Posts tagged " russia "

On Russia

December 27th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I left home a long time ago. So long that I don’t even call it home. I never miss it, nowhere I go in the world ever reminds me of it. Just once, long ago, on a bus ride from New York to New England, the colors of the autumn trees suddenly made a stranger pass me a pack of tissues.

And then today, my mom, driving through the suburbs of Riga, Latvia, snowflakes as big as cotton balls, falling on our windshield. Otherwise silence.

It reminded me of the blinding whiteness of a birch forest, bright even on the gloomiest of days. Of a constant feeling of history and grandeur, no matter how dark. Running to the lake through the moist woods in the summer, the smell of mushrooms in the soil. Winters of skiing on snowy roads, as if it was just as normal as riding a bike.

It’s was fleeting nostalgia, instant and immediately stolen by the stranger’s kind intrusion, or my mother’s voice, but felt so strongly for that moment, that the memory of each scene forms a film of tears, blurs my vision, reminds me that in my heart, I have a home.

On Dough

July 8th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

When I was a kid, every month or so, on a designated morning, my mom and aunts would gather in the kitchen, clear the table, sprinkle it with thick, white dust, form a couple of volcanoes in the middle, add stuff to the craters, and begin to knead.

Later, rolling pins and wine glasses would join the setting, while they stood over their dough balls and rolled them out to the desired perfect thin. Using the wine glass rims, they’d cut out perfect circles, throw perfect teaspoonfuls of minced beef and onions, maybe garlic, I don’t remember, and tie them into perfect pelmeni (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelmeni).

I remember their white-goo-covered hands holding cigarettes while they took a break, their obsessive counting of how many pelmeni they’d made, as if it was a competition with last month, the bags full of the frozen dumplings in our freezer, but most of all, their sweat and the hours this activity consumed. And then, how little time it took everyone to eat their efforts.

I must have been around 10 when I silently swore to myself I would never do anything like this, especially not for any man. Plus, I hated the stuff. Eventually, I was forced to join this sacred ritual, though I was only ever entrusted with the wine glass cutting part. My lack of enthusiasm and no thirst to learn were soon accepted, though with frowns and head shakes.

Fast forward yourself to an odd three decades later. I’m in my mid-forties.

Picture me in my kitchen, a few minutes after I’ve finally put my toddler to bed. There’s flour, there’s a volcano, there’s olive oil, salt, and sugar. And I’m kneading. Only my mission is to create the perfect pizza dough ball. And this is no sisterly social event, it’s just me.

The memories above came like fireworks during the second or third time I picked up that rolling pin. I’d rummaged through my mom’s kitchen to find it, we obviously did not have one in the house. I think it’s the same on she used back then, and I will never give it back because she has not used it since she left that house. I could suddenly hear their chatter, smell the mushroom soup that was simmering on the stove behind them, smell their smoke, feel their pain, listen to their thoughts.

I stand and knead, drops of sweat bounce of my perfect dough ball, its a hot summer night and no matter how many years go by, my Russian makeup just can’t stand the heat. I know it’s just water and salt, I smile as I picture my family and friends nibbling on a slice tomorrow, and I gloat about my history, my past, the women and men that have kneaded me into what I am right now; a stay-at-home mom making dough. For we are all one perfect recipe of our past.

Why Hillary Matters

June 8th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I’m not a hard-core feminist. Actually, I’m not really a feminist at all. I grew up in a society that was heavily matriarchal at its core, where women were the family’s decision makers, the power holders, in a country where most men where either alcoholics or stagnant, at least as far as I can remember. That’s what the system permitted. There was no such thing as the women’s rights movement in the Soviet Union. There were other problems to tend to.

My grandmother has probably never voted. But she has a university degree, a job she stayed at for decades, she loves clothes and make up, and is constantly obsessed with what she looks like. At 82, she puts on more mascara a day than I do in a year.

I remember riding the subway with her, I couldn’t have been older than 10.

“Don’t sit like that, keep your knees knocked together, you’re a lady.” My clothes always needed to be feminine, my weight is always an issue. And find yourself a man who respects you and whose shoulder you can lean on in more ways than one. Respect your husband and tend to his needs. You don’t want him to stray. “But keep thinking about what you will do with your life. I imagine you will want to be a doctor, a lawyer, something that will keep you independent, don’t forget that you must always strive for independence. And try to live in America.” I never questioned how these two extremes coexisted without driving her insane.

I grew up to be a woman who keeps her knees together while sitting when needed. And after a myriad of failed, wrong relationships, I knew enough to marry a man for so much more than a financially promising future. And I did not become a doctor or a lawyer because none of this ever mattered to me. And I don’t wish it had, in retrospect. And though I love to look pretty, I don’t obsess about it when circumstances don’t permit me to.

I’m human. I’m a woman. Sometimes, I’m doing the best I can, other times, I’m doing just enough to survive. And forever, will I believe in what I do.

Hillary Clinton is a woman. She’s been doing the best she can in a world far more complicated than mine. With millions of glares on her every move, and a lot more people to answer to than my grandmother. She survived being a First Lady, she’s dealt with a White House affair, she survived bashing as the Secretary of State, she survived political scandals, she raised a child, and went through as much as any other woman has. I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about how much money she has, I don’t care about Bill, I don’t care about Bernie. What I I care about is that against all odds, the cracked glass ceiling of eight years ago has come crashing down in a rain of brilliant glitter. History has been altered forever. It made me giddy with pride, because her victory belongs to all of us, and to all those that came before us. It made this 40-something housewife cry at 7am over my son’s school lunch, and it made me want to call my grandmother and tell her that, today, America is place I want to be. I can’t help but wonder what Hillary’s grandmother would have to say.

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.