Alarming News

July 23, 2012

34 glorious, American years

(Every year on July 20th, I celebrate the day my mother and I arrived in America. This year the shooting in Aurora, Colorado was so overwhelmingly on my mind that I found it hard to focus on anything else and write about my happy day until now. Please keep the victims in your thoughts.)

In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father and many other Jews left the Soviet Union (my mother and I left in 1978, my grandmother and great-aunt left in 1976), the Soviet propaganda machine began circulating a rumor. It went, roughly: life in America is so terrible that the old people eat cat food.

This was…perplexing.

People didn’t quite get it: they have food specifically made for cats in America? What a country!

A lot of things about America remained beyond their comprehension.

A week after my father arrived in New York, he and a friend were walking around Manhattan in pure wonder. They got to midtown and stood in front of Bloomingdale’s watching well-dressed people come in and out. They discussed it amongst themselves that they would obviously have to show evidence that they had money, or proof of income, or some other paperwork to get inside. Surely this store for the wealthy wouldn’t just let them in. They watched and watched but didn’t see people getting stopped. They walked slowly through the doors and found no one gave them a second look.

There’s a feeling in America today that there isn’t equality until any of us can walk into Bloomingdale’s and buy whatever we want. The two men standing there in 1977 weren’t thinking that it was unfair they couldn’t wear the same clothes as the beautiful people around them, they were just grateful for the opportunity to try. They had left a place where that opportunity simply didn’t exist. You were born poor and you would die poor–everyone would. You could gain influence in your life and that might get you small victories–instead of being assigned to practice your profession in Siberia you might get lucky and get sent to a capital city. Perhaps you, your wife, your child, your parents and other relatives could have your own apartment, one you wouldn’t have to share with another family. Those were your wins.

It’s hard for Americans, even the ones who see America’s greatness and love this country for it, to understand the lack of opportunity that my family left. As Communism retreats into the rear-view mirror of history it’s easy to gloss over the everyday ways that Communism is meant to crush the individual and make everyone equal–equally poor, equally scared, equally hopeless.

If you’ve always lived in a country where companies make food specifically for cats then you’ve known an abundance that my family couldn’t even begin to imagine while they waited to be free. They wanted to say and do whatever they wanted, to live freely, to be allowed to earn as much money as they could, to keep their family safe from murderous ideologies and monster rulers. They just wanted the chance. Success isn’t guaranteed to anyone, and they knew this, but only if you come from a land of opportunity do you ever imagine that it’s even possible.

This year marks 34 years that I’ve lived in America. Even in the toughest times, in its darkest days, the times where we all might feel pessimistic about our collective future, we’re all so blessed to be here. On each July 20th I remember exactly how blessed.

Previous July 20th posts:

2011

2010.

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003 (scroll down a little to July 18).

Posted by Karol at 04:16 PM |
Comments

beautiful…thank you!

Posted by: marcus at July 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I love stories like this.

Posted by: Kim Priestap at July 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm

[...] American years This lady gets it…and we're becoming what she left in order to have it… 34 glorious, American years [...]

Posted by: 34 glorious, American years - Political Wrinkles at July 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm

“There’s a feeling in America today that there isn’t equality until any of us can walk into Bloomingdale’s and buy whatever we want.”

No one believes that.

No one.

Posted by: Matthew at July 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Sorry Matthew but the (almost) half of Americans who pay no federal taxes do indeed think everything at Bloomies should be handed to them, maybe even giftwrapped.

The safety net/hammock provides a lifestyle equivalent to a $50k per year job without any of the bother of going to work. Free housing, free healthcare,foodstamps, school breakfasts and lunches, free cell phones with 300 minutes per month, etc.

Posted by: Boots at July 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Glad you like it here. We’ve been working on it for a few hundred years and most of us think it’s the best around. I’m even gladder that you write about liking it. I’ll look for next year’s post.

Posted by: Retread at July 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm

A post marvelous for its honesty and simplicity.

I’m reminded of the stories when Soviet leadership imported copies of the film, “The Grapes of Wrath” and showed it to Russian audiences as evidence of how the capitalist system was falling apart.

As the story goes, the effort backfired when audiences left the screenings marveling at how so many Americans had their own trucks.

Posted by: Michael Rittenhouse at July 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm

What a great story. Thank you.

