FOREST CITY - When Andriy Bezuglyy first came to the United States from the Ukraine in 2000 as a graduate student, he thought of himself as a visitor.
“Then a strange thing happened,” said Bezuglyy, 37, now the head of the mathematics department at Waldorf College in Forest City.
He went back to the Ukraine for a visit about two years after coming to America.
“I suddenly felt that I was a tourist in the Ukraine,” he said.
He realized the United States had become “more of a home to me than the country I grew up in,” Bezuglyy said.
“I feel comfortable here. People are very nice to me. I really like it here.”
Becoming a U.S. citizen seemed like “a really logical step to take,” Bezuglyy said.
He became an American citizen in March.
Besides completing paperwork, he had to pass an exam to show he was proficient in English and understood American history and government.
“It was actually the easiest exam I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said, noting he learned about American history in school and knew the answers to the questions about government from reading the news.
He took the test in Des Moines, and after he passed he returned to Des Moines to take his citizenship oath.
Bezuglyy grew up in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in the Ukraine. He was about 15 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
He said the economy in the Ukraine and the other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union essentially collapsed, and the standard of living went down significantly.
He said the worst part was the “feeling of uncertainty.”
“There was a moment when people suddenly realized they didn’t know what was right and what was wrong,” he said. “People could not guess what was going to happen tomorrow.”
Things aren’t as bad now as in the early 1990s, according to Bezuglyy.
“It started getting better, but slowly,” he said.
But in the late 1990s the Ukraine was still “going through a difficult time economically and socially,” he said.
Bezuglyy had wanted to be a mathematics professor for as long as he could remember, but a lot of professors in the Ukraine had to get second jobs to make ends meet. That’s why he decided to go to America.
Bezuglyy received his doctorate from Ohio State University. After that he got a temporary position there as a lecturer. He said it was all right, but he wanted a professor’s position.
At that time Waldorf College had an opening and he applied for it, as well as for openings at other colleges. The offer he got from Waldorf was the best one he received.
He arrived on campus two years ago.
He said he likes Waldorf because it’s a small college with smaller class sizes. The average class has around 15 students in it.
The smaller classes allow him to engage with students on an individual basis.
“That makes my efforts much more productive,” he said.
Bezuglyy has been to Russia and Germany, and his visited several other countries briefly.
“The people are very nice here, nicer than any country I’ve been in,” he said.