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This Labor Day weekend, I was home.
On Friday, I took the train from Washington to New York. I rode another train to my hometown with my father. I went out to dinner with my parents and brother. We rented a movie and drank rosé champagne. My dog slept on my bed. And I was home.
The next day, my parents drove me back into the city. I got lunch at the Heartland Brewery with a girl with whom I lived in my last year of undergrad. She recently moved back to New York from Miami. I haven’t seen her—nor, to be honest, had I really spoken to her—in two years. She is working hard and doing well, and we caught up. And I was home.
I then went uptown to my alma mater to meet another friend from undergrad for coffee. She was in the Slavic Department, like I was. She lived in Ukraine and Israel this past year. And we talked about what it is to live and be and travel in the FSU, and about Georgia (country edition), where her boyfriend lived when she was in Israel, and where I met him. And we talked about their love and her life and mine, too. And I was home.
I took the subway back downtown to Union Square Coffee Shop, where I met up with three of the people who were on my pre-Fulbright program in Marburg. And we talked about where we are now but mostly about where we were then, and we got drinks and remembered our year in Germany and laughed, got drinks and remembered our year in Germany and laughed. And I was home.
And then I was on the subway again, this time to Brooklyn, to get dinner with a friend from my study abroad program in St. Peterbsurg. And we went to the apartment of another girl from the same program and drank wine with her and another boy from the program too. And we talked about the program and who we were then and where we are now and also, inevitably, about Russia and Eastern Europe. And we went out onto the roof and looked at New York City. And I stayed over with my friend and in the morning we got muffins and coffee and talked. And I was home.
I met up with my family. We drove home. I lazed around the house. I felt, for some reason I both did and did not understand, sad. I was so tired. But still we went back into the city to meet my sister for dinner at a Russian restaurant. And we all fought and made up and laughed and sulked. And she and I hugged goodbye. And I was home.
And then this morning I went with my family to see my grandmother and uncle for breakfast and and coffee. And then I went home and packed and lazed and felt sad, somehow. And I was home.
And, finally, we went into the city for lunch. And they dropped me off at the train station, and I rode back to Washington. And I thought about how they say that home is where the heart is, but so, too, is home where your memories are. It’s where you’ve been and what you’ve done and whom you’ve known, insofar as anyone can ever know anyone. It’s this part of you here and that part of you there. And sometimes it’s not where you thought it would be, and sometimes it’s where you hadn’t even thought to look. And I came back to my apartment and made myself dinner and wrote this blog post. And I am home.
There has been—at least to the best of my knowledge—little attention paid to the fact that today is the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way, that moment in time when the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined hands to form a 600 kilometer long chain in order to protest 50 years of Soviet Occupation that began with the illegal pact between Stalin and Hitler (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed 75 years ago today).
The protest was a peaceful one. It was couched in terms of legality and Rule of Law. And Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania thus developed a self-identity on the same. The Baltic States were not Soviet, and their national identity would thus not be Soviet, either. And so if to be Soviet meant to be illegally occupied, to be Baltic would mean to be respectful of international law. And after independence this was supported by Western states, yes, but it began within the Baltic States themselves, as civil society and respect for Rule of Law must.
That doesn’t mean that there has been no so-called democratic backsliding or missteps since the Baltic states achieved independence. It does mean that independence as legality, homegrown but assisted by the West, has allowed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to be independent. To find their own course and pursue it.
Given that Russian troops may or may not have been in Ukraine yesterday, and that Ukraine’s president may or may not dissolve its parliament, and that Western powers may or may not be willing to support (whatever that may mean) Ukraine, perhaps it would behoove us to pay attention to the fact that today is the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
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