BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — Much Thanksgiving lore is built around stories of newcomers like the Pilgrims, who hundred of years ago were gratified with the opportunity to settle in the “new world.”
Numerous modern-day Newburyport-area residents also left their original homelands and were themselves newcomers to this region.
They have memories of their decision to come to a different country and feelings about making a new life here.
The following area residents agreed to be interviewed about their lives in the U.S. and, during Thanksgiving week, offered their thoughts on settling in a country far away from their original homes.
All have been successful as merchants and businesspeople and have developed active family and community lives here.
NEWBURYPORT — When Inessa Veber is serving customers at The Grog restaurant, visitors noting an accent guess she is from Italy or Spain or Brazil.
But the blue-eyed, raven-haired Veber is from Russia and she is crafting a life on the North Shore in part because there are more opportunities here than in her home country.
She is working full-time and also studying, but the energetic newcomer is upbeat about persevering in America.
“To get ahead in my country, you need to know the right people,” said Veber, 24, who works as a bartender and part-time manager at the popular restaurant. “If you want to go to college in Russia, you have to pay someone just to be able to apply.
“Here this is more opportunity. It hasn’t been easy for me, coming here alone, but I can see a good future.”
Veber’s mother is a doctor and her father an engineer. She was a law student in her home city of Astrakan (near Moscow) when she applied for a student-exchange program in the U.S.
She came to southern New Hampshire in 2008. To support herself, she worked in restaurants in Hampton, N.H.. Then friends steered her to Newburyport.
She is studying criminal justice at North Shore Community College, though she is starting college over due to academic requirements.
“In Russia you go from high school to law school,” said Veber, who now speaks excellent English. “So here I will have to get my college degree and then start law school.
“What I learned about law in Russia would not help me here. The legal systems are so different.”
Veber, whose father was German, is an only child. She came to this country alone, but many Americans have reached out to aid her in adjustment. Still, she recalls that her first months were difficult.
Her parents were reluctant to see their daughter go so far away, and she did not have family or friends waiting when she arrived.
“I was scared when I got here,” she said. “I had studied English, but I really didn’t know the language.
“There were no friends or family here when I arrived, but people helped me. Many people, especially in Newburyport, have been kind and helpful.”
Veber returned home in May for the first time to visit family and friends, but because the trip takes 23 hours, it is a journey she won’t often take.
She recalls it was a joyful reunion. Nevertheless, she returned to Newburyport with a conviction to continue her life in America.
Veber is making plans to transfer to Bunker Hill Community College, and there she plans to continue studying so she can attend law school here with the intention of practicing immigration law.
“When I arrived in America, I didn’t expect to stay,” said Veber, who admits to her share of ambition. “But there are opportunities here that I wouldn’t have in Russia, so I am going to keep going.”