MY FAMILY WAS ON WELFARE
"I honsetly don’t know what would have happened if we stayed in Uzbekistan." - Rita
The Faking It star immigrated to the U.S. at age 6, but her struggles weren’t over.
Rita Volk can still remember the pit she felt in her stomach when she heard her parents utter the words, “We’re moving to America.” It’s not that Rita didn’t understand why - even at 6, she knw that her hometown of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, was undergoing a major change that made it difficult to thrive - but the thought of leaving everything behind to start all over on the other side of the world seemed too much to her. How would she learn the language? Would she make new friends? “I was 6 years old when my family came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan.” She opens up only to J-14, “The Soviet Union had opposed and then were all these little parts that were part of Russian that became unstable, some we had to get out! At that time, everyone moved. She went to Israel and others went to the United States, “I’ve had relatives in California, so we moved to San Francisco.”
"MTV is such a huge cultural world, so to be a part of it now is not normal," Rita says. "It’s just incredible!"
"We had to start over."
The move posed so many questions, among them, how would Rita’s parents find work and pay the bills? “I remember that the jobs that they had [in Uzbekistan] before we first came here didn’t really count, so they basically had to start over,” Rita recalls. In those early years, money was hard to come by for the Volk family. “Growing up, my family was on walfare for a while and my parents where never able to have the careers that they wanted,” Rita says “Instead, they kind of went from job to job to support us.”
(“My parents had no idea about American culture so they would dress me up for school in little boys’ clothes and hand-me-downs,” Rita tell J-14)
"People made fun of me"
Once school started up, things only got worse for Rita. “I was just looked at as a weird kid,” she confesses. “I used to fake English when I was younger and because it took me a while to [learn], people made fun of me. I remember being in the 4th grade and having temper tantrums because I felt like people weren’t able to understand me. I was like this little tomboy who couldn’t speak English.” There were moments when Rita felt helpless, but she had her family to comfort her - and a family tradition actually helped her learn the language. “We’d have movie nights and watch big blockbusters,” Rita reveals. “Watching movies is how I picked up English.” In addition in improving her speech, the glamour of Hollywood also healed Rita’s bruised spirit. “[I learned] that we can be anything we want to be,” she opens up.
As her confidence gradually started to increase, school became easier to navigate, and it wasn’t long before Rita was coming home with straight As. In fact, she even attented one of America’s most prestigious colleges, Duke University! There, Rita studied hard and also explored her love for performing by joining Jake, Duke’s sketch comedy trupe. That led to small roles on TV and eventually her big audition for Faking It, and the rest is history. “I’m forver in debt to my parents and I’m so grateful that they got us out of Uzbekistan,” she tells only J-14. “I feel very lucky to be here, in the U.S., and doing what I love. I mean, it’s a totally differnt life that I’m able to live now. Everything turned out the way it was supposed to!”