An Immigrant Story

1999, 2020

9 min read by
Having landed back in Vancouver, I ride the train home in a stupor. As if I woke up from a lucid dream, not quite able to separate the reality from the mind’s fabrications.

After moving to Canada in 1999, I never revisited my homeland until 2020.

I remember making bad drawings of this view at school.

In Moscow, I lived with my grandma and grandpa while attending grade school.

That birch tree pot still smells like the honey that filled it thirty years ago.

Returning twenty years late, I was reminded of what I lost. I never got to see my favourite grandpa whom I spent my carefree mornings with. My last phone call with grandma was brief.

I took a fourteen-hour flight to give mom a hand at an empty flat.

Rain in Amsterdam.
Moscow appeared like Mordor from under the heavy cloud cover.

The city felt foreign and familiar.

I expected Moscow to be a place of comfort, inline with my memories.

Instead, it turned out to be a travel destination, permeated with deja-vu’s.

“Red Caviar” by “Fish processing facility №Г2.”

I recalled my trips to China and Hong Kong as I browsed the local brutalist architectural forest, built in the ‘80s.

Metro. I was looking forward to riding it. Having maintained a connection to an object often favourably mentioned in the West when Russia is the topic, it’s been on my mind since I bought the flight tickets.

A tremendous investment by the state into public mobility. A statement.

As I roamed the underground, I felt the onslaught of emotions. Identity crisis, an immigrant’s cliché. Quite disturbing, actually.

Outside, I tried to learn Moscow, scanning for swatches of a past-self.

Some of the decaying memories unearthed, photographed, and spelled out.

Helpful but not settling.