Posted by: loiseller at July 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I just had to add to this wonderful story. I took a Russian class, and my instructor also came to America around the same time your family did. She told my class that after many years, she was finally able to bring her elderly mother to the U.S. Her mother never learned any English, but told her daughter she was amazed how strangers would smile at her as she walked down the street. This would never happen in Russia. I thought that was such a charming difference between the freedom and joy to be found in America and the poverty and suppression one finds in a Communist nation.

Thank you for sharing your story!

Posted by: kristin at July 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I have lived all my life in Canada,Sask to be more exact.I have lived the life of a Canadian but had many friends that escaped the life that you talked about.The author didnt make it up.In actual fact,the reality was much worse.Thats why my neighbors came to Canada.

Posted by: spike 1 at July 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm

When my son was in university,he took a class in Russian,with a Russian emigre as a professor.One of the students said that the Soviet Union wasnt bad because they had no unemployment to which the professor replied,you are wrong,there was no employment as everyone worked for the govt.

Posted by: spike 1 at July 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

What a wonderfully expressive post! The differences between capitalistic and communistic systems was a basic part of education in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. With the decline of communism as an viable oppositional economic and social construct, many young adults today don’t have a clue what the actual difference is. We need this kind of a perspective to realize why we are where we are.

Posted by: Advo at July 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I KNEW A SOVIET EMIGRE FROM A LEADING THEATRICAL FAMILY IN A SOVIET REPUBLIC.

AFTER PERESTROIKA SHE WENT BACK.

SHE VISITED THE NATIONAL THEATER WHERE HER PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS HAD BEEN STARS AND WHERE AS A CHILD SHE APPEARED ALONG SIDE HER PARENTS AND DREAMED OF BECOMING A STAR, TOO.

IT WAS THE ONLY DREAM SHE HAD AS A LITTLE GIRL.

THE THEATER WAS DOING AN AWFUL OLD STALE SOCIAL REALIST DRAMA AND THE THEATER WAS EMPTY – (WHILE A COFFEE HOUSE AROUND THE CORNER WAS DOING HAMLET AND HAD A LINE AROUND THE BLOCK).

AFTER THE DREARY PRODUCTION SHE WENT BACKSTAGE WHERE ONE OF THE OLDER ACTORS RECOGNIZED HERE – SHE LOOKED JUST LIKE HER MOTHER.

THEY CHATTED.

HE TOOK HER OUT ON TO THE PROSCENIUM. TURNED THE HOUSE LIGHTS OUT. TURNED A SPOT UPON HER.

AND YOU KNOW WHAT SHE THOUGHT?

YOU KNOW WHAT SHE FELT?

STANDING THERE ON THE VERY SPOT WHERE A DECADE OR SO EARLIER SHE HAD DREAMED HER DREAMY DREAMS???

SHE FELT HOW LUCKY TO BE FREE. HOW LUCKY TO BE AN AMERICAN.

SHE HADN’T BEEN ON STAGE HERE. BUT HAD MARRIED. AND HAD CHILDREN. AND LIVED EVERY DAY FREE – AS AN ARTIST. STRUGGLING AT TIMES. BUT FREE.

NO TOTALITARIAN TYRANNY IMPOSED ON HER STATE OR HER CITY OR HER JOB. OR HER BEING.

JUST HER BEING ABLE TO BE HER.

FREE.

GOD BLESS HER FOR SHARING THIS STORY WITH ME.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for your post and the reminder of what abundance and freedom we have here. I wish more of my fellow native-born citizens saw it this way.

Posted by: MikeM_inMD at July 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Well, that was nice, but you didn’t feel that. Others felt it for you.

Posted by: hurfdurf at July 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

When I was in 6th grade, I was doing a report on Communism. The encyclopedia had a chart explaining what certain terms meant here and what they meant to the USSR. I particularly remember “peaceful coexistence.” To us, it meant just that. To the USSR, it meant a period of time while they gathered their strength and continued to try to export Communism around the world. So, when I was in 6th grade, I learned that Commies lie. And I have never ever ever seen any reason to change my position.

