Mari­na Blit­shteyn is the author of the new poet­ry chap­book Russ­ian for Lovers. Ear­li­er this week she wrote about she wrote about the ori­gin of Russ­ian for Lovers and the poet­ry writ­ing process. She has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

It’s not my sto­ry to tell so I haven’t real­ly been telling it. The strug­gle was my par­ents’, who lost their careers and start­ed from scratch in a new coun­try, and more my sister’s than mine, hav­ing been thrust into an Amer­i­can pub­lic high school with an accent and a bad case of cul­ture shock. Over the years I’d been col­lect­ing bits and pieces of the nar­ra­tive: how bad things got towards the end, Jew­ish homes bro­ken into, fam­i­lies beat­en, demon­stra­tions in pub­lic squares, the slo­gan We will drown the Sovi­ets in Jew­ish blood!”

Moldova’s inde­pen­dence brought with it a height­ened phase of anti-Semi­tism, and I remem­ber my father installing a big steel door to our apart­ment, in case any­one tried to break in. I also vague­ly remem­ber hav­ing to keep acid by the door as a means of pro­tec­tion. I remem­ber a tank and the earth­quakes, I remem­ber final­ly get­ting cable before we left. Sell­ing every­thing off, leav­ing things behind. A lit­tle green piano I still regret leav­ing, a squeaky red shoe. The car ride to the train sta­tion, already nar­rat­ing my last glance back at the apart­ment. The train, the big air­plane, eat­ing bologna and Amer­i­can cheese for the first time, throw­ing up. Then the arrival, and nobody knew how to ask where the bath­rooms were. My sis­ter piec­ing togeth­er some lines of English.

I found out last month we came here as refugees. I was too young to know it then.

This was May of 1991, and for the most part I was along for the ride. I remem­ber the fear was pal­pa­ble, moments felt dra­mat­ic. I entered into a cut con­scious­ness because my every­day had changed so much. I like to think this con­trast helped me remem­ber things better.

But the real work of immi­gra­tion fell on my fam­i­ly. This is their sto­ry. I think mine will have more to do with accul­tur­a­tion, issues of trans­la­tion and class iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, jux­ta­pos­ing Old World val­ues and anx­i­eties with 21st cen­tu­ry rights and modes of expres­sion, even ques­tion­ing these free­doms and fig­ur­ing out how to place myself with­in Judaism, giv­en my family’s his­to­ry, my grandmother’s sur­vival of the Holo­caust, my nat­u­ral­ness with spo­ken Yid­dish, and my desires as a writer and as a woman.

Russ­ian for Lovers is a step in that direc­tion, per­haps a failed attempt at address­ing pol­i­tics, love, dis­tance, lan­guage. It’s also about fail­ures of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, home, attempts, fam­i­ly rela­tions. If noth­ing else, I want it to fig­ure as a primer in the gen­er­al scope of these ques­tions, in the hopes that if I learn the basic lan­guage of this kind of dis­course I could engage with the mate­r­i­al more thor­ough­ly and sincerely.

Maybe, in time, I could be ready to tell my family’s sto­ry, too.

Mari­na Blit­shteyn is the author of Russ­ian for Lovers.