SOUTHWEST ASIA – On Christmas day in 1991, the Soviet flag flew over the Kremlin in Moscow for the last time. People across the country took what jobs they could find, getting paid a fraction of what they made before, as the local currency became nearly worthless. The burden of the country’s uncertain direction weighed heavily on the backs of the people.
Senior Airman Vadim Poleanschi, a 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics specialist, felt the burden, whether he understood it or not. Poleanschi was born shortly after the Soviet Union fell apart, in a country called the Republic of Moldova, landlocked between Romania and Ukraine. He spent his childhood hungry, poor and facing an uncertain future.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, everyday items were expensive and difficult to afford for parts of the population. Education opportunities were limited, forcing many to forgo a better life because they could simply not afford it.
“I saw my parents not eat enough so (my siblings and I) had enough to eat,” Poleanschi said. “I didn’t realize the full situation until later on, when I grew up.”
Moving to America
To give Poleanschi every opportunity life could offer, his parents took the few belongings they had and left their home to chase the American dream and the promise of a better life for their children.
“Imagine coming to a new country with nothing,” Poleanschi said. “We didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t know the language and didn’t know anyone.”
Moving to America had its challenges for Poleanschi’s parents. The land of opportunity was plenty, but the language barrier was the largest hurdle to jump. Through perseverance, Poleanschi’s parents were able to find jobs to support their family.
Poleanschi’s parents weren’t the only ones who struggled with the language barrier; he had a hard time communicating with other kids. “As a kid I constantly got into fights because of the things I said,” Poleanschi said.
As time passed and various programs helped the Poleanschi family, living in America became easier and the American dream started to become a reality.
When the time came, Poleanschi entered the labor pool. He ended up working menial tasks in the fast food market.
“I was working in a fast food restaurant as a manager,” Poleanschi said. “I could not progress any further because it was privately owned.”
Poleanschi knew he could no longer evolve in the fast food company unless he became an owner, so he branched out again, still chasing the elusive dream.
“I love the idea of always having the extra space to move forward and learn new things, to develop myself and help develop other people,” Poleanschi said. “I wanted something that had a lot of opportunity to expand my personal knowledge and be a part of something bigger -- one team, one fight.”
Looking for future opportunities, Poleanschi decided to join the armed forces, the Marine Corps, in particular. The further he got into the recruiting process, the less he felt the Marines was right for him, ultimately leading him to the Air Force.
Enlistment, Then Citizenship
“I ended up going in open general because I was disqualified from a lot of jobs due to the fact that I wasn’t a citizen,” Poleanschi said.
Not being a citizen did not mean he was going to give up on his dreams of bigger and better things. After spending some time in the military, Poleanschi applied to become a citizen at the end of 2013.
According to Poleanschi, he had the same feelings during swearing in as a citizen as he did when he raised his right hand and took the oath of enlistment.
“(Swearing in as a citizen) reinforced my service in the military by saying I am serving the country, I have a loyalty to it, I am also a part of it and I am a citizen,” Poleanschi said.
But by becoming an American, he was forced to tear out a part of who he was, literally.
“I brought in my passport and he ripped out every page in front of me, shredded it and put it in a sealed bag,” Poleanschi said. “It was sort of like ripping out of a piece of me, because it was my home country and I grew up there.”
As one chapter of Poleanschi’s life closed, another chapter started, one that finally began his American dream.
“I had the opportunities I had when I came to this country because of someone who put on this uniform, who went where they had to, did what they had to do, for someone like me,” Poleanschi said.
Poleanschi’s determination has led him to learn to speak five different languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, English and Serbian. He plans to apply for retraining as an airborne linguist. In the meantime, Poleanschi is going to school full time to further his education.
“There are always opportunities; it’s just how hard are you willing to work to make things happen,” Poleanschi said.