Gabby Dimov was playing with her new kitten on a recent evening as the frisky feline scurried around the house. She was lost in the moment as most 4½ year olds would be with a new pet. Gabby chased the elusive Maxi; she hugged it as it laid in her arms soaking up the attention.
Gabby was oblivious to an impending, significant accomplishment in her dad's young life: In just two weeks, Bulgarian native Dimo Dimov, 35, will take the Oath of U.S. Citizenship to become a naturalized citizen. He will travel to Kansas City July 17 to join others as they raise their right hands to pledge their allegiance to a new country.
He joins his wife, Mira Ivanova, who became a citizen in April after coming to this country 13 years ago. Gabby became a citizen automatically when she was born on U.S. soil at Lake Regional Hospital.
In the midst of immigration discussions across the country, at a time when the number of undocumented immigrants is estimated to be as high as 11 million, Dimo and Mira became U.S. citizens the right way. They followed the rules, they studied the 100-question citizenship booklet and they passed the test.
They will retain dual citizenships in Europe and the U.S.
It was the allure of coming to the United States of America that redirected Dimo's career and motivated Mira and him to pull up their Bulgarian roots and start a new life.
Dimo, who had traveled extensively in Europe, was curious about life in America. The initial plan was to spend one summer in St. Louis, but a Bulgarian friend in the construction business persuaded him to try his hand at learning the stucco trade.
Dimo was quick to learn the trade, and the dream of becoming his own boss led him to start his own business out of his home, a modest, split-level residence in Osage Beach.
In a bit of irony, Dimo graduated from the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. With a master's degree in music conducting and teaching, he traveled professionally throughout Europe conducting orchestras, teaching and performing. He even hosted a radio show on music education in his home town. Dimo is trained in classical piano, and on the Bulgarian violin, which is slightly different than the traditional violin.
But his curiosity about America overwhelmed his musical talents and off to the United States he and Mira went.
The artistic talents are not lost, Mira notes, because Dimo has rerouted his eye for perfection to the stucco business. He's been successful in his new career. One of the homes he finished was featured in Lake Lifestyles magazine last year, and he recently had the contract to stucco the Co-Mo Electric Green Home in Porto Cima as part of a fundraiser for the Tri-County YMCA.
Page 2 of 2 - Dimo says he usually works on three or four homes in the lake area in the summer and one or two in the winter.
Passion for fashion
Mira continues to work on degrees in tourism and hotel management, business management and international business. She worked for Ritz Carlton Hotels in Switzerland and a smaller, boutique-type hostel in Bulgaria. Her language skills are refined as she speaks Bulgarian, Russian and English fluently, and French and Italian modestly.
Mira currently is assistant manager for Estee Lauder Companies in Osage Beach while pursuing her degrees and being "the best mom" to Gabby.
"I enjoy studying, I'm absolutely passionate about traveling and I love being a mom," she said proudly.
Dimo and Mira have realized success in their newly adopted country. However, it hasn't been without challenges. Mira speaks fluent English, but Dimo continues to have a heavy Bulgarian accent and chooses his words methodically.
"When we came here, we were challenging our abilities in a completely new environment, culture and mindset," Mira explained. "We have been very lucky and grateful for all the opportunities we have been given. All it takes is taking chances and a little determination."
They have made "wonderful friends" who have been supportive and helpful in making the cultural transition.
"We've been well accepted among society, neighbors and colleagues as equal and hardworking. We truly believe this country has a lot of possibilities for those determined to work hard and make their dreams come true," Mira said.
Dimo and Mira grew up in a mid-sized European city with sidewalks nearly everywhere. There were small cafes, parks, bistros and boutiques around nearly every corner, Mira explained, and the "city buzzes with lots of outdoor life — people walking, bicycling and kids playing in the parks."
It's that type of atmosphere they seem to miss most, along with their families and Bulgarian food.
Little Gabby loves her life and friends here, Mira said, but the family returns to Bulgaria every other year to acquaint her with her family.
"We want to show her where we grew up, our customs and traditions. We want to raise her with an open mind and cultural awareness," Mira explained.
"Both of our families live in Bulgaria (Stara Zagora), and being far from them is the hardest part of living in the U.S.," Mira said. "We miss them terribly."
There will be a reunion of sorts later this year when Mira and Gabby return to Mira's homeland to visit family and friends. Dimo will follow when his work as owner of Artistic Stucco permits.