How A Russian Immigrant Feels About Watching ‘The Americans’

Russian Communism brutalized my family. So it’s very strange to be pushed towards rooting for KGB spies when watching ‘The Americans.’

I was born in the Soviet Union and came to America as a small child. Unlike immigrants from many other places, once you left the Soviet Union there was no going back. You were a traitor, and they took your passport at the door. The family you left behind might suffer for your decision. My parents pulled no punches about what a horrible, backward, evil place it was and how happy they were to be out. They referred to it as “prison.” Every year we celebrate the day we came to America, our “Americaversary.”

I don’t remember Russia but I certainly remember being a Russian child in America. I didn’t speak any English when I started school. My parents dressed me funny. I was the kid with weird lunches. The 1980s were a challenging time to be a kid from Russia in America. The Cold War was fairly hot. The other children weren’t the kindest. Some of them called me Commie. I mostly shrugged it off, but it stung somewhat because my family was so decidedly anti-Commie. When my brother Ronald (named after Reagan, of course) was born in Brooklyn, I decided to start lying about my own birthplace. I had the details of the story now, the name of the hospital, the city. I was American. My birth elsewhere had been a mistake.

I Root for Anyone But Russia

My grandmother’s father was arrested, in front of his family, for owning a bakery at a moment when private business became illegal. He was sent to the gulag and never returned. My mother’s father had a low-level government job, so after she left Russia my mother never saw him again (her mother was allowed to visit her a few times but she barely spoke on those trips, convinced she was being followed). There were a million smaller stories of indignity, discrimination, and violation.

The Relativism of ‘The Americans’ Generates Confusion

“The Americans” is confusing to me beyond what it would be, I’d think, to another patriotic, American-born, person watching the show. I don’t hate Russian people, but KGB agents? Actual commies? Yes, I do hate them.

I know, it’s only a show. It’s that girl from “Felicity” and that British guy from that other show. So why do I get so worked up when Philip and Elizabeth compare America to the Soviet Union and she says “it’s easier here but not better”? I want to throw things at the screen. I understand loyalty to country, but few Russians arrive in America, especially during the time of the Soviet Union, and don’t see that things here are, objectively, better.

Full article: How A Russian Immigrant Feels About Watching ‘The Americans’ (The Federalist)

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