"Now I See Kiev in My Dreams" Words and Pictures of New Americans
“My cousins and aunts will never come here because they are married to Russian or Byleorussian men, and these men are in the army and they have their careers. Now I see them and Kiev in my dreams… So during the day I walk here, and at night I walk in Kiev.”
Faina Laynburd 1994
My grandparents came to this country from Byelorussia and Lithuania. My parents assimilated rapidly into American life, moving from the Lower East Side of New York City to Jersey City, New Jersey, and finally to upper-middle class, Anglo_Saxon Westfield, New Jersey. My grandparents were very different from my parents. They ate different foods, wore different clothes, and spoke to each other in a language I didn’t understand. They died while I was still a child, and I was never able to ask important questions of them.
As a teenager, my curiosity about this lost world was aroused by the plight of the Jews remaining in the Soviet Union. The restrictions on the practice of their religion and on travel within and outside their country moved me to participate in the effort to gain their freedom. Their story became a metaphor for my personal struggles and for the missing links to my past.
In January 1992, and for the following two years, I met and photographed recent Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and the mystery began to unravel. Today, more than 7,000 Russian Jewish immigrants are living in Baltimore. My photographs and the comments of those photographed are not intended to define such a large and diverse group. This work is a personal view of individuals struggling to adjust to a new life and culture at the same time that they may be redefining their relationship to their Jewish heritage.
Most importantly, the project could not have been accomplished without the trust and generosity of each person who has shared a part of his or her personal life with me. It has been my joy to participate this way in their dreams and renewal.
Cindy Konits 1994
22 30"x30" RA Color Prints