Life After the Lottery


Click to see this article as featured in the Winter 2014 Issue of Florida Russian Lifestyle MagazineThe Immigration Act of 1990 created a diversity visa lottery to encourage legal immigration to the United States. The program was meant to address the needs of countries that are less represented in overall applicants. This inludes many of the post Soviet and European countries.

Each year up to 50,000 diversity visa’s, that include a permanant residence status, are awarded to applicants and their spouces or children. The process is challenging, highly competitive, with small windows for filing applications and often requires more than one attempt for success.

But what happens after you “win” and get your diversity visa? Is it all a fariy tail or can people really migrate to the United States and build a happy life?

We sat down with 3 Russian speaking lottery winners, who have come from different East European cities and settled in the state of Florida. They agreed to share their experiences, expectations and realities for our readers.


Dima & Olga Shyshkin

Origin: Current Residence: Arrived in USA: Status:
Rovno, Ukraine Clearwater, FL February 2011 Married
Applied for Visa: Occupation: Education: Map
2 Times Software Engineer University
Click For Map

When Dima Shyshkin learned he had won the diversity Visa lottery, he kept calm and began planning for his new life in the United States. It was only when he saw the visa stamped in his passport that he realized; this was actually going to happen.

Dima along with his wife Olga, found support and encouragement from their friends and family as they prepared to travel to the United States. Unlike others who had to struggle with naysayers and negative responses, their families were European minded and saw this as a strategic move that made sense. Dima completed all the paperwork and documentation himself, often researching forums for guidance and details. (Many successful diversity visa holders share their experiences online, offering tips for those considering the life changing experience.)

The motivation for seeking life in the US began in childhood as Dima explained, “I had always dreamed of living in an English speaking country. As I grew older it was more of a goal than a dream and I took steps to make it happen.” Although he had seen several American TV shows, it was a Russian documentary about life in the US, Одноэтажная Америка, that inspired him to complete the process and apply.
Arriving in Florida, their choice for making a future life, they quickly began connecting with online friends that they had contacted in advance to secure housing, work and general bearings. Dima had clearly planned everything in advance, including his practice of English to ensure he would not struggle upon arrival.

“You have to speak with Americans to understand their English; you cannot learn it from a book or even in University.” He insisted as advice for those considering a similar track to life in America. “Don’t think you know it! Watch movies, be proactive and speak online with people who will chat with you to help you improve.”

Dima put his University degree to good use, and after trying a few different jobs in software development, he has found happiness as a Quality Assurance Engineer at Clarity Systems in Clearwater, FL. It has been 3 years since he and his wife arrived and they have truly assimilated to American life. They travel often and are making plans to return to Ukraine to visit family in the near future.

The success of this couple stems from their efforts ahead of time to prepare before arrival. Prior to landing in Florida, they searched for jobs, posted resumes, practiced English and researched a lot of details to minimize.

They continue to speak with their family in Ukraine almost daily, modern tools such as Skype and text messaging are essentials for staying in touch from such great distances. Dima has also started a YouTube channel where he showcases various things about life in America, from his unique perspective as a new arrival. “I show things that are interesting not only to me, but I know my friends back home would be curious about.” The channel, “The Way Dreams Come True”, is available at this link:



Viktoriia Diakiv

Origin: Current Residence: Arrived in USA: Status:
Lviv, Ukraine Tampa, FL June 2007 Engaged
Applied for Visa: Occupation: Education: Map
2 Times Hospitality Industry University
Click For Map

Viktorria’s comes from a hard working family that wanted the best for their three children. The family was inspired by the new opportunity that was possible in the US after seeing her father’s colleague successfully relocate to the US under the diversity program. In the fall of 2006 her mother completed applications for herself, her husband and Victoriia. Unfortunately in the spring of 2007, they were informed that only Viktoriia’s application had been selected.

Her parents faced a dilemma if they should let their 20 year old daughter move on her own to a strange country. But at the same time they realized this may be the only chance for the family’s future. Vikoriia made the final decision to take on the adventure and move.

Most of her friends were excited for her, but her grandparents and a few aunts were against the idea. Plus she still had three more semesters to complete her Bachelor Degree in Banking, she spoke very little English and had limited work experience. “I had never thought I would move out of Ukraine. I was a full time straight A student with ambition to build a successful career in banking and finance.” She said, “But I was raised to be independent and relay only on hard work. So the move to the US felt like the exploration of new horizons.”

