Street Sense staff

Speaking to Victor Blokhine, you might reflect on how the language barrier can disadvantage immigrants trying to start a new life in America that is, if you can understand him. Victor speaks only one language, after all: Russian.

If you do manage to communicate with Victor, you will learn that was once a respected engineer in the Soviet Union. For 25 years, he worked at various Russian institutes and universities, teaching and researching complex mathematical theories. Even now, he feels more comfortable talking
about the theory of perpetual motion than about his own life.

Fed up with communism, Victor sold his home and nearly all of his possessions and left for
America. But upon arriving, he soon learned that the land of opportunity offered few opportunities to those not fluent in English. Then, after settling in Georgia and working a series of odd jobs, Victor was falsely accused and convicted of immigration fraud. Unable to defend himself, he was left to the mercy of the courts.

“It’s not that they didn’t understand me,” said Victor, describing the experience. “It’s that they didn’t want to understand me.”

After 14 months in prison, Victor found himself homeless. He traveled to Washington, D.C. in search
of work, but still he found himself blocked because of his inability to communicate with people. With his situation growing dire, he turned to the Adams Place shelter for support.

Once at the shelter, Victor finally found a stable source of income: working for Street Sense. Now employed, he is struggling to find a roommate to share the cost of an apartment. If he manages
to leave the shelter and find stable housing, Victor is certain that his life will improve.

Knowing that the transition will re- quire hard work and plenty of time for him to save enough money, Victor is determined to make his own rent payments—even if the task proves more difficult than solving the puzzle of perpetual motion.