America The Beautiful
Vachik Stepanian, 80
Immigrated from Tehran, Iran
"I thought America was just like the movies..."
The culture of America had a big influence on Iran. Vachik notes how he and his friends would always go see American movies in the theatre. They would learn all the dances and songs. Some of his friends started to smoke just to mimic James Dean. He wanted to be a part of that American dream. He believes the movies gave him a false impression of what life would be like in the U.S. “I thought America was just like the movies” states Vachik.
He boarded a plane heading to San Francisco in 1967, at age 28. In Iran Vachik owned a big business, but in San Francisco he worked as a gas station attendant, and he washed dishes to earn money. Vachik states how hard it was in the U.S not knowing the language. “There were a lot of financial issues” Vachik commented. “I felt so homesick, and I cried a lot” says Vachik. “I missed my friends and Iran”.
Vachik eventually returned to Iran in 1973 to meet his future wife through an arranged marriage. He was able to bring her back to San Francisco, where they lived for another five years. In 1978 Vachik and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he raised his three children. He feels fortunate that he could provide his children with a good life. Vachik still has a couple cousins in Iran but that’s all. He now lives in Glendale and works in the commercial real estate business. His final comment was “I am thankful to the U.S, and I feel very fortunate to be sharing my story.”