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a Profile of Anastasia Titarchuk

The year is 1989. As the sun sets, the sparkling cerulean sky turns to charcoal. Rusting old lanterns surround the overcrowded marketplace, giving off a subtle glow to the cobbled streets of Warsaw, Poland. There’s a cacophony of sounds and display; it’s a medley of tourists adorned in swanky clothing, chortling about the bargains they negotiated ad nauseam, and vivid signs advertising McDonald’s dispersed around. To 11-year-old Anastasia Titarchuk, the effect is wondrous. It’s the antithesis of her hometown on the outskirts of Moscow, which feels monochromatic by comparison. Despite the Soviet’s influence in Poland at this time, the ingression of capitalism was on the horizon which imparts Nadia with the indulgences of Western culture – and she’s enthralled.

Fast-forward 32 years, the Soviet Union has fallen, and Western culture has spread worldwide. Titarchuk is now an American citizen, residing in NYC and the chief operating officer at one of America’s largest public pension funds. “I am who I am today because of the choices I made when I came to America. My tenacious adherence to education served as a passport to where I’m now. Immersing myself in academic excellence wasn’t about making money; it was about having options.” In this specific moment, I learned what the “West” symbolized to Nadia: opportunity. America isn’t just a nation. It’s a culmination of ideas. “Coming to America was about being a part of a nation that exalts innovation and progression. As a country, we’re constantly forward-looking, and as individuals, we are always looking to create our own destiny. That’s a divine freedom Americans have.”

Titarchuk’s parents both worked as prolific researchers in Russia. It was her dad’s preeminence as NASA’s top astrophysicist that secured the family’s acceptance in the United States. Her parents insisted that the only way to distinguish yourself was to be exceptionally bright through an unwavering allegiance to academics, and Nadia did just that. She graduated summa cum laude from Yale University with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics. Further, she commenced her career on Wall Street in 1998, working in various management roles. Currently, Nadia serves as the Chief Investment Officer for NYS Common Retirement Fund, the third-largest public pension plan, providing retirement security for over one million members.

By professional measures, Titarchuk is successful, but it wasn’t her career achievements that left me hanging onto each word she spoke. Her wisdom and deference radiated from each deliberately selected word. Her brown eyes and erect posture exuded graceful self-confidence.

It is who Anastasia Titarchuk is as a human being that captivates me.

What was your migration experience like?

I wouldn’t say that my experience was difficult. It was more traumatic because I wasn’t accustomed to American culture. Growing up, I loved to read and watch a variety of programs on the television in my free time. However, when I came to America, I wasn’t able to do those things because I didn’t have a strong understanding of the English language. In Russia, I was 100% independent because I commuted to school each day which gave me the freedom to explore Moscow with my friends, which was an entirely different experience compared to the sheltered lifestyle of American students. Even though there was more social and economic flexibility in America, I’ve never felt more trapped than I did in my small town in Maryland. The first year and a half, I really struggled to make friends. I just felt alone.

Now that you’re a mother of two children, do you contend that your values and ideologies have evolved? Do any of your merits and tenets align with your parents’?

I strongly affirm that an adequate education should provide meaning in life. My parents were my biggest influences because they emphasized the quintessence of obtaining a higher education in order to become high class and elevate yourself by the virtue of education. Coming from a place of have-nots made me hungrier to make it in America. Being a mother of two children, I recognize the importance of encouraging the youth to succeed by self-establishment. I raise my kids the way that my parents raised me. It will never be an option for them not to work. I don’t care what they do with their lives. I just hope that they give it their all. 

You have witnessed diametric approaches to governing in both Russia and the US. What could each nation learn from the other?

It’s inexplicably inescapable for a society to exist without any problems. The average standard of education in Russia is far superior to the United States’ education system. Russia views education and medical care as basic human rights which is reflected through each of their premium qualities. However, Russia is saturated with corruption. Certain people don’t follow the same rules as the rest of society. In the US, there’s the law and it’s a rarity when the law doesn’t apply to someone or a given circumstance. This makes America’s society function more efficiently. I’m not socialist by any means, but I think the equality gap in America is too great. No one needs to be worth $160 billion dollars and, ostensibly, not pay any taxes. I’m a firm believer that hard work should be rewarded which is why I celebrate a system like America’s that does just that. But like I said, it’s this same system that has its flaws. 

How would you say that your experiences in the US have shaped your understanding of your place in Russia?

The US is genuinely a country marked by opportunity and freedom especially in a city like New York because you can start with nothing and become something. Russia does not allow for any social mobility. In order to succeed there, you must feed into the corruption through exploiting your connections. I didn’t want to conform to the immorality embedded in Russian society as well as the institutions.  

What factors exacerbate the ever-changing stigmatization of immigration in the US? Can you draw any parallels between immigration policies over the last few decades?

Generally speaking, Americans have a warped conception of immigration. There has always been a group of immigrants who have received unfair treatment solely based on their ethnicity. At first, it was the Chinese, then the Irish, and then the Jews. It all derives from the sentiment that lower-class workers were taking away American jobs. People contend that by accepting refugees, the government is using taxpayer dollars to essentially fund people that don’t do anything beneficial for the average American. This conflict is intensified by inequalities in society. My family didn’t come with the intention of staying on a permanent basis. I did not feel that anyone treated my family like we were stealing “their” job because my dad held such a niche job which made it a neater experience.

Do you externalize a life philosophy?

I strive to learn from the past instead of wallowing in it. I don’t live with many regrets. Of course, there are some things that I could have done differently, but I sincerely trust that there’s a path for all of us. I definitely appreciate the small things in life because they give life its magic and purpose.

Angelina Remnek

Wake Forest '24

Hi! My name is Angelina Remnek and I am currently a first-year at Wake Forest University with an intended major in political science and minor in journalism & Italian. As of now, I am a member of Phi Alpha Delta fraternity and Girl Up United Nations Foundation. When I'm not binge-watching reality television, you can find me playing tennis, purchasing exorbitant amounts of hair claws, and obsessing over the latest cultural phenomena.
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