By Alla Axelrod
I spoke to many people — Russian immigrants like me — being curious what they think about the current situation in our new Motherland. In my 32 years here, I have never seen this country shaken by such political turmoil. Every day I hear of someone being fired after years and years of service. I see more hatred toward the ruling president than I have ever seen before, and that includes the reign of the very unpopular president Carter, as well as Clinton’s notorious scandal, which was more of an amusement than a real political problem.
Now even friends and family are much more belligerent — going at each others’ throats. People are really scared for their future and that of their children. That’s a far cry from laughing at faux pas or speech blunders made by idiots in the White House or some semen-stained dress. And the hate comes right down from the head.
I don’t want to repeat the stuff that I hear every day for the fear of being immediately blamed for being “uninformed” or falling prey to “rumors,” but as the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. No president should even remotely be associated with talk about hating America or flag-burning, or worse yet, provoke doubts about birth records or be associated with the most dreadful public figures like Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers, and Rev. Wright.
Sex? Sex is another story. Sex is fun. We love sex in America. Kennedy was one hell of a playboy, and look: he is a national icon.
But I digress. When I came to America back in 1979, it was a very different country, and Russia was different back then, too. Russia, or rather the Soviet Union, was a country composed of many different nations: fifteen Soviet republics joined by force under one rule, huge populations’ mentality deformed by years of socialist propaganda, fear, poverty, and corruption. Three hundred thousand Jews ran from covert as well as blatant anti-Semitism to find new life somewhere else. America generously opened her doors for us, as it has been doing for people of all races and nationalities ever since its inception as a nation, because the first Americans were guests here themselves.
In America, everything was new to us, from the abundance of food and bathroom etiquette — we never had toilet paper in Russia back then; we used newspapers — to the American work ethic. We saw that Americans had to work a lot harder than the average Russian. That was a real bummer. Americans had to work for real! Employees had to come to work on time; some had only 30 minutes for lunch and just one week’s vacation — maybe two or more after some years of employment. In Russia, a month was typical! An hour for lunch (called dinner hour) was spent in stores standing on long lines demanding things that were always in short supply in a socialist society — shoes, items of clothing, food. It’s a whole different world in America, with an over-abundance of material goods that posed quite the opposite problem: how to sell it — how to create the demand for things.
Most Americans know nothing or very little about the real Russia. They have a very peculiar idea of Russia — its refined ballet, its bitter cold climate, and the Russians always drinking vodka.
That’s how things were in so-called “developed socialism.” Why work harder if your life and your earnings were pretty much predetermined for you? An average secretary, an office worker, an engineer, a teacher were making around 120 rubles a month. I know — one might wonder, How much is that in dollars? But nobody was thinking in dollars back then, and the possession of foreign currency was severely punishable by law. Let’s just say it was barely enough to put meager food on a table, but no more than that. Meanwhile, a pair of winter boots cost 80 rubles, and a pair of American Wrangler jeans was the very same 120. In the meantime even a Soviet car — a clanking tin can — was about 3,000 rubles. Do the math. One could save money all his life and not have enough for it.
The majority of the population remained pretty poor under the watchful eye of the KGB. Living an honest life meant being doomed to this 120-plus-minus for the rest of their lives. So why kill yourself working? In socialism, people are pretty much equal! That’s the whole point of it.
Medicine in the Soviet Union was socialized. All doctors got paid the same miserable salaries but worked really hard. Most medics entered that noble field with high ideals of saving people’s lives (“ideals” were really big in Russia, and socialism is very good at brainwashing people), but then they ended up in utter slavery, working in horrible conditions for pennies…unless they took lots and lots of bribes, especially surgeons and dentists. Nobody wanted to risk having scissors left in their belly during a surgery or have their teeth drilled and pulled without a Novocain.
And I’d like to bring that point up, because it’s very important. In the society where everything is equal, bribe becomes the only way to achieve something special, to get a special service, a favor, or even simply to make oneself feel important, like a better table at the restaurant. Want socialized medicine? Die in a hall, lie in a pool of urine, or bribe the nurse just to get your bed changed.
