Where are you from?
I’m from a small city in the heart of Russia called Ufa. I grew up in very diverse place as there were a lot of different cultures mixing in together plus the influence of America started to pour in around my teenage years.
What brought you to Chicago?
When I moved to America I was bouncing between states, living in each place no longer then few months and that’s how I found myself in Chicago. And then like in every good story, girl meets someone special, and even if that someone doesn’t stick around, girl surely did.
What do you find challenging about living here?
My job. I work as a bartender and supervisor in a restaurant in the loop which means I have a 5-9 lifestyle. Late nights not only means lack of sleep and community that loves you, it also means drinking, getting sucked into situations you don’t want to be a part of and whole lot of bad decisions.
Why do you love it?
I love Chicago because I matured here. A lot of life changes happened here that turned me into who I am today.
Why do you stay?
Chicago is the first place since I left Russia that felt like home. I have a strong feeling God brought me here and wants me here for a reason.
How has community affected your time here?
It’s helping me learn what in between looks like. On one side I have fun loving party animals aka work friends, while on another I have my Christian friends that have tremendous inner strength because of their acknowledgment of who they are.
I don’t fully agree with everything both parties are saying, so I often feel like I don’t fit in. So in this season of life, community is helping me learn that in between is okay and I don’t have to be anything but me.
When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?
In the moment of affection. It can be an old friend’s encouragement, a kind word from someone that I thought doesn’t like me, a kiss on a cheek from a subject of my affection or even simple touch. I operate on love: feeling, receiving, giving so when it’s done right I feel like I can conquer the world.
Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?
I’ve always been a neutral colors kinda girl but recently I started to add some bold colors into my wardrobe. I think I am just feeling more bold in my identity and it manifested this way.
How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?
Chicago is a city where I became a grown up. I was completely different person 2.5 years ago when I started living here. My major heartbreak led me to Christ, Christ led to therapy, therapy led to healing that I so desperately needed. I learned how to lean on God and trust him. I learned so much about who I am, how my brain and my heart works and still learning more of that. I also learned how broken our world is and that I don’t have the privilege of closing my eyes on injustice in our city anymore.
Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing?
God has touched my heart so many times, but recently I received a prayer that made me feel finally free. A prayer leader was saying a lot of things that she cannot possibly know about me, especially about my body. I not only struggled with my body image, where I was starving myself so i can fit in size 2 clothes. I also have been sexually assaulted and like many before me I kept quiet and blamed myself. That prayer was a first time I felt free from guilt and shame, free from self-distraction, free from looking like the media is telling I must look, free to be just me.
Is there any scripture that's been on your heart / resonated with you lately?
2 Corinthians 12:9.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Not many people know that I am extremely empathetic person. I learn to hide it pretty well because of many fears I have like rejection, fear of being used, fear of failure, etc. I often view my empathetic heart as a weakness, but this passage inspires me to be bold in my expressions and show more of who I am to people around me.
If you're in a season of distance from God, what are your questions / struggles? On the contrary, if you're experiencing closeness with God, how might you encourage our brothers and sisters who are wrestling with believing God is real and for us?
I don’t know how to describe the season I am in. He is not far, he is not close. I see his hand in my life, we talk, but there is also there is something in between us that I cannot quite grasp.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?
I am very excited to be 27. I feel like I am finally becoming who God created me to be and I know what being emotionally healthy looks like to me. I do more things that bring me joy and I let myself feel whatever I want to feel without shutting it down. It’s been a challenging journey for me as an enneagram 2 but I am so happy to be where I am now.