Grand Teton National Park hosted a naturalization ceremony Friday for 20 new U.S. citizens. Several of them live in Jackson, including Alina Lobacheva Plummer, who is originally from Russia.
Lobacheva Plummer is the widow of the late well-known bass player Bill Plummer.
Here’s her story about immigrating to the U.S. as it was told to KHOL. This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
ALINA LOBACHEVA PLUMMER: I’m a Russian doctor. I graduated with a major in pediatrics and did an internship in pediatrics. I started to work in a big hospital and rehabilitation center, where we taught students of different faculties and doctors, nurses, foreign students. And when I started to teach students, from year to year, I noticed that the health of the students was not good. And so, we started a program to promote a healthy lifestyle among students. And in 2005, I examined 350 students and studied their health using thousands of different parameters. And based on this huge research, I was invited to the University of Wyoming in Laramie on the Fulbright program.
So, when I came, I worked with Professor Stephen Bieber, who was the head of medical statistics at the health and science department. So, it was two months I was living there in Laramie. Me and my daughter, we lived with that professor’s family. And so, this professor and his wife, they took us for dinner, lunch, and one day they took us for dinner at a local restaurant and there was a jazz band playing there. So, a man who was playing upright bass, he knew my professor and his wife. He was teaching music. And when they had a break, he sat at our table. And he started to talk with them. ‘Hello, folks. How are you doing? What’s up?’ And then he turned his face towards me and my daughter and he said, ‘Oh, who are these nice ladies? I never saw them before.’ Because, you know, in small towns, local people know each other. And so, we were acquainted by chance. And he asked me, ‘How long will you stay in Laramie?’ I told him, ‘In two days we are heading back to Russia. My research is over.’ ‘Oh, it’s a pity,’ he said. ‘Let’s exchange email addresses. We will be in touch.’
And I came back to Russia. I was a widow raising two kids. It was a hard time in Russia. We had cuts in food and all this inflation and default and many other things. So, it was a hard time. To say ‘hard’ is to say nothing. It was unbelievable what I came through. I didn’t even believe sometimes that I survived.
Of course, I communicated with the University of Wyoming because we still continued our research, improved our protocol. And they invited me once more in 2010 for the next step of the research. And when I came in 2010, of course, I was in touch with that guy, with the bass player. When I came to Laramie once more, we met because he gave me his phone number, and when we met, he proposed that I marry him. And so, I used to say I was in positive shock because you know, I was a widow for many years and all my life was the kids. So, everything for kids, for my mom. So, I took care of the whole family, everything. And everyone was positive [about the proposal]. Just I said, ‘Okay, I understand you want to get rid of me.’ [laughs]
So, I quit from my university and came back here and we married in 2012 in Driggs. And I didn’t know before, but he’s a pretty famous musician. He played with Tony Bennett. He has a silver disc record with The Rolling Stones. He played with Nancy Wilson Heart, in her band, and they have records with her. He played in the same concert with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and many other famous Americans.
The first time I arrived in America in 2006, it was night. They met me in Denver, this professor’s family. It was night as they drove, so you couldn’t see anything. Only I saw the Denver Airport, that’s all. So, I went into their house. It was nice and cozy. They gave us a room, me and my daughter. And in the morning, when I woke, there was a fantastic smell of pine trees, flowers, squirrels jumping. And, of course, breakfast. And so I walked a little bit outside to feel the smell of America, to see the spirits of America, to see just already in light everything. So, I went outside the house–just for a five-minute walk–and I was walking along the street. There were such fantastic lawns, these pretty flowers, all clean. All these post boxes, in different shapes outside the houses. So, it was like I got on another planet, and suddenly I just–nowadays, I couldn’t describe it–but I felt a great feeling of happiness, of something pleasurable. All in all, I thought, ‘Oh okay. I’m back home. Oh, how long I was absent.’ And suddenly I thought, ‘How am I home? I’m here for the first time in my life.’
And when I came back to Russia, my friend from my work, she said, ‘What’s your first impression?’ And I began to tell her, and she looked at me smiling and she said, ‘You will live in America. It’s your home.’ [laughs] It’s my home.