The Page About Freedom, Sitting on a Sidewalk, and the Ultimate Unknown (feat. Yeliena Theofilatos)

Episode 75

Imagine getting a little taste of freedom – being on your own, making your own decisions, doing anything you want, not having anyone looking over your shoulder. And it all tastes so good that you decide, “I want more of it! I am ready for it!” 

But the Universe has an interesting sense of humor. And before you know it, you find yourself sitting on a sidewalk in a foreign country, and your suitcase is standing next to you, and you have no clue what you’re going to do next from this point on.

Sounds too intense to be true? 

In this episode, I am joined by Yeliena Theofilatos, and this is exactly what happened to her a month and a half after she and her friend came to Brooklyn NY as students for the summer.

Are you curious about what happened, how this story ended, and what Yeliena learned from it? Let’s dive in!

Tune in on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or continue reading.


Yeliena: So let me bring you to the sidewalk in Brooklyn, New York, 2010.

My friend and I, my best friend at that time, are sitting there. We are young students from Russia who came for the summer and we have our suitcase next to us and we have no clue what we’re going to do next from this point on. We’re a month and a half in New York City and we barely know anyone.

And before I get into what happened after that, and the gist of what I got out of that super uncertain, super anxiety provoking situation at that time (that I’m laughing at right now, but then it was a huge and big deal for me to go through), I want to bring you just about a couple of weeks prior to that so you know how we end up there and what happened next.

So, we came to New York, as I said, as students just for the summer for a work and study exchange program where we’re supposed to go back to school, study our finance and banking that we both secretly hated, but didn’t tell anyone just between each other. So here we are renting an apartment that our friend found us in Coney Island in Brooklyn. And I don’t know if you are familiar with Brooklyn and Coney Island, it’s not exactly the most affluent area of Brooklyn. There is a mixture of like African American population with some Russians in there mixed in. But there were some people of our culture there, but rarely far and few in between, so we definitely stood out. It’s just to give it a bit of a backdrop.

So, our friend found us an apartment with a Russian lady who would go away for a couple of weeks at a time, being like a living in aid someplace else, come back, stay a couple of days, she’s gone. We were so happy with that arrangement. We wouldn’t see her, until one day my friend was at work and I was just like prepping up for something, coming out of the shower and hearing really loud noises by our door. And we are in one of those projects, basically, maybe like a 10th floor or something. And I have no idea what’s going on. I have no one around me that I know. So I, of course, I’m thinking of the worst.

And with my limited English that I had then, I started panicking because, I’m panicking, I’m standing in this moment, in a towel in front of the door, and started cursing those people out. Yeah, I knew, I guess, some, uh, English curse words, um, more than I knew English. And they were trying to explain to me what they’re doing, and I’m just, like, panicking. And I, I don’t understand what they’re saying, plus I’m panicking, like, not making matters easier for myself.

The next thing I know, they start drilling the place where you put the key in from the outside. And I see those screws coming out and start falling, dropping on the floor, and I’m just panicking so much more because like, what the hell is going on? Am I gonna die right now?

So they opened the door and there were like a couple of people in uniforms and the next thing I learned is that those are marshals (that I didn’t know who they were at that time because again I was brand new into the country). And our, uh, lady who was renting us the apartment was not only renting it out illegally because it’s public housing. Of course we have no idea what it was about because again we didn’t know, plus she was not paying her rent.

So they were there to evict her but instead they had me in a towel standing barely understanding what they’re saying and they gave me 15 minutes to get ready and get out. And I was just grabbing whatever of my own stuff that I could see, calling my friend, trying to figure out where she keeps her, like, money, paperwork, whatever, the most important stuff.


Listen to the full story on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Until next time,

Olena xx

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