As any immigrant, I suffer from a dual personality. Actually, I’m a bit of a special head case and the list of my personalities seems as endless as the line to Moscow’s first McD’s back on the verge of Russia’s democratic regime; but if you’re one of those purebred Americans (do those even exist?), you should know that in the head of any emigre reigns a border-line schizophrenia. I’m kinda like that Nina chick from Chekhov’s Seagull:
“I’m a seagull — I’m an actress. No, I’m a seagull! Nyet: an actress!”
In my head’s case, the endless tug o’ war is on the topic of my identity. When it comes to the tales of V as a child — she is a Russian little bugger; and those memories and dreams happen in a whole different language. But as a woman, I’ve built my history here, in the U.S. of A. My first love, my first sexual partner, the first heartbreak, the first loss of a loved one — all happened here. So, when it comes to my consciousness as a lover, I doth speak English. In other words, when things get hot ‘n‘ heavy between me and my boos, my tongue communicates in the language I’ve adopted by choice.
So, the hardest question from an American that I can ever answer (besides: “Do you guys have TV’s over there?”) is this MoFo:
“Which country do you prefer?”
Fuck me! That’s the hardest toss-up ever.
There is no pride stronger — or devotion more realized — than the one an immigrant feels toward his or her chosen country; especially if the country they’ve left behind gave them some tough lovin’ back in the day. Some of my fellow ex-patriots, for instance, react to Motha’ Russia’s name with dry heaves: So impossible is their forgiveness! But seemingly, I’ve finally reached the very delicate balance of being able to not only fully participate in my American life, but to cash-in on my Russian-ness. By that I mean that, for the very first time since I’ve switched continents, I am able to speak of Russia with forgiveness and admiration. Now, I am not blind to the irony that out of all the choices of my potential homelands, I had to go choose the largest mother fucker after Motha’ Russia; so that I could continue my gypsy bounce without having to switch visas. Also, I don’t need the help of my shrink to point out the element of rebellion in the Soviet child’s selection of the country her father spent his entire life opposing. (Papa was a Soviet Army officer. ‘Nough said.)
When I encounter my fellow Russians on this fast American land of mine, I gotta say: They are kinda badass! I now reside in a close proximity to the Soviet Emigre Central, otherwise known as West Hollywood — still the most liberal ‘hood you can find yourself in LA-LA Land, in my opinion. So, I tend to run into a few of my former country’s comrades. Yes, I’ve seen the type of the middle-aged, purple-haired woman who looks at you as if premeditating ways she can kill you. I’ve passed the line-ups of male retirees playing dominos on park benches — all unanimously wearing tracksuits — while they maintain their stoic silence despite the shortness of my dress. In Hollywood clubs, I’ve picked-out the cluster of young Russian males, in black leather jackets, telegraphing their attraction to me with no more than an eyebrow raise. But those types are usually guarding a handful of decked-out, made-up, pretty and very expensive Russian girls with demands of such high maintenance, you’d think they’ve never lived through deficits of toilet paper or winter-long power and water outages. (See my rant about dem Russian girls: https://fromrussianwithlove.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/from-russia-with-love-very-very-expensive-love. So, yep: I usually stay away from those.)
Recently, I’ve even encountered a couple of Russian business types. By “business,” I don’t mean they handle those jobs that a real-life Tony Soprano would be helpless to do himself. Here, I am actually speaking of Russians who are in pursuit of some honest livin‘ — and some American dollars. (Although, if a Russian “businessman” ever threatens to kill you — I recommend to just take his word for it: It’s just safer that way.)
From this year’s encounters, I began to wonder about the source of my pride I feel toward the better-equipped, better-integrated generation of Russian movers ‘n’ shakers in the midst of their American professional careers. First of — and most importantly! — these types are always well-educated. Even if most of their college life unfolded in this country, my dear ex-patriots maintain a very high standard of learning. There is no such thing in Russia’s educational system as “an elective subject,” you see, my comrades: You bust yo’ ass and pretend to enjoy soaking-up every science, every art and every humanity. So, it’s been my experience, that usually, my peeps know what they’re talking about. The second reason for my pride for my fellow ex-patriots has been better articulated by the previously mentioned Boss Soprano:
“You Russians, you got all the angles. You come over here, you bust your ass.” He did manage to get himself some Russian ass at the end of this pep talk, but still: Russian emigres are some of the hardest working people I know.
And then: there is the cultural heritage. I’m not just talking about the again mandatory exposure to the richness of Motha’ Russia’s arts. I mean: The national strength that originates from one’s ability to bear and persevere. As we all know, Motha’ Russia has got herself a long and tumultuous history. Oh how inventive She’s been in the ways to make her children suffer! Famine, political unrest, centuries of oppression and dictatorships; wars and invasions; inflations and poverty; exile and holocaust — She’s got it all! (She sounds like a lovely place to visit, doesn’t She?!) And still, the people of my old country refuse to settle down. No matter the forever-looming danger of persecution, they insist on practicing their right to an opinion and the pursuit of change. (Here is a tale of one recent Russian whistle-blower: http://soviet-awards.com/digest/pavlichenko/pavlichenko1.htm. And I thought, my blog was controversial!)
“Now is the winter of our discontent,” the bard once sang. Considering the length of those damn Russian winters, the unrest of my former people seems never endless. But just as my own Russian motha’ prefers to love me from afar, something tells me it is better to practice my affection for my former land from a distance as well. And still, whether they choose to suffer back home or excel in their pursuits on the American land, I have to hand it to my Russian comrades: May your stubborn courage and high expectations of your Motha’ country finally deliver a summer of rest and prosperity.