Anna Gershteyn: A Generational Tale


Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Anna Gershteyn and I work as an RYY Fellow at Connected Communities:EMMA & Beechwood.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

I have three. I can’t decide between them because they’ve always been there as like a package deal: my mom, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. We all lived together in the Ukraine in one house. There were six of us living in a very modest house/apartment in the Ukraine. But once my great-grandfather died, the most consistent support system was my mom, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. I’ve always seen how they took care of me and each other. How many sacrifices they made for our family and for everyone’s well being. And, how much selflessness and love they gave to me my whole entire life. It was such an inspiration. They have gone through so much in their lives and are such strong women. They are the people I look up to.

How did you end up in Rochester? How did you end up in VISTA?

We came here from Odessa, Ukraine when I was seven. We lived in Webster. My family still lives in Webster. We had a lot of family here who came before us. But a lot of it was also my health condition I was born with-we encountered a lot of barriers to access to services in Ukraine. It was more difficult to get good care. So we came here and stayed here. Ultimately, I went to the University of Rochester and had a friend who was very encouraging about VISTA and told me about his experience and thought it would be a good way to get involved very deeply in my community. I am very interested in staying here and seeing how I can contribute in different ways.

Working with LaShunda at Connected Communities—you both have very unique backgrounds—can you understand anything that she’s gone through? Can she understand anything you’ve gone through?

I think she’s an absolutely amazing person to work for. Her story is so unique and amazing— in some ways it’s not unique because so many people go through it—but the way she came out of her situation is unique because she has used her experiences to really help her community and she has done so much. Even though her experiences are different than mine, they motivated me to help others that are going through these situations. I think that that personal motivation is something we have in common. I see that she is also very personally devoted to what she is doing and I think that’s what I want to see in my career as well. Also, she is just a very genuine person in every single interaction. She doesn’t just put on a face. She says it how it is and is super approachable. I want to come off that way—when you can interact with people from ‘grassroots’ or ‘grasstops’ and everywhere in between but you’re still the same person in those interactions.

What is the proudest moment of your life?

I keep remembering back to when I got my U of R undergrad acceptance, and how I realized I can go ‘cuz they looked at the financial aid and it was possible to go—that look on my grandmother’s face. She started crying because this was the first time that someone had such an amazing opportunity and there was no antisemitism or barrier in the way. That I was able to graduate with honors and no one questioned it because I was Jewish. There was no doubt that I could achieve anything—they were so excited for me and my future and made me really excited to get things done. I’ve heard about their professional experiences and it seemed like there were a lot of stories about antisemitism—I feel like it prevented them from achieving their full potential in the former Soviet Union. I think the were kind of living vicariously through me—so I think that was my proudest moment.

Thank you Anna!

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