Nikolay Bozu has no respect for people who live in the United States and don’t learn English.
“I love my (native) country and my language,” he says, forcing his brain to think in English rather than his native Romanian. “But we came here and this is an English-language country. We need to learn English.”
His wife, Svetlana, agrees but says Kootenai County could do more to help foreigners survive.
A friendly driver’s licensing examiner helped the couple understand the driver’s test and get the licenses that allowed them to drive to English classes and jobs.
“You need to have a job and you need a driver’s license to get a job,” Svetlana says. “But the test is in English.”
Language is an issue that’s plagued the Bozus for a lifetime. Their home in Moldova was Romanian until Russians took over half of it in 1940. From then on, Russian was the official language for all public business.
Nikolay and Svetlana were raised speaking Romanian at home and, half-heartedly, Russian everywhere else. Their two children also speak both languages.
In 1992, after the Iron Curtain parted, the couple followed relatives to Post Falls.
“I knew two English words,” Nikolay says. “Good-day and good-bye.”
Svetlana had worked as a bookkeeper and her husband as an economist in Moldova. Both have college degrees.
In Post Falls, it took them three months to learn enough English to apply for work. They found jobs cleaning hotel rooms until school janitorial positions opened.
The worst is over now, they say. They’ve bought a tidy little house in Post Falls. Their English improves every day. Nikolay would like a job more suited to his education, but knows his English holds him back. That’s why he’ll make sure his son masters the language.
“For me, it’s not possible to do much more,” he says. “I don’t look for my future but for the future of my son.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo