by K.J. Adan
She sat across from me at a table. She had porcelain skin and smooth, high cheekbones that made her face look…swift. Very streamlined. Her eyes were huge, but there was a cheeky glint. She leaned conspiratorially toward me and, with a rich, Ukrainian accent, she said quietly, “I am Republican. I come to this country, I register Republican. No understanding, none, have these American leftists.”
I nodded and smiled, because I’d heard this before, and I knew exactly what she was going to say next. “These leftists, they want to live in Utopian socialist paradise? They can go back to where I came from. This country is amazing. These people are idiots. Yahoos, all of them. Let them spend five days in Ukraine. Then we will see how they like.”
She is a business woman in a tough industry and she knows what she wants. She knows what works and what doesn’t work. She proudly detaches herself from “frivolous girl emotions” and gets the job done. She was complaining to me of a highly overwrought girl in her employ, a creature who wants to be spoon fed every deal and client, when I said, “Sounds kinda like your gal expects handouts. Why doesn’t she just quit and let the state of California take care of her?”
And that’s when my new Ukrainian friend, previously very detached and rational, laughed. “I don’t understand these people! Everything in life worth having is worth working for, so that it is your own. Everything given is taken. Especially the government. Don’t start me on the government.”
I smiled. I tested the water; Los Angeles isn’t known for its right wingers. “You sound like my dad.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Who is your father?”
“He’s a doctor. He’s from Czechoslovakia. He left in the late ’60s and went to medical school in Ireland.”
She smiled. “Your father, he likes Reagan?”
I laughed. “He and my mother argued over the merits of Reagan. My mum, who is English, liked Jimmy Carter. She said he seemed nice. My father liked Reagan. My mum was annoyed because I sided with my dad on that one issue.”
The woman laughed heartily. “Smart kid. Smart dad. Reagan is genius. And now I am here.”
The second my dad got his citizenship, he registered Republican, as do many immigrants from communist or formerly communist countries, such as Cuba, Russia (and former citizens of the U.S.S.R.), and just about anywhere socialism or communism is practiced.
We came to America because my father got to participate in the Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts. I didn’t find that out until I was much older. Before then, he just very simply said, “We moved to America because the socialized medicine in England is a joke.” England is where I’m from, and it’s where my father practiced for six years.
“Here, I can treat my patients properly. If I want to do an angiogram, they get me a suite. If I order an MRI, my patient just gets it. Nobody waits too long. You need surgery, you get surgery. It’s not a load of palaver.” With my dad’s accent, it sounds like “poll-ah-wah”.
My father discouraged my writing. After years of ardently anguish on the subject my father blurted out of the blue and without context, “The Russians put my father in jail!” And that was the end of that. His beeper went off, and he had to save a dying person.
What I finally sussed out after many such disjointed arguments is that my grandfather, a newspaper editor, was writing anti-Communist pieces while the Reds were making busy in town. As they were not known for their tolerance of intellectual diversity, he was imprisoned. He was there for years. The KGB then apparently threatened my father’s family (though the details are sketchy & I remain dubious). My father’s constant irritation at my columns for the high school and college newspapers turned out to be fear of government intervention in our family’s freedom.
He has since explained more calmly his feelings on the subject, and my Ukrainian friend echoed his sentiments, although more eloquently.
She said, “It’s so hard to watch these Americans, who have so much, toss it away by voting for imbeciles. I am American now and these people have no idea how good they have it. This place is paradise, and everyone is free to do their part however they like. Free to fail, free to thrive. These leftists, they think the Democrats care for them, will give them things, give them power. They just take for themselves. I’ve seen it. They like it so much, move to Cuba. Don’t screw this place up. Keep it free for people who want to work for it.”
She had to go, but as she was leaving, she turned back to me and whispered, “I watch Fox News. I don’t tell anybody but you.” She laughed. Then, unlike my father, she said, “You write what you can for as long as you‘re allowed. You tell them what it’s like, ‘cos they don’t know. I know. You tell them.”