I know you are out there, so who are you? My curiosity has gotten the better of me and I am addressing today’s blog to you. As a blogger, I have access to analytics on who views my blog. In recent weeks, I have noticed that I have a greater readership in Russia than in the U.S. Dear Russian Readers: Who are you? Please comment (in English if you don’t mind) and tell me where you are, who you are, how you found my blog, and what keeps you reading. (Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Your interest in my thoughts and your readership week after week delights me and also baffles me. I must tell you that I am part Russian; a small part, but it’s in my blood nonetheless (my dad’s mother was half Russian).
Another blog readership that baffles me is you Ukrainians. Again, who are you? Please comment. My ancestors lived in your part of the world. My grandfather emigrated to the U.S. in 1915. He came from Rzeszόw, in the Galicia region of Southeastern Poland, which is right across the border from the Ukraine. This fact makes me imagine that you Ukrainian readers are kindred spirits and perhaps we are connected by mysterious spiritual threads reaching down through the generations to re-entangle us in the new Global Village. My skin tingles when I see in my analytics that so many Ukrainians viewed my blog. I have a substantial blog readership in the Ukraine, and this has been going on for months, from long before the Russians appeared. I am not Ukrainian. I am definitely Polish. But I have heard members of my family say that we are “Galicianers,” and the border kept changing. Polish? Austrian? Ukrainian? Us Ashkenazi Jews from that region are of muddy descent, are we not? My grandmother’s spectacular kipfel dough recipe is probably the same as has been passed down in Galicianer Jewish homes that trace ancestors back to all these countries. We shall moan in pleasure together over kipfel pastries, comrades.
I feel as though I am reaching back and back to an old home in my heart when I see the analytics reveal that I have so many readers in Russia and the Ukraine. Perhaps by “outing” you I will motivate someone to speak to me, to tell me who you are and how and why we have connected. Without the internet and the global communications made possible through technology, I would not be having this conversation. The fact that people all over the world, that people in Russia and the Ukraine, are reading my weekly ruminations is magic. What extraordinary communications have been made possible in my lifetime; communications beyond my girlhood imaginings. On beyond the Jetsons cartoon with their video chat.
When I was a teenager, my family lived in Scotland for a year. My dearest friend that year was an Indian girl named Rajni. I and my brother were the only Jews in our school when I lived in Scotland, while she and her sisters were the only Hindus in our school. In 1999, Rajni became the first judge ever in Scotland (male or female) who came from any ethnic minority background. (In Scotland they call them sheriffs not judges.) At the time of her appointment, less than 12% of Scottish judges (sheriffs) were women. I felt extremely proud to be Rajni’s friend when she was appointed. Last year she retired from the bench. I am relating this because she now has more time for fun and so we have begun a monthly Skype call with each other. She is one of the more special people I have known in my life and I have often wished we lived closer together. Until we started Skyping this year, we had not seen each other since 1980. We are making up for lost time using Skype.
My ability to communicate with people all over the world from the quiet of my desk here in my study in my little rural community strikes me as a small miracle every time another extraordinary message blooms. I want to share three of my favorite recent communications.
Communication #1. A cousin of mine who lives in Tel Aviv posted something on Facebook in Hebrew a couple of months ago. Another cousin, who lives in NJ (and understands Hebrew), replied in English that he wished he could help but he had no plans to travel to Israel in the near future. I was curious. I clicked on “translation” to get the English version of the Israeli cousin’s post. Facebook translated. She was asking if anyone from the U.S. would be traveling to Israel in coming months as she needed to have something brought over to her from the U.S. As it happens, another relative of ours is planning to go to Israel in July and I know about it. So I responded to the Israeli cousin to get in touch with him. She did. He will help her out by bringing the goods.
Communication #2. I noticed that some friends of mine who live in Oakland posted pictures of Prague. I commented, “Wait, what? Are you in Prague?!” They responded that they were. As it happens, I have a friend who lives in Prague. He is an Englishman, a retired music teacher, who fell in love with Prague and bought a home there. He lives in Cheshire during part of the year and in Prague during most of the year. I asked my Oakland friends if they had any interest in hooking up with him, since he loves Prague and knows many lovely places to see there. They were enthusiastic about meeting him. I made introductions via Facebook and my English friend arranged to meet them at his favorite café. The next day I saw photos of my Oakland friends and my English friend posted on Facebook. They loved one another instantly and the meet-up was one of my Oakland friends’ favorite enents during their vacation.
Communication #3. Some of the characters and stories in my novel Memories from Cherry Harvest are based on relatives of mine and the stories of their lives. A couple of these relatives lived in France. They were from a generation before mine and were much older than I. When they passed away, I lost touch with their son and grandchildren. My father had been in communication with their son, who was closer in age to him, but he, too, lost touch. When my book came out, I couldn’t send a copy to the son of these people who figured so prominently in the novel because my father and I didn’t know how to find him. A couple of weeks ago, I went on the internet and began searching for him. After over an hour of sifting through search hits, I discovered that one of his sons is on LinkedIn. So am I. I sent a contact request to this cousin, who is now in his early forties. Once he accepted, I sent a message. He provided an email address. A flurry of lengthy emails followed and now my father and I are back in touch with these French relatives. Last week I finally sent a copy of my novel to the son of the relatives who were the models for two of the main characters. The book is dedicated to several of my ancestors, including his parents. He reads English. I am delighted that he will finally read my fictionalized version of his parents’ story.
For people with a more localized life, I suppose the internet and global communications are of less importance. For me, a person with friends and relatives all over the world, these technological tools offer a doorway through time and space that takes me deeper into cherished relationships. I traveled a great deal when I was young. I no longer have the wanderlust, and even if I did, I don’t have the means for globetrotting. My computer gives me the ability to continue my relationships with far-distant dear ones as I sit at home. Furthermore, global communication has apparently given me the ability to touch the lives of mysterious people in Russia and the Ukraine. I write to touch the lives of others with my words. It is my passion. So let me say, “Thank you Russia, with love.”
[And thank you to all of you who loyally read my words each week. I want to let you know that I will be out of town attending a family Bar Mitzvah on May 2 so I won’t be blogging as usual next weekend. I’ll be back the following week. Let’s continue our conversation then.]