Posts tagged " refugees "

On Being a Privileged Immigrant

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I am an immigrant. At the age of eight, I left my communist star pinned on my first grade uniform, and the USSR, and came to sunny Greece. I felt out of place since the moment I woke up. On my first morning here, my mom asked what I wanted for breakfast, I realized that I could have anything I wanted, so I asked for spaghetti with ketchup. Not speaking a word of English, I went to a school full of American kids, here because their parents were stationed at the US naval bases. I had a Russian last name, Maslofskaya, it was. Imagine being 10 with that name in the 1980s, in an American microcosm. My first friend was a Turkish girl, we could barely communicate, and when she tore my favorite pink skirt on the playground, my stepfather was convinced that it was time for me, now a Greek, to stop playing with a Turk. By high school, I’d achieved my sought-after status of someone who could pass for an American, no questions asked. Only to find myself in the Greek work force being labeled as an “Amerikanaki,” carrying the load of all the negative connotations that came with that word. I began telling people I was Russian again, but it was the 1990s, and the post-glasnost outpour of people from the ex-USSR, resulted in a whole different cloud of negative profiling. Most cab drivers, for example, assumed that I was a sex worker of some sort, or was at least acquainted with a few, just because I was Russian.

In New York, as a graduate student, feeling more at home than I ever had in my life, I was sometimes a “dirty Greek.” Or an ex-commie. Back in Moscow, I’m a deserter of the mother nation.

None of this is a pity story; it’s simply reality. It is what has given me strength, power, resilience, knowledge. I’ve waited in lines for cheese and butter in freezing temperatures, holding on to my grandma’s hand. I’ve been pushed in outdoor pools by Soviet swimming instructors, insisting I need to be an athlete. I’ve said prayers in Greek and English at the daily line up at school. I have sided with the Jews, I have sided with the Palestinians, I have stood on a balcony and watched the Twin Towers fall and lived their aftermath. I have watched Greece’s people lose its sunshine, only tourists and a handful of citizens still basking in its glory. I set the alarm to watch the first black man be elected president of a country I looked up to. And I yelled into a megaphone when someone who threatens not only that country, but the rest of the world, moved into a house that holds more history than his deep pocket will ever fit.

But I am always a privileged immigrant, I saw poverty, racism, bigotry, evil, and tragedy, without living the consequences.

I belonged everywhere and nowhere.

Now I don’t know where to go.


On Pride for my Son

May 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

When you and I were conceived, we had absolutely no power over who we were born to, where we were born, or what history would hold for our childhood. All of us here, were lucky enough to be born in hospitals with medical supplies, at the right time of our region’s history to not be torn by war or disease, and grow up in countries that were relatively safe and provided education.

In the same random way, others weren’t so lucky.

I had this garbage bag full of my son’s clothes from last summer, standing in the center of my “room of shame,” (everyone has one, don’t deny it), for months. I couldn’t decide what to do with it, who needed its contents more, what organization, which orphanage Syrian kids, Greek kids, or my friend’s kid, which was the easiest way to go; she lives up the street.

And then, Ali came my way. Born in Afghanistan, untreated properly for jaundice, he’s mentally and physically disabled, and just a year or so younger than my son. I hauled the bag into the car, took my son by the hand, and went to meet the forever-involved and helping Elisavet Papoutsi, who would pass on the clothes to the child. I looked up the family’s story, Ali is the middle child of three, with an educated, charismatic, strong father, who was forced to take his family on a treacherous journey, and arrive at a camp here in Athens. (read full story here: and here:…/…/10/refugee-crisis-and-war-faces/)

The donations we make are usually impersonal. We don’t know who wears the shoes, who’s fed with the $50 we donated to charities.

“Mommy, what’s in the bag?” Stef asked.

“Your small clothes, we’re giving them to a child that doesn’t have any.” My three-year-old nodded in understanding, it wasn’t the first time in his very short life that we were giving his things away to those in need. “HIs name is Ali,” I said.

“Ali? Ok, we give to Ali.”

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.