by Alesia Radzyminski
For my mother, the few opportunities Communist Poland had to offer were never enough. Born during the peak of Soviet control, my mother grew up with food rations, strict curfews during martial law, and, like most other Poles, an eagerness to escape from a government that suppressed independent success. A talented student and a hard worker, my mother graduated from her local high school in the town of Lowicz and continued onto the University of Lodz, Institute of Economics, with highest honors. Her resilience and ambition, which she claims was complemented by true luck, earned my mother the admiration of her college professor, who had great hopes for her future. Although obtaining a visa for the United States was almost impossible, her professor, with the help of his relatives in the States, was able to send my mother to Boston as an au pair. She was one of the many college students looking to establish her life in a place with opportunities for talented, educated, and resourceful young adults.
After almost 30 years away from her native country, she still has not returned to Poland except to visit family and friends a few times. Arriving in Boston at the age of 19 with $200 in her pocket and no English skills whatsoever, my mother fully dedicated herself to succeeding in the States. During the day she cared for two young children, at night she completed her college requirements at Northeastern University, and with any free time she taught herself English. Fascinated by the investment banking industry, my mother sent out about 40 applications to major firms before getting a job offer from Dillon Read & Co. as an analyst. From there her career blossomed: she attended Harvard Business School as the third Polish woman ever admitted, and later held positions at Credit Suisse, Time Inc., and McGraw-Hill before creating her family office after the birth of her twins. She is now a proud American citizen.
My father’s immigration story is different to my mother’s. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, my father grew up eager to leave his native country. He believed Argentina to be a corrupt nation with an ineffective government, and knew that his chances of success were slim if he stayed. After graduating high school, he studied at La Universidad de Buenos Aires, and graduated at the top of his class with BA and PhD degrees in International Law. He also received a PhD degree in International Law from the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany. Seizing every opportunity that came his way, he became a professor of law at the Universitat de Napoli in Italy for a short period of time. When lawyers from New York’s Skadden Arps firm travelled to Argentina to work on a case with my father, they noticed his natural confidence, determination, and meticulous approach to every task, and suggested he apply for a position at Skadden Arps. Unable to practice law in the United States with solely his international degrees, my father took an accelerated course at Fordham University before passing The Bar Exam. Soon afterwards he became a partner at Skadden Arps, where he was in charge of corporate deals in the US and Latin America.
My mother and father, Marta Białek and Alejandro Radzyminski, met on November 16th, 1997 in New York, and were married on March 20th, 1998. They both came to this country in pursuit of opportunity and in hopes of creating better lives for their children, who would become first-generation Americans. Their stories are evidence that The American Dream comes to those who demonstrate resilience and determination in the face of adversity.
About the Author
Alesia was an intern at The Common Good in July of 2019. Previously, she volunteered at StreetSquash, where she coached squash, tutored middle schoolers, created presentations, and organized filing systems. She is a student at the Chapin School, and hopes to study International Journalism in college. She speaks English, Spanish, and Arabic, and loves to travel. In her free time, she plays squash competitively, listens to music, reads, volunteers, and edits footage for a documentary project she is working on.