Has anyone ever read the story of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google? It is a story that definitely reminds you of why the US, with all its problems, still represents a land of opportunity. I do not mean to start a conversation about US, or patriotism, but rather just wanted to mention that his story really did make me think that. So lets take a look at "his story," and not google's bc that I already mentioned in Larry Page's profile card (www.vingle.net/posts/252653).
In 1979, when Brin was 6 years old, his family felt compelled to emigrate to the United States. In an interview with Mark Malseed, co-author of The Google Story, Sergey's father explains how he was "forced to abandon his dream of becoming an astronomer even before he reached college". Michael Brin claims Communist Party heads barred Jews from upper professional ranks by denying them entry to universities, as Jews were excluded from the physics departments in particular. Michael Brin therefore changed his major to mathematics where he received nearly straight A's. He said, "Nobody would even consider me for graduate school because I was Jewish." According to Brin, at Moscow State University, Jews were required to take their entrance exams in different rooms than non-Jewish applicants and they were marked on a harsher scale.
The Brin family lived in a three-room apartment in central Moscow, which they also shared with Sergey's paternal grandmother. Brin told Malseed, "I've known for a long time that my father wasn't able to pursue the career he wanted", but Brin only picked up the details years later after they had settled in the United States. He learned that in 1977, after his father returned from a mathematics conference in Warsaw, Poland, he announced that it was time for the family to emigrate. "We cannot stay here any more", he told his wife and mother. At the conference, he was able to "mingle freely with colleagues from the United States, France, England and Germany and discovered that his intellectual brethren in the West were not 'monsters.'" He added, "I was the only one in the family who decided it was really important to leave."
Sergey's mother was less willing to leave their home in Moscow, where they had spent their entire lives. Malseed writes, "For Genia, the decision ultimately came down to Sergey. While her husband admits he was thinking as much about his own future as his son's, for her, 'it was 80/20' about Sergey." They formally applied for their exit visa in September 1978, and as a result his father was "promptly fired". For related reasons, his mother also had to leave her job. For the next eight months, without any steady income, they were forced to take on temporary jobs as they waited, afraid their request would be denied as it was for many refuseniks. During this time his parents shared responsibility for looking after him and his father taught himself computer programming. In May 1979, they were granted their official exit visas and were allowed to leave the country. At an interview in October 2000, Brin said, "I know the hard times that my parents went through there and am very thankful that I was brought to the States."
In the summer of 1990, a few weeks before his 17th birthday, his father led a group of high school math students, including Sergey, on a two-week exchange program to the Soviet Union. As Brin recalls, the trip awakened his childhood fear of authority and he remembered that "his first impulse on confronting Soviet oppression had been to throw pebbles at a police car". Malseed adds, "On the second day of the trip, while the group toured a sanitarium in the countryside near Moscow, Brin took his father aside, looked him in the eye and said, 'Thank you for taking us all out of Russia.'"
That last sentence really reminds me of how I felt when I remembered the troubles my parents went through to get me to the US. A tale of how parents are willing to sacrifice everything for their kids, and how sometimes those kids pay them back double for their effort.