1. I had fur coats and fur hats and [they] smelled of various woodland animal-type smells. The teachers would take me aside and say, “Look, you can’t be this furry. You can’t dress in these furs. Children won’t play with you if you have that much fur on.” … Basically what I was told in school every day was where we came from was wrong and where we were now was right. … It’s a lot for a sensitive 7-year-old to be told that everything he loved and believed in has to be replaced with something else.

    — Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure, speaks to Fresh Air about adjusting to life in America after leaving the Soviet Union when he was 7.

  2. fresh air

    gary shteyngart

    little failure


    soviet union

  1. I had this strong feeling of pride and identity as a Jew even from being very little. But…you couldn’t go to synagogue. You couldn’t do stuff like that. But we did have little relics of religion passed down here and there, like my grandmother, my mom’s mom, would always make sure that we knew when Passover was and she would somehow get, through a connection of a connection, we would have matza. And so she would make chicken soup with matza balls, but then we would have bread alongside that because we didn’t know that you’re not supposed to eat bread.

    —Regina Spektor on Jewish Identity and Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union

  2. Regina Spektor


    Jewish identity

    Soviet Union

    Fresh Air