The Immigrant Learning Center would not exist if it were not for the vision of one important Eastern European immigrant: Diane Portnoy. Diane and her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Poland shortly after the end of WWII, and her experiences watching her parents struggle to learn English led Diane to open The Immigrant Learning Center in 1992.
In the past 20 years, there has been another wave of Eastern European immigration and there are now more than two million immigrants from countries such as Poland, Romania and Russia. While this number of Eastern European immigrants may seem large, they only actually account for 4.8 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population. Despite this, their achievements are vast. Immigrants from Eastern Europe have founded key Fortune 500 companies such as Alphabet (Google) and occupy four of the five top spots in a list of America’s wealthiest immigrants.
They are also over-represented when it comes to this year’s Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. In our neighborhood business category, Eastern Europeans account for 20 percent of nominations, and are all women! They are creating jobs and having significant impact on their communities, just like Diane Portnoy has been doing for the past 25 years in Malden. Meet some of these inspirational women below:
Jitka Borowick, Cleangreen, Inc. – Barnstable
From the Czech Republic
Jitka Borowick came to the U.S. in 2003 from the Czech Republic to further her education. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she decided to pursue her dream of starting her own business and doing something positive for the environment. In 2008, she opened Cleangreen, a natural cleaning company, out of her home. Today, Cleangreen is a Cape and Islands Green verified business with an office in Barnstable, four cars and a crew of 19 people covering residential and commercial clients throughout Cape Cod. Borowick is now looking to expand business to Nantucket and Falmouth.
Margarita Druker, Persona Jewelry – Boston
Early in her career, Margarita Druker was at the forefront of the “pop-up” business model (limited time businesses that take advantage of empty venues) in Boston and New York’s restaurant and entertainment industries. In 2004, at age 22, she found a location to call her own and opened Persona Jewelry at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. The business has since moved to Beacon Hill, where it continues to thrive. Her entrepreneurial spirit has driven her to open six additional stores around the country and develop an online jewelry insurance and appraisal business. She was named a business innovator by the Boston Business Journal in 2008.
Inna Khitrik, Inna’s Kitchen – Boston
Inna Khitrik created Inna’s Kitchen to share “Jewish Cuisine from Around the World,” bringing together wide variety of traditional dishes in one place. Inna’s was one of the Boston Public Market’s inaugural vendors. She brings to the community a celebration of shared culture and history through a love of food. Khitrik also offers cooking courses to share her beloved recipes, and she continues to grow and increase employment opportunities by designing a line of frozen food that will be delivered across the city.
Ekaterina Morozova, Lash Boutique – Hyannis
Katrina Morozova is the owner and CEO of Lash Boutique Cape Cod and Plymouth. Before moving to the United States at age 19, Katrina worked as an eyelash specialist in Russia. At the time, no one was doing lash extensions on Cape Cod. She built a clientele and in 2014 opened her own business. Within six months of operation, she was in need of more employees and a bigger space. She now has a staff of 14 and two locations of Lash Boutique with a third set to open in April. Morozova’s influence extends beyond the Cape. Clients drive up to an hour and a half to visit her shops.