Back in the years following the thaw in the Cold War and the days spent watching the Great Bear slip and founder into the icy waters of political and economic uncertainty many Russians came to the United States seeking more stable futures. To a greater or lesser extent the new arrivals were helped by their fellow countrymen who had come before them; but others were victimized and manipulated in the same old ways they were fleeing. One of those, adrift with little English, lived with our family for a time.
He sat sadly on the doorstep of the small garage apartment smoking cigarette after cigarette; a small dark man with sad eyes. The demands of my profession and other responsibilities forbade spending much time with him and his loneliness sat heavily on him in the times he was not working. So without his wife and children, friends and far from all he knew, he sat and smoked.
My wife and I smiled and wished him a good morning on our way out. He smiled back and said, “Christmas! My wife is coming at Christmas! I haven’t seen her in…uh, uh…long time…uh, yes…a long time.”
“That’s wonderful!” my wife said. “When is she coming?”
“I think…Christmas Eve. Yes…yes…on Christmas Eve!”
“That’s wonderful,” my wife said, “Please…you must bring her to dinner when she gets here!”
On Christmas Eve, the doorbell announced his arrival with a lovely dark-haired woman of a similar age with a ready smile and dancing blue eyes. The grin on his face said it all; he had been gone a long time and a long ways from his home in Russia. Her smile echoed his; older now, but still childhood sweethearts separated by half a world. She knew less English than he, yet, strangely, there was no language barrier to good food and the Christmas spirit at the table that night.
Bright and early on the day after Christmas, she knocked on the door carrying a family photo album and a small, green Russian-English translation book. My wife smiled and invited her in. For hours, the two women browsed family albums, first hers, then ours, laughing and smiling as though they were old friends. When laughs, smiles, gestures and phonetics were not enough, they resorted to the little green translation book. That was when my wife learned that Russian women preferred tea to coffee, and high heels to sneakers, and that was only the beginning! Soon, they graduated to cooking and were learning each other’s favorite recipes; then alternated cooking dinners. Before many weeks passed, they were, indeed, old friends, even if they hadn’t known each other many weeks; even if one still had difficulty with English, and the other still did not know any Russian, yet, they understood each other.
And that is the meaning of communication; they did not allow a language barrier to interfere with their friendship. When the wheel of life brought them to greener pastures, we hosted their party and remain friends forever.
Copyright 2015 © by Clabe R. Polk, Powder Springs, Georgia. All rights reserved. No document posted here may be copied in part or in whole by any means without written permission of the author.
Copyright 2014 ©
by Clabe Polk
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