First-Gen Stole Contest: Roseanne Gorelik

First-generation student, Roseanne Gorelik, standing proudly with her first-gen stole.
Photo: Daniel Oberbauer

Roseanne Gorelik '19

Cognitive Science 

Us: In Poems

The Mother

I look into her eyes and try to see
And understand
The hardships she has faced.
I look into her eyes and see
The warmth and humor and personality
That they couldn’t destroy.
I watch as my mother discovers work
Work where she uses her second language to her advantage.
Work, with all its challenges
Work, that she and I would collaborate
Back and forth as she wrote
As I revised.
So I praise my mother,
Who works full-time just to come and take care of the house and family.
For my mother,
Who worked desperately to come to America
To find a place for her and her family.
Where the children weren’t being called Kikes
Or receiving notes in their lockers telling them to go home-
When they had never set foot onto Israel in the first place.

The Father

I look at my father and try to read him.
His past a secret
For only the family to know.
But, his story is one of hardships.
Fleeing from Ukraine with only his father in tow,
Leaving my grandmother, aunt, and newborn cousin to fend.
His past includes crime and loss
But with my mother, a new beginning.
So looking into my father,
I cannot allow frustration to set in
Every time he asks for help on his iPhone.
I watch as he drives a taxi cab for the last 19 years of my life,
And has suffered more pain than I could have imagined,
To provide for his family.
I cannot ask him for help
when he works from 6am until 1am the next morning.
I cannot ask him for help
on the next day while he tries to catch up on sleep and rest.
However, I cannot blame him either.

The Eldest

Older than me,
By 17 years,
My brother has suffered.
His own demons, along with the ones this world has to offer,
Have taken him hostage
More times than I can recount.
I watch him
While he walks in his own darkness,
Trying to remember what it was like
When that darkness was replaced by light.
I watch and see
How I have had more opportunities.
How we have both struggled,
But differently.
I had to bare the weight of expectations on my shoulders,
However, he had to bare the expectation of failure on his.

The Middle

Older than me by 11 years,
And when I see my brother,
I see the potential that was stripped from him,
Because he didn’t have an opportunity.
Not like me.
Smart doesn’t describe him.
Ingenious will do.
That’s the kind of man he is.
Without graduating high school,
Without going to college,
My brother has bared the weight.
Parenting me when they’re unavailable.
Trying to help when he could,
But with a decade apart,
The duties fell to him.
He carries the secrets of the past
That my family feels they must not express.
He carries that knowledge
Of the people we are surrounded by,
And he must utilize that knowledge
To protect everyone.

The Youngest

I look into her eyes
And I see the warmth of her mother’s,
The rough past of her father’s
The demon’s of the eldest’s
And the duties of the middle’s.
I look into her eyes and I see the last.
The last chance.
The last child.
The last hope.
I turn away from the mirror.
I am the last, the youngest,
And the one with the most to gain along with the most to lose.
First to graduate high school.
First to graduate college.
The chance to immortalize my name.
To create a future that my family will be proud of.
Because, in the end,
The long nights working, the stress, and the worry,
Is a thank you.
A thank you to my parents for all of their long nights working.
For all the stress that they have had to endure,
And for all the worrying that they have gone through.
At least with me,
I know they have my back.
Because, even if they can’t help with homework.
Even if English is not their first language.
Even if they’re immigrants.
My family will never stop trying to support and help me
In their own way.
Which is the true testament of family.
And the only reason why I got into college.
The only reason why I made it through college.
The only reason I will be walking to receive my diploma.
Is for them.


About the Author:

Both of my parents emigrated from Odessa, Ukraine in the 70s to escape persecution of the Jews. I have two older brothers but am the first in my family to graduate high school, let alone attend and graduate a four year university. I've attended UC Davis for all four years of college and plan to continue towards Law School in the hopes of becoming an attorney. 

At the end of my freshman year, I took a first-year seminar course called "Mental Health in the Academy Awards." College was difficult and I was debating transferring or postponing college, but that course and Dr. Follet were eye-openers for me that kept me going. To this day, I claim it to be my favorite course I ever took in Davis.