Every Novemeber as we gather for Thanksgiving, there is one topic of conversation that is guaranteed to come up. Our journey. In November of 1989 we had finally made it to New York after months of being in no land. My parents were the first family to leave Chimkent when the USSR had finally fallen and the doors had opened.
Three days after my third birthday our journey began. Our first stop out was Moscow, we were there for only a day. Then we headed to Austria, spent 3 days there. And then off to Italy we went. We didn't know if we'd ever make it to the US. If that door would ever open for us, but there we were waiting and waiting. We waited for six months in hopes of one day being allowed into the country we now call home. It was not an easy feat. My parents have told me stories of how they practically slept on top of me, my twelve year old brother and my fifteen year old sister for fear of gypsies taking us. How they brought boxes and boxes of random things to sell in Ladispoli, Italy while we waited, so that we'd have something to live off of.
We traveled with my mother's little sister and her family, as well as my father's two younger brothers and their families. We weren't alone in our struggles or our fears but i'm not sure how much it really made a difference. We were leaving our home, the known, the familiar. Would we ever feel at home in another country? In a country where we dont know the language or the culture? Would we be accepted there? Would we spend the rest of our lives regretting the voyage? Should we have waited to go later? What lied ahead of us? No one knew, and that might have been the scariest part of it all.
I have no memories of the country I was born in. I don't remember our house or our street. All I have to live on is the stories i hear. Some I hear over and over, in a variety of versions, depending on who's telling it and some I've heard maybe once. And my entire imagination of where I'm from is based on these stories. Its not much to go on, but its all I have. I absorb the culture that my parents have brought with them and hope one day that I can pass it on but I do realize thats it's harder and harder to do. The language they speak is one of things I'm trying to hold on to hardest. I think Russian is a big part of who I am and how I see the world and I actively work on building my Russian vocabulary as much as I can so that it remains a part of me.
Life was definately much different in Chimkent in the mid-80's than it is in America in the second decade of the new millenium. I do however wonder what life would've been like if we had stayed there. Would I be the person i am today? How would i be different?
We've had a long journey into today's world, and in some ways our journey still isn't over. Everyday we struggle to find a balance between where we're coming from and where we're going. We struggle to define ourselves. Are we Russian-Americans or American-Russians?