Knapp Campus Leadership Award Recipient: Victoria Yusupova



July 18, 2023

My family’s path to the United States was grounded in strength and perseverance. After escaping persecution and antisemitism, my parents immigrated to the United States in the ‘90s as refugees from Uzbekistan. 

While they built a home for my brother and I in the U.S., the majority of my extended family sought refuge in Israel. For a long time, I felt disconnected from my extended family and the country they chose to call home. 

During the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my mom took my brother and me to visit our grandparents and other family in Israel and to visit the country for the first time. I grew up hearing incredible stories from my friends about how it felt to visit Israel for the first time, but it wasn’t until I went for myself that I realized the impact it would have.

The feeling came almost immediately. On the drive from the airport to my uncle’s home, I looked out the window and felt that I was home. I can’t explain it better than simply saying, “it felt right.”

During our trip, I went swimming in the Dead Sea,  rode camels with my cousins, and ate too much hummus. I experienced the beauty of the country and learned more about its history.  With all those moments, the one that left the greatest impact on me was our trip to Jerusalem. I will never forget my heart filling with a deep pride when we first walked through the bustling markets on our way to the Western Wall.

As Bukharian Jews, my parents experienced antisemitic discrimination and violence in Uzbekistan. I remain grateful that I grew up in a community where I didn’t face that same reality. However, after visiting Israel, the rest of my Jewish identity started to take shape, and I was able to feel pride in my Jewish identity, and derive joy from being Jewish. That trip was a turning point for me, and I’m now more inspired to carry on the legacy of my family’s strength and resilience through leadership and service.

Victoria is an incoming senior at the University of Arizona.