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"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of universe to lead you." 

~ Oprah Winfrey 



Letter to Svetlana from the President Obama and the First Lady:  click here
Letter to Svetlana from the Special Assistant to the President Obama: 
click here
Letter to Svetlana from Hillary Rodham Clinton: click here 
Letter to Svetlana from Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State
click here

Svetlana Kim's remarkable story opens in Leningrad, Russia, on a frigid winter afternoon. Standing in the bread line for the third day in a row, she listens as her neighbors discuss the impending fall of the Berlin Wall. Life as a student in a crumbling country offered few possibilities for the ambitious young woman, so when a former classmate offers her a plane ticket to the US., she jumps at the opportunity.

She arrives in New York speaking no English, with only a dollar in her pocket. With the help of a good Samaritan, she travels by bus to California, hoping to connect with an acquaintance from home. Yet when she mistakenly disembarks in San Francisco instead of Sacramento, she finds herself penniless and alone. What unfolds is a miraculous story of survival as Svetlana encounters kind strangers while she struggles to cobble together a meager existence working as a cleaning lady. Determined to succeed, she lands a job selling cosmetics. Within a few years, her hard work carries her up the corporate ladder. She earns American citizenship after living ten years as a political refugee, and gains the opportunity to become a stockbroker. In her career as a stockbroker Svetlana is introduced into the realm of powerful businesswomen and politicians.

Through it all, when her nerve threatens to fail her, she returns to memories of her grandmother, White Pearl, whose parents immigrated to Russia from Korea. As a girl, White Pearl was among 200,000 Soviet Koreans deported to central Asia by Joseph Stalin, who feared they would spy on behalf of the Japanese. Svetlana reflects often on her grandmother's tales of that hard time, drawing on the strength of her beloved babushka to enable her to make the very best of her own life. White Pearl and I is a modern and uplifting account of Svetlana's tireless search for the American dream.

Those who have read Svetlana Kim's first book, White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, have been touched by her life story and her ability to tell it with such passion and encouragement. Her book is unique in that it's written by Lana was raised a Soviet-Korean in the former USSR, and paints a vivid picture of what life was like for Koreans living under communist rule in Russia. This book is an important account of Soviet-Korean history, never before told from a first person perspective. Lana has artfully woven this important, but relatively unknown, part of history into her tale of hope and determination for a better life. It appeals to all people: men, women, teens, young adults, people of all races, religions, and backgrounds.

Praises for Svetlana Kim's White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee:

"It requires more than soaring prosewriting to produce a wonder such as White Pearl and I. It requires a soaring soul. Svetlana Kim and her book are one and the same; there is no separation between the passion, willpower, resilience, humor and abiding faith on the pages and those same qualities in Ms. Kim's being. Here is a book to remind us of the powerful call of America across oceans and invisible barricades, and to be better people for it. I'm a better person because of my friend and fellow writer Svetlana Kim."

-Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Mark Twain: A Life, and he co-wrote the 2000 #1 New York Times Bestseller Flags of Our Fathers

Senator Edward Kennedy M. Kennedy collaborated with Ron Powers to complete a cherished and more personal project-- his memoir True Compass: A Memoir. 

"A laugh-and-cry true story... Kim's memory of returning to the values of her Russian-Korean babushka, White Pearl, is heartbreaking and inspiring. I hope that everyone will read this extraordinary book."

-Quinn Dalton, author of Bulletproof Girl and Stories from the Afterlife

"This is a book in which a reader can live in America and travel to Russia... It reads like a novel. It grabs your attention from the very first sentence."

-Dame Loula Loi Alafoyiannis, Founder and President, Euro-American Women's Council

Svetlana Kim's book and Soviet-Korean History

White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, focuses on Soviet-Koreans, who have been referred to as "Asian Jews." Joseph Stalin ordered the deportation of nearly 200,000 Koreans, from young to old, from their homes in the Far East of Russia to Central Asia in the fall of 1937. He was preparing for World War II and feared that Koreans living in Russia would spy for the Japanese Army. He termed these Soviet-Koreans "unreliable people." Several thousand perished along the 3,700 mile trek to Asia.

This story of 200,000 Koreans who became political pawns during the Great Terror is new to Americans and others around the world. The details of their deportation were banned by the Soviet government for many years. Scholars have only had access to the historic records in the last decade. Svetlana Kim is one of the first documented Soviet-Korean refugees to come to America and her book is likely the first book, written as a memoir, about Soviet-Koreans.

The Soviet-Korean language, Koryo Mar, is a unique form of dialect started in the fifteenth century, and still exists primarily for functional use within Soviet-Korean families. Linguists predict that the Koryo Mar language will disappear completely in the next 10-15 years. There are 480,000 Soviet-Koreans living today in the former USSR.


Svetlana Kim's Biography

Svetlana Kim is an entrepreneur, bestselling author of White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, and a community leader. Her life story is truly an American story. It is the story of an immigrant searching for and finding human kindness in a foreign country, determining her own destiny, and finding success along the way.

Svetlana's life is an homage to her greatest inspiration, her grandmother Bya-ok (Korean for White Pearl), as well as to countless hard-working and generous people. Svetlana says these people taught her "to never stop dreaming big and to pursue my own happiness." Svetlana's life is inspiring for more than her courage to leave her home. Mrs. Kim’s stellar leadership, ethical business practices, and community service is highlighted through numerous awards, including the renowned Euro-American Women’s Council “Goddess Artemis” Award. 

Svetlana Kim is the author of White Pearl and I:  A Memoir of a Political Refugee, which chronicles her journey from Russia to the United States, where she arrived with only one dollar in her pocket and a few words of English at her disposal; today, she is a leader among her peers in the business world, and has been honored with numerous awards citing her commitment, skill, and integrity.  In February 2010, Orphan International Worldwide honored her with its Global Citizenship Award for her work towards saving the lives of children in Haiti.

