My dear friend, Svetlana Blasucci, is on the journey of her lifetime. She is rediscovering her roots back to her homeland of Russia. I got to catch up with her for a quick interview before she headed off. This is one of my favorite and most heartfelt pieces to date.
Tell me a bit about you and your upbringing.
I was brought up in New Jersey. I was born in Smolensk, Russia and was adopted at the age of 3 by an American family.
Do you feel you identify more with being Russian or American?
I have always thought I didn't belong anywhere. I never was sure where I belonged in the city. I love NYC but it's not for me. I feel once I go back to Russia my feelings will change, hopefully.
How has being adopted Affected your life emotionally?
I have always known I was adopted. It never really affected me. At the end of the day I was given a better life and couldn't ask for anything else. My parents are the most loving and supportive people I know. Being adopted feels like a memory. This past birthday marks my 20th anniversary being in the US.
How did this journey begin?
The journey began with the question of what was I going to do for my final year of college. What would a photographer photograph for her thesis? The thought that kept coming to me was, "It's time to go back to Russia."
I told my parents about it and they thought it would be a good idea. They have been supportive through out the entire process and are the ones funding this trip. I've always had a wild curiosity about if I was the only child and what happened back in Russia.
What have you discovered so far?
I have discovered so much; a lot bad and a little good. I hate to say it but I'm not surprised. There wasn't going to be a happy ending when I went back to Russia. I found out that my father, Yuri, is deceased. He died from lung cancer. My mother is still alive, but is homeless somewhere in Moscow. That was the last time my brother heard from her. I have two siblings, a brother and sister. My brothers name is Alexander and my sister Galina. Galina lives in a town in Smolensk and works in a dress shop with little contact with my brother. Alex holds a grudge against her for not making an appearance at our father's funeral. There is also some bad blood between them and due to the fact that my sister refuses to see me. I'm a very stubborn person, so she will see me even if I have to show up at her dress shop, which I plan to do.
How does that make you feel?
It's a lot to take in. I'm slowly processing all of this information. Most of my biological family is dead. Many were alcoholics. I'm not surprised; many parts of Russia are very impoverished.
Do you feel any emotional or familial connection to the family you've discovered so far?
I feel no connection to anyone because I haven't technically heard back from anyone. I wrote to my brother but the researcher said he's slow and is taking his time. It is tough, because I feel that if he cares, he should write right back to me. It's a little hurtful that Alexander is this way. I can't really feel love for anyone or emotions yet, but I know when I met my sister and brother the emotions will pour through me. I tend to be very emotional.
What are you hoping to get from this impending trip to Russia?
I want to meet my brother and sister. I would like some closure and I want to hear about my family in person. No one speaks English so we are hiring a translator to be there. I can't speak Russian anymore. When I was a child I lost the language.
What is your greatest fear about this trip?
Not being able to go. Because I wanted to be a Russian citizen again I have been dealing with the Russian consulate. To get a passport you have to have the consulate send paper work to where you were born. The bureaucracy in Smolensk is taking forever to get back to us to approve my citizenship. Until that is approved the passport is on hold. It's four weeks until our trip and I have nothing. Flights and hotels are booked. Money has been spent and we now are getting impatient. We stopped waiting around and have been contacting everyone we know. My mother and I are going to the consulate everyday to push the Russians, but they have been slow in these matters. Apparently it takes 6 months for a Russian passport to be made. I have been severely upset by this news but I will not give up. I am fighting to get my passport before December 21, before my trip to Russia.
I will not give up. A Blasucci never gives up even if it hurts me deep down that these Russians are slow with important matters. Hope and praying is all I can do for now. Keep pushing through is what I keep saying to myself. I'm scared, but this is my thesis, my final project and I want to get my story to the New York Times. I feel like my life is a soap opera currently because of what has been happening. People don't understand, and just keep saying, "It's all right if you don't go." It's not all right. It's too important and it would put me in a deep depression if this doesn't happen. All I have is my photography and I need to fill the hole in me.
Svetlana is currently in Russia and very much looking forward to meeting her family, many of whom she was able to make contact with. We will get you an update on this story when it is possible. As a sneak preview, here is a picture or her with her brother.