Oh you’re Russian?

I get to have a variation on the following conversation once in a while, when people hear my accent. I’ve been living in Melbourne for almost 20 years now but my accent is as thick as ever – weirdly enough it’s actually stronger than my Mum’s. But then she worked harder on her English pronounciation, whereas I reckoned that as long as I managed to pronounce “th” (common stumbling block since “th” in “that” and “th” in “things” don’t exist in Russian language) I was okay.

So, where’s your accent from?

Are you from Moscow? (a.k.a. the only Russian city in existence apart from St Petersburg)
No, I lived in Siberia.

Oooh Siberia?? Cold eh? (I wish I had a dollar every time someone put these two together in a sentence)
Yeah winters can be cold but it can actually get warm/hot in summer too.

Are you a fan of Putin?
Erm no. (Sometimes I’m tempted to say yes in the most enthusiastic tone possible just to see the reaction)

Usually that’s as far as it goes, but sometimes I end up in a social situation where people want to have an involved discussion about Russia, with an assumption that I have a lot of feeling or things to say on the subject. Thing is, though I was born in Russia and left when I was 15, an age which left me with plenty of memories of my life there, I don’t feel much nostalgia or connection. That is, I do still feel a strong connection to the Russian literature, history and language, but the everyday, modern Russia? Not really. My immediate family is here in Melbourne, I never got to know most of my extended family all that well, I never liked the city we lived in, I’d lost connection with all of my old friends, I haven’t consistently followed any of the Russian media in ages. When I do get to read a Russian magazine or newspaper once in a blue moon, I’m often struck by the conservative and sometimes plain offensive sentiments and attitudes; not that the Australian media can’t be guilty of the same but it’s a whole different level.

If I miss anything it’s probably more to do with nature. There are beautiful places around Melbourne and the native Australian flora has its charm, but I do miss the lush green grass and trees and the fields of spring flowers. Also, while snowy winters can be a pain and the post-winter slush is not pretty, a sunny, crisp winter day is a beautiful thing. And you just don’t get the same sense of rebirth and renewal in spring here in Australia.

One thing that hasn’t changed in 20 years though is my sense of the seasons which is still stuck in the northern hemisphere and causes me to pause and readjust every time. January is still winter and July is still summer dammit!

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