My Story with the Russian Language
Adrian and I started Lufi & Friends in 2018 when our little ones were just babies and we were looking for more ways to expose them to language and culture. We did our best to speak Spanish at home (Adrian is from Argentina, and I lived abroad there for several years), but it was harder than we thought! So Spanish seemed like the perfect place to start for our own Spanish/English speaking household and more broadly, but I also looked forward to one day creating Russian language song books.
While I think of English as my native language, Russian was my first language. My family emigrated to the US from Moscow when I was four years old. Russian is the language that I use when asking my parents about their neighborhood walks and the language that I hear in my head when I think of playing pretend restaurant and ice skating with my grandparents. I didn’t expect my kids to be fluent in Russian, but I did hope they’d at least pick up enough of the language to form their own special memories with their grandparents.
Over a year ago, I finally finished work on our Russian books. I waited patiently for the beautiful songs and illustrations to be brought to life, but Covid and related manufacturing and distribution issues caused delay upon delay (as it has for many businesses of all sizes). By the time the books were ready to ship to the US, Russia had invaded Ukraine.
I've always been grateful to my parents for uprooting their lives, leaving careers, friends and family behind to be able to provide me with a better life in the United States, but probably never more so than this year as I see the devastation caused by Putin and his regime. I think about how the children I see and read about on the news could just as easily have been my children having to witness and experience things no one ever should, how it could be my family making the decision to leave and be separated or stay, my grandparents too old to get to safety, my friends debating whether to take a stand or remain quiet in fear of retaliation. I think about how family members could be drafted to fight in a war they didn’t want and that those in Russia are being misinformed about.
Compared to the decisions faced by the Ukrainian people, I had an incredibly trivial one to make. But nonetheless, I have been unsure of whether I wanted to even release these Russian language books. If I were from Ukraine, I imagine I might not ever want to hear the Russian language spoken again, that the sound of it would have become toxic to me. At the same time, I recognize there are also people for whom the language is inextricably linked to their identities, their friends, their families.
Ultimately, I go back to why we made these books in the first place. We want our kids to be more understanding, empathetic, to love traveling, meeting new people, exploring new cultures. As I watch some of the translations of media coverage, I also recognize how important it is that we have people that understand the nuances of different languages, the meaning behind tone, the feelings behind a word or phrase. And I continue to believe that music is one of the most powerful ways to bring that understanding to life. We've decided to release our Russian language song books with that in mind, and we'll be donating 100% of our profits from the Russian language books to Razom for Ukraine, an organization providing humanitarian war relief and recovery and supporting the evacuation of vulnerable populations in Ukraine to safer regions. We are also working on putting together a book of Ukrainian songs to celebrate the Ukrainian heritage and language.
Thank you for reading, and as always, we'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
Here's to raising bilingual kids one song at a time,