I was born in France in the Russian émigré community. I grew up transitioning from one cultural environment to another daily – from a close-knit, insular, family-based group that shared the same language, religion, and goals, to the outside world of a completely different language, religion, and a multiplicity of goals. I was as familiar with morning coffee and fresh croissants as I was with bliny and borshch, with the Cyrillic alphabet as with the Latin, with the rhythm of holidays of a predominantly Catholic host country, as with the demands of the feasts and rituals of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
But clearly, the motley diversity of Paris, as big and energetic a city as it is, just wasn’t right for me. I grabbed the first opportunity that presented itself to cross the ocean – in the guise of a summer internship in a language school. There is a pattern here – language and culture, traditions and histories, are where I find inspiration. The planned three months in the US turned into a lifetime in America, two daughters, a Master’s degree in Russian literature and folklore, and life in South Texas.
In keeping with my multicultural life, I write and teach about culture and far-away places, about languages and communication, about understanding and misunderstanding. My favorite focus is folklore, but I will happily put together a lesson plan – or a full syllabus – for the study of the Russian language, literature, or cinema. Just ask my students.