Friday, June 18, 2010
A Day In The Bluegrass State With My Cousin
Thursday I drove down to Lexington, KY to visit my first cousin and work with her on a project she has been interested in getting off the ground for several months - a video of us talking about our family history. Our parents came to the United States as children in 1923 from the Ukraine. They were born in Greater Russia as were their parents and grandparents. Life was good for my grandfather and his family as he had his own tailor shop with a few people working for him making clothes. Then August 1914 came and the beginning of the end for their good life in the Ukraine began. August 1914 saw the beginning of World War I. The German army moved into the Ukraine. Later after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, more trouble came to the Ukraine as the Civil War began between the White army and the Red army. By 1920, or there about, our grandparents decided that they had had enough and made the decision to leave Russia and come to America where my grandmother had several brothers already living. So, we recorded for our children and grandchildren stories that we remembered hearing from our parents and grandfather. Like millions of other Americans, we came from somewhere else.
The story for those of us living in the United States is that this country permits each individual to become an American. You may be from Ireland and call yourself Irish-American, but the noun is always American, and the adjective can be where you came from. For Jews, Russia never considered Jews Russians. Jews were a nationality and as such could never be considered Russian. Even Trotsky knew that he could not erase his Jewish ancestry even as he and Lenin lead the Bolshevik Revolution. This may, to some seem like such a small point, but it is what, in my opinion, is one of our (America's) greatest strengths. Each person can become a citizen of the United States regardless of where their mother or father came from. And, we should remember that when we participate in our democracy. This is a nation of immigrants and with each generation new immigrants come to our shores seeking a better life. We should not hold it against someone just because their parent or parents came from a foreign country and spoke a foreign language or practiced a different religion. We should try and judge people by their actions even if we have to push ourselves to be better people.