Sunday, 6 July 2008


In my youth in Moscow, people who emigrated would give a farewell party. Jewish emigration started in the beginning of the’70s, and was a painful process. As soon as a family applied for emigration permission, they would lose their jobs, and the children were expelled from school. In some early cases, the émigrés were required to pay back the money that the state had invested in their higher education. The sums were beyond imagination, but all friends gladly opened their purses to help. Many families were denied permission, which foreign human rights organisations and newspapers took on; some people I knew protested with hunger strikes.

Yet when all the barriers were surmounted, most of the belongings sold or given away, the rest packed, the family would throw a farewell party. The farewell was definite, as the borders closed firmly after them. The party would be held on the last evening before departure, when the flat was empty of furniture and everyone sat on the floor. Plenty of food and drink and joy. Yes, joy blended into sorrow, since after the long wait our friends were going to their desired destination, whatever that was. The partying went on until dawn, whereupon a few people stayed on to sleep on mattresses on the floor. In the morning they would clean the flat and leave the keys with the landlord. The rest of the company went to the airport for the very final farewell, seeing the friends disappear beyond passport control. On the way home, nobody spoke.

Our departure is not that dramatic, and I am almost sure we’ll in the future see some of the friends more often than now. Initially, I wanted a farewell party. Then I felt that it was much better to see all friends individually. We have been having guests or visiting friends more intensively than any other time. We have practically said farewell to everyone we hold dear.

The other day we decided we’ll give a proper party after all. We’ve made a list and are up to fifty people, immediate family not counted. It is vacation time, and many will be away, but hopefully some are coming. May the weather be on our side!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is immediate family invited, though?