Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dual Nationality or Minor Identity Crisis


Expatriate - is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms: "ex" ("out of") and "patria" ("country, fatherland").

I am an expatriate. I was born and spent the first 20 years of my life in the Soviet Union, followed by 9 years in Russia before marrying an Australian and moving Downunder. I am a proud holder of two citizenships which entitles me to own two passports, red and blue!

Most times I am okay with my status, but from time to time I am faced with certain life dilemmas.

The Sochi Winter Olympics was a resent example. For the duration of the game I hid my blue passport and became as Russian as one could get! I watched every sports event where Russians were likely to get medals (even if it meant staying up late, neglecting my husband, blog and gym sessions!) I was so miserable and cranky after the Russian Hockey team lost that my work colleagues knew better than trying to approach me the morning following the defeat with any questions concerning sport. Or any question, to be totally honest, as I was totally pre-occupied with the Olympics. I made rather derogatory comments about Australians trying to compete in WINTER sports ( and now I am feeling quite bad about it, sorry my Oz friends!) I felt so proud to be Russian when I watched the Opening and Closing ceremonies, proud of my Russian heritage, culture and history!

But now the Olympic Games are over and people approach me with questions about Russian anti-gay stands or the Crimea invasion and I want to shout that I am Australian and not Russian (mind you, in the Ukrainian situation I would not like to be an American either!) I don't live in Russia, or follow Russian politics and we all know that politics is a dirty thing anyway. On one side I have relatives in the Ukraine and they embrace what's happening there at the moment and they welcome the Russian presence in the Crimea. But then I read all the anti-war petitions in the social media by the ordinary Ukrainians and I am convinced - let them sort it out, neither Russians nor Americans or Australians should interfere in the Ukraine's political matters!

Then there are holidays. There is no great problem if Russian Orthodox Easter is celebrated on a different date than a Catholic one. For my Orthodox celebration we usually join our Orthodox friends for a traditional feast of everything Russian with customary dishes and a midnight Church service. And then there is an Anglican/Catholic Easter with my husband's family on a different day, which is all about chocolate and hot cross buns. But this year Catholic and Orthodox Easter fall on the same date! Oh dear! Do we choose family for a chocolate overload or friends for a long-time tradition of a Russian Feast? Tricky decision!
Russian Orthodox Easter Bread and Coloured Eggs
Last weekend we celebrated Labour Day in Western Australia. Everyone I know was looking forward to having some time off, enjoying the last summer days, going to the beach, swimming, reading, embracing some rest and relaxation. At the end of the first day of the long weekend (when I tried to do nothing apart from swimming, reading and enjoying life) I realised that in my vocabulary the word Labour associates with, well, labour. So, I decided not to go to Labour Day concerts or Vintage Markets, but to have a Subbotnik at home (from the Russian word subbota meaning Saturday).

Originally in the Soviet Union it was a voluntary day of unpaid labour and it had the idea of uniting the revolutionary minded masses and promoting the ideas of socialism. However, as the enthusiasm among the people dwindled, subbotniks simply became the means for the ruling class to get free work from their employees under the cover of Communist ideology. Eventually, subbotniks were reduced to a day or two a year, when people came together for major spring cleaning at their work places or home neighbourhoods. Nowadays it still takes place, but they have lost their ideological aspect and have again become voluntary days of labour.

So, I spent about 4 hours at Subbotnik, cleaning and beautifying my garden!

It was +36C in the middle of the day! But the way I felt after my improvised Subbotnik was truly amazing! Those who don't work, don't deserve to eat! Oops, this was a slogan from the Soviet Union days, nothing to do with Australian Labour Day, but it felt that I really earned that glass of watermelon gin punch after a hard day's work!
Frozen Watermelon Gin Punch
There is also the question of pancakes. Last week the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated a pancake week, where every day from Monday to Sunday people made pancakes and treated everyone from  friends to mother-in-law, and the week ended up with Forgiveness Day on Sunday where people asked everyone to forgive them (like a Confession, really). The pancake week is called Maslenitsa (from the word "maslo" or butter). Sadly, the Catholic Church only designated one day for pancakes, Shrove Tuesday, which this year falls on the week following the Russian Orthodox pancakes week. So, in theory I should have started the Great Lent last Sunday, but...
Shrove Tuesday
As my blue passport and my husband's religion allow me to have another pancake day on Tuesday, I have fully embraced this day! Moreover, I've organised a Shrove Tuesday morning tea at work to raise money for our team for The Ride to Conquer Cancer!

For your donations to Cancer Research and to support My Ride please visit the following link:
My Ride to Conquer Cancer
So, there is a big question - am I Russian or Australian? Do I choose to be one or the other depending on circumstances? Or am I simply a citizen of the World?

I have a lot of friends in similar situations. I'd like to know how you deal with your multiple citizenships dilemmas!

And last but not least.  Today has been 14 years since I married The One!  He is my soulmate, my best friend, my wonderful supporter and the most  wonderful husband in the whole world! He also is the reason for my dual citizenship and occasional identity crisis! I love you, my sweetheart!
4 March 2000