Country of Origin: Former Soviet Union
Victoria Barmak is the Refugee Congress Delegate for Missouri.
She came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Soviet Union in 1990. Her first memories in this country are a mix of stress and anxiety: a teenager, who had suddenly found herself in the role of her parents’ parent, she became her family’s sole link to the new society. Her limited English made Victoria her family’s only advocate, and the task was a huge burden that made her personal transition to her new life quite difficult.
These difficulties, however, trained her to handle adversity and sharpen problem- solving skills. As a refugee, she possesses flexibility that allows her to easily navigate between cultures; she can find common ground with anyone. Her professional experiences made her quite skillful at multitasking and project management. For the past few years, Victoria has been working at Bilingual International Assistance Services, a non-profit organization in St. Louis, Missouri, that provides mental health and social and legal services to immigrants and refugees.
Even though her professional and personal experiences have provided her ample opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for a role of a Delegate to Refugee Congress, Victoria’s motive for becoming a part of the Refugee Congress was quite personal. Many years ago, her father was not receiving the assistance he needed because of his accent, but when her father stood up for himself, Victoria realized that a lot of people misunderstand something crucial about immigrants and refugees: just because someone does not speak English does not mean she or he is unintelligent or simple-minded. This is exactly why she wanted to become a Delegate.
“I am proud to be a part of the team of dedicated individuals that empowers new immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with information, resources and support, and with respect to their basic human dignity.” –Victoria Barmak