It is really great living here, but it’s not easy. I remember right when I moved here, I didn’t even really go off-Island for the first year, because I really loved it.
I came here as a student directly from Belarus to work, and to figure out how America works.
I had all of America in front of me, but I chose Martha’s Vineyard, and I’m so glad I did.
After about five or six months looking for a job I really liked, I finally found one as a graphic designer and signmaker.
That is pretty much what I have been doing so far — I found a great lady who helped me out and taught me everything I needed to know, so I decided to stay here on the Island.
Now I have my own company, and that is really how I started out.
When I got here, it was through a company that helped me out. Before I left Belarus, they asked me where I wanted to work, so I looked up where you can make the most money in America, and Boston showed up.
So I started looking for jobs in Boston, and unfortunately didn’t find anything.
I was pretty desperate, so I posted on Facebook that I am looking for a job offer, and wanted to see if anyone had heard of anything.
A guy from Moldova messaged me and said he doesn’t live in Boston, but he lives nearby.
He says he is on the Island, and I just thought, “Oh wow, an Island is like a tiny little place.”
My first question was are there any stores or businesses where I can find a good job, and he said there were plenty.
So I said, OK, well if you help me with my job, and if I can find a job here, then I will try it out for a while. If I don’t like it, I can leave anytime. So my first job here on the Island was at Big Sky Tents — I worked there for a couple of months, then I found an opportunity to paint and do some work I really enjoy.
All I can say about my experience finding housing on Martha’s Vineyard is that it’s such a pain in the ass. I got so lucky because when I got here and was looking for a job, I asked the Moldovan guy if he knew about any places for housing on the Island, and he said no.
So again, I posted on Facebook, not even knowing that there was an Islanders Talk — I was just on my own. I wrote saying I am from Belarus, and I am looking for literally any kind of housing. A tent, a shack, anything, please.
There was this lady who ended up texting me saying, “I don’t rent my house or my rooms normally, but because my daughter’s family is from Belarus, I would really love to get to know your culture.” She said, “Come on over.”
She said she was so interested in my culture, so she offered for me to live with her until I am done working on the Island, because at that time I wasn’t really planning or expecting to stay here. I kind of expected to be on the Island till something like October or November.
But she let me stay in her house, and I was so thankful for that.
Then I found my previous boss, whom I lived with in her house for the past three or four years.
I worked and lived there, and this is where I was quite lucky.
After all that and I was kind of settled in, unfortunately, all the problems started showing up.
When I started doing my own business, I thought “OK, this is a time to actually find something nice for myself, where I can focus on my art.”
It’s quite complicated to find a place for reasonable money. If you are a millionaire, it’s no problem at all — you can find a house for $5,000 a month, but I am not making that much money yet.
For people that don’t have a ton of money, I would recommend using word of mouth.
Through a couple of friends, I have found the place I live now. I feel so sorry for people who come here from other countries, or even other states in America, and don’t know anyone.
You really need to have friends here. If you don’t, your chances of finding anything are quite low.
That is why we are such a close community here — we are all family here, and will try to help each other out.
I am at that stage where I am getting quite picky with my living situation. As an artist, I need a place where I sleep, and a place where I paint. I have tried to fit both into one space, which is really difficult.
Over the winter I had a studio, so thank you to Mark and Mike Wallace for that. I did a trade where I finished this big sign for Jim’s Package Store, and Mark let me work in his apartment — it was really wonderful.
At the place where I live right now, I have a barn that I paint in, which I am so thankful for.
Obviously I would prefer a private place. If you look at my art where I lived alone during this past winter, I was painting every day. If I am in a calm, creative mind, I can produce better-quality art, but unfortunately now I work three jobs, and it’s summertime.
If I don’t paint, this is where I go crazy.
Your mind has to be in a positive place, so you don’t want to be thinking about where you are going to live; that way you can’t concentrate.
A good living situation makes a big difference. If you are in a nice, comfortable place and you are surrounded by good people, that can really help put you in a calm and focused mind.
Interviewed by Lucas Thors.