My Mom‘s farewell to Russia

Alexei Sorokin
8 min readMar 8, 2022

A disclaimer: I write a lot about Russia these days (for obvious reasons) and I don’t want to appear self-centered, in light of the terrible suffering of the Ukranian people. I hope some of my stories are interesting to the extent all of our life stories are interesting, especially when their script gets impacted by important historic events.

So, my Mom has been very stubborn on the topic of moving to America and “stubborn” is an understatement.

In her political views, she’s of an extreme kind — she has loathed Putin from the day she saw him on TV for the first time, back in 1999. Putin then made quite a name for himself when he announced that he’ll wipe out the terrorists even in the outhouse. It was his specific choice of words that she kept recalling with disgust year after year. Indeed, Putin has stuck with his tough-guy-street-jargon style throughout his reign, frequently referring to sewage, genitalia, animals and using various other slangs to describe taking tough action against someone. There is now an entire generation that’s very used to that style. Many enjoy it actually. Hint: while the entire world is struggling for words observing the terrible tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, many in Russia are actually enjoying the action. It’s consistent with Putin’s decades-long macho posturing.

Forgive me for degrading my compatriots. My ex compatriots, I should say.

Anyway, in this note, I want to tell more of a personal story. If you want to read in a little more detail, I wrote here.

Mom was born in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg in 1959. Both of her parents passed away in recent years. My grandfather, Dedushka Lenya, was from Ukraine. We still have family (my grandfather’s sister’s family) in Ukraine, the city of Vinnitza in the West, and Mom has always been in close touch with them.

My grandfather served in the Soviet Navy in his younger years and then worked his way up to a position at the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the Russian equivalent of the CIA. Yes, he was a spy! Albeit not in the front ranks of his organization.

Thanks to her Dad’s career, Mom’s family reached one of the top tiers of the Soviet social hierarchy, and she had the opportunity to see other parts of the world. In an era when the Western world was hidden from the Soviet people by the Iron Curtain, Granddad had assignments in Iceland, Canada, and Washington, DC. Mom spent two years in Ottawa, Ontario, in the…

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. More here: