Newsletter 2002
My Journey Back to Russian:
Visiting an Old Friend

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 in Russian.

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