An inspiring account of one woman’s courage and conviction
Written by former Soviet-Korean political refugee who escaped from Leningrad to the US, White Pearl and I is the inspiring story of what one woman achieved with courage, hard work, and a little luck.
Svetlana Kim was just twenty-three years old when she left Leningrad, Russia, for New York City. During a chance encounter in a bread line, a former schoolmate offered her a plane ticket from the black market to America. With only a dollar in her pocket and no knowledge of the English language, Kim left her family and friends for a new life, just as her great-grandparents had left Korea for Russia nearly a century before.
Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds after her arrival in the United States, the intrepid young woman clung tightly to her memories of her Soviet-Korean grandmother Bya-ok (Korean for “White Pearl”). Inspired by White Pearl’s indomitable spirit in the face of tremendous adversity, Kim tirelessly pursued the American dream.
Seventeen years after her arrival in America, she has built a successful career, rubbing elbows with some of the country’s most respected politicians and businesswomen. White Pearl and I is an inspiring account of one woman’s courage and conviction.
Following in the steps of her greatest inspiration, her grandmother Bya-Yok (which means White Pearl in Russian). Olga, as she’s now called, was born in Russia in 1917. She passed away in 2010. Olga was accepted to the State University in Vladivostok in 1937 to study Korean Literature, but never graduated because Stalin ordered all Soviet Koreans to be exiled to Chechnya as he was afraid they would spy for the Japanese during the World War II.
Imagine fleeing from Russia a few months before the wall came down, without a ruble to your name, not knowing where you’re going or what you’ll do once you get there
Imagine a compassionate stranger filling out your customs forms (because you don’t speak English) and putting you on a plane to the U.S. with the advice, “You’ll figure it out when you get there.”
Imagine another Good Samaritan paying for cross-country bus fare, and arriving in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.
Imagine walking to the Salvation Army store and spending one dollar and fifty cents on makeup to wear to your interview for a position with cosmetics giant Lancôme – and getting the job at Macy's in San Francisco.
Imagine being informally adopted by a couple who take you under their wing and pay for your application to Vassar, Brown, Smith and Columbia.
Imagine, through a string of serendipitous events, this same young woman becoming a Hall of Fame stockbroker for UBS PaineWebber.
This is just part of the fascinating story of Svetlana Kim. It is the story of an individual who models that it’s possible to design our own destiny despite seemingly insurmountable odds. It is the story of a woman who believes it is our responsibility to become humanitarians who give back to make the world a better place for those who follow us. More importantly, it is a story of how anyone - regardless of ethnic background or income level – can succeed if they have the vision and perseverance to embrace and overcome challenges rather than avoid them.
"Congratulations on releasing your recent memoir; you have my best wishes for a successful publication. Please know I remain grateful for your commitment to community service and businesswomen's mentorship. I appreciate of your offer of assistance and will share your interest with my staff. It is my hope you will continue to stay involved in your community and look forward for every opportunity to help fellow women business leaders find their way to success." -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
"This institution of the Presidency is larger than any one person, and I am proud of the staff and volunteers for all the hard work you have put in as a volunteer at the White House." -- President Barack Obama
“A political refugee who escaped communism and came to America with just a dollar in her pocket and not a word of English in her vocabulary, Svetlana Kim will take away your excuse for not making the most of your potential. Follow her basic roadmap; the willingness to give of yourself and focus on providing value to others, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by friends who love you and a huge increase in income.” -- Bob Burg, coauthor of The Go-Giver
“This passionate saga of one woman’s journey to find freedom illuminates the deepest good in the human soul. Svetlana Kim’s unlikely path takes her from Leningrad to Wall Street and beyond, reminding us that pursuing our dreams remains our most powerful path to success.” -- Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison, co-author, Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System to Breakthrough Business Success
“Enlightening and entertaining...All at the same time! Svetlana writes with vivid emotion, humor, and hard-hitting and uplifting messages. White Pearl and I is a story of love, perseverance, persistence, and happiness as well as meaning and a sense of purpose.” -- Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, American Tae Kwon Doe Founding Father, and Martial Arts Instructor for Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali
“Profound. Provocative. Moving. Prepare to be inspired as you read this page-turning story that showcases what can happen when you face life with initiative, determination and, above all, a commitment to excel and serve others. Read it and reap.” -- Sam Horn, author of Tongue Fu! and POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything
