Monday, September 27, 1999

I read a really interesting and meaningful book recently: Mark Fritz's Lost on Earth: Nomads of the New World. Even though the majority of the people in the text were escaping genocide or starvation, I felt somehow *linked to their narratives.

I, too, have been *lost on this world after the end of the Cold War. I was raised on a farm in East Texas. During all the time I was growing up, I heard about those awful Russians and godless Communists. Somehow I never managed to believe that those people could be as evil as my "educators" claimed. (Of course, because of my ties with Poland, I now *know just how evil and godless the Russian Communists could be. But that's a different story.) I fell passionately in love with Russian composers while studying music at college: specifically Shostakovich and Khachaturian. When I transferred to a university, I specifically chose one where I could study Russian language and culture. I wanted to be one of those really interesting people who traveled to the unknown frontier to "see what he could see." I just knew there had to be something different than what we in East Texas knew.

Everything was fine: Gorbachev was making lots of press, we had a few defections, martial law, the Cold War seemed to be a bit colder. But then 1989 happened: free elections, Solidarity, the televised revolution from Romania, pink tanks, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember standing in line one January morning waiting for financial aid with other Soviet studies majors, talking about the television special "When Dictators Fall" (or some such equally sensational title) which was broadcast the evening before--the one that kept showing that alley in Bucharest where Ceausescu and his wife were assassinated. We somehow knew that our degrees would become an anachronism before they were even awarded. We were becoming more obsolete with every news report.

When I did graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in 1991, there was no place for me to go. That is to say, I was accepted into the Peace Corps and flown to Warsaw to educate the heathen Poles about the values of consumerism. I didn't even last until the end of the three-month training period. No longer could I allow myself to be a tool of the neo-colonial, neo-imperial evil empire and its reigning Dark Lord of Psychological Oppression (George Bush). That's the closest I ever got to what I was looking for. But my youthful idealism prevented me from even seeing the possibility and potential of my experience in Poland at that time. I had to leave. Damaged and cynical, and eight years later, I'm teaching myself Russian from scratch. And still trying to find my lost self on earth. So I recommend this terrifically written book. Now that you know my melodramatic narrative, you should read about *real people who don't have American passports or return tickets back home.

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