Kim's stellar leadership, ethical business practices, and community service was recognized when the Euro-American Women's Council bestowed her with the Goddess Artemis Award.  The EAWC brings together women of diverse backgrounds and accomplishments to work together toward the advancement of women's access to positions of leadership and to pave the way for the next generation of women business leaders.

In 2009, the International Leadership Foundation paid tribute to Kim with its Leadership Award, selecting her from among a group of potential honorees including congress members, presidential cabinet secretaries, and other high-ranking officials.

In 2008, Kim became an Asian Academy Hall of Fame inductee.  She shares this acclaimed honor with Norman Mineta, the former Secretary of Transportation, and with the nation's 24th Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao.

Having left the communist world behind, Kim has fully embraced the freedoms of the American political and social system, and has actively been involved in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; the Hillary for President presidential campaign; the Women's Campaign Forum; the Women's National Democratic Club; AARP Women's Leadership Circle; and Calvary Women's Services.  She has held committee or officer positions with the Junior League of Washington, D.C. (Targeted Grants); the Asian Leaders Association of the Asian Academy Hall of Fame; the National Press Club (authors' committee); Capitol Speakers Club; and the Asian American Justice Center.

Kim shares her business acumen and managerial experience by serving on several boards of directors, including:  the Asian Division Friends Society of the Library of Congress (Board Vice President, 2007 – present); the Global Advisory Board of the Euro-American Women's Council; the National Council of Asian American Business Associations (East Coast president, 2009 – 2010); the Asian Leaders Association; the Pacific Coast Immigration Museum; and Korean American Women's Chamber of Commerce.  She also serves as a steering committee member of the Global Coalition for Korean reconciliation.

As a former Director for the Business Women's Network (a division of NBC Universal), Kim worked with over one hundred small businesses representing over $1.5 billion in revenues.  She also served as a Director for Strategic Partnerships for the National Association for Female Executives.

Kim has been featured and profiled in Women's Life magazine in Seoul, Korea; the Asian Fortune; Networking Times; NASDAQ's Closing Bell; and The Gazette, a publication of the Library of Congress.  In 2009, she delivered the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Keynote Address at the Library of Congress.  She was chosen to attend the Asian American Pacific Islanders Celebration in the White House, among 50 other prominent Asian-American leaders.

Committed to giving back to her local and worldwide community, Kim has donated over 180 hours in eighteen months to the Calvary Women's Services in Chinatown in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, she volunteers at the Office of Presidential Correspondence in the White House.  F. Michael Kelleher, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence wrote about Svetlana Kim:  "Your time and conscientious attention to every American who contacts our President is inspiring.  Thank you for your hard work and your commitment to our office, to our President, and to our Nation."

Svetlana Kim's passion for helping young Asians achieve their own American dreams fuels her daily work and volunteerism.  Married, she splits her time between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

Recognitions: Orphan International Worldwide 2010 Global Citizenship Award for Leadership in Helping Humanity, February 28, 2010,  New York , NY., USA ILF (International Leadership Foundation) Award, July 23, 2009, Washington., D.C., USA EAWC (Euro-American Women’s Council) “Goddess Artemis” Award, July 23, 2009, Athens, Greece Award from the Mayor of Athens, July 22, 2009, Athens, Greece Asian Academy Hall of Fame, February 4, 2008, Beijing, China UBS PaineWebber Excellence Award, 2002, New York City, USA Lancome President’s Circle Award,  April 1996, San Francisco, USA




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With Your Help

Calvary Women's Services

A safe caring place for tonight; support, hope and change for tomorrow.




Volunteering at Calvary

Volunteers are essential to the success of Calvary's programs and residents. These dedicated supporters let the women at Calvary know that someone cares about them and help Calvary provide the best possible services to women in our community.

An overnight volunteer's main duty is to help our residents feel safe and secure knowing that someone is present during the night if they need assistance.

Calvary Women's Shelter is a 25-bed transitional housing program for women for all women in need. Support services ensure that women who stay at the shelter are able to make positive steps toward independence.

Pathways is a transitional housing program that offers stability and support for 10 women who have been chronically homeless. This unique program reaches out to some of the most vulnerable members of our community to offer them the care they need in a safe, comfortable space as they prepare for independent living.

Sister Circle, our permanent housing program for 10 women, offers long-term support and independent housing to women in recovery from substance addiction, many of whom struggle with chronic medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. In addition to making support services available, Sister Circle provides a close-knit community of peer support.

Services for all of these programs include:

  • Meals
  • Life skills classes
  • Case management with personalized support
  • Professional mental health and addiction recovery services
  • Supported employment to assist formerly homeless women re-entering the workforce
We know that Calvary is making a difference. Of the women who come to Calvary each year, 50% move into their own homes. Last year Calvary provided women in our community with 15,695 nights of safe housing and over 20,000 nutritious meals. Two-thirds of the women in Calvary's transitional housing programs participate in mental health services and life skills classes.

You Can Help

Supporting Calvary is a good investment, as resources are used wisely. Each year the value of volunteer services to the agency is over $180,000 and is the equivalent of 5 full-time employees. You can work with us to make a difference in women's lives. By supporting Calvary's small, intimate programs, you can provide each woman the personal care that she needs to change her life. Make a donation today or contact staff at (202) 548-0595 or information@calvaryservices.org to volunteer.

Svetlana volunteered over 100 hours last year.  She donated her books, provided trainings, served Sunday lunches, and spent nights at the shelter.

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