It took me years to be proud of being Russian. (Growing up in American during the Cold War will do that to a girl.) I came to this country over 30 years ago when I was just shy of 5 years old. I remember very little from the “old country,” but few things still give me a great sense of nostalgia.
As I’ve grown older and have children of my own, I am drawn to more Russian things, movies, songs and long to have more Russian friends. When I went to a cousin’s birthday party this past weekend and saw that all of their friends were Russian, I had a pang of jealousy. They seemed to be hanging out with “their people.” I wondered if when I was younger I felt like such an outsider because I lived in a neighborhood that (at that time) had few Russians. I didn’t grow up in Little Russia – a.k.a. Brighton Beach – or anywhere in Brooklyn for that matter.
There are several things that bring me that false sense of homesickness – a term that really doesn’t fit the feeling. I don’t wish to live there, but I get a warmth inside when I see the following things:
I remember watching Cheburashka when I was a tyke, but more than that, I remember the song from the cartoon that my father used to sing to me. The song will always bring me back to my daddy singing it to me. I hear his voice and I see his face and I am 8 years old and he is happy and there is innocence. When my half-brother turned 5, I made him a painting where I wrote all the words to the song (it’s a happy birthday tune). Yesterday, at the birthday party, I noticed my cousin had a stuffed animal of the side character from the cartoon. When you pushed him, he also sang the happy birthday song. I almost cried – I wanted the toy RIGHT NOW.
When my 8-year-old was born, someone gave me a Cheburashka CD that I played for him in hopes that hearing the language and the songs would, later in life, draw out some pang of wistfulness.
It’s interesting how I’m raising a new generation and watching them grow up in front of my eyes in a culture different than my first one. For my children English is their first language and peanut butter and jelly is a normal kids’ food. I grew up drinking tea for breakfast and eating caviar on a regular basis – and not because we were rich. My kids will never feel this longing – but I will try to give them little doses when I can…
Here’s a clip of how Cheburashka begins:
… And here’s a clip of the Birthday song:
… And the toys: