All Russian female names end in “A”. My grandmother was Sarra, her sister Raya. My other grandma was Antonina. My mom is Nina. Her sister is Gyala. So, when people meet me and learn I was born in the Soviet Union they ask “so what is your Russian name?” When I tell them that Karol is my name, in Russian, in English, in whatever language they choose, they are confused.
I tell them the story: My father got permission to leave Russia when my mother was pregnant with me. His mother and aunt were already in America and he had to go, it was the only hope for us all to leave.
Leaving the Soviet Union was unlike leaving most places. You were stripped of your citizenship and told you can never return. You were an enemy, even your friends might shun you. I think that was fine with my father, he was American before he ever set foot here. He was a freedom-loving Capitalist who loved rock&roll, wanted to see the world, practice medicine and raise his family. He wanted me to have an American name, so that when I reached this great country, no one would think of me as different. I would be American, by virtue of my name, almost immediately. He sent my mother a list of American names and she chose Karol. A Russian person may pronounce is Kyeh-ral. Of course, they couldn’t know that spelling it with a “K” would mark me as different, but in a good way, I think. It lets me never forget where I was born, that while I’m American, and so blessed to be here, I could’ve just as easily ended up spending my life in the place my father refers to as “prison” with a name like Masha, Inna, Katya or some variation thereof. It reminds me that I am lucky.
Today is 29 years that I’m in America.
May Karol-with-the-American-name continue to prosper.
Note: Click on her link and scroll down to see her childhood picture as a brand new citizen.
Hat tip: the indefatigable Larwyn
[The story ends happily ever after right here]