The Soviet Union was a very poor country with a very proud people living under a “successful socialism,” officially “building a bright communist future,” with a military system equal to that of the USA, if not better, with a finger always on a red button, claiming everything is hunky-dory, while people didn’t have a pot to piss in, but the bosses in the Russian White House (oops, Kremlin) lived like Tsars. Let me repeat: the average pay was 120 rubles a month, but at least it was guaranteed. On a payday, workers got their promised pay. Very little was taken out of it — some jobs took nothing, while some bigger organizations withdrew very small fees for union dues, or someone gathered a ruble for a funeral or a gift for someone’s wedding, but that was it. So unless a worker spent it on vodka before getting home, he brought the entire pay to his wife and kids.
A rude awakening awaited us emigrants when we got here!
I remember very well indeed when I got my first paycheck. It was my first real job in a medical office in Manhattan. I was working for a large Jewish charity organization as a clerk, feeling my way around with almost zero English. My salary, ironically, was $120/week, which, incidentally, is astronomically more than 120 Russian rubles, but on the lowest pay scale here. Still, I had a real job and was very proud. It was 1979.
I was mentally counting my first pay, planning how I was going to spend this tiny but somehow huge amount — barely enough to pay rent for my little apartment I was sharing with a roommate. I had never had to pay utilities or telephone before. I was dreaming of buying my first sofa, because I was still sleeping on a mattress I had brought in from the garbage. Maybe get some curtains for the windows. Oh, and the heat. Oh boy, New York in August! I never knew it could be so frigging hot…air-conditioner was but a dream then. I had a fan, which I also found in the garbage. It helped very little — just blew hellishly humid hot air around. Sometimes it got so bad, I slept in a bathtub. Memories…
But wait a minute! What happened to my $120? I was holding a check for $83.79. Why, why? In tears, I ran to Lillian, my manager, a stately gray-haired woman, who calmly and patiently explained taxes to me. Uncle Sam, that skinny dude in a tall hat they made mocking caricatures about in Soviet Russia…he wanted his cut.
I was crushed. I didn’t understand it. I pondered about it as I walked to my subway home, viewing homeless people and all sorts of lowlifes who, later on, I realized, live off my taxes while I get up at 5 am and walk 16 blocks to the subway to get to work. We work, and they lie on benches and sniff stuff…on our money. And we pay for it?
Most of us Russian immigrants have already been through “successful socialism,” where you don’t have to work hard, but then you have nothing but rubbish because there is nothing to work for. You have no incentive to do anything. It’s a system that evens everything out. That is socialism.
The problem is that it’s still a lie. There, here, and everywhere. Some crawl to the top over dead bodies and get a better piece of pie, like many politicians here, who (think about it) produce exactly nothing but somehow get paid for it even after they leave the office, live luxurious lifestyles, get wonderful benefits, and whatnot. Oh, yes — something is very wrong with this picture.
I ran into this problem so many times..when I encountered how my taxes are used to feed looters, how my disabled daughter can’t get elementary services while drug addicts do because liberals call them “sick”…and some weren’t even born here!
I was in several food stamp offices and haven’t seen a single white person there, nobody in a wheelchair, no one over 30, either — why were they getting food stamps at 11 AM and not at work? Some of them actually looked sort of dazed, like they had just had a fix. They probably had. You paid for it. Keep repeating it, liberals, until maybe you understand it. Or better yet, go buy it yourself. Get high. I hear it feels great…still better than giving it to someone else, hah.
After being through the hell and high water in the system with my daughter, my elbows getting rock-hard from being pushed around, I am still mystified as to how it works. It gets more bureaucratic all the time as more and more paperwork is required. Who invents this crap? Who complicates these things beyond insanity? I just watched a video of new programs created just for ObamaCare…an enormous stack of pages creating a list of new government agencies, the sort of thing that trumps the famous “list aria” in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where his devoted servant reveals an endless list of all his lovers. But I don’t find this humorous somehow. Is that Obama’s idea of “creating new jobs”?
