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In a way, I'm a child of Khrushchev's thaw, that brief period in the late '50s and early '60s when the new Soviet liberalism was proclaimed and young people like my parents saw new light in communist ideas.
Peaceful coexistence of East and West, by the way, was one of the many new concepts that came out of that era. The genuine enthusiasm of the early '60s is reflected in a number of beautiful songs created then. One of them is "Solnechny Krug," (Sunny Circle, or Let There Always Be Sunshine), a rousing hymn in defense of peace, children and individuality. I myself remember clearly singing it passionately in kindergarten.
Vita discovered "Solnechny Krug" a few weeks before we left for England, and it instantly became a hit with her. I had to put on the record several times a day, and she now knows the words by heart: "Let there always be sunshine, let there always be sky, let there always be mama, let there be me."
As we rushed around looking for cars, houses, work and all the ingredients of our new life, we are almost too busy to notice the effect of our flight from Moscow on Vita and Benedict. Superficially, they are having a ball running around endless empty houses. But Vita is also trying to come to grips with our change of status. "We live in England all the time now, not in Moscow?" she checks several times a day. But then she asks, "When are we getting on the plane to go back to Moscow?" The idea of permanence seems one that is difficult to grasp.
While we were in Moscow, she frequently insisted that "Vita English, not Russian," whereas since we have been here, she has taken to saying, "Ya devochka Vita Russkaya" (I'm little Russian girl Vita) and now denies that she is English. Perhaps it is her way, during this period of bewildering upheaval, of clinging to the roots she knows, or a human instinct to preserve the part of one's identity that is in danger of being swamped by another culture.
She has dropped her usual evening fare of "The Grand Old Duke of York" in favor of a tale or two from her volume of Pushkin's children's stories. And she insists on singing "Solnechny Krug" several times a day, which comes through as having a completely different message in England.
Vita's fascination with "Solnechny Krug" is very endearing to me not just because it means that, at the age of 3, her Russian roots are convincingly firm, but also because I see her as a true messenger of biculturalism. Isn't sunshine something that is needed by all of us? Isn't praying for our mothers' well being something that all of us should do? And don't we, all of us, need to love ourselves in order to love our neighbors?
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