Soviet Refugee, Conservative Republican Tatyana Semyrog Brings Political Experience To State Representative Race

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Tatyana Semyrog wanted to live a quiet life in Duxbury after the death of her husband.

The 42-year-old, who came to the United States from the Soviet Union as a refugee in 1988, is a widow and cancer survivor. Her husband died in a car crash in July 2016, around the time she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following her husband’s death, she moved from North Carolina to Duxbury, Massachusetts to raise her three daughters in a safe community.

Last October, however, one of her daughters came home from school crying because she didn’t want people to know she came from a Republican family, fearing that she’d be bullied. For Semyrog, it sparked flashbacks to when she was bullied as a child in the Soviet Union for not wearing a Lenin pin at school because her family was not Communist and instead practiced Orthodox Christianity — a faith that is still an important part of Semyrog’s life today.

“My family history goes back to terrible persecution, people giving their lives and going to the Gulags for their faith,” she told New Boston Post in an interview earlier this week.

“When my daughter started telling me she’s not able to express things freely, it freaked me out,” she continued. “Losing my husband and surviving breast cancer, I just wanted to escape all that pain and live the rest of my life. When that happened with my daughter, I said, ‘Oh my God, this is not happening. This is not happening here in America.’ ”

That exchange led Semyrog to want to make a difference. Since she had some experience working in politics in the past, she emailed the Massachusetts Republican Party saying she wanted to get involved, telling party officials about her background. For four months, she didn’t hear back, but eventually someone got in touch with her and told her the party didn’t have a candidate in the Sixth Plymouth District for the Massachusetts House of Representatives to run against incumbent state Representative Josh Cutler, a Democrat.

The district covers the towns of Hanson and Pembroke and almost all of the town she lives in, Duxbury.

She went for it.

“This district doesn’t lean in any extreme,” she said. “It’s a moderate American patriotic district. It deserves to have someone who represents that point of view, not a radical left-wing politician. He just voted to defund the police. He just voted to raise the gas tax. People are extremely upset.”

In March, Cutler voted in favor of raising the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by nine 9 per gallon, called for in Massachusetts House Bill 4530, which seeks to raise revenue for transportation improvements.  And in July, he voted in favor of a police reform bill that would strip qualified immunity protections for decertified officers, would restrict “no-knock” warrants, and would ban school officials from providing information about students to law enforcement agencies, as MassLive points out.

Semyrog said she is pro-police and uses the slogan “defend not defund” when it comes to law enforcement. She also noted that many police officers are former members of the military.

“We need more law-and-order, not less,” she said. “Our police are the last line of defense between safety and chaos and we cannot lose them. As I door knock and talk to police officers in their home, they tell me there’s so many who want to hang the uniform up and walk away.

“That’s scary,” she said. “I’m standing up for them for my own safety and the safety of my own children. It scares me that their departments could be hurt by defunding. Our men and women in blue need to be honored, not mocked or spat on.”

Cutler, 49, whose family has run a weekly newspaper in Duxbury for about 70 years, is a lawyer and former editor and publisher of the newspaper. He is seeking a fifth term as state representative. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

Semyrog said that her priorities in the race have changed from what they initially were as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, her top focus is economic recovery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, she told New Boston Post she is “150 percent pro-life” and proud of it, and that she opposes illegal immigration. One deterrent she said isn’t discussed enough is E-Verify, which requires employers to verify that potential employees are authorized to work in the United States.

“I came here legally as a refugee escaping communism,” she said. “We as a sovereign nation have a process like any other country. That should be respected and followed. You can’t just have the states and cities have open borders because they don’t accept the federal law. States need to work with the federal government to protect our communities.”

Semyrog came to the United States with her family in 1988 from Nakhodka, Russia, a Pacific Ocean port city on the Sea of Japan. Her father was a Chessmaster who excelled in school but could not receive a higher education because he was not a member of the Communist Party, she said. Her grandfather spent 20 years in the Gulags for having a Bible at home, and his brothers were executed for their faith, she said. 

Her grandmother and her grandmother’s seven children were homeless for seven years and tried to survive off potato peels and the leftover content of flour bags, she said. Four of those seven died.

Nowadays, Semyrog is a photographer. She also holds a patent for a muslin swaddle called BowBaby to keep babies secure while sleeping.

During the height of the coronavirus emergency, she said, she spent much of time with her children and connecting with her faith.

Now that public life is slowly returning, she is actively campaigning.

Semyrog isn’t just running for office, she’s also walking for it. Her goal for knocking on doors is to hit 100 houses per day.

In July, at house in Hanson she got chased off the property by a couple that was screaming and swearing at her because she is a conservative. It was ugly, she said, but that’s not the lesson she draws from the experience.

“When I first got in my car I was shaking,” she said. “There was so much adrenaline. I’m putting in so much time, and I feel like what I’m doing is good. To find people who would not even hear me out, I always like to look at things like how I would react. If someone from Cutler’s campaign came to my door, I would never act like that. It was a 96-degree day, a tough day, and the last house on my list. To have that happen, I got overwhelmed with a sense of hurt. It actually hurt.

“I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ How can I keep going?’ ” she said. “But I remember that it was just one person. Compare that to all of the love that I’ve been receiving door after door. I got used to the love so to get that hate, it was a shock. But it’s a reminder of the kind of hate I’m up against.”

Semyrog comes into this race with political experience. She worked as a congressional aide in constituent services for three members of Congress:  U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts, at the time), U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), and U.S. Representative John Olver (D-Massachusetts).

She worked out of Olver’s Holyoke office from December 2002 to August 2005; Hagan’s Charlotte, North Carolina office from July 2009 to May 2010; and Brown’s Boston office from May 2010 to May 2011. While the three former members of Congress varied widely in their political approaches — Brown was a moderate Republican, Hagan a moderately liberal Democrat, and Olver a liberal Democrat — Semyrog said her work didn’t focus on public policy as much as helping constituents solve practical problems.

She sees that experience as beneficial in Massachusetts, especially since she has worked for Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I have experience working for both parties, so I know how they think, and was able to find compromises in both offices,” she said. “Even with Scott Brown, he was a Republican working in a liberal state. You have to restrain your own opinion and how you feel about things to work your tail off for all of your constituents.”

More information on her campaign can be found at