This is me back in 1982.

I was in first grade, Sochi school #4. We were required to wear uniforms and a little “Lenin” star, which basically meant that we were “little communists.”

Clearly, as a child, I didn’t understand the “communist” connection, but I do recall that loosing my star was problematic. If you were alive in 1982, you might remember that the USSR was in the early stages of “Perestroika.”

By the time I was in fourth grade, I learned that our entire history was made up to make communists look good. Our country was changing. Our government was changing. Our lives were impacted significantly by these developments.

I remember waiting in bread lines, getting government coupons for sugar, mandatory electricity shot-offs and much more. While I do remember the difficulties of living in Russia at that time, my memories are actually very fun and positive. Why you ask?

I don’t think that children truly understand their environment. I don’t believe that I did. I remember living in a resort city of Sochi – beautiful, green, diverse, exotic, warm. I had a loving family, lots of friends, went to the beach, played music and lived what appeared to be a good life.

My parents really never shared or talked about political problems. We had to watch the news as a family, but no one really ever explained what was going on. Mom and dad were both employed. Grandpa and grandma (we lived together with our grandparents for a long time) were both in good health and earning income. We had food, shelter, and we had each other.

By the time I was in “high school,” everything I learned about my country was turned on its head. Our history teacher told us to throw away our books because WE were re-writing our “true” history.

I wish I remembered more, but I don’t. We moved to the USA in 1991. I was 15. The move was difficult and my early memories have been impacted by the stress of adjusting to our new life here in America, new language, new culture, new everything.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to reconstruct my memories of Russia as much as I can, and will try to take you back to the USSR!



Galina Burley, is a long time resident of Vancouver. She is a mother of three and is an immigrant from Russia. After moving to America in 1991 with $50 to their name, Galina's parents relied on her to get a job, learn English, and help them navigate the complexities of their new life in this country. At an early age, Galina became fluent in English, helped her parents start a family business and went to college while working two jobs and raising a family. In addition to her outstanding work as a Manager of a large scale public program, Galina's other accomplishments include: 2013 Golden Ivan Award for Community Building; A President's award from the Oregon Crime Prevention Association for her commitment to Public Safety; The George Robert House, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service (ASPA) for her efforts in community outreach; A recent nomination for the 2013 Distinguished Woman award for her work on diversity and inclusive public policy through the East European Coalition; A Master's Degree in Public Administration; A career in managing large scale programs and services; And an amazing family.

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