A few weeks back I had the chance to sit down with author Anna Lidia Vega Serova. A few other classmates were there and we had the opportunity to ask her questions about writing, hybrid identities and how it was to live in the USSR. The last two fields of questions particularly interested me.
I quickly identified with her when she started to speak of going back and forth between Home and home and the alienation she felt in either of these places. For example, when she was in the USSR people saw her as Cuban and vise versa, much like me in the US and France. What fascinated me even more was the distinction she made in her artistic life. As she explained, she is a Cuban author, not because that sells more but because she writes in Spanish and her books are mostly published in Cuba. However, she is a Russian-Cuban painter because she recognizes that she draws a lot from both cultures. I am eager to see if my professional life becomes more like her author career or her painter one.
I was always taught that the USSR was a despicable country that mistreated all of its people, and most of this still holds true to me. However, after speaking with Anna Lidia Vega Serova, I realized that her life there wasn’t as terrible as most history books made it seem. What she hated the most was the weather and not the communist leadership that was in place at the time. Furthermore, she noted that the USSR was a socialist country that aimed to become a communist one but was still nowhere near that goal. Having lived in both Cuba and the USSR, two very socialist and controversial countries, she explained that life was never as bad as the media portrayed it.
This talk with Anna Lidia Vega Serova helped me realize that immigration is a revolution. As Ivan Krastev said in THE UNRAVELING OF THE POST-1989 ORDER, “ People no longer dream of the future. Instead, they dream of other places. In this connected world, migration—unlike the utopias sold by twentieth-century demagogues— genuinely offers instant and radical change. It requires no ideology, no leader, and no political movement. It requires no change of government, only a change of geography. The absence of collective dreams makes migration the natural choice of the new radical. To change your life you do not need a political party—you only need a boat.” This new wave of revolution is the next big step in what will bring true change to our society.
This semester I had the chance to have dinner with Ambassador Nancy and James Pettit. Both of them were diplomats during their lifetimes and had the chance to be Americans in Soviet Russia.
Talking with them was a real honor and also taught me a lot more about the USSR. The most interesting thing I learned from them was about the difference between the before and after communism for certain countries. James Pettit, for example was the ambassador to Moldova from 2015 to 2018 and he told us that it was like night and day.
Even though Moldova is not a big nation by any means, he realized that the standard of living there increased dramatically after the USSR fell. Gaining its freedom gave Moldova immense power. Throughout its years of tyranny, the Soviet Union had been chocking the Moldovan people to death but they were finally able to breathe. Freedom is a revolution as in of itself!