The Things Refuseniks Carried Out of the Soviet Union
On the 26th anniversary of Freedom Sunday, a photographer uses objects to look at the immigrant experience
Dec. 6 marks the 26th anniversary of Freedom Sunday, the 1987 march on Washington in support of Soviet Jewry and their right to emigrate. Many credit the rally, which gathered a quarter of a million people, with adding pressure to the Washington, D.C., summit meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. In all, some 300,000 refugees and refuseniks came to the United States between 1987 and 1993. My photo project Nash Chemodan (Our Suitcase) focuses on the items that these immigrants took with them when leaving the Soviet Union.
Because of censorship and an unclear picture of their future, many had no idea what to take and what to leave behind. Families arrived carrying objects that they would never use again. The fact that many still hang on to these obsolete things points to a certain nostalgia, if not for a country that no longer exists, then for their friends and family from that time. In captions to the images, the anonymous owners of these objects speak of their significance.
Nash Chemodan was shot with a Kiev camera, which was manufactured in the Soviet Union and continued to be made in Ukraine after the dissolution of the USSR. This project was made possible in part through a grant by the BluePrint Fellowship project of COJECO, funded by the UJA-Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group.
Click on the link to the left to see a slideshow from Nash Chemodan (Our Suitcase)
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