This is why I hate the new city ordinance in Seattle that stores cannot use plastic bags any more and if you want paper, you have to pay a nickel. I used to always read books by newspaper correspondents about what life was like in the USSR and one thing I remember is that no one left home, certainly not women, without a shopping bag, just in case a store actually had something in stock. Anything, really, just something that could be purchased and, if not wanted, traded for something a neighbor had. And now, in the name of being green (bunch of damned watermelons, they are) we all have to carry shopping bags wherever we go, just like good Soviet housewives. The last thing I ever wanted to act like was a Soviet housewife and now this wretched city insists on it.

Posted by: Tonestaple at July 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I have an 80 y.o. friend who espouses the benefits of socialism. He constantly point to Cuba as people living longer than in the US. And I actually think that he thinks communism is OK. He worked as a civil servant all his life.He basically HATES all successful business owners althogh to me is is all envy on his part. As a right winger, I, of course don’t see eye to eye with him.
I will print this out and give it to him.It succinctly says it all.

Thank you.

Posted by: Horny Toad at July 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how people think abroad. I came from Portugal at 22, 27 years ago. My nephews visited ten years ago. At one point I had to go to the bank (I don’t remember what the bank was at the time — 1st National or something like that.) And they said “oh, right, like you have enough money to bank there.” The discussion turned to WHY you’d have to have an amount of money to bank ANYWHERE. They’d interpreted — or someone had translated — a movie in such a way they thought to bank at that particular bank you had to be a millionaire. It shocked them when I told them they could open a bank account with less than a hundred dollars, even when I explained why it made no sense to restrict it to big accounts. To them, it was obvious there should be a stratification.
Glad you made it here. Glad I made it here, too, now I think about it. May America continue.

Posted by: Sarah Hoyt at July 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Some family friends had a friend who grew up in the Eastern bloc (Rumania, perhaps?) She visited them in the UK not long after the wall came down and travel restrictions were lifted. Quite innocently, they took her shopping in their large, out-of-town supermarket. While she was stunned by the fact that there was a warehouse-sized building packed with every manner of commodity, fresh fruit in winter, not an empty shelf in sight and all of it ludicrously cheap, the thing that reduced her to near speechlessness was that there were two complete aisles given over to pet food. Apparently it was of a quality that would have had it snapped up in her home country, for human consumption.

Posted by: David Gillies at July 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Thank you.

Posted by: James S. at July 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

And we Americans have been blessed to have you. Thank you for this reminder. It was a blast of light in a dark day.

Posted by: mark at July 24, 2012 at 1:32 am

[...] on July 24th, 2012 A shining city on a hill. That’s what America is to a lot of folks. [...]

Posted by: Breakfast Links | Points and Figures at July 24, 2012 at 6:28 am

This was a wonderful post and I will read the others. I was recently in NY for the first time since I was a child.
The awe I felt in my chest to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island again brought me to tears. My husband and I looked at each other and both of us said aloud, “Only in America!”

Posted by: DefendUSA at July 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

Many native born Americans think they hit a triple when in fact they were born on third base. It’s good to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Glad you got here as soon as you could.

Posted by: chuckR at July 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

I grew up on Long Island, one of my high school teachers lived near the big old mansion that the Soviets used for their UN legation’s housing iin one of the old north shore towns. My teacher said the Soviet’s would go shopping in a group – so the wives could keep an eye on each other.

They were fascinated by the bread — by all the types and varieties of bread in the store. My teacher said whenever the Soviet’s came to shop they immediately made a bee line for the bread aisle. You knew the Soviets had been shopping because they would clear out the bread aisle.

Posted by: Anthony at July 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

[...] grateful to Karol for her post over at AlarmingNews. I’d like to think that I don’t take my freedoms for granted. However, I’m 3rd [...]

Posted by: An American Perspective | Darth Chipmunk at July 24, 2012 at 10:44 am

[...] moved to market on roads paid for by the government, too), I really appreciate this post by Karoli, 34 glorious, American years: In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews left [...]

Posted by: » “… they have food specifically made for cats in America? What a country!” - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion at July 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm

As someone whose story mirrors the author’s (I am a few years older and left the USSR 2 months later, on September 13, 1978), I can vouch for the veracity of the sentiment. Couldn’t have said it better myself; more sarcastically, maybe, but not better.

Posted by: Infinitus est Numerus Stultorum at July 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm

[...] This wonderful post from Karol at AlarmingNews gives us that on a day at least I need it.  In its entirety (minus a short into): In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews left [...]

