Story #3
About me
A journey into the past
Hello there. My name is Irina Glik and I am about to get personal here.

The only daughter of Ukrainian mother and Belorussian father, I was born in Russia and grew up in an independent Ukraine and came of age in the post-Soviet Kyiv. Five years ago I moved to the United States to live and work.

My first interviews in the US didn't go well because I asked my interviewers to write down their questions so I would answer them. Time passed by, I gained more confidence and some find that I speak with charmingly broken Irish accent.

Yet picking up the phone still takes a Herculean effort: I rehearse what I need to say a thousand times, dial with a snaky hands and get panicky feeling in my chest when I hear a ring on the other end.

This is why I always admired the setting of a center for digitization – located deep down in a basement, with a thick walls, no window and no reception.

I also love humor: the caption on my T-shirt claims that I am a"non-essential employee of the month".
A truth to be told I chose archives as career because they bring this sense of neat, well arranged place for an outsider. And the smells of books. Feeling of control, if you wish. Oh boy, I needed that.
Majored in law and in photography I found my path in the field of archival digitization which often includes taking a physical object or analog item, from a collection that is usually extremely fragile, and taking photographs of the item, and transferring the photographs to a digital medium.

Having previously worked with special collections, my background includes experience in cataloging, digitization, handling and care of special collections materials of noted American screenwriter Lawrence Schiller, Free Library of Philadelphia and collections of office of University Architect of University of Pennsylvania.
Here is a glimpse of what it is like here in the center for digitization.
My occupation gave me an immense opportunity to work in-depth and care for the unique collections materials in a modern way, which is exciting. Here is a glimpse of what it is like here in the center for digitization.

In the last years I began to write about things I was witnessing, job experiences and combined it with my prints. Viewing always all my work as "in-progress" I did not pursue "gallery" representation. Rather, I viewed my processes as well as immigration as private and wanted to safeguard them.

Today I want to change that.

I strongly believe that my experiences (either approaching a fragile rare object in lab or applying for a new job) are universal, and therefore can be shared.

Today I want to talk about what stages I went through in search of personal independence in the States and where I was staying on the way.

Some people redefining themselves in another country through roots, through a common past. I've started to deal with self-identification through work.

Let me tell you how it felt.
Preservation phase
I woke up in the basement of a two-story brick house in Philadelphia, and saw huge tomatoes growing in the yard and someone else's barbecue smoking. People who I don't know let us stay over for a few weeks until we get our own place.

Considering that I grew up in Kyiv, the capital, and my family house nest was located on the corner of Bolshaya Vasilkovskaya and Saksagansky Street (the last floor, windows to the yard, and in the yard — Republican, now Olympic, stadium) you can imagine my feelings.

I was in shock.

Back in Kyiv I went to work by foot, strolling around Golden Gates, and here on the road there was not even a normal roadside to walk.

Instead of green at a traffic light lights up white.

Instead of crows, Canadian geese.

Even Zhenya, who lived most of his life in the States, went to school in Philadelphia, with all his work experience and profession, was a little confused after years of living with me in Ukraine; but this is not my story, so I'll write about myself.

I wanted to pretend that nothing happened.

Nothing has changed.

It's still the same.

In writing classes, writer Jim Hull teaches that a character stuck in preservation mode will not do anything beyond what it takes to get things back the way it was.

I couldn't get my routinely view of the center city or the have another chat during break with my colleagues from previous job in Ukraine...Oh well, I couldn't even get a coffee, my glorious English just disappeared, or my voice went down, but I could do was keep going in and out as nothing had happened.

I could spend the rest of my money on clothes I didn't need.

On food I didn't know how to cook (sweet potatoes and fiber squash).

I mean, it's gonna be okay.

I'm sure.

And confidence affects the future.
It is not based on prediction, but on past experience. This is not an assessment of the current situation, but a positive assessment of how everything is going to work.

Great support in unknown situations, it sort of undermines the motivation to prepare for surprises.
If in the past even the most formidable events have ended well, it is possible to ignore potential danger, right?

Even if it turns out to be real?
I see a confirmation of this in history over and over again, like when Pompeii's people stayed in their homes, while Vesuvius was “sending signals" for the hundredth time.

