A Grateful Refugee
Faina Rapoport carried a mental portrait of New York City for years. It was a means of survival while she and her family waited to hear from the United States goverment about whether they qualified for the refugee program. Her family, Jews from Moscow, wanted to escape religious persecution.
In 1994, New York City was no longer a painting in the gallery of Mrs. Rapoport's mind. It became real — the family received refugee status. They were free to worship as they pleased.
They settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, a bustling Russian Jewish community near Coney Island.
Mrs. Rapoport, a computer programmer, studied English, while her husband, Yuriy, a civil engineer, became a construction inspector.Their children, Alex, 25, and Elena, 19, attended school.
Soon Mrs. Rapoport, 45, learned enough English to pursue a job. Eventually, she became a computer programmer at Accenture at the World Trade Center. Her salary helped buy a condominium near the beach.
The job also let her see two things in her mental portrait of the city: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. "I know my mother is still happy about coming to America," Elena Rapoport said. "She accomplished things that she never would have been able to do in Russia. No one misses Russia."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on February 3, 2002.