She finished her spring semester and landed at New York’s JFK airport on June 1, 2007. She had $700 in her pocket and had contacted a distant cousin who agreed to help her with housing. She began looking for work immediately and soon was hired as a cashier in an office supply store. By September she had found a room to rent and enrolled herself in English classes. She then became a full time student in the Spring while working two jobs. But her struggles were not in work but in communicating and missing her family, “The biggest challenge was to overcome the language barrier. It took me about two years before I felt comfortable conversing with people.” She said.

Viktoriia finished her education in July, 2009 with a Bachelor Degree in Banking from Lviv Banking University, and in 2011 she graduated from Raritan Valley Community College with Associate Degree in Accounting. She also met her fiancée in 2011 and moved with him to Florida that year.

“I feel very much integrated to life in America.” She adds, “However, I also feel lonely without my family. So, my most important goal is to fulfil the main reason why I moved to the US – to bring my family here, to give them a chance to live the life where they can see the fruits of their hard work, and where their dreams have a better chance to come true.”

Viktoriia’s advice to those considering applying for the diversity visa; “It’s not going to be easy to adjust, there will be struggles, disappointments and you may feel lost and misunderstood. You may even feel like quitting and moving back home. But it will get better, your hard work will pay off. Just stay focused on why you came here.” She credits her success to hard work, wonderful people who have helped her along the way and technology such as Skype that she used to stay connected with my family and friends.



Olga Arabadji

Origin: Current Residence: Arrived in USA: Status:
Kishinev, Moldova Orlando, FL September 2013 Single Mother
Applied for Visa: Occupation: Education: Map
2 Times Entrepreneur University
Click For Map

Olga Arabadji arrived in the Florida in September 2013. Olga had always dreamed of coming to the United States, applying twice before being accepted into the diversity program. But in her mind, she always knew she would get accepted based on her convictions to put thoughts into action.

As a single mother, Olga had many people, including friends; try to talk her out of coming to the US. “Are you crazy?” her best friend asked, when she announced she had won the diversity lottery. But she was undaunted in her decision to go and build a new life for her and her son. She showed him photos of places in Florida, to help him understand what was going to happen. She also researched for many hours about which city would suit her best and finally chose Orlando as her primary destination.

While preparing, she remembers several people commenting that they also wished they had won the diversity program. “But they had not even applied!” she explained, “So many people would talk about their dream, but they never do anything to make it happen.” Olga was determined to make all arrangements by herself, rather than relying on companies that specialize in transitions. She connected with people in Orlando several months prior to her arrival. Her decision to work with informal friends via social media helped her select locations where schools were ideal for her son and living conditions were safe, based on honest feedback from locals. She was also able to anticipate transportation needs, as she did not own a car.

“It’s impossible to look at an address and know if this place or that place is going to suit your needs. Even companies that wanted to provide services to place me in a location, could not give reliable details that a parent needs to know.” She said.

After arriving, she began to build her life in Orlando, including placing her son in school. He had already begun to learn English, and after some adjusting was able to communicate and progress through classes. For her son, living in Orlando was different than in Moldova, the suburban lifestyle was a sharp contrast to typical city life. “He tells my family we live in a village.” She says with a laugh as she describes her apartment complex, “Even though we are in a busy area that is close to everything, there are trees and ponds around us which reminds him of rural Moldova.”

More adjustments were ahead; Olga soon discovered that Americans have a much different method for establishing yourself financially. Being new to the US, she had no credit history, no record of payments or a credit score. This presented problems when attempting to sign lease agreements for housing and other common transactions. “Everywhere I turned, this kept coming up. I didn’t want to borrow money, but they use this score as a validation for renting a home, getting utilities turned on and some companies use it to check out a potential employee.” She said.

Her determination helped her get through the initial challenges, and today she is developing her own company as an entrepreneur. Her advice to people looking to move to the US: “Take an active role in your dream. Don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. Most importanlty, believe you can do it!”

Selections begin for International Peace & Film Festival


Film makers are beginning to receive notifications of selection for the upcoming International Peace & Film Festival, scheduled for November 2015 in Orlando, FL.

Selections will continue through September 15, as the 1000+ submissions from 82 countries are reviewed and ranked. Meanwhile, film makers are taking advantage of the opportunity to show their films beyond the festival, via IPFF-TV the festival’s online channel application. Trailers for selected films will appear along with the Roku device debut set for mid July 2015.

