I moved to Canada when I was nine from what was then known as the USSR (the region I was born is now the country of Belarus) and although I consider myself to be more Canadian than anything else, I still sometimes forget that my life experience is quite different from a lot of my friends’ who were born and raised in this country.
Here are some examples of things maybe not everyone can comment on:
– I can tell you what it is like to live through the fall out of Chernobyl (although the disaster occurred in Ukraine it was Belarus that was directly hit by the radiation cloud)
– I can recount my experience of moving to a country without knowing the language and how isolating that can be – and I was a kid so I picked it up fast, I can’t even imagine doing this much later in life like many immigrants do
– I have all sorts of examples of somewhat comical yet equally terrifying ways my young mind was pumped full of Soviet propaganda
– My maternal grandfather was in a Gulag work camp for about a year and luckily was released and luckily was the only person in my family sent there. I never met him so everything I know about his experience is second hand and fairly vague. I can understand him not wanting to recount his ordeal once it was finished.
– I can also tell you about how paranoid and scared everyone was. My maternal grandmother, for example, had to lie to me about where she went when she was going to church for the fear that I would say something to a classmate in school about it, he/she would repeat it to his/her parents, and they would be the wrong kind of people. Technically under the Soviet regime one was not allowed to go to church, but everyone was encouraged to turn each other in for the pettiest of things or for the slightest suspicion.
There is other stuff but that is what comes to mind off the bat. And I should also mention that despite all of this my childhood memories are primarily of the “fond” variety…so it wasn’t all bad.
And because I will use any excuse to post Gogol Bordello, I leave you with…