Success story

Zoya Jamison has turned her American adventure into a full-blown career

Photo By meredith j. cooper

On the night she met her husband-to-be, Zoya (Prokopenko) Jamison knew only these English words: “yes,” “no,” and “I love you.”

But Jamison is nothing short of amazing.

In fewer than five years in the United States, she’s learned how to speak, read and write English (with the help of Butte College ESL classes), completed cosmetology school and passed the state cosmetology exam, commenced a career as a cosmetologist, and started a second career as a consultant for Mary Kay cosmetics.

“There is so much opportunity here!” she exclaims. “It is so easy to make money.”

A Ukrainian-born Russian, Jamison had a hard life half a decade ago. Divorced with two children, Luba and Pasha, and living with her parents, she had to work three jobs to make ends meet—and even then, she and her children often went without. As a single mom, she felt her chances of meeting a good man were slim.

Then she heard about a dating service that connected Russian women with American men. Since the service cost nothing for women, she decided to try it. She met Wayne Jamison at a social event, and they had fun. He was older than she was, but she didn’t care—he treated her well. “He made me feel like a lady.”

The day after she met Wayne, he asked her—through an interpreter—to marry him. She said yes. Almost a year later, Jamison and her children made the long journey to the United States. Now they live with Wayne south of Oroville.

Life in America was difficult at first, partly because she understood so little English in the beginning, and partly because she and Wayne had challenges with co-parenting her children. “One day Wayne said to me, ‘If we want to have a good relationship, you have to support me, and I have to support you.’ ” She realized he was right, and ever since they’ve had few problems. “I can’t even remember the last time we disagreed about something,” she said. “He has a good heart, and he’s very kind.”

Wayne encouraged his wife to give cosmetology a try. At first she doubted her ability to navigate courses in English. Then she set her mind to the task, and every day she completed coursework with both English and Russian dictionaries in front of her.

When she took the state exam, she was dismayed she couldn’t have an English dictionary in the room. She felt sure she would fail, but she passed.

Now she works in a salon across the street from Walmart in Chico, where, she said, “I like to make my clients happy.”

She knows Elena Tonetti from the Russian parties, many of them at Tonetti’s house. She admires Tonetti for all she’s accomplished with her work in the Conscious Birth Movement and for her independence.

Although Jamison has accomplished much, she wants more. “I want to have my own salon,” she said, eyes shining. But her goals don’t stop there—she wants a piece of the American dream. “I want to buy a house,” she said. “I want a house that is mine.”