Just in Case is a series that will explore the collective immigrant narrative through objects people bring with them and hold on to.


About the Project

This photojournalism project (originally called Just In Case | На Всякий Случай) started with a focus on the Russian-speaking Jewish immigrant community, but it quickly expanded to spotlight all immigrants and the possessions they’ve carried with them through their immigration journeys and beyond. I want to explore the bigger concept of why we are so often attached to physical things. Do objects provide comfort? Are they little time capsules of the past that also give us hope about the future? Do we convince ourselves that they will serve a utilitarian purpose? Do we simply hold on to things just because they were difficult to get?

Once people start talking about physical objects, their immigration stories start to emerge. The intimate connection to possessions is the common thread that binds all immigrants, regardless of origins or cultures. By finding common themes, I want to erase the idea of “the other” that those who have assimilated often use to justify discrimination against new waves of immigrants from different cultures. This concept of “pulling up the ladder behind us” results in a refusal to help fellow immigrants who are going through the same experience.

There will always be “others.” There will always be immigrants. There will always be a hesitance to embrace a different person from another culture. We can minimize this by telling our stories in order to bridge the gaps in our understanding of foreign cultures and to build on an anthropological study of the immigrant experience. Our community will be all the better for it.

This project originally started as part of the COJECO BluePrint Fellowship supported by COJECO and Genesis Philanthropy Group.


"Just in Case": The Russian Emigre Mindset (The Times of Israel)

Objects That Matter (Ironed Curtains by and for Americans with Soviet Roots)

Желтая косынка и билет «Аэрофлота» (Голос Америки - Voice of America Russian Service)

My interview with Maya Pritsker of RTN's Kontakt

Valere Zimmer

About Me

I immigrated to the United States in 1992 from Kiev, Ukraine. My family settled in Philadelphia and later moved to the suburbs during the Soviet immigrant suburban sprawl. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Design. I met my non-immigrant, non-Soviet, non-Jewish husband in college and together we settled in Queens, NY. I received my MBA from NYU and have worked in Manhattan ever since. I currently work in higher education marketing in the area of international and public affairs, and I enjoy hearing stories from students who come from all over the world. I am also a photographer, and I use my lens to bring people’s stories to life.