Making it in the mountains
EAGLE COUNTY – When Marian Rusina arrived in Eagle County in 1998 to join his cousin, there were just a handful of other Slovaks in the valley. Though he spoke almost no English, Marian felt at home in this landscape that is so similar to his home of Bobrovec in the Carpathian Mountains. He also found he was able to make at least 10 times the money he could make in his homeland, he said. His wife, Renata, is from the flatlands south of the capital, Bratislava. She met Marian in Slovakia and followed him here in 2000, thinking she would only stay the summer.They are both still here now, married, with their U.S. residency in hand. They bought a home earlier this year in the Homestead neighborhood in Edwards.In the few years they’ve been in Eagle County, they have seen the Czech and Slovak population grow. Renata estimated that 30 to 40 from those countries live around the valley year-round, with dozens more staying here seasonally.”It’s a great community,” Marian said. “People stick together.”The large number of Hispanic immigrants in Eagle County can overshadow the sizable communities of immigrants from places like Slovakia, Bulgaria and Russia who come to the valley looking for opportunity that isn’t available in their homelands.Those who have found financial footing pave the way for family and friends to follow them here. Renata and Marian now have a family friend from Slovakia living with them, and are helping him get his feet on the ground, find a job and learn some English.”We just help him out however we can,” Marian said.
‘You’ve got this chance’Marian, who is now 30, came to the U.S. in 1998, just to work for two or three years to make some money. He first came to South Carolina, but only stayed for a few months. He had a cousin in Eagle County, so he headed here. He started out working for SOS Staffing doing odd jobs like cleaning. Marian found steady work as a plumber. It was his skill as a plumber that allowed him and Renata, 26, to apply for residency. Plumbing was considered a special skill that qualified him to apply. When he realized that he could apply for residency, his boss advised him to do it. “You’ve got this chance,” he said his boss told him. “Don’t close the door. You can always go back. You have the choice.”Marian now works for Avon Plumbing, and Renata works for Linen Kist in Avon. They try to send money back to their family, but their family is reluctant to accept the help. “Our parents don’t want to take money,” Renata said. “They are too proud.”‘It’s a good country’Vladimir Goregliad from Belarus has been in the Vail Valley for a little more than a year. He left his native country for a job in Atlantic City, N.J., but when he got there, he was told he’d have to wait a few months for the job to open up.So he headed out to Vail, where he had a couple of friends. He now works at the UPS Store in West Vail and lives in Avon.
He has also worked at Denny’s in Avon and Paddy’s in Eagle-Vail. He also estimated that he can make 10 times more here than in Belarus.Goregliad said there’s a community of 30 to 40 Russian-speaking young people working in the valley.When his visa expires in a few months, Goregliad will head back to Poland to finish his college degree in marketing. After that, he said, he might return to the U.S. “We’ll see,” he said. “I like this place. It’s a good country.”‘You have everything’This is Nadya Ziniovieva’s second time in the United States. The Plovdiv, Bulgaria-native spent four months working in North Carolina.She returned to Bulgaria after that summer, but returned to the U.S. the following year. She came to Vail, where a friend from Bulgaria had already spent a summer. Though Nadya doesn’t ski, she was attracted to the place for its European feel and promise of jobs.She came here on a work-study program, which offers students a chance to travel during summers. But she decided to stay here to study at a language program in Chicago for a few months before returning to Vail.Despite having a computer science degree from Bulgaria, Ziniovieva said the opportunities there are limited. The few good jobs, she said, go to people with connections and money.
“The economy, we’re getting better, but it’s not that easy there,” she said.For her, the U.S. offers so much more than she could have in Bulgaria, even though her college degree doesn’t come into play here. “You have everything,” she said. “If you want to have money, you can find a job. You might have to clean restrooms, but you can find a job.”Ziniovieva, 23, has worked at Starbucks in Safeway for a year, and has been promoted to manager. She’s met a man, too, an American, and they plan to get married later this month. She doesn’t like the cold, and wants to leave Vail for somewhere warmer in the U.S. She plans to go back to college to get another degree in computer science to give herself more job opportunities, she said. “I didn’t come here to make coffees all my life,” she said. “I want to do more than that.”Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or email@example.comVail, Colorado