CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Olha Orlova arrived in the United States five years ago with her two-year-old daughter, $3,000 to her name, and hardly any understanding of English. It was a challenging situation, but compared to her life in a small town outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, it was “paradise.”
Orlova, now a deputy with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office (ACSO), had won a green card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which is a competitive lottery system.
“Before I won this lottery, the situation back in my home country was so horrible that I even thought about killing myself,” she said through tears. “We had nothing. I couldn’t even buy food in a store.”
Living the American Dream
Olha Orlova compares life in Ukraine to the "paradise" of living in America.
Orlova told a story about selling her bicycle just to be able to afford noodles for her family.
“You think about, ‘How can I feed my daughter tonight?’” Orlova explained.
When she arrived in the states, Orlova decided she wanted to work in law enforcement. She accepted a job with the Summit County Sheriff's Office. Orlova had to drive 88 miles each way to work every day, but she’s used to hard work.
“You have to fight every single day to survive back in my home country,” she said.
After three years in Summit County, Orlova accepted a job with ACSO.
“It was my dream to be a deputy because this way, I can help people,” she said.
Working at the jail, Orlova explained, it’s important to her not to judge anyone.
“I don’t want to know what you did. I’m here to help you. That’s it,” she said. “If I can make your day better, I’m happy.”
Looking back on her life and struggles in Ukraine is difficult for Orlova, but in the U.S. her overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.
“I’m happy that I’m here. I can help my family. I can help my friends. I can send money; I can send whatever they need. And I’m happy that my daughter, now, [doesn’t] think about food...and things like that.”
Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.