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I'm five years old, and I am very proud. My father has just built the best outhouse in our little village in Ukraine. Inside, it's a smelly, gaping hole in the ground, but outside, it's pearly white formica and it literally gleams in the sun. This makes me feel so proud, so important, that I appoint myself the leader of my little group of friends and I devise missions for us. So we prowl from house to house looking for flies captured in spider webs and we set them free. Four years earlier, when I was one, after the Chernobyl accident, the rain came down black, and my sister's hair fell out in clumps, and I spent nine months in the hospital. There were no visitors allowed, so my mother bribed a hospital worker. She acquired a nurse's uniform, and she snuck in every night to sit by my side. Five years later, an unexpected silver lining. Thanks to Chernobyl, we get asylum in the U.S. I am six years old, and I don't cry when we leave home and we come to America, because I expect it to be a place filled with rare and wonderful things like bananas and chocolate and Bazooka bubble gum, Bazooka bubble gum with the little cartoon wrappers inside, Bazooka that we'd get once a year in Ukraine and we'd have to chew one piece for an entire week. So the first day we get to New York, my grandmother and I find a penny in the floor of the homeless shelter that my family's staying in. Only, we don't know that it's a homeless shelter. We think that it's a hotel, a hotel with lots of rats. 

Tania Luna  2012

(TED Talk)

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