“An extraordinary personal account about an unknown history of people displaced by the great political events of the twentieth century. Svetlana Kim’s White Pearl and I is a true human drama which adds greatly to our understanding of the legacy of forced migration and cultural birth.” -- Y. David Chung, film director, and co-producer of Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People, winner Best Documentary National Film Board of Canada
“It requires more than soaring prosewriting to produce a wonder such as White Pearl and I. Svetlana Kim and her book are one and the same. The passion, willpower, resilience, humor and abiding faith expressed on the pages are the same qualities found in Ms. Kim. Here is a book to remind us all of the powerful call of America across the oceans and to be better people and not take all that we have for granted. I’m a better person because of fellow writer Svetlana Kim.” -- Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Mark Twain: A Life. With James Bradley, he co-wrote the 2000 #1 New York Times Bestseller Flags of Our Fathers
“Told with honest simplicity and delightfully innocent humor, the plot of White Pearl reads a bit like a fairy tale. There is a sort of ogre, a few white knights and fairy godmothers, as well as a heroine who, armed with little more than great courage, good luck and a protective aura from her ancestors, triumphs. But this ogre, these knights and magic-makers, and, most of all, this heroine surpass their fictional counterparts because they are real. All of it actually happened, which not only makes the author, Svetlana Kim, worth reading, but also worth knowing. And like the wondrous fairy tales we were fed as children, this one, too, has a deeper meaning. It is not only an amazing memoir about a penniless Korean-Russian immigrant making her way in America, it is also a testament to what is great and noble about this country. It shows us at our best—a place and a people willing to embrace and empower someone who works hard to educate herself, find meaning for herself and take advantage of the opportunities offered her. And for me, that’s a whole lot better than happily ever after.”-- Simon T. Bailey, author of Release Your Brilliance
“The book is inspiring and interesting as an historical document as well as an autobiography. We have read many immigrant stories coming from Europe but never one from the Soviet Union and never from a Korean perspective. Kim’s strength - and, at the same time, her sentimental attachment to her grandmother’s memory - is a reminder of the need of family support and identity. It should be very meaningful to all the Korean refugees as well as for all of us building a new identity in our new country.” -- Philanthropist Eva Haller, with Oprah Winfrey, on the Schools Initiative and Free the Children
“As a diplomat for Korea, I have shared many of my countrymen’s experiences and the journeys they have taken and their hardships and successes when I served my country in the U.S., Middle East, South America and Asia. Svetlana and her babushka’s tale that enfolds in White Pearl and I profoundly illustrates the essence of the Korean peoples’ character - persistence, hard work, ‘never say never’ attitude, willpower, strong family values and living for the next generation - surviving and flourishing in places you least expect. I have often shared with my children and family my amazement when I encounter Koreans in the remotest parts of the world and how they all seemed to have managed in their own way to better their lives and establish a strong foundation for the generations to come. In this ever-growing global world, I am glad that stories such as White Pearl and I are being told and shared both with Koreans, both in Korea and abroad, and others in the global community because I believe we as global citizens have more in common than differences as we continue our life’s journey.” -- Ambassador Chong-Yul Moon
“This is a book in which a reader can live in America and travel to Russia...It reads like a novel. It grabs your attention from the very first sentence.” -- Loula Loi Alafoyiannis, founder, Euro-American Women’s Council
“This is Svetlana Kim’s masterpiece...the book is a masterpiece and so is her extraordinary life! Kim exhibits respect for her past brought forward with contemporary overlays. If you want to know about perseverance and courage culminating in success and happiness, then read this. Kim embraces a richness of culture without forgetting the price of a rich personal history.” -- Phebe Phillips, creatrice of exquisite soft toys and author of Kitty Pink Pink “A World of Change”
“Dare to dream - that is what Svetlana Kim teaches us in her book. White Pearl and I is full of inspiring stories and cultural history. This book is an important account of Soviet-Korean history, never before told from a first person perspective. Kim has artfully woven this important, but relatively unknown, part of history into her tale of hope and determination for a better life.”-- Dr. Eileen R. Borris, author of Finding Forgiveness
“A laugh-and-cry true story…Kim’s memory of returning to the values of her Russian-Korean babushka, White Pearl, is heartbreaking and inspiring. I hope that everyone will read this extraordinary book.” -- Quinn Dalton, author of Bulletproof Girl and Stories from the Afterlife
Svetlana Kim's book, White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, available on Amazon.com
About Svetlana Kim
Svetlana (Lana) Kim is the author of White Pearl And I: A Memoir Of A Political Refugee, which chronicles her journey from Russia to the United States, where she arrived with only one dollar in her pocket and a few words of English at her disposal.
Today, she is a leader among her peers in the business world, and has been honored with numerous awards citing her commitment, skill, and integrity.
Follow Svetlana on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/svetlanakim