For Alex Meyerovich, a former refugee from Belarus turned immigration lawyer, life has come full circle.
The Trumbull resident immigrated to the United States more than two decades ago, in 1994, and was recently elected to serve on the board of directors at the International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN) — a statewide non-profit agency that provides legal and social service to immigrants and refugees.
“I came in as a refugee, and applied for a green card a year later,” Meyerovich said, recalling his journey from living in a basement in Monroe and working three jobs in the mid 1990s to earning a law degree from the University of Connecticut in 2007.
“The International Institute of Connecticut helped me with all the paperwork back then that helped me become a permanent legal resident — it’s amazing how much it’s circled back,” he said.
Meyerovich, who is a managing partner at M.C. Law Group in Bridgeport, traveled by himself to his new country. His parents and the rest of his family joined him in 1997, thanks to help from IICONN.
Nonetheless, the first couple of years were difficult.
“I left my family back in Belarus, which was then part of the former Soviet Union,” he said. “I had $500 in my pocket and didn’t speak much English.
“I adjusted pretty well but there was a noticable change in the food and the language, and the culture of America,” he added. “I was fortunate that I did have aunts and cousins so I wasn’t totally alone, but it still took time to adjust.
He started his career working on microchips in the semiconductor industry.
“I was working a night shift in Monroe doing some nasty plating work with some weird chemicals,” Meyerovich explained. “That was the start of my career — my first step on my way to being a lawyer was being a plater.”
Foot on the pedal
It wasn’t the only job he held during those exhausting first years, as he worked towards completing his undergraduate degree at Housatonic Community College.
“I found out pretty quickly that I was pretty driven, and there was no time to be idle so I started working double and then triple shifts,” he said.
Meyerovich went from working as a baby-sitter during the day to a restaurant host at night back to the semiconductor factory.
“My motto was, ‘whatever pays’,” he said. “I was a bit all over the place but I had to be to put myself through college.”
Despite studying to become a programmer and working at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street as a business analyst for five years, Meyerovich found himself switching careers in 2004.
“What inspired the career change was simple — I was bored,” he said. “I felt no impact on people working as a programmer. It was a corporate, tedious, mind-numbing and burecratic existence.
“I wanted to do something that was more useful — something where I was making a difference in people’s lives,” he added. “I found out that immigration law was much more emotionally rewarding.”
Meyerovich is straightforward when explaining his path towards law school.
“I had no desire to do anything else but immigration law,” he said. “It was a combination of personal experience and one of my friends becoming an immigration lawyer that pushed me in that direction to do something completely different.”
Finding a home
Meyerovich has lived all over Fairfield County, bouncing around from Monroe to Trumbull to Stamford to New Haven and then, finally, back to Trumbull, where he’s been settled since 2002.
He and his wife have two girls who are seven and three and one-half years old.
“We have plenty of land and my children go to great schools. I couldn’t be happier with living in Trumbull,” he said. “The proximity to New York City is nice, too.”
He said his experience — immigrating to America and settling down here — has given him a perspective that some people don’t share.
“Whatever people complain about in the United States it’s probably the best they can get anywhere else in the world — it’s really the best option in terms of peace, quiet and the unlimited freedoms,” he said.
Representing those in need
At M.C. Law Group, which specializes in immigration and nationality law, Meyerovich has found a purpose representing those who are in most need of his help.
“It’s really case by case,” he said of the people whom the company represents. “Different problems; different issues — there’s really no limitation to who we serve.
“It can be people fleeing from persecution, whether it be religious or something else, or it can be a family that’s seeking a better life — away from poverty, looking for a place where there’s an abundance of opportunity,” he added. “I can relate to someone coming here trying to get a better life for their kids, and for themselves.”
He said the heartbreaking stories he hears about families fleeing violent nations reminds him to be grateful for everything in his life.
“It changes my life every time,” he said.
Now, on the board of directors at IICONN, Meyerovich believes he can help even more people in need — especially those who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise.
“I would like to make legal services more affordable — it’s an under-served market,” he said. “And at IICONN, I know I can help provide services to these people that they can’t find at any other organization in Connecticut.”