Pussy Riot and the Motherland

It’s been forever since I traveled to Russia. Maybe not forever, but more than 20 years now. I did a semester of high school there, where I lived with an incredibly dysfunctional host family who schooled me in vodka and told me that if I sat on concrete, my ovaries would freeze and I’d never be able to have children.

Note: I’ve since proven that last bit of wisdom incorrect. You can sit on concrete and still make babies.

I returned to Moscow for a semester of college. I lived in a dorm and attended Moscow State University, continuing my study of vodka Russian and sharing a bathroom with a lovely Korean girl. She spoke no English, I spoke no Korean, so we had to rely on our Russian to communicate. She made me kimchi that was spicy and delicious. I’ve never had kimchi that good since. Of course, I also haven’t traveled to Korea.

I’d love to return to Russia, to show my husband and daughters this country that was such a part of my youth, (though with the passage of so much time, I’m sure anything I might be nostalgic for has already changed). We’d marvel at the beauty of the Moscow metro and talk about literature in St. Petersburg. We could stumble through small towns or travel the Golden Ring of Russia and see the kremlins and cathedrals and monasteries. As a teenager I had a brief stay in Yaroslavl, founded in 1010 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, and the unofficial capital of this famous group of cities.

We’d ooh and aah and eat borscht.

While we don’t currently have a trip to Russia in the works, a little bit of Russia is coming to us. Pussy Riot is part of the lineup for Boise’s upcoming Treefort Music Fest. I’ve followed the story of Pussy Riot for a few years, not as a lover of punk rock, just as a human with an interest in basic human rights.

I don’t plan on taking my eight-year-old to a midnight punk rock concert, but she’s certainly old enough for a discussion on rights and equality, oppression and protest. I’m not sure if the fact that these issues are as timely as ever (in the US and Russia and the world over) is sad or something that will always be innate in human society. We certainly don’t have to travel to Russia to have these conversations. And maybe we’ll have them while eating borscht.

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