Three months ago, if someone had told me I’d spend my first job out of college being interviewed by a Russian news channel in Manhattan, I’d probably think they were confusing me with somebody else. But now, as a local hire supporting Hurricane Sandy recovery in New York, I’m fully engaged with media and spreading information about disaster assistance.
CAPTION: Samantha Shokin being interviewed by Russian Television International at the Sheepshead Bay disaster recovery center.
When Sandy struck Brighton Beach, New York’s Russian enclave where I live with my family, it felt like fate was against us. Fortunately, just a few weeks after the disaster, I found a job through FEMA that turned out to be Sandy’s silver lining for me.
My role as a Russian-speaking media relations specialist enables me to couple my passion for media and communications with my strong ties to the Russian community. I was born in New York City and raised by immigrant parents who maintained a strong Russian presence in the home. My family instilled in me a love for the language and culture, which was reflected in my coursework in college. At New York University, along with journalism and creative writing, I took a number of Russian literature courses to study the great writers and to learn more about my heritage.
Using my knowledge of local Russian media, with guidance from experienced mentors in FEMA External Affairs, I was able to organize meetings with editors and producers at Davidzon Radio, Russian Television International, and Reporter, a Russian-language daily. We talked about registration, housing assistance, the importance of returning the SBA disaster loan application form, and other disaster assistance-related topics.
These meetings allowed us to reach out to the Russian-speaking community devastated by Sandy. Gregory Davidzon, owner and talk show host of Davidzon Radio, was especially receptive to our outreach efforts and invited me and my colleagues to speak on his program a number of times.
As a media relations specialist, my job involves making contact with assigned media and spreading the word about disaster assistance. Working with Russian media is just one aspect of that job, and it’s an important one. It allows me to work with the community where I grew up, and help it get back on its feet.