International consulars and embassy posts have also been approached to participate in the festival, as representatives of their country. “The diplomatic response has been very positive, with almost immediate interest in attending due to the connection with international film, audiences and the connecting theme of peace.”, said Jef Gray, IPF Festival director.

Film submissions are open until September 15, as are opportunities for speakers, performers and most importantly, volunteers to assist with the project. Visit the festival website for full details:

International Peace & Film Festival planned for Fall 2015

The Russian-American Community Center of Florida in cooperation with several sponsors is developing a large scale peace & film festival designed to attract a worldwide audience. The event features a unique combination of official and cultural representation along with numerous unexpected highlights.

“This is not a hippie peace festival”, jokes festival chairman, Jef Gray. “It’s designed to enlighten the audience through international film, culture, amazing food and the opportunity to interact with national delegates.”

The festival is segmented into programs as follows:

  • The Hall of Nations – representatives from consulate and embassy posts, along with official delegates will be available to share information about their respective country, answer questions and provide contact information for potential business or tourism opportunities.
  • Film Festival – comprised of Feature, Short, Documentary and Student films from worldwide independent film makers.
  • The International Tasting Room – Travel around the world on a single plate! The tasting room features food samples from culturally relevant establishments in Central Florida. Appetizers, entrée and desserts and drinks will be on hand. A lunch and dinner session will be held.
  • Knowledge Share – Find inspiration from new discoveries and achievements in Agriculture, Health, Education, Science & Technology and International Business. These five tracks of sessions will be presented from industry experts via in person, Skype and white paper formats.
  • Exhibits – The exhibit and vendor area is a hands on exploration for the audience. Interact with vendors, inventors and official companies who are present to share their products and services with the world.
  • Cultural Performances – Discover art, music and dance from around the world through the performance program. Artists will appear on stage or in the crowds throughout the day.
Proposed floor plan for the International Peace Festival

Proposed floor plan for the International Peace & Film Festival


Attendance at the festival is expected to be high and filled with non stop photo opportunities as each person is encouraged to wear their national costume or colors of their flag. Plans are to make admission free or very low cost, with opportunities to upgrade access to featured programs, screenings, access to the tasting room, knowledge sessions and closing performances.

The festival will conclude with awards for film makers, a national costume fashion show, and follow-on mixers.  The location is expected to be in the International Drive area of Orlando, but is subject to change to accommodate crowd size.
Get the latest information about the International Peace Festival from their website:

Online Magazine Adds Real Estate Portal

Florida Russian Lifestyle Magazine has expanded its online web portal to include an inventory of new construction real estate listings along with rental properties in popular cities. The idea came from daily visitors who often inquired about city information, real estate investments and rental homes throughout the state of Florida. The site offers a geographic map search allowing visitors to focus on a specific city for buying or renting properties.


Search Page from Real Estate Section

“We began to see a trend in viewer traffic after the job search program was launched. Suddenly hundreds of people per day were job hunting to either relocate to Florida or find better employment. That drove the need to provide more services to viewers who wanted to also search the housing market.”, said Jef Gray, Publisher of Florida Russian Lifestyle.

While real estate is an existing and dominant market in Florida, the ability to see and compare new homes is often blended with existing construction. This is common for people already living in a specific area but what about those who are relocating, especially from foreign countries. Almost the entire house hunting experience is done online, with limited time to spend looking at properties before buying. This is why most foreign shoppers prefer to focus on new homes because there is a higher level of quality and warranty associated with new construction. New homes are also a better solution when investing as they have a faster rate of valuation.

Florida Russian Lifestyle included basic realty tools to give foreign buyers a sample of typical financing options, along with a valuation program to compare surrounding home values by individual address. Click here to view the Real Estate Section.

Florida Russian Lifestyle Magazine was founded in 2010 by Aurous Publishing. The site and online magazine experience 10,000+ daily page views with readers in 160 countries worldwide.

Community Center Plans Road Rally Tribute for World War II Anniversary

It was almost 70 years ago that Soviet and American troops met near the German city of Torgau. There on the river Elbe, both nations joined together in what would be the turning point of World War II. Within weeks the war was over and victory over the Nazi’s was achieved. While much is known about the famous “May 9 Victory Day”, celebrated en masse throughout Eastern Europe, Elbe day is often a forgotten milestone in the collection of memorable moments of the war.

