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34mag

A New Life. Serhiy Zhadan About Those Who Leave

There is this musician, a friend of mine. I have known him for 15 years. And all this time I have been wondering how strangely twisted people’s paths can become and in what bizarre ways they live their lives. We are almost of the same age. Serhiy Zhadan, a Ukrainian poet and novelist, writes about fellow citizens who decide to emigrate.

Emigration from the CIS countries is increasing, source: flickr.com

My friend has never learnt to earn from his music. He gives private lessons but lives mainly by renting out his apartment to some Chinese. For last 15 years he has been composing music and trying to sell it to various pop stars – inside and outside the country. He visits them at their homes after – somehow – getting their addresses. Perhaps during their concerts he attends, patiently waiting behind the scenes, writing emails, using Skype.

During all these 15 years he did not sell a single composition. Even for a ringtone. One might think that my friend is not gifted enough but I disagree – I heard his tunes and compared them with melodies sung by the stars with whom he wants to collaborate. To me they all basically sound as ringtones. But that’s not the point here.

quite recently he surprised me once again when he asked me to meet him and tell more about America. He said that he was registered on several dating web-sites because he wanted to marry an American. He asked me if I had friends there.

“Unmarried – no”, I said. “I want to leave”, he said finally. “I want to start a new life. I’m ready to get married to a fat black woman”. “What a lucky lady she will be”, I said. “I could give private music lessons”, he continued. “I’ve already asked, one can earn their living this way. I am not so old. I am still able to get used to the new country. I know the language. I will get used to the local cuisine. I don’t like it here, you know?” I assured him that I understood everything, and even promised to look for the addresses of some friends there. And also I thought that it’s quite possible that he would succeed in this.

It is quite possible that he really would go and meet a nice Afr0-American woman of his dreams. It is also possible taht he will have no problems with local food, or with students, or with memories of the past life. He is not the first and not the last. And what should those who remain do? Maybe we should just wish a good trip and new friends. After all, we are still not so old. And not so lonely.

How many people have left during the last few years? Where do they live? And how do they live there? They didn’t get something important from their own country and were not able to give back what they wanted to. So what do they have in their hearts? Resentment? Disappointment? Indifference? I really can’t imagine. In my mind leaving your motherland where you were born is sort of a farewell to your whole life so far.

However there should also be a rebirth – a successful one or not. I have met many former fellow citizens and can’t say that they all look miserable. Some of them – yes, others – no. This new birth – a life after death – often granted them new opportunities. Many of them discover their talents, quickly learn languages, gain knowledge and new skills, and – what’s most important – develop their ability to communicate.

For the majority the failures from the past will be generously compensated by new employers. Sometimes a new life looks exactly as we imagine it – all rosy and optimistic. Although, to be honest, in most cases they have not been able to fill this emptiness created by major manipulation of space. The space is revengeful, and when you try to control it, it cloaks you with a thick and warm cocoon of memories and nostalgia, which you can’t get rid of till the end of this after-life.

Therefore, in most cases, a change of our location doesn’t lead to changes of our life attitude. OK, people get out of here, out of their native country where they haven’t been able to find themselves, in order to search further, within new territories, hunting their own shadows, without a chance to catch it, and yet having no desire to stop.

I hope that – wherever they go – they find something what they didn’t have here – their peace of mind. I hope they recover their dignity and self-respect, and finally get on with their lives without fears and complaints.

I hope they do not think in a bad way about our country and remember only light moments of their past, tell only funny stories from their childhood. It should be so. Otherwise it would be very unfair. Otherwise it would be hard to understand. Because it’s bad when our past life feels wrong. But it’s much worse when we feel bad after death as well.

The original article can be read here.

Translated by MA

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