Saturday, January 5, 2008

Soviets Jews are "nearly pitch black"

"Look Sasha, you and I both know that if you really want to leave this place you can, maybe in the 70's and 80's it was a big deal, but now? Shit man, take a train to Warsaw, nobody is watching the border anymore."
"It isn't that simple, not because of the travel restrictions, which really don't amount to much to anyone with a modicum of ingenuity, but because of what happens when you get where you are going. As a Russian I would be an illegal alien in almost any country I went to. You Americans can pretty much go where you want without drawing the attention of the authorities, for us it's a different story."
"Point taken, but beyond that, this place is a fucking shithole, it's dreary, there isn't any work, the museums and the ballet aren't what they used to be, wouldn't it be worth rolling the dice and just dropping roots somewhere else? You're young, you and Natasha don't have any kids yet, do you really want to be stuck here forever?"
"It's not so simple."
"Why not, I didn't like America so I left, I'm not exactly the picture of stability here in Moscow, I work sometimes, I have a visa sometimes, but most of the time I'm ducking the militia in the subway because I don't have proper documentation and I still wouldn't even consider going back to the states."
"It is different for you, your whole life you moved around, now you don't like a place you leave. I am Russian, there is no other country that I can live in where I will be home, Nasha, ours, part of ...I don't now how to put it to you. You come from a culture of immigration, your parents have ten different cultural lineages, you don't worry about leaving home because you don't really have one."
"I have thought about Sweden, Poland and Norway. Those are the three countries that figure most prominently in my family tree, but what does it mean to be a part of a country anyway? Are international borders any less arbitrary than creation myths? Nationalism, patriotism, religion, they're all just concentrated forms of stupidity."
"On an intellectual level I know you are right, but I feel connected to this place. I love the old veterans with their medals on the subway, proud because they don't have to pay, I love knowing we defeated the fascists and sent Gagarin into space. As a scientist I can appreciate all the contradictions in these emotions, that Stalin and Hitler were allies, that Stalin probably killed more Jews than Hitler, that the space race was just part of an arms build up, but somehow it gets to me, like an old Russian folk song."
"I never understood fervent Russian patriotism in Jews."
"They say that in the West most Jews drive German cars."
"Probably. And speaking of that, you guys could go to Israel, do you feel any patriotic pull that direction?"
"Not really, tth anti-semitism in Russian culture is so rampant that even we Jews adopt it. Half of us pretend not to be Jewish and the other half pretend their Russian identity comes first."
"I wonder sometimes if I am Jewish."
"That's why nobody in Russia takes you for a Jew"
"How's that"?
"Remember when we first met and I asked you if you were Jewish and you said 'maybe, I'm not sure'"?
"By Russian standards that automatically makes you non-Jewish".
"Because if you were Jewish you would deny it".
"That's pretty sick, and this Russian culture is so dear to your Jewish heart that you won't leave"?
"Maybe it is Stockholm Syndrome on a national scale, I identify with the culture that oppresses me, like an African-American patriot, or a Jewish member of the SS."
"You Russians are dark".
"We Russian Jews are nearly pitch black".

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