Diana Markosian | Santa Barbara

Country of origin: United States
Project location: United States
Program: Magnum Foundation Fund
Year: 2018

Santa Barbara is a multifaceted project that explores immigration through the viewpoint of one family––my own. Inspired by the 1980’s American soap opera, my mother became a mail-order bride from Russia, bringing me and my brother to this country in her search for a better future. For the past year, I’ve casted actors to play members of my family in work that seeks to recreate the emotional experience of my family coming to America as immigrants from post-Soviet Russia.

While examining my own family’s history, I learned that our story was not uncommon. After interviewing dozens of women, I came to learn that my mother was among a cohort of other Russian women who came to America as mail-order brides. For many, becoming a mail-order bride provided a means of escaping poverty following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. That desperation drove thousands of women, like my mother, to seek a different life. This project aims to offer insight into the world of these women and the sacrifices they made to become American. The work ultimately adds to the diverse history of immigration in the United States by documenting the untold stories of women.