Russian Hand Towels

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

My mom was born in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. She and her family lived in Leningrad which is now called St. Petersburg. Back then it was a time when there was tremendous antisemitism and as a result her family had to immigrate to the United States. They were only permitted to take a few things with them when they left Russia, and one of the things that they packed were beautiful hand towels with elegant patterns. These hand towels were brought in their suitcase to the United States and remained in the family for over thirty years. Even though her grandma used these hand towels in her kitchen, now many years later my mom refuses to use them but only displays them in our house. These hand towels are very important and dear to my mom because she was very close to her grandmother, and after her grandma passed away, she brought the hand towels to our house. They are a family heirloom that no one is allowed to touch. I learned that the hard way when I once tried to wipe my hands on the towels. My mom’s face went very pale and she looked very upset. I really did not understand what the big deal was until my mom explained the significance of these towels to me. Like an old friend, they hang in our kitchen reminding us of the warmth of her grandmother’s kitchen and the love in their family.

Place(s): New York, Russia

– MC

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant