The Atayev File

Family: Both parents are Turkmen who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkemenistan. He has two younger sisters.

On the country: “Turkmenistan is totally different than our neighbors. We are more modern but at the same time less-developed. There’s a lack of opportunity, though. It’s tough to compete at a good level. We don’t have homeless people, but the living standard is less than the United States.”

On coming to the United States: “It was a family dream to come here. Even though the political and economic situation was not the greatest there, we still had a really good life. Coming here was not an easy choice. When you come here, you’re losing everything.”

Favorite food: “I like Italian cuisine. But the most, I like my mom’s food. [My favorite] is pilaf. It’s our national dish. My mom is a great cook.”

Jim Paulsen