'Goodbye, Moscow, Until We Meet Again!'
Leora Eisenberg recently completed a semester at HSE as part of the ‘Middlebury in Moscow’ programme run by Middlebury College in Vermont. Although she had grown up speaking Russian, getting used to Moscow didn’t come easily, at least at first but she came to truly enjoy her experience here.
‘Moscow is a very challenging city to live in, but there are certainly many things that I like about it,’ the 20-year old student of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University (New Jersey, USA) told the HSE News Service during a recent interview. ‘I love the accessibility of the metro – which is something I don't have at home at all, where I have to drive everywhere – as well as the cultural life here: it's so easy to go to the theatre or opera on a weekday.’
During her time, she took courses that included Soviet Genre Film, Modern Russian History, Russian Stylistics, and Moscow: Culture and History. ‘I hope to receive a Fulbright scholarship after my graduation next year and spend a year doing research in Kazakhstan,’ Leora says about her future plans. ‘More broadly, though, I hope to become a professor of Soviet history.’
Although she was only in Moscow for four months, Leora says that her time was extraordinarily memorable and left deep impressions. She shared with us the post she left in Russian on Facebook upon leaving the city, which expresses how much of an impact the time had on her.
English translation of Leora's post:
Don’t be sad, smile when saying goodbye…*
On my last day in Moscow, it was impossible not to think about the Olympic Mishka and remember those magic words that Muscovites and visitors alike sang when they released him into the ‘mythical forest’ nearly 40 years ago. It’s hard not to be sad; somehow one doesn’t want to smile when saying goodbye. I’m in shock myself that today, when I said goodbye to my friend, I didn’t start crying, although this is likely a sign that I still haven’t fully realized that I’m leaving this wonderful city, a city that quite inexplicably has become really quite dear to me.
Remember these days, remember…*
After four months in my second homeland (at least that’s what I would say), it’s difficult to explain how much I’ve accomplished. I’ve visited four countries (Russia, Armenia, Latvia and Estonia), seven Russian cities (Moscow, St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Perm, Tula, Vladimir and Sochi), a huge number of museums and theatres (I won’t even begin to count them) and one dacha belonging to a Soviet leader. I was an expert at a seminar on American education on the 60th floor of a skyscraper in Moscow City, met the most remarkable people, unexpectedly lost weight and even got a little bit of a tan on the beach in Sochi.
There were, of course, a few unpleasantries. People really liked to tell me that I don’t understand anything (mainly the local mentality) because I’m an American. Occasionally, I found myself crying in a store when the sales staff were barking at me. I felt that my Russian was limping along in the early days, at least figuratively, and I also felt that it became better and better, although this is really only thanks to some wonderful and patient people who came into my life and who were prepared to answer all of my questions on punctuation. It’s easy to say that this has only enriched my life experience, but that’s really how it was, however naïve it may sound.
Wish us to fulfil our desires,
Wish us all to meet again…*
I still can’t believe that I’m leaving Moscow, that my love affair with this city is ending, although it will remain in my heart forever…I write this as if I’ll never return, but we know that can’t be. Where else would an historian of the Soviet Union go? Moscow’s history is quite charming, but, if to be honest, in the words of Pushkin I’ll say the following: ‘Here lies the Russian spirit; here smells of Rus’. Muscovites, forgive me, Lord – they act and speak rudely, and they swear, but their ‘mysterious Russian soul’ forces me to forgive them of everything. No, they don’t smile here, but on the other hand, when they do something nice for you, they do so sincerely, from the heart. That’s what I love most of all about this place.
My spirit lies somewhere in the middle. I smile too often, but something in me changed during this time, although I probably can’t say exactly what it is. The Russian soul is mysterious, so they say.
Friends are coming apart,
Tenderness stays in the heart…
We shall cherish the song.
Farewell, we shall meet again.
Остаётся в сердце нежность…
Будем песню беречь.
До свиданья, до новых встреч. *
I hope that I will see everyone again soon. I will stay in touch. And when I say ‘Goodbye, Moscow, until we meet again!’, I really do mean, until we meet again!
* From ‘Farewell to Moscow’ song (До свиданья, Москва), Music by Alexandra Pakhmutova, Lyrics by Nikolai Dobronravov