One more curious memory comes to mind.
During my first year working in that same medical office, October of 1979, an election year, I was curious how everyone is going to vote. Naive and graceful as an elephant in a rose garden, I kept bugging people with these questions, until this very same Lillian I mentioned above took me into her office and said very primly, sending a chill down my spine, “Young lady. Let me tell you two things. First: you never ask people how they vote — it’s a personal, private matter, and none of your business. [That was new to me, the very notion of “none of your business” — in my culture your business is everybody’s business. That’s what happens when one lives in apartment houses similar to “projects,” sharing tiny rooms with all of your family. But that’s another story.] Second: we are Jews. Jews traditionally vote Democrat, always.”
She left it at that. I was dumbfounded, and later on, I bugged another manager in our office who was very smart and probably gay. I always asked him everything. He explained to me about the Jewish-American past — the unions, traditions, etc. I made some mental connections to Russian revolutionaries and idealists, of whom almost 80% were Jewish. Jews made the Revolution. And of course, the Russians were very quick to blame Jews for ruining their beloved Russia as soon as Socialism fell apart. As usual, blame the Jews!
Now everything made sense to me. Plus there was this very Jewish love for tradition. I came across the importance of a tradition in everything, including one’s “party affiliation,” many times during my life in America — especially now, when I keep meeting very intelligent Jewish people who simply refuse to see or hear obvious fact or reason. It not only saddens me, but scares me as well! How important is the Jewish “tradition” of being a Democrat that they must remain blind to the obvious lies coming out of the White House? Tradition! Just like it was proclaimed loud and clear from the stage in our beloved Fiddler on the Roof, that’s what held our people together through millennia of diaspora, systematic persecution, and, finally, the Catastrophe.
Traditions are great…where they belong — that is, at home and in synagogues. Not at the voting booth. My dear fellow Jews, nobody is taking away our right to blow a shofar, build a Sukkah, spin a dreidel, eat gefilte fish, or whatever. Not yet. If we keep following this particular tradition and staying blind to what is going on, instead of living under the Star-Spangled Banner and the Star of David, we will all be living under the crescent moon. And we won’t be living under it very long, because these guys want us dead.
Back to my $120 check. So now Obama wants to feed more drug addicts and illegal immigrants on honest workers’ pay. Plus this disgusting idea of “redistribution of wealth” I already wrote about, which is pure socialism, the idea even the Russians discarded as a bankrupt system. Hello…hasn’t he heard it doesn’t work, or don’t they teach history at Harvard and Columbia? Or did he miss those classes?
Even I know that most American money is made by hard work, smart ventures, and good business practices. This opportunity is open for everyone. Isn’t it called “the land of opportunity”? Mister Obama himself is a very good example of that! He is doing very well for a black guy — constantly playing the race card, which I find quite disgusting…and by the way, I don’t see him spreading his own personal wealth about. Do you? Did he open any orphanages, animal shelters, sponsor any institutions for the handicapped? Medical charities? Did he personally help any tsunami victims? Maybe I missed those aspects of his noble life. Correct me if I am wrong, but I’d love to know about this humble lifestyle he proposes to make for all of us. I heard he made many millions selling his touching book…why not share some of this wealth with those unprivileged he is so willing to give other people’s money to?
The average traditional Russian of my generation is an honest immigrant who came here with empty pockets seeking freedom and a new life after years of a nightmare. The so-called “new Russians”: crooks; drug dealers; shoddy, greedy fortune-seekers; and all sorts of dubious characters who came here in the ’90s with money made by who knows what means. These are different people from a different Russia. What I am talking about is people who came here before perestroika and the fall of the Soviet Union, who had a very good reason to emigrate — fear for their lives.
They — or rather, we — are very grateful, and most of us are real American patriots.
We know what Socialism is face-to-face.
We don’t want to live in it again.
We don’t want this country destroyed.
We don’t want it here, because we’ll have no place to run to.
Alla, an American patriot.