In my case it was my wallet sending signals.
I was out of money.
My money ran out and I ran into the inaction phase.
Inaction phase
The best way to describe my emotional state at that time is to quote a passage from Mikhail Idov's book "Coffee Grinder."

"The first sign that your actions are bad is when you start the ATM hide-and-seek games begin. When you refuse to check the balance in the account or doing it so quickly, as in if you will not see it, that will make your resources endless. When every attempt to remove a three-digit amount equals to a roulette game: lucky me today or not?"

Don't take me wrong, I wasn't starving or anything, I just wanted to be financially independent. On my own.

Things were bad, and I wasn't well either.

I couldn't find a common language with the locals.
I didn't want to talk to anyone.

But the problem was, to experience my powers in another country was my conscious decision and no one to blame for the consequences.

At the same time, I wasn't eager to make progress, rather trying to remove the symptoms. So for me that would mean being busy and among people - hence I volunteered to an art gallery.

And that was my good luck.

It wasn't just any gallery in Philadelphia. It was “the gallery".

The Print Center.

More then hundred years ago in 1915 on Latimer Street in Philadelphia was established one of the first clubs on photographs and prints in the country. This is where Mary Cassat and Pablo Picasso were displayed, and Ansel Adams, Walker Evans. Part of its image collection is transmitted to the art museum, somethings are in the archives of the Pennsylvan Academy of Arts.

The institution is creating strong multidisciplinary programs. It does free lectures from local or invited artists and visits to their studio and an annual international competition.

And it was important to me that the gallery is one of the few where not only recent grads are allowed to do internships, but also people who have already have had work exp(like me).

So I could intern and think about my situation.

I didn't want to go the road that everyone advised.

I didn't want to become paralegal and start doing everything that you don't want to do as a licensed lawyer (it’s good path to digital asset manager position though).

I didn't want to go into the commercial photo industry.

I did not want to earn on my immigration story.

I didn't want to take debt to get another degree (how will I pay back?).

You might think I didn't know what I wanted, no, actually, I did. I didn't want to believe I could get what I wanted.

In the book called “Dare to dream" one of the characters named Jesse, didn't know what to do with her life and her only wish was to run a dog race. Friends were surprised by her desire, but they supported it.

After the race, Jesse made a huge shift and decided she wanted another thing to do. That is to quit her job.

To rock yourself to change, you have to challenge yourself first.

Barbara, the writer of the book I quote, says, "No one in the group thought that Jesse was not ready to leave ungrateful work and go out to the big world until she overcome another big challenge. But the "animal" inside her knew about it."

Three months later, animal inside me made its jump - I asked for a salary.

There was a short term need in the gallery and they needed a part-time person.

And now I'm worth ten dollars an hour, a little more than a cup of coffee, I already have the first professional recommendation (which will work more than once in the future) and I'm starting to understand the underlying reasons of my move to the US.
“That's why I'm here!”

To believe I'm worth something outside of my comfort zone.
Reaction phase
New year is sneaking up and the character is changing its approach. The reaction phase is coming. I'm not trying to act like nothing happened or I can't change anything. My goal is to attack the source of problems which is lack of experience in the States. I'm grabbing every chance and Iknow what I want to do - to work in digital collections and with archives. Not with administrative as I did back Kyiv, but with historically important, rare, in the context of cultural heritage.

I'm starting to get hired, recommended, and gradually, check by a check, case by a case, in the industry that's where the I filled with joy, I'm starting to believe I can handle all the difficulties.

Now I won't wait for anything to happen or happen. Instead, I'll initiate my actions and think what else I can do on the way.
Action phase
My office is located at the depth of good five meters at the end of a large, neutral grey colored room, the new center for digitization of the central city library of Philadelphia.

I'm sitting very deep underground and sweeping the floor with a broom.
Preparing the room for the installation of new equipment.

I'm dusting off the table.
I'm bringing boxes.

At the moment there's no women in Ukraine who have been certified to work with camera I am about to use for processing special collections.

There's a box of daggerotypes and tintypes on the desk, there are catalogue cards and microscope. And I have a cat, and my favorite bar, and a mailbox and a cold summer.

I'm still getting lost. The other day instead of East Falls Station, I went to Elkins Park. It's okay. I will pave the way to my place.

Luckily we choose the route ourselves.

P.S. then 2020 happened and I started the therapy.