The East in You Never Leaves

Júlia Sonnevend at Eurozine:

The East in you never leaves, I thought, after leaving the immigration bureau. Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, here I was in Manhattan, and felt deeply and fully ‘eastern’. What does that mean for somebody who was only ten years old in 1989, whose memories of communism mostly relate to a monument she loved to climb on Gellért Square in Budapest? Simply put, it means a bodily sensation of inexplicable fear at the border. My deep-rooted anxiety about border-guards and law enforcement was back, even in the country where I have chosen to live; where, despite all the problems the United States now faces, I feel deeply at home. In that sense, your ‘eastern’ identity never leaves you, I thought, not even after three decades.

When entering the US immigration center, I was transported back to the little Trabant of my parents, along with my two brothers, as we were crossing the border from ‘eastern’ Hungary to ‘western’ Austria in the 1980s. Squeezed into the back seat with my much older brothers (how did we even fit in?), my stomach was in knots. My father stopped the car a few minutes before the border and explained the rules. The main rule concerned ‘silence’. You do not chat with the border guard.

more here.