Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Emigres and immigrants

In his New York Times piece titled A Russian Émigré Finally Gets His Russian Passport, Serge Schmemann tells about his uncle's receipt of a Russian passport after decades of living as an emigre in France. Serge (I guess I can call him Serge, since he gave my newly adopted daughters and me a ride from Liturgy at St. Catherine's to where we were staying in Moscow in the mid-1990s. Funny how we presume on past kindnesses given us. Nevertheless, onward) writes gracefully, as always, about the long-term exile of some Russians.

His father, on the other hand, theologian and priest Father Alexander Schmemann, wrote in 1977:
I, for one, never emigrated from anywhere: I was already born an "emigrant," and although I have never been in Russia, I have always, since I was conscious, identified myself unequivocally as a Russian — and this despite my having lived almost 30 years in France and accepted French culture as something very close, almost my own; and in recent years, I can say without exaggeration, that I not only have embraced America, but have dedicated the major part of my life's work to it.

I can appreciate the loyalty of the exile, but even more, I appreciate the generosity of one who embraces a younger culture, who brings the gifts of his home to it, who enriches the lives of those who might otherwise never have known what he taught. Recommended reads: For the Life of the World and The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983,

Thanks to Geri Ethen for the tip.

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