ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – It has been a challenging year for law enforcement, but one Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputy wouldn’t change her job for the world. For Deputy Olha Orlova, it’s part of the American dream. And she has gotten international attention for the unique way she came into this line of work.
“The Green Card lottery changed my life,” Orlova said. Five years ago, she picked up and left her home country of Ukraine with nothing except her 2-year-old daughter. “When I won the Green Card lottery, I was really, really happy because I thought God gave me the chance to start a new life,” said Orlova.
In her home country, times were so tough. There were days they had no food. “It was a really, really difficult time to survive. We were used to starving back in my home country,” she said.
“The first pair of brand new shoes, I purchased here in the U.S. People cannot afford simple shoes, winter jacket, you have to save money to buy winter jacket. If you are starving, you cannot get food stamps or other help from the government. We had a time we didn’t have food, so I sold my daughter’s bicycle to buy at least something. I was so broken, I even thought about suicide. The Green Card lottery just changed my life absolutely and totally. When I won lottery, we didn’t think about moving. We just moved, I moved without English language at all. Having my 2-year-old daughter in my hands with almost empty pockets. That was my beginning here in the U.S.,” Orlova said.
Orlova spent her first six months here learning English, then decided she wanted to go into law enforcement. She got her first job at the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, driving 88 miles each way for three years. Then she got hired by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office last September.
“I’m really happy I can help people. Being a deputy means being a psychologist. You don’t have to be super strong, you have to be strong mentally. Being in a pod with 15 inmates inside max level of security and walking around being a small tiny female deputy. It takes time to establish this rapport,” Orlova said.
It’s not easy work. She works 12 hour shifts and understands the dangers. “The worst part for me was to fill out paperwork for my funeral, when they ask if I want flowers. It just changed everything in my head. Now I can understand every day can be my last day, even here in jail. It’s always hard, doesn’t matter what job you have, patrol side, state patrol, being in jail, every day can be your last day. It’s hard to say goodbye when you leave your family for work, your kids because you don’t know if you will come back,” Orlova said.
She wants to be part of the solution. “I’m here to help. That’s how i look at it. I’m not here to punish, I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you,” she said.
Orlova said she is doing this for her daughter, for herself and for our country, “That’s the way to say thank you U.S. government for this chance for what I got right now. It makes me feel stronger inside, because I am doing this for my daughter, myself, for everything I’ve got here.”
In just a few more years, Orlova can apply for citizenship. She says, at this point, she has no interest in going back to Ukraine.