• The keeper of the belt: exploring objects, family, and the Russian diaspora

      Kohn, Carina (2018-05)
      My project consists of a collection of short stories which explore material culture through the lens of the Russian diaspora. Each piece gives voice to Russian immigrants who have experienced what it feels like to uproot one’s entire life and leave almost everything behind. My focus is on the items they have held on to. In preparation to tell these stories, I have examined historical texts and memoirs discussing the cultural and political structures of the Soviet Union. I have also interviewed Russian family members and friends—many of whom are represented as protagonists in their respective stories. Throughout my first of set interviews, it became evident that these individuals were deeply attached to the items they presented, and were able to tap into a reservoir of memories associated with them. I have my own set of Russian objects, which have been passed down to me by my mother, and this project has helped me pay attention to them in new ways. It has also given me the opportunity to contextualize my mother’s immigration and view it as a part of a larger experience. I am currently in the process of adding to my pool of interviews. With every story that I write, I gain a deeper understanding of what it means to have a relationship to places where you live, and the people who you love. If a photograph is known to speak a thousand words, then how many can a preserved candy wrapper say, or a loved one’s wallet?