It seems like we only recently learned how to miss you. This article makes it look as though we’ll be back to the same system that was called Communism under the Soviet Union quite soon. I imagine the Cold War will reemerge soon. We have our new Stalin. He looked good for a few years. A reformer. A man who could make his completely broken country work. But we’re back at the same point. The major opposition candidate in jail. All industry controlled by the “democratically” elected state party. People forced to vote or face loss of job or disappearance.
It might be my lack of sleep, but I’m feeling a bit emotional about this. I remember 1990. Everyone was talking about Perestroika. We went to see a Russian museum tour in downtown Dallas. It seemed so distant and yet so possible that something was happening. We’d seen the Berlin wall fall. Things could change.
We moved to the Soviet Union in August of 1990. We spent the most miserable 9 months of our lives there just trying to survive. The system was crumbling, and while they were still trying to present a facade of a functioning economy they couldn’t provide enough even for foreigners (for years they had a massive propaganda machine to make it look as though all was well). We horded food. I found sugar once at a store while out picking up a loaf of bread and carried home 100 pounds. My parents bought something like 8 palettes of eggs in one grocery trip. My sister Caroline went out several times a week to stood in line at 4am to fill a 5 gallon bucket with unpasteurized milk from a tanker truck in our neighborhood. We spent all day pasteurizing milk. Washing clothes and cooking food. We fought like cats cooped up in our apartments. Only the adults were willing to make any effort to leave the confines of our apartment building.
After that year we took a 3 month vacation in England. In a small pastoral suburb of London. It was heaven. And then we watched in August 1991 as the putsch threatened to oust Yeltsin. The countries first marginally democratically elected leader. It was a tense few days. We had our entire lives back in the Soviet Union. We had our friends back there. And we had a Russian friend staying with us. If things had gone differently he would have probably defected and I would more than likely have a brother.
And then it was over. And we went back to the Soviet Union for another year and things were better. And people were mostly more optimistic. I say mostly because there are probably still people there complaining and praying that the czars will come back. And there was food. It was expensive. Too expensive for most of the people who lived there (more legitimate complaints). But there was food again. And stores weren’t completely filled with empty shelves. And in February of 1992 I sang the star-spangled banner as the American Flag was raised for the first time over the new independent country of Kazakhstan. A new country. Trust me. It’s pretty amazing to be around when a new country is formed.
And when we left in May of 1992. On our way out of the country we stayed in the American Embassy in Moscow. And we looked over the walls where Yeltsin made his stand on top of tanks. And where they hoisted the Russian Flag. And where the back of communist party was finally broken.
And now we’ve circled back. 15 short years. We’ve been witness to a pretty amazing piece of history. 15 years of calm more or less. Of not thinking about mutually ensured destruction. It’s depressing to think that my children will be back to living with that fear.
And my new play “The Automat” takes place in the cafeteria of a missile silo.It’s amazing how the subconscious works.