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A Russian immigrant finds her home in Va.'s arts scene

By Suzzone McAfee, Howard University News Service
On March 21, 2018

Anna Yakubovskaya moved to Alexandria, Va., 21 years ago. She did not plan to be a permanent resident in America.

Her husband got an IT job in Northern Virginia, so she moved here with her three children temporarily. After a divorce, she ended up staying here for good. Because of her art background and her three children she learned to survive as a new immigrant in America.

Yakubovskaya was born in St Petersburg, Russia, and the arts have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. She attended an art high school and then later got a degree in industry design at St. Petersburg Art and Industry Academy.

After getting her degree, she taught art classes at a bilingual school for Russians. At this school, Yakubovskaya taught elementary age and middle school age students.

Being an artist is most important to Yakubovskaya now that she is living in the U.S. She always wanted to be an artist and wants people to see her as an artist, but life was somewhat different in Russia.

“Being a mother was most important growing up in Russia,” Yakubovskaya said. “It was like being cool, very honorable and all of my friends wanted to have children, so when I was a teenager, I had my first child.”

“Working was not important in Russia like the U.S., where career is very important to a woman. Women in the U.S. feel like a loser if they do not have a career,” Yakubovskaya continued.

“But now all of my children are grown up, and I am very proud of them. The oldest child, my son has a master’s degree and is working. My second child a son is a firefighter, and my youngest daughter is in college in Canada.”

Life in the U.S. was not always comfortable. Yakubovskaya was depressed and missed her friends and family in Russia. But, once she started focusing on art, she said she was able to get over her homesickness.

“Trying to make a living on art is very hard. You must promote yourself through pictures by way of the internet,” Yakubovskaya said. “My ex-husband still helps out some, so life is not as hard.”

“I do earn large commission on my wearable artwork. I make from $100 to $500 for scarfs. I recently won a prize for one of my paintings at the Mosaic in Fairfax, Va. But painting is not my main sources of income, wearable art is.”

Yakubovskaya said, “My motto is for people to look gorgeous. I like silk a lot, and it is very sensual and transforming on people. If a woman dresses like a goddess, she will become a goddess.”

“My main goal is to make life more beautiful, more beautiful and joyful. My main focus now is promoting my art through Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram and of course through the internet.”

“I am more joyful now, and I am not afraid anymore. I am open and kind and much more social. Thanks to the Torpedo Factory, which helped me feel a sense of community in Alexandria.”

The Torpedo Factory, where Yakubovskay’s studio is has been around for over 40 years. It has over 160 artists and 82 studios with seven galleries.

Ezgi Kaya a volunteer at the Torpedo Factory commented “Ever since I was a volunteer here, I have been able to see most of the artist come and go, and most of them are very friendly. They come to talk to me, and I have a good relationship with them. So, yea that’s true we are a community.”

Yakubovskaya went on to say one last thing to new immigrants, “You are unique in this country. You feel unique, and you have [a] uniqueness to offer others.”

 

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