Some personal thoughts regarding your article entitled “First Mural In Northeast Philadelphia”.
First of all I would like to praise Lyudmila Makarova for this amazing idea, and “Teen Club” for their initial concept. But, I strongly disagree with the notion of depicting Russian heritage and diversity in the form of children discussing their heritage as pictures of Russian cities (see original article for full description).
Murals not only bring beauty of art into the public sphere, but are also a window into the culture. Murals can have a dramatic impact, whether consciously or subconsciously, on the attitudes of passers by. I personally wouldn’t want to drive by a mural that has a “bubble” of the city that I lived in for the first 15 years of my life. There is no nostalgia here; only memories of being hated and degraded for simply being a Jew, the hardships that my parents and others like them faced being refuzeniks, and the memories of the thousands that have perished for simply being a religious Jew, Christian or a fighter for the freedom of the oppressed.
Images of ex-Soviet cities cannot possibly represent mosaic diversity of the Russian community in Northeast Philadelphia. How can a city from which we left illustrate the richness of talents and culture that is here, on American soil? Many of us do not identify ourselves as “Moscovites”, “Kievliane”, “Odessiti”, “Lenigradtsi”, etc, we proudly identify ourselves as AMERICANS of Russian descent.
Impact of Russian Immigrants on American Life:
Since the 19th century, Ellis Island has become a beacon for escape from persecution, discrimination, hunger, pogroms, and political and religious oppression for hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants, many of whose descendants still reside in Philadelphia. According to a 1990 survey, 2,953,000 Americans identified themselves wholly (71.6 percent) or partially (28.4 percent) of Russian ancestry.
In 1890, 60% of Russian Jews worked in the needle trade, and after endless years of hard work, moved on to open their own garment shops, manufacturing, restaurants, bakeries, Yiddish Theaters, etc. They were also able to establish orphanages and self-help societies for the poor. They also built Synagogues, many of which still stand today. Throughout its history in the United States, the Russian Orthodox church has ministered to immigrants from Russia. Even before Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867, the church converted over 12,000 Aleutians and some Eskimos to Orthodoxy.
What about the musicians, scientists, writers, artist, etc., that were escaping Russia for hundreds of years and came here in search of a better existence? These people had such an enormous impact on American life and Society today. I am personally proud to share the same heritage with people like:
Serge Brin: Co-founder of Google
Irving Berlin: Composer of “God Bless America” song
Vladimir Zvorkyn: Invented a tv transmitting system
Steve Timoshenko: Prof. of Engineering in Stanford, 36 books on applied mechanics
Alexandra Tolstaya: helped over 30,000 refugees in NY
George Balanchine: Composer
Otto Struve: Astronomer, 900 articles
Ivan Tuchaninov: appointed by president A. Lincoln to brigadeer general
Igor Stravinsky: most influential composer of 20th century
Pitirim Sorokin: Social Cycle Theory
Igor Sikorsky: Aircraft designer/First Helicopter
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Composer
Alexander Prokofiev: Aviation pioneer, inventor..
Wassily Leontief:Nobel prize in Economics
Simon Kuznets: Economic Science
Mila Jovovich: Actress
Alexei Abrikosov: Theoretical Physicist
Vladimir Ipatiev: Founding father of modern petrolium chemistry in US
George Gershwin: Composer
George Gamow: Discovered quantum tunneling
Kirk Douglas: Actor
Mstislav Dobuzhnisky: Expressionist
David Burlik: Avant-garde artist
Yul Brynner: Actor
Josef Brodsky: Nobel Prize in Literature
Isaac Asimov: Biochemistry
Even Leonardo DiCaprio can trace his heritage back; his grandmother was born was born Yelena Smirnova in Russia.
What about our children that currently serve or have served in the United States military to protect our freedom? Yes, children whose parents are either descendants of, or are Russian immigrants. Drawing a picture of a Russian city on an American wall is disrespectful to these true patriots that have chosen to risk their own lives to protect us. And how many police and firefighters of Russian decent have died in the line of duty?
The list is endless.
This mural should be a celebration of pride that we experience being Americans of Russian descent, a celebration of the greatest talents and sacrifices that enriched this beautiful country.
Sincerely, Yelena Glikman