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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Not My Grandmother’s Russia

For those of us raised in Russian emigre’ families, our view of the Motherland may be quite different from present-day reality. Time marches on, even as the May Day troops in Red Square no longer march.

Once upon a time, I imagined elderly babushkas (grandmothers), heavy-set and ruling the roost, so to speak. I conjured up images of older gentlemen with suit jacket fronts full of colorful war medals. There would be gypsy pickpockets on the metro, swirling scarves and gold-capped teeth to mesmerize me.

Instead, I find six-foot-tall blond fashion models in fur coats with colors not quite found in nature and moving around town in stiletto-heeled boots. The top designer boutiques in Moscow are packed with patrons, as are upscale cafes and restaurants. Champagne and chocolates suffer no lack of willing customers, either. My neck is sore from rubber-necking and wondering if I had landed in another Euro hotspot.

No, this was Russia, so different in many ways, yet the same in scores of other ways. Not many countries still gunned down their outspoken journalists in front of their own homes.

What I had heard about drab Soviet buildings could have been accurate long ago. But now, a pre-Revolutionary pizazz was felt everywhere: colors abounded in architecture from the city to the countryside. Expertly-applied makeup and manicures were de rigeur.

Perhaps I hailed from peasant stock. The small village settings of wooden, two-room homes, muddy unpaved lanes, and gardens full of flowers and veggies somehow spoke to me. Geese and chickens wandering at will conjured up childhood memories of artwork on my nursery wall. These were my people, ready to indulge in a late afternoon treat of chai straight from the samovar, and kulich fresh from the oven.

Besides a peasant blouse or two, I could not be further from this background. These must have been false memories planted by childhood stories. We were the patrician class, the Russian nobility that ended up populating parties in New York and Paris and speaking of the old days, while eating caviar and speaking Russian.

Times have changed. The family estates are gone, or confiscated, or in great ruin. The older generation still does not dare to return, those who are alive. The younger ones try to bridge two worlds, neither one of which truly “fits”.

For all of these reasons, and for none of these reasons, I am proud to be raising Russian children. They will be proud of their heritage, they will retain their native tongue, they will learn about a banyah and have respect for their babushka. And hopefully, they will one day be able to come and go freely from a country in which they are still citizens.

May we all continue to march forward, embracing a new Russia with the optimism of Cheburashka and children everywhere. Russia is changing and so are we.

 

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