True stories with a twist!

RUSSIAN CHILD

BYE BYE, GOODBYE,” my grandson said to me as I was leaving his house. That simple farewell ignited wonderfully fond memories.

It was back in the 70’s, when Russia first allowed their citizens to emigrate to the west and to  freedom. I was offered a job teaching English to a small group of newly arrived Russians to our community.

Although my training was in speech pathology and not in ESL (English as a Second Language), helping people learn to speak our language was not a far stretch, and I accepted the challenge.

I didn’t know any Russian, but was able to speak and to teach English with the help of pictures and using simple sentences. 

The determination of those wonderful people to learn our language and become part of the community was heartening, and their progress went along admirably.

I took them shopping to familiarize them with our stores. They told me afterward that they were terribly uncomfortable with all the selections on display. If someone wanted a pair of curtains for example, they were overwhelmed with dozens of colors, patterns and sizes available in our stores. “In Russia,” they said, “There might have been one or two to choose from. Nobody had ever imagined there were so many kinds of curtains in the whole world. How can anybody ever make a decision?”

One couple had a four year old daughter, Svetlana; an adorable child with long dark hair and a charming demeanor. They brought her to all the classes. She spoke snippets of English, including greetings like “Hello” and “Thank You.” But with a twist of her own style. images-3.jpeg

Each time she prepared to leave the classroom she cheerfully said me, 

“Bye-Bye, Goodbye“.

I was so charmed by her that I started saying “Bye Bye, Goodbye” to my own family members at the end of our get-togethers.

Svetlana’s mother, Julia, also adopted an endearing way of expressing her opinion of living in the United States. She often said, 

“Very do I love this country!”

How could anyone tell a person that her sentence structure was incorrect? That her adverb was in the wrong place? Her sentiment was so sweet: so genuine. I loved the sincerity it expressed. Julia spoke from the heart, whether or not her sentence structure was correct.

And so I say to you: 

Very did I love those people, and very do I hope their adjustment to America was successful.   images-6.jpegimages-6.jpeg

Comments on: "RUSSIAN CHILD" (24)

  1. A true parable! Let’s hope those who read it do not fail to get the point!

  2. Your wonderful post triggered such memories, Ronnie! Thank you for speaking lovingly of emigrants from the former Soviet Union who have certainly benefited from encoutering caring teachers like yourself and who, at least most of us, have become successful in our new Homeland.

  3. You’ve pointed out what most people don’t realize or appreciate – the challenges of new immigrants to their new environment. The language is often only part of it. Even if they have a basic grasp of the language, the small day-to-day things we take for granted can cause confusion and/or discomfort.

    … and as you’ve pointed out, it’s usually the small things that trigger our memories 🙂

  4. I once had the pleasure of mentoring a Russian 7th grader in an organization called “Computers for Kids” His family immigrated here and he and his brother were the only ones who could speak any English.

    The idea was that each child, with their adult mentor, was to complete assigned tasks on the computer and eventually turn in a project that displayed their ability. Between his accent and my hearing loss we sometimes had difficulty conveying our thoughts to each other, but we plodded through and we graduated! Each child received a new computer for their home as a reward.

  5. I love this story, Ronnie. Thank you for sharing the warmth and charm of the Russian people you lovingly tutored. But the additional lesson that touches my heart is hearing how they were caught in wonder at our abundance of options and choices, up until then unknown to their experience. We don’t always stop to remember how much we have, and tall to often, I think, we selfishly hold onto our abundance and fail to see how we have enough to share and then still have “too much.” I really enjoyed reading of your experience with these lovely people. I will remember ‘Bye Bye Goodbye’ and smile!

    • Thanks for your comment, Debra. You are so right about the abundance we live with. Most people I know are constantly trying to “declutter,” because we all have an abundance of objects. I sometimes think of the wonder that a person from a simpler culture would have if he were to see where we live. That person would gasp at our homes in shock, and think, “why would two people possibly do with all this space?”

  6. Delightful story! What a great experience for you and for them. Wouldn’t you love to see that precious little girl as a grown-up lady today? I often use the Russian nesting dolls to show today’s children the simple toys that children enjoyed long ago.

    • Bev, I thought about your question about whether I’d like to see that little girl as a grown-up lady. I hope she is well and is having a wonderful life, but I prefer to remember her as that lovely child who gave me her sweet, “Bye-bye goodbye,” that I will always treasure.

  7. What a heartwarming post 🙂

  8. Adrianne Bendich said:

    Wonderful story. My grandmother also came from Russia, took English classes at the elementary school where I was a student, and then she became a US citizen. I was very, very proud of her!! It would not have happened without the caring volunteers that taught her English. Many thanks😊

  9. Such an uplifting post, so relevant for this time

  10. I truly do love this post. My Dad was a Hungarian immigrant naturalized in the U.S. His words in English were often in the wrong places or said the wrong way, but his love of this country was always evident. Thank you for your understanding of the struggles of all who come from other cultures and their struggles to learn new ways.

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