languages, as well as in all subjects. When my mother and I went to a local middle school, they couldn’t decipher my academic level because all of my previous report cards were in Hebrew from the yeshiva. They ultimately made a determination to put me in eighth grade based on my age. I skipped grades five through seven, and missed out on crucial years in my educational career.
In eighth grade, I continued to struggle and now had to learn a fourth language, Spanish. With the grace of Hashem, I graduated and went on to high school without knowing at a normal school level to read, write, do math, or comprehend science. Because of my struggles, I thought I couldn’t be intelligent and decided not to go to college.
Around the age of 17, I started to date a guy who I thought was my key to a successful and happy life. I thought he was my knight and shining armor, and a few days after my 18th birthday, we got married. What seemed like a fairytale wedding and happy marriage quickly became toxic with emotional and physical abuse. After eight months of marriage, I decided this wasn’t a life that I wanted for myself. I got a divorce and I went back to school to get my high school degree.
After receiving my degree, I was accepted to LaGuardia Community College. To no one’s surprise, I continued to struggle in college. In order to continue with courses for my major, I had to pass the basic prerequisites such as math, reading, and writing. I failed the writing exam six times before finally passing it on the seventh. No matter how many times I wanted to give up, I kept pushing because I knew I could do better for myself.
In college, I found a passion that I didn’t expect, the student government. I joined and learned how quickly it opened doors for me. While at LaGuardia, I started an internship with a New York State Senator, where I was able to work my way up to become Deputy Chief of Staff in the office. Shortly after, I was on my way to graduate from LaGuardia with honors and I was selected to be the commencement speaker to be held at Madison Square Garden. I then received a scholarship to attend New York University where I graduated with my Bachelors in Communications and Mass Media. After graduating from NYU, I was offered a teaching position at LaGuardia as an adjunct lecturer.
In 2010, I decided to run for the New York State Assembly. At the same time, I was lucky enough to meet my amazing husband, Rabbi Emanuel Yelizarov, and decided to put my political aspirations on hold. Since then, I have run multiple city and statewide political campaigns where I also worked to bring the Bukharian voice to the table.
Today, I have a beautiful family and I empower people by connecting them with employment opportunities. I would’ve never imagined my life today considering the struggles I went through growing up while in school. My message is to keep fighting against all odds because you are your biggest cheerleader and perseverance is one of the major keys to success in life.