Coming to America or laughter through the tears
Over twenty nine years have passed yet I remember the feeling as if it had just happened this morning. I had read about it in books but that was the first time I experienced and understood how one could laugh and cry at the same time.
I was eleven, standing behind bullet proof glass with by parents and my brother next to me and the rest of my family on the opposite side of the glass. I knew I was never to see them again. My aunts, uncles, cousins, my grandmother and my grandfather… those were the final glimpses I was to ever get of them.
Yet, I was happy and looking forward to my future. I was leaving the Communist USSR and coming to AMERICA. In a few short hours I would be free. Free from school uniforms, communist propaganda, admiration of mediocrity, free to say whatever I wanted without fearing the KGB.
These days it sounds so dramatic and almost cinematic. What normal citizen fears the KGB? Does a concept of political dissident even exist in our world? Perhaps maybe in North Korea and Laos? And Cuba, though with Castro’s death there will probably be many changes.
1987 was a totally different time and life. We had no inkling that in a few short years the infallible would crumble. We thought the Communist USSR was forever. We thought the iron curtain was thick and permanent.
Eight years prior, my parents applied for permission to leave the USSR and were denied. In our modern world it is hard for us to understand why a country would deny a citizen a request to emigrate? A request to enter yes, but to leave? Yet, such was our reality in the USSR.
Having asked for permission to leave and being denied, had earned my parents the label of a “Traitor”. Because who, except a traitor, would want to leave the Communist Paradise?
OK, so the official word was a “Refusenik” as in “one who is has been refused to leave”, but as far as the KGB was concerned, we were “Traitors”.
To make things more interesting, my parents were involved in actions that were illegal according Soviet laws. Actions that today seem so mundane and even boring– like practicing Jewish holidays and learning Hebrew (Hebrew studies were considered illegal by the government). Or organizing a hunger strike in order to facilitate a release of a political prisoner whose health was declining. What country has political prisoners anymore… besides North Korea and several others, maybe?
But back to that day and me, looking at my family one last time. So sad to leave my family yet so incredibly happy about my future.
We arrived to the United States of America in 1987, on a Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Our first dinner was a Thanksgiving meal.
I think of this story every year around this time. I remember that feeling of joy and sadness, of laughter and tears, of letting go and moving forward toward the bright future.
I remember following a dream despite the loss.
I did not realize it then, but I was living the same story, experiencing the same feeling, following the same journey as so many immigrants had before and after me.
That dream did not disappoint. And the loss turned out to be temporary. All of my extended family was reunited within the next several years.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends and may God, Goddess and All There Is shine light and love on this wonderful country.
P.S. Although this particular journey was literal, I see it symbolically repeating in my life and in the lives of my friends, clients and students. Daily I ask myself: “what am I willing to let go so I could have a brighter future? What hurt, what anger, what fear, what resentment, what cord am I willing to release in order to create space for my dream.” How about you? What are YOU willing to let go in order to follow YOUR dream? What will YOU laugh about through YOUR tears?