I wrote this shortly after my 27 birthday; and while I'm in a different place I wanted to post it here so I don't lose it.
I'm sitting here reading a memoir from a Jewish boy who escaped the Soviet Union with his family in the late 1980s. I thought it would expand my mind, & my heart; put myself in another's very different shoes for a while. Maybe gain a little more insight into the history of the Ukraine I know & love so fiercely.
I didn't think I could possibly relate.
I didn't expect to find myself reflected.
I didn't foresee having to
move the book so the pages don't wrinkle--not from tears of empathy for his pain, but of familiarity.
I didn't expect to hear I wasn't alone from such a vastly different experience.
as he explains his self-loathing, his need to run from who he is. the journey of realizing the communist hatred for his ethnicity has become his own. as he talks about trying to run from himself, not grasping safety. wanting nothing more than to stop being a "zhud"--but he can't because he sees it every time he looks in the mirror. I can't imagine what that would be like, to hate myself for my olive skin & brown eyes. at least that's what my rational brain expects me think. but instead I'm crying, heart cracked open by the ache of hating mirrors myself. the girl who fought so hard to rise above & choose to be happy & goofy & resilient doesn't look back at me anymore. the messages of my worthlessness & ugliness & fragility from my abuser--words I fought so hard against in my mind--have become so much a part of me I can't see my reflection without wondering if it's true.
just like he can't help but believe he is worthless because of his birthright.
i can't help but believe i am worthless because i am a woman. because i wasn't "enough". because i was treated as if i didn't matter, as if i was a burden.
so instead of expanding outward, I'm expanding inward. yes, I too have a hard time with mirrors. I too want to run from my story & the ugly parts I can't change. I too have taken on the messages of my abuser, until I cannot see myself apart from them.
I too hate compliments, because I cannot see myself as worthy. they call into question the integrity of the one giving it. how can I trust your judgment now? Why would you say that--are they lying to me intentionally? are they blinded bc they love me? are they fools?
I too have been shaped & molded by the people whose actions told me I wasn't worth fighting for, told me I deserved abuse, told me my heart & my safety didn't matter. told me God wasn't concerned with my protection, only my response to "trial". it took me a long time to realize the nagging voice inside that wanted to scream against their words was truth.
Lev Golinkin, thank you. thank you for sharing your story with all its ugly jagged edges. thank you for not masking the raw pain, for taking us through the struggle. for showing us you have overcome. showing you have become one who is able to look his past square in the face, fight its lies and move into somebody who claims their rightful heritage. it gives me hope that I may do the same.