November 1, 2010 | 7:08 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
I was born in Ukraine, in the former USSR, and grew up in Riga, Latvia which is on the Baltic Sea. My family and I immigrated to the United States in 1989, right before the fall of Communism. I believe that many Russian immigrants have used humor as a way to cope with the conditions of life in the former Soviet Union. I am definitely one of them. Have you ever seen photographs of Russians during Communism? Or better yet Russian Jews? Nobody smiled in pictures, ever. It wasn’t allowed. If you smiled, that meant that you were happy about something, and THAT meant that you had something that others didn’t. That was definitely not allowed in Socialism, and would be reported to the proper officials! Everyone was supposed to be equal, and have the same amount of everything from money to food to shelter. We all know how untrue that was, and how well that turned out in the end…
But when you were behind closed doors, closed windows and curtains you felt the need to enjoy yourself, laugh and make fun of the government. Of course it had to be done very quietly, and only behind blaring Communist music. But it was a necessity due to such terrible conditions as lack of food, money, clothing and everything else that people need and deserve.
I started writing and matchmaking in high school, not only as comedy relief for myself to get through school, but also as a way to deal with being the new kid, being the only Russian, Jewish kid in the entire school, and city. I believe there was only a handful of Russian/Jewish families living in Orange County at that time.
Most kids didn’t even know how to talk to me, or my younger brother. We didn’t speak a word of English, we didn’t understand a word of English, we looked funny, and I am pretty sure smelled funny since bathing is optional in Europe, and typically a once a week kind of deal. It took us a few months to figure out that we needed to take more showers, wear the same outfit only once, and invest in anti-perspirants. Once we got that down, my Matchmaking started to take off. Just like my Grandmother and Mother, I loved setting people up and always had a good feeling about who belonged with who. I made so many matches throughout my life that I finally decided to make into a full-time career.
I still reside in Orange County with my husband of fifteen years, and two sons ages 13 and 8.
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