Please note that I wrote most of the answers while watching the Presidential Election, so emotions were running high and the brain-to-fingers filter was only marginally functional. Thus you get to see as close to real me as you'll probably ever get, and also, unfortunately, wild typos abound. Apologies in advance, and enter at your own risk!
Gab Interview with Marina Fontaine
Marina Fontaine is… not a French tennis player. So let’s not make that mistake, (Thanks Google and FaceBook for your screw-ups). She’s a writer, and Gabber and all around interesting person! Check our her books here on GoodReads, and here on Amazon, and she gabs at gab.ai/mashak99
- You grew up in Russia, what was it like for you and your family? What types of struggles did you endure?
I would hesitate to use the word “struggles” because the hardships of everyday life were so completely internalized. It only became obvious in retrospect, and by comparison with what is considered normal in the West, just how wrong the system was. I’m talking of the little things, like being able to get decent quality food, or reliable transportation to and from work, or hot water from the tap any time you turn it on, or medicine when you are sick. When you can’t rely on the basics always being there, it adds up, it takes up the mental and physical energy that could be spent elsewhere. Mind you, we were an equivalent of a middle-class family, living in one of the better-supplied cities. It wasn’t temporary. It wasn’t poverty. It was normal.
So you take people who already have trouble just getting to a physical comfort level, and then you add what most of us commonly think of as oppression. By the time I was growing up, the mass arrests and purges were already over. So pretty much keeping one’s head down was good enough. But what comes under that umbrella? Not asking questions. Not speaking your mind outside a very narrow circle of friends. Having very limited access to news and entertainment. There were ways around the last one (Voice of America was huge at the time, and samizdat books, and “unapproved” music), but again, that’s a lot of energy spent on something that should be taken for granted.
Also, just to get through life, more or less everyone had to break the law. The reason the country held as long as it did was from underground economy. So in theory, anyone could be jailed and any time. What better way to keep citizens in check?
I heard someone say not long ago that Americans move like free people, and it’s probably hard to understand unless you’ve seen how non-free people move. The day-to-day drudgery, the constant looking over one’s shoulder, being suspicious of strangers—it all adds up, and it does feel like physical weight. Or at least once it’s gone you realize it was there. I liken it to having a chronic health condition, being adjusted to it, and then having it fixed.
I suppose you can in fact calling this experience a struggle, just not the way people think of the word. It’s not glamorous or heroic or particularly interesting (unless you distill into a fictional story, and then it could be made interesting, in the right hands).
Read the rest of the interview here.
And as a bonus to my blog readers, since we're getting personal today, here's my favorite Russian song of all time. The fact that the first boy I ever kissed sang it to me might have something to do with it, but I also love the not-quite-Russian theme of holding on to light and hope no matter how dark it gets.