Do I feel Russian?
You don’t have to give up your Cheburashka to make a new home.
Russian women have always been independent, straight-forward, educated, fashionable and very good spouses and girlfriends. Of course, there are two types of Russians: the ones who want to show off and the ones who are the cautious types. I keep saying they, but I am Russian too, even though I have not lived in Russia for more than 15 years; with an exception for two years ago when I decided to move back to the motherland, only in a few months to realize that it was not the country I left in 1994.
Having a mixed feeling of nostalgia and resentment about Russia is what unites Russians here. Will I ever live there again? Probably not. I thought, but I tried anyway. Did I give a shot at it? Yes, I did. Do I feel Russian? It is not that I choose to hang out in a clique of Russians, but as the expatriate writer Andrei Makine wrote, “Homo Sovieticus is a separate species.” Sometimes you just need contact with that soulfulness to talk about the food, the celebration of Old New Year, long lines for cheese and eggs, uncomfortable school uniform and all the other extreme experiences we have been through together. One another Russian can understand.
America became my second home. It is where my most adult years were spent, having left Moscow at 15 years old. But I do miss silly things about Russia, like the black break, Kefir and street hassle right before the New Year’s Eve celebration. And I still can’t seem to find an idiom to explain to Americans what “cheburashka” really is; I think most of us, Russians, still do not understand what animal it represents, if at all. But we grew up with Karlson, Vinnie-the-Pooh, Cheburashka, Ezhik v Tumane, Matroskin, Neznaika and Kapitoshka.
When in 1995 we moved in a tiny apartment in Corvallis, Oregon, leaving a 3-bedroom luxurious apartment in Moscow, I was under-whelmed, but my life became about great opportunities and choices. And with all the doors open to Russians today - now that the iron curtain has been lifted - the Russian have been slowly colonizing the greats of the world’s sites – London, New York, Paris, Rome… And with all the challenges and novelties in new countries, they were never afraid to face them. Just think of the Russian history; we are natural fighters and survivors.
What I love about the U.S.A. is that you are encouraged to be a character. Under the Old Soviet system, even in the midst of blossoming arts in its various forms, it was still all about suppressing the individuals. I know that my future children will speak another language better than their native Russian, just because the exposure to the local (American) culture and life will dominate that the one of Russia. But I speak Russian, my family speaks Russian, my boyfriend’s family speaks Russian, and we will speak Russian to the kids. They will always have Russian souls (by the way, Wikipedia even has a definition of a Russian soul that you might find interesting. See if it makes sense.)
The emigrant Russians, for the most part, never loose touch with their rich historic and cultural roots, and how can they if they have one of the greatest colorful cultures in the world that gave the world Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov, Ballet, Siberian diamonds, caviar, vodka, fashionable inspirations, Doctor Zhivago, Lolita, Faberge, Malevich, Kandinsky, Eisenstein…This could be one of the reasons that the “old Russia” pre-revolution people left Russia and established their own communities around the world, where they built Russian kindergartens and schools for their children, opened Russian grocery stores and continued serving the country, some even under old Russian passports.
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