One of my earliest childhood memories involves my parents pleading
with my grandmother to quit speaking Russian in our home and make
an attempt to speak in English. My brother and I were born shortly
after my parents immigrated to the United States from the former
Soviet Union. They learned how to communicate in English, but
before I entered kindergarten my English skills were inadequate
at best. My parents feared that I would never English and they
decided that Russian would be banned from our home.
This exile did not last long. After a few years of struggle, my
English language skills were up to par with my classmates. Although
my parents lifted the ban on Russian, I continued to speak English
in school and at home. In fact, I soon realized that I was quickly
forgetting my Russian. I would substitute common Russian phrases
with English translations. My Russian became so poor, I would
often leave the house when relatives came over.
At Muhlenberg, I realized that I had to do something about this.
I enrolled in Elementary Russian and my journey began. The first
few weeks were slow and included a lot of information with which
I was already familiar. I was learning how to read and write for
the first time and starting to feel more comfortable communicating
As my journey progressed, I was reading with greater ease and
speaking with less hesitation. As a political science major, I
thought it would be a good idea to start reading Russian language
newspapers to gain a different perspective on news coverage. My
appetite for Russian grew so much, I decided to declare Russian
Studies as my second major. I indulged in the great works of Russian
literature. I became knowledgeable about the events that shaped
Russian history and the world.
My journey back to Russian is more than a chance to relearn the
language I once knew. It is a unique opportunity to connect with
my roots. I am learning about the great Russian dynasties, the
poetry of Pushkin, and the culture of the Russian people. I feel
as if I were visiting an old friend. I have begun to appreciate
the language and the heritage that my parents feared would keep
me from learning English.
Elias Saratovsky, '02