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12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

March 13, 2014
Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet children at home alone with a photo of Yuri Gagarin looking down at them

After my last post, one of my cousins got nostalgic for her old Bukvar and thought she’d try to buy one online. She found one on Amazon, to the tune of $2,450. My heart is breaking that I didn’t have the fortitude to do anything more useful with mine than mark it all up for…

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Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian

March 5, 2014
Russian bukvhar from 1970s

I wrote a bit last time about one of my ‘immigrant identity crisis’ vignettes that I shared at the Limmud retreat. But it started with an assignment, to bring an artifact, or object, from home about our Russian-Jewish heritage. When you and your childhood home are separated by over 3,000km, digging up an acceptable artifact…

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Apparently, there are words I still don’t know in English. Like apron.

March 8, 2012
Vyertolyet - or wooden helicopter toy - a word I often forget in English

I forgot the word for helicopter the other day. For the rotor, actually. And I didn’t forget so much as remember it in the wrong language. My brain froze up and then offered me nothing but a very Russian “vyertolyot”. The end result is that I have a toddler who will never know what those…

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Three generations, three languages: A former refusenik on language and identity

April 19, 2010

Ha’aretz has an interview with Soviet refusenik writer David Markish, who immigrated to Israel in 1972. Thirty-six years later, Markish still writes all his books (15 so far, though almost none available here) in his native Russian. Markish’s father, Peretz Markish, a prominent Yiddish writer, was executed by the Soviet regime and the family was…

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Crimes against language: A guide to gendered food terms

April 9, 2010
Butch Bakery website screengrab for gendered food terms

We may have replaced stewardesses with flight attendants and firemen with firefighters, but that’s ok because food is getting its man on these days. It’s the “manification” of food? Not to be confused with that “mancession” we’re slogging through. So cute, you just want to pat him on the head. This slow creep of gender-specific,…

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