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What It Means to Be Russian in America

The iron curtain is long gone. But it will take much longer for the iron mentality to follow.

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Actually, I was born in Ukraine – the part of the USSR at that time, the independent country now. But it doesn’t matter I guess, because some of my American acquaintances keep calling me Russian anyways. And, considering the quality of the US education, I can see why.

Most local students graduate from high school without a clear understanding of how many countries there are on planet Earth. Nevermind the location or the political system of those countries.

Some of the most ridiculous comments I heard so far:

“Oh, so Ukraine is the part of Russia?”

“Yes, I’ve been to France, so I know where everything in Europe is…”

“So aren’t you all communists?”

“Does Ukraine have its own flag?”

“When you visit your birth country can you bring me a little bear, a couple of bottles of vodka, and that earflap hat?”

It would all be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

It took me some time to realize that all the above ridiculousness is the image some Americans have about pretty much any country in Eastern Europe.

They will call you “comrade Stalin” and laugh.

If you are a female, which I am both by birth and by choice, the common stereotype is that you are one of “Russian wives” – a stunningly beautiful woman from some Russian village with a low IQ, zero knowledge of English, and the desire to escape the poverty no matter what. As a respected American man once mentioned during a conversation I happened to be a part of: “If you want all the men around to envy you, you shall get yourself a nice quiet Russian woman, and then you simply exchange them every five years…”.

Yes, I would agree, to some extent Russian and Ukrainian women have generously contributed to this ugly image. But a comprehensive judgment is a mere form of narrow-mindedness in this case.

You would think slavery was abolished a long time ago. But no. It’s very much alive. Just in a slightly different form.

During my years of living, studying, and visiting my beloved land of the free and the home of the brave, the people of the United States called me everything starting from “the one from that country near Russia” to “the communist”.

The point is that I am one of the people. In my heart, my mind, and my documents.

So what do I do when I hear once again:

“Everything Russian stinks.”

“Ukrainians are freaks.”

What do I do? Do I stand idle and keep my cool? Do I defend my rights as a lawful Ukrainian immigrant? Do I cry?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answer yet.

But I hope, that one day I won’t need to search for the answer, because a lawful Ukrainian immigrant in America will be accepted, respected, and valued as well as all other immigrants, which in fact we all here are, except for the indigenous peoples.

Dear America, I am a bisexual woman born in the territory of Ukraine in the long gone from world map country named USSR, I am well educated, multilingual, integral, intelligent, and energetic; please, stop putting the labels on me and accept me as I am.

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