I am a displaced hedgehog. I am a nomadic subject. I don't belong anywhere. There isn't a place about which I can say: This is where I come from. I haven't thought much about it, but I started doing so recently, not least because my husband keeps going back to Sweden and accidentally on purpose takes a detour to his home town. Where would I go? To the little town of Pyatigorsk in Northern Caucasus where my grandmother was born and grew up? I gew up in Moscow of course, but I don't feel I belong there. Can you belong in a big city? Maybe.
I am a mother. I am also a stepmother, which always makes me wince when I discuss fairy tales with my students. Since fairy-tale stepmothers are merely circumscriptions of biological mothers I actually have no problems with that.
I am a grandmother. It makes me very old. When I was young I could imagine being a mother, but being a grandmother was way beyond imagination. I don't mind being old as such, but it comes with a lot of physical changes which implies that you can never trust your body anymore. When you were young and fell ill you knew it would be over. Nowadays any silly malady can be the beginning of the end.
I am a wife and life partner. Having said that, I realise that I very seldom contemplate this role because it is so self-evident. But it isn't. We should all think more often about it.
I am a daughter, but it's a chapter I don't want to elaborate on. Let's say I used to be a daugher. I used to be a granddaughter too, but it is much less painful.
I am a teacher. When I took my first degree and started thinking about what I might do with it, the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to be a teacher. I think I am a good teacher, and there is no better reward than seeing your students successful. In my imagination, I am sitting under a tree with a circle of pupils around me. In my imigination, they will remember me when I am gone.
I am a scholar with world reputation. It's immodest to say so, but I am proud of it. I can even prove it, because I am one of the twelve scholars in my field who have received an award in recognition of their lifetime achievement.
I am a friend. When I left Russia thirty years ago I was convinced that I would never make any new friends. But I have made lots of friends since then, and I mean friends in the Russian sense of the word, not merely someone you know. Some of these became friends successively over many years and are much closer now than some friends I once thought would be close. But my best friend is still the one I have known since we were two.
I am a reader. Mostly professional reader, but also passionate reader at large. Not omnivorous through. I guess I have quite an elitistic taste in books.
What else? Can I call myself a gardener, a skier, a potter, a dollhouse maker? No, but I can say that I like gardening, skiing, throwing, making miniatures, as well as star gazing, watching waves on a beach, listening to classic music, movies, theatre (but not opera), birdwatching and just walking around in the nature.
Something I think about often these days is that although there are many things I am or have been, there are fewer and fewer things I can become.