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Alena, Russia

Alena is a small business owner, jewelry designer, and genderqueer lesbian from Tatarstan, Russia. When they came to the United States in 2009 in search of freedom, openness, and safety, they didn’t have any money, had little education, and did not speak much English; but with Immigration Equality’s help they were granted asylum. After receiving her green card, Alena started her own jewelry business, which today employs 8 people and creates jewelry from 100% reclaimed gold. Last summer, Alena became a U.S. citizen. “The day I took my oath, I felt like the heaviest weight was lifted—it felt like freedom.”

Photo credit: Steven Laxton, stevenlaxton.com