Hammer and Sickle

by Marinka on January 30, 2013

My writing hit a bump a few weeks ago, when my parents and I had a discussion and they expressed displeasure with what I was doing. Oh, they hadn’t read a word of it, lest you think that’s necessary for criticism. They feel strongly that a person like me, who was largely shielded from the horrors of the Soviet regime and whisked out of its grasp before any long lasting damage could take place, was not up to the task.

But I am writing about my childhood, I protest. Not a definitive history of the USSR.

They dismiss me.

It’s hubris, they think. And pure stupidity.

There’s a type of nostalgia for the USSR now, FX is airing The Americans tonight, a new drama about KGB agents living in Washington, DC, and don’t the 1980s look quaint? Keri Russell is going to be one of the KGB agents and I don’t know how it will be possible not to root for her.

The show’s Twitter avatar is the hammer and sickle, a disturbing and offensive image that now passes for pop culture.  It’s not the exact replica of the hammer and sickle used on the Soviet  flag, but still.  It was the image of Communism, of Stalin, who let me remind you, killed more people that Hitler. But it’s retro, so it’s fun, right?


Of course I’ll be watching. How can I not be? And I don’t even think it makes me a hypocrite to see what Americans think the Soviets were like.

And I’m slowly getting back to writing. Not because the world needs to hear my story, of what seeing a hammer and sickle avatar in my Twitter stream does to me, but because I need to tell it.

So there.

One year ago ...

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

christy January 30, 2013 at 10:11 am

I can’t wait to read it, and I’m so glad that you’re going to still write it. Maybe if enough of us complain about their avatar they’ll change it? I’m tweeting to them right now that it’s offensive.


Stacy @bklynstacy
January 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

So there indeed! GO MARINKA!!!! xoxo


Lady Jennie January 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

The world does need to hear your story.

At least – I do!



Selfish Mom
January 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

I was in the USSR towards the end of its existence, and while the people were amazingly wonderful, the stories they told us were not. Curious how the show will handle it. :-/


denise January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

One of my favorite quotes is from Little Bee, by Chris Cleave:

“I did not want to hurt Sarah any more. I did not want to tell her what happened, but I had to now. I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished. We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us.”

I have stories that I, too, need to tell. You tell your story. Tell it loud. Tell it proud.


Megan January 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

Tell your story, babe. 🙂


deb January 30, 2013 at 11:12 am

The big word for it is simulacrum – the representation of something that is emptied out of its historical/socio-political meaning. Americans love simulacra – esp. when they make us feel retro (as you say). Kids walk around with the peace sign pasted all over them with little knowledge of its connection to the civil rights or anti-war movements of the 60s. The hammer and sickle is a great candidate as a simulacrum that evokes retro nostalgia because Americans already prefer to overlook the atrocities Stalin committed because of our Soviet alliance during WWII. In light of all that – you absolutely need to tell your story! Of course its not a definitive history, nor is it your parents’ history (that’s for them to write), but it’s your story. Not to be presumptuous, but I’d be willing to bet that your parents’ idea that you don’t have the authority to speak on this subject is a central point of conflict in your story. And your need to tell it, is I believe, connected to our need to hear it. So rock on! 🙂


January 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

I used to sometimes wear a tshirt with a picture of Mao to the gym. I really had no idea who it was; the shirt was a present from a hip friend of mine. But then I noticed the old Chinese people at the gym giving me looks and a wide berth, and then someone finally told me. And then I read a book. And then I took a red sharpie and drew a big circle with a line over Mao. Big smiles and thumbs up from the gym crowd when I wore it next time. I should get a Nobel prize for that, right?


January 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm

This gives me a new idea for a Russian-themed strip club: The Hammer and Tickle.


January 30, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Your parents seem so familiar to me! Must be the Russian Jewish genes…where were they from originally, anyway?


January 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

There will always be someone who wants to silence your voice. I think you should tell your story and hold nothing back. Everyone who was there will have a different story, I want to hear yours! 😉 I know I will learn a lot.


Bonnie B. January 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Purely selfish on my part but……….write the damn thing, ’cause I wanna read it!!


January 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I remember I was citing my dad’s favorite phrase “A hammer and sickle means there’ll be hunger” (a hammer rhymes with hunger) and was getting dirty looks in the kindergarten.


January 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

…And that’s the best reason to write! Get it out. Get it out before not writing it consumes you.

Besides, I’d rather read a heartfelt story than anything an author concocts based on what she/he THINKS I need to hear.


Laurie January 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I didn’t know that about the hammer and sickle so I guess we really do need your book!

I appreciate your parents’ viewpoint on that because I think I’d get a similar reaction from my parents and grandparents. For some groups (cultures, religions, socio-economic cliques, etc.) there is a reserve because talking about yourself isn’t polite. Or whatever.

Stories, truth and fiction, are valuable. They help us all expand our worlds a little. So keep writing your book please. I’d really like to hear your story.


the mama bird diaries
January 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I can’t wait for your book to be a movie with Keri Russel.


Alexandra January 31, 2013 at 1:46 am

I want to hear your story, Marinka, because I believe this, “We tell our stories because they save us.”

I love you. You and all your multiple complex onion layers.



Lady Jennie January 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I love it, love it, love it! Laughing so hard. 🙂


Amy February 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I’ve always loved this blog and posted rarely. I just got back from a long weekend in Moscow. I learned the history in high school (but it didn’t seem real), I heard the history (but it didn’t seem real)… I saw it. I saw the buildings that are there now that weren’t there 5-10-15 years ago. I saw the beauty and felt the destruction.

It all seems a lot more real when it’s in your face. Very similar to my first steps in Europe, where the wars happened.

I want/need/will read your story. These stories will always need to be told. But now? Now that I’ve been reading this blog for a few years? I want to hear your voice from the pages.


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