In 1990 eight-year-old Victoria Glazomitsky stepped off a plane at Kennedy Airport with her mother and father, her paternal grandmother and grandfather and her three-year-old brother, Misha.
They were immigrating from what was still the Soviet Union. Her grandmother didn’t want to leave. But everyone else did, including her father, who as an engineer could surely get employment in the US.
He would finally. But for two years the Glazomitsky family lived on food stamps and welfare. They struggled to learn English. They depended on a family member who had come earlier. They moved around. Victoria and Misha went to school. The family finally could support themselves. The grandmother gradually lost her nostalgia for her homeland. They all became citizens.
In one way, Victoria’s story is like all immigrant stories—a hope for a better life, a long journey, a struggle to fit into an unfamiliar country, and eventual success, especially for the generations following.
But it is also her unique story. What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than by telling an immigrant’s story. After all, unless we are descended from the First Peoples in North America, we all have one, even if that immigration was forced upon us, as it was for so many Africans.
Victoria said she has achieved success in America because of good mentors and good luck. It’s possible, however, that her drive, persistence and determination to do well also helped her. But again, that is a typical immigrant’s story.
Victoria was a good student interested in art and art history, so when she enrolled at UMass Boston, that’s what she studied. She also was good at math, a native Russian speaker and believed she had a knack for business, so she also majored in International Management.
She caught the attention of Professor Paul Tucker, a renowned art historian, who became one of her important mentors.
After college, with financial stability as a goal, Victoria first went into the insurance world. After a couple of years, she knew it wasn’t for her. Professor Tucker helped her sort things out and steered her to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln. At first she was an assistant to the director, but when the 2008 recession hit, the deCordova had to let several staff members go. Victoria took over their duties.
At first, it was a burden of more work and sorrow at the loss of co-workers who were also friends. Later, though, she realized that learning everyone else’s job and steering the complex projects other staff members have formerly managed gave her valuable experiences.
After about five years Victoria confided to the director that, having learned what she could there, she planned to move on. Before she could start a job search, however, the director himself found her a new job.
He had been at a conference with the director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. PEM’s director had a number of projects in his expanding museum that had no supervision. He needed someone who could take them over, even though some were still amorphous. The deCordova Museum director said, “I’ve got the perfect person for you.”
Victoria attributes that career builder to the luck of having her director sit next to the PEM director. Maybe.
During her three years at PEM, Victoria acquired a friend who would become her husband and a future stepdaughter. She and her stepdaughter often traipsed around Boston’s museums. One day in the fall of 2014, they stepped into the Nichols House Museum on Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill. They enjoyed their visit, and the docent told them about the upcoming house tour in December that the musuem has annually sponsored. She couldn’t remember the details, however.
Victoria looked up the house tour online and had good luck again. She found on the web site that the Nichols House was looking for a new director to replace Flavia Cigliano, who was retiring after 16 years at the small museum’s helm. Victoria applied and got the job.
Now with her Russian origin masked by her flawless, unaccented English and her husband Todd McKay’s last name, Victoria is moving on, too soon as she puts it, since she intended to stay at the Nichols House Museum at least five years.
She’ll become the managing director of advancement at the Boston Society of Architects Foundation. This job will help solidify her fund-raising skills.
It’s curious about immigrants. Soon they become so American that their talents and accomplishments mean that no one thinks about their more complicated story than those of the native-born.
Nichols House Museum President Kate Enroth’s comments reflect that.
“We are sorry to have Victoria leaving the Nichols House Museum,” said Enroth. “She had great ideas for new programs and events that brought attention to the museum. Most importantly, she led us in the final steps to gaining the significant honor of accreditation by the national American Alliance of Museums. We wish her well in the next stage of her career.”
Downtown View is a column by newspaperwoman Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Karen now works from her home in downtown Boston and blogs at BostonColumn.com. Please feel free to leave responses in the comments section below.