The Russian-American Community Center of Florida is looking to bring awareness to the significance of Soviet and American forces, fighting alongside each other, to achieve victory. During April 2015, the center along with numerous affiliate groups throughout the state of Florida will sponsor a 1500 mile road rally traveling through cities throughout the state and nation in a motorcade of volunteers.

View of the custom painted lead car in the World War II victory tribute road rally. [Shown Below]

The Rally, will make stops at various points to distribute flyers and honor veterans from post Soviet and American forces. The route includes organized stops in Naples, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Talahassee. While at the state capital, they will lay a wreath at the World War II monument. From there the group continues north to Atlanta, GA where they will meet up with local activists to distribute flyers and show their exhibits. The final leg of the journey continues to Arlington cemetery in Washington, DC.

A special ceremony will take place at Arlington, and the group will be there to lay another wreath at the Spirit of the Elbe plaque. Many World War II veterans will be in attendance, including some from Florida. The rally will conclude at the Russian Embassy where a special reception has been arranged via the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

“The timeliness of remembering the joint victory of our joint nation’s heroes is clearly relevant when the media is constantly advocating a sense of mistrust between our nations.” said Jef Gray, President of the Russian-American Community Center. “Surely, we can look back at our veterans who worked together against fascism and realize the value and necessity of continued partnership.”

Look for rally stops near your location via the planned route below:

Location Place and Address Date and Time Event
Naples, FL Liberty Plaza.

4947 Tamiami Trail North

Naples, Florida 34103


Event 11:30 – 12:30

Begin convoy of automobiles South-East  for Miami

Road Rally opening ceremony.

Procession of cars, mini-concert, mobile photo exhibition

Hollywood, FL Europa Gourmet Plaza

1422 S. Federal Hwy

Hollywood, FL 33020.


Event 15:00-16:00

Convoy of automobiles on A1A road through the cities of greater Miami

Procession of cars, mini-concert, mobile photo exhibition
Hallandale, FL Moving on Road A1A 04/18/2015 16:15 Procession of Cars, Spirit Rally
Aventura, FL Moving on Road A1A 04/18/2015 16:30 Procession of Cars, Spirit Rally
Sunny Isles Beach, FL Moving on Road A1A 04/18/2015 16:45 Procession of Cars, Spirit Rally
North Miami Beach, FL Moving on Road A1A 04/18/2015 17:00 Procession of Cars, Spirit Rally
Winter Park, FL Russian-American Center

2054 State Road 436

Winter Park, FL 32792


Event  11:30 – 13:00

Festival with

“Military Field Ration” tasting.

Orlando, FL Downtown Orlando

Kinneret Assembly Hall

515 Delaney Ave

Orlando, FL 32801

04/19/2015 14:00- 16:00 Gala-Concert
Orlando, FL Ararat Restaurant

7540 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819

04/19/2015 16:30 – 20:00 Reception

“Veteran’s Party”

St.-Petersburg Florida Holocaust Museum

55 5th Street

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

04/20/2015 13:00 Meeting  with US veterans
St.-Petersburg Russian-American Club

2920 Beach Blvd. South

Saint Petersburg, FL 33707


Event  17:00 – 19:00

Commemoration meeting in honor of the  WWII victims
Clearwater, FL St. Pete Clearwater Airport 04/21/2015 20:00 Meeting with WWII veterans- participants of “Honor Flight” Program
Tallahassee, FL Florida World War II Memorial

500 S. Bronough St,

Tallahassee, FL 32399

04/22/2015 14:00 – 14:30 Wreath-laying ceremony at WWII Monument
Atlanta, GA Downtown Atlanta

33 Carnegie Way

Atlanta, GA 30303

04/22/2015 20:00- 20:30 Procession of cars, mobile photo exhibition
Sandy Springs, GA Russian School of Atlanta

1120 Hope Road

Sandy Springs, GA 30350

04/23/2015 9:00 – 10:30 Meeting with Soviet Veterans, mini-concert, mobile photo exhibition, breakfast with veterans.
Arlington, VA Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington, Virginia 22211

04/24/2015 10:00 Wreath-laying ceremony at the “Spirit of the Elbe” plaque
Washington, DC Embassy of the

Russian Federation

2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20007

04/24/2015 12:00 Official reception