Posted by: Why America is still exceptional (and why I want it to stay that way) | Questions and Observations at July 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Brilliant!

Posted by: Ted Kleynerman at July 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm

What I find interesting is that your sentiments mirror those I’ve heard from most other immigrants. Sadly, too many actually born in this country fail to appreciate it as much as those who decided to come here. In any event, this country is lucky to have you. Congrats on the first 34 years, and here’s to many, many more.

Posted by: physics geek at July 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

[...] Is this by Yakov Smirnoff? Probably not. Somebody who calls himself Karol at this website: 34 glorious, American years The proprietor of legalinsurrection is a lawyer and hence a lot less sloppy than I tend to be. Its [...]

Posted by: They Have Food Made Just For Cats In America? What A Country - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum at July 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

[...] via 34 glorious, American years. [...]

Posted by: If You Get to Doubting How Great America Is, Hear the Story of a Russian Emigrant | marfdrat at July 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm

[...] This wonderful post from Karol at AlarmingNews gives us that on a day at least I need it.  In its entirety (minus a short into): In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews [...]

Posted by: Why America is still exceptional (and why I want it to stay that way) | FavStocks at July 25, 2012 at 3:14 am

[...] found this excerpt of a letter posted at Questions and Observations. It was written by Karol at the AlarmingNews blog. In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews [...]

Posted by: What We Sometimes Forget « Conservatives on Fire at July 25, 2012 at 8:50 am

wow, the return of a blogging audience! actual people, not tweeting angry birds! 55 comments. yay.

thank you for this birthday present, Karol, as you do for so many yrs

Posted by: Tatyana at July 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm

I found this delightful post through a link at QandO. Sometimes it helps to see things from a different perspective!

(Now I’ll have to go back and read the previous posts!)

Thank you, Karol.

Posted by: A_Nonny_Mouse at July 26, 2012 at 1:05 am

[...] Sheinin immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union 34 years ago today: It’s hard for Americans, even the ones who see America’s greatness and love this country for [...]

Posted by: Feeling better about chasing ourselves « Kenny Smith | A few words … at July 26, 2012 at 1:47 am

I’d like to repost this, but don’t know how. So well stated!

Posted by: Michael at July 26, 2012 at 9:36 am

So wonderful!

Posted by: Isabel at July 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

[...] 34 Glorious Years in America: A Celebration! It’s hard for Americans, even the ones who see America’s greatness and love this country for it, to understand the lack of opportunity that my family left. As Communism retreats into the rear-view mirror of history it’s easy to gloss over the everyday ways that Communism is meant to crush the individual and make everyone equal–equally poor, equally scared, equally hopeless. [...]

Posted by: Linkamajig 2 | Between Me and Jesus at July 27, 2012 at 10:14 am

[...] The first third or so of a post at AlarmingNews.com: 34 glorious, American years [...]

Posted by: This American life « No Truce With Kings at July 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

The Soviets weren’t wrong on that cat food thing, just early.

Posted by: W.C. Varones at July 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm

[...] If Canada’s economy is the envy of Europe, why the hell do the liberals and leftists want to emulate European economic policies? Related: What Obama doesn’t want you to know about Canada. Do you mean fiscal responsibility can actually be good for the economy? Shocking. Related: America is kind of awesome. [...]

Posted by: Lightning Round – 2012/08/01 « Free Northerner at August 1, 2012 at 2:06 am

[...] 2012 – 11:32 am – by Stephen Green Tweet Karol Markowicz celebrates her 34th year in America and writes: In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many [...]

Posted by: Vodkapundit » Required Reading at August 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm

[...] Karol Sheinin, “34 glorious, American years.” Read the whole thing.™ Filed under: Democracy In America, The Gulag Archipelago, The Substance of [...]

Posted by: Ed Driscoll » Quote of the Day at August 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

[...] leaders had such a skewed vision of America brings to mind blogger Karol Sheinin’s recent brilliant observation: In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews left [...]

Posted by: Ed Driscoll » The Images of Capitalism at November 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

[...] 2012 [...]

Posted by: The big 3-5 at July 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

[...] http://alarmingnews.com/2012/07/23/34-glorious-american-years/ [...]

Posted by: Summer | Droveria at March 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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