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What Russian Oceania is talking about?
Dozens of poems, stories and essays have participated in the Russian-Speaking Oceania contest, organized by Unification Russian weekly from Sydney. There were such contests in Australia and New Zealand, but for the first time such a big territory was covered. There are not so much Russian compatriots “from the islands” yet but they are being noticed.
Russian-Speaking Oceania contest advertisement /Photo: unification.com.au
Creative writing is really important for the Russian community in Australia and New Zealand. Many have started to write after leaving the homeland, the contest participants told the Russkiy Mir. Why? They wanted to reevaluate the Russian language that was Уlike an airФ at home, to find new fellow countrymen and process the new life experience.
Selected by jury works are dedicated to interaction with local people and their customs, close human contact and difference between mindsets and, of course, missing Russia where the snow covers spruce trees during the heat peak in Australia. The contest winners will be named in November.
The Turgenev's book
"We hold such contest for the third time in past five years, tells to the Russkiy Mir the Unification Russian weekly editor-in-chef Vladimir Kuzmin.††They have had different names – first one was called My Australia, the next one On Distant Shores. First, we have admitted only Australian residents, than have added New Zealanders, and now we've invited to people from islands, although there're not so much Russians residing on Fiji, Vanuatu and other islands. I've invited to participate everybody I was able to find."
Vladimir Kuzmin. Photo: unification.com.au
The majority part of participants are middle-aged and older people, but there are also young ones. The contest organizers didn't make a list of topics, so the participants wouldn't feel limited and could've write about things that really matter.
Kuzmin says, УSome people tell about their first impressions, while others recall their life in the USSR. One of our writers, a university teacher who lives here for 30 years, has dedicated her essay to warm memories about her native Bukhara and her life there before immigration. There are many nostalgic works, actually.Ф
Two thirds of the creative writings are done by Russian Australians, the other third comes from New Zealand. The newspaper publishes Russian-speaking poets and writers throughout the year. Unification weekly has revived the institute of public reporters. Doctors, teachers, engineers, schoolkids are writing about their local events in Russian. According to the editor-in-chef, many are puzzled with the name of newspaper, but it's clear that Unification title helps to demonstrate the main goal Ц to consolidate the Russian community abroad.
Unification weekly was launched in 1950, while the Russian diaspora was torn by disagreements Ц white emigrants and their descendants, and Soviet immigrants were foreigners for each other.
Kuzmin emphasizes, "Gradually everybody came to an agreement on putting the past behind, said editor-in-chef. They had to move forward, elucidating the factors that bring them together, such as Russian language, literature, music. They won't change this path since then.†What calls people to make art? You know, when the person grows in the Russian-language environment, the native language stays once and forever. English language is too limiting for non-natives. We can't communicate exact meaning, especially if it's humour-related. On the other hand, Russian language presents to us amazing capabilities. I remember before working for this newspaper I had a job in a bank and didn't have enough time to read a good book. When I finally opened a book by Ivan Turgenev, I've started crying. I've enjoyed so much my native Russian language; every shade and every detail came brilliantly alive."
Us and Them
Marina Pechorina has moved to Oakland, New Zealand from Yekaterinburg in 2006. УI was not really sure that I should immigrate, but my son with his family was waiting for me,Ф shared Marina with Russkiy Mir. In Russia, Marina was mathematics and cybernetics professor.
УI don't have any literature ambitions, but I was reading a lot.†When I found myself in New Zealand I have started to search for contacts and found Our Harbour Russian-language newspaper. I was working as a corrector, then started to write, The newspaper is popular among Russian-speaking residents. We have five thousand subscribers.Ф
Only being thousands of miles away from the homeland she understood that Russian language can bring the joy of creativity, save from loneliness, and bring a piece of bread. Marina submitted an essay about the nature beauty of a seaside village Piha located west of Auckland. УI have started to write fiction here. Why? Because I've experienced a major life shift, and the question what to do in life has arisen. I was thinking what else I can do in life, and then my literary ambitions emerged,Ф Marina said.
All characters of Marina's writings are Russians. She reads about New Zealanders in newspapers, but she doesn't have any friends among locals.
УThere's aУRussian worldФ here in Oakland. Russian schools, Russian artistic groups of all types, and Russian folk singers. There are many performances at the end of the year. Theses events are used to be organized by older people, but now more and more younger people get involved.Ф
УIt's My AustraliaФ
For Natalia Samokhina, who arrived to Brisbane from Ryazan 12 years ago, essays and stories provided an opportunity to reflect on the new reality. There were indeed lots of changes Ц country, climate, job, environment.
Natalia is a professional librarian, she's worked in Ryazan children library for many years. She has become a nurse in nursing home since it wasn't possible to find library-related work in Australia. Although, the archival work experience and ability to find pearls in the sea of dusty papers served a fellow countryman of Yesenin in Australia.
She's got involved in historical research on Russians in Australia. Since than, Natalia published quite lot of articles in Russian and English in Unification newspaper and on the state library website. She has managed to discover some rare archive documents that local researchers couldn't find for decades. УI'm an old-style librarian who doesn't rely on an electronic bibliographical database,Ф said Natalia.
- My husband is French. He lives in Australia for more than 30 years now, Natalia shares. I communicated a lot with French diaspora when I just came here, and later met Russian friends. I don't have a lot of Australian friends. Mainly I communicate with Australians during the work. Unfortunately, I don't speak Russian that much. My husband has been trying to learn Russian for many years but no success.
The Russian Cultural Heritage week in Brisbane has became one of the great possibilities for Natalia to get closer to the Russian language. Don't Let Bill Go real life story squeezed in short essay tells the story of friendship between a dying Australian patient and the Russian nurse. Natalia describes her own experience on how deep relations might've arrive during hard times, despite the differences in mentality and roots. Natalia says, УThis is my Australia, It's so much different from the tour guides, and that makes her really exciting.Ф