I Feel Like I Was Living in Russia Again . . . An Interview with a Russian Immigrant

I Feel Like I Was Living in Russia Again . . .

  I recently conducted an interview with, Nadia, a Russian immigrant. Tall and attractive, she’s been a LEGAL citizen now for a few years. She was born and raised in Minsk, was a Lenin Eagle and later a Pioneer. She now resides in New Orleans. Until the COVID shutdown, she had been making a living with a floral business and decorating for weddings and special events.

Our conversation led to describing her life in this American COVID shutdown. We talked about Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, whom she admired. When I told her that I had everything Solzhenitsyn had written, she said, “You’re the first American I’ve talked to who knew anything about him, and the first who really understands what life is like in a communist country.”

“How would you describe your life now?” I asked.

“I feel like I’m living in Russia again,” she said. “I haven’t worked for months. Since I’m self-employed, the only money I’ve been able to receive is a little bit of relief money. In Russia, the government will provide a stipend, but not enough to live on. The government controlled where you could live, where you could go, what you could buy—if you had any money—and controlled what you could say. The government determined what was acceptable to say.  You had to be very careful with what you said, Neighbors would turn you in for making your own bread or making your own vodka, so that had to be done in secret. If you wanted to purchase something, anything, you had to count on waiting for hours in very long lines. Many things were not available at all, not at any price.”

She paused and looked directly at me. “That is my life now. I’m living in a ___ hole. Sometimes I think I might as well be back in the Russian ____ hole. I see how Americans are headed toward the same kind of life—with a government-controlled media, where you have the rich elite who control everything and who have everything and anything they want. Then there’s everyone else, the rest of the population that the leaders don’t care about.  The rich leaders are hypocrites, who feel they don’t have to obey the same restrictions and rules as a normal citizen.”

She paused as if remembering the little girl she once had been standing in the breadline for hours. She went on to describe the total censorship, the ruined lives of those who spoke out, how they used mob violence to deter protests or stepping out of Party lines, and the common fraud and power struggles in elections.

The similarities between her life experiences and what she is experiencing now were striking and obvious.  She concluded our interview by saying, “Most Americans don’t know what it’s like to live in constant fear of being arrested, spied on, fined, or for a family of four to live in one very small room.

“But someday they will . . . .”