Adventures of a Tatar girl in America: trip instead of courses, uneaten Tatpilaw and transformation of Rasul to Russel
Zulfia Taktasheva who is living in Kazan decided to go on 3-week language courses to America. As a result, she remained there for almost four months. In the USA, the girl managed to be in a vortex of the American-Tatar life where she was dragged by her compatriots. On her return, Zulfia could not help but write two posts of acknowledgement to her new friends – American Tatars. Realnoe Vremya gives the girl an opportunity to thank the hosts for hospitality again on the newspaper pages.
''He says that Tatars came, he will stand up for them''
Zulfia, as I understand, you were lucky. You managed to go to the States before the tightened visa regime…
Initially, I went on language courses to Boston for three weeks. I had a ticket from 11 September to 1 October. In general, I was not going to remain there and I did not have any chance to even travel because it is very expensive. To travel in America with the rubles I earned is quite a silly idea. At least, with an average salary.
Naturally, from Boston, I went to New York because I was dreaming of it during the last five years. I talked to Lenar Mukhamadiev. Probably you know him, he gave interviews to many media. I did not know him personally, just saw his Instagram page. He recently posted a video about a trip in the States on Facebook – he was almost everywhere. Instead of saying ''Zulia, go there and there'', he said ''Come to Pittsburgh!'', there was a strong Tatar diaspora, all people were friends, and there would be Tatpilaw these days in Connecticut – it is not far, between Boston and New York. The young regularly organises such events. In general, hiking is very popular in America. Our Tatars got accustomed and combine picnics with Tatar meetings.
It turned out that I could not go to Tatpilaw, but I was immediately included in a group on Facebook where they started to write me: ''Oh, Zulia, hello! We have new blood! Come without hesitation!'' But I was walking in New York, I could not go. Then Lenar said: ''Look how well you were received. Come on, come to Pittsburgh.'' I thought first, of course, that it was strange, what I would say to my relatives. I went for three weeks and stayed with a guy. I come from Penza. I called my compatriot to know what was going on. He was so happy because there were not many Tatars from Penza Oblast, mainly they were from Tatarstan. Tatars from Tatarstan are always active in itself, even in space, and Penza Tatars are calmer. He said me to come if I wanted and that, indeed, Lenar tried to unite all Tatars who come to America, so that they would help each other with accommodation, job. In Pittsburgh, I rented Ilmir's apartment. Different newspapers also wrote about him many times. For instance, a Tatar family moved there after me. He says that Tatars came, he will stand up for them. They immediately start to help newcomers because it is necessary to find not only job but solve many important problems to adapt in another country.
Everything began in Pittsburgh, then I lived in Boston and New York – everybody invited me.
In other words, our people won't let you get lost?
Exactly! In addition, I did not knock doors asking for help. I was invited. Everything began in Pittsburgh, then I lived in Boston and New York – everybody invited me. I even felt uncomfortable. On the other hand, I wanted much to live a bit in these cities. And I understood there was no sense in being obstinate if there was an opportunity to make your dream real. We lived as good friends. They helped a lot.
How much time did the trip take?
3,5 months. Even four. It goes without saying, it is silly to go and expect that everything will be prepared. But if people see you have a sound mind and you need help, they will help you. At least, they will give a tip.
''Young people acquaint with each other on the spot and create families''
According to your observations, are there many Tatars in America?
Yes, a lot! About 30 Tatars live in Pittsburgh, and this city is very small. I think there is a great number of Tatars in New York, Miami. In general, there are many Russians and Tatar in big cities.
Does mainly the Tatar young meet or are there many Tatar families with kids?
Firstly, very young people acquaint with each other on the spot and create families. Secondly, there are many old-generation people. I witnessed a meeting in New York where there were people of completely different ages. I don't remember the name but there was an 80-year-old woman whose parents ran to China after the revolution during repressions. She was born there. Then the family moved to America. It turned out many people ran to China after the revolution. One family moved to China where the son met his wife, and they moved to America together.
The old generation is very active and progressive. They have Facebook accounts, they follow where people are. When I was in New York, I was said: ''Zulia, come!'' There was a very interesting woman, I wrote about her – Alfia apa. She is Tatar, her daughter and grandson are Tatars. Her grandson's name is Rasul, though in passport, he is Russel. For them, it is important to conserve names and the language. Alfia apa proposed me and other several girls a marriage with her grandson. She said she wanted a Tatar bride, that Tatars should stay together.
About 30 Tatars live in Pittsburgh, and this city is very small. I think there is a great number of Tatars in New York, Miami. In general, there are many Russians and Tatar in big cities.
What other events are held for Tatars except Tatpilaw?
First Sabantuy will take place in March, I think in Miami. Then Sabantuy will be held in different states before summer. The old generation organises it in New York. There is a cool event called Tatfest. It takes place in Pennsylvania where Pittsburgh is located. It is a tent town where young people gather for several days. They sing songs and watch films. Last summer they watched Bibinur open-air. They want to organise this festival this year too, I would like to visit it. In addition, our Russian Tatars come there even from Moscow. Then Tatars often meet in usual festivities. I saw TatChristmas: it sounds funny. Actually, guys met in a restaurant to talk one week before Christmas. I was not there, unfortunately, but I saw photos – people had a lot of fun.
Do such events gather many people?
When I was at a meeting of Tatars, there were about 100 people. Mainly New York Tatars were there. We came from Pittsburgh, there were people from Philadelphia, Boston. Often many people gather.
''People know nothing about Tatars. It is necessary to specify we are from Russia, but we are not Russians''
It is interesting to know the attitude that Americans have to Tatars.
I did not speak about it with Americans. But I spoke with migrants. In general, people know nothing about Tatars. It is necessary to specify we are from Russia, but we are not Russians, we are Tatars. There is a positive attitude towards Russians and Tatars, without any prejudice and bias. When you start to tell about your culture, they carefully listen to you and go into it like in other cultures.
Does a girl wearing a veil cause any negative reaction?
No, absolutely. There are many Muslims there, there are many halal establishments. They are cool with it. Of course, they examine suspicious people, but it is the States.
These days a mosque was attacked in Quebec. Another one was set on fire recently. So is there any biased attitude to Muslims?
In everyday life, no. Some unsound people entered and fired on the gay club in Orlando. There are gays. They live. Marriages between homosexuals are permitted in many states. But it is rather an exception than a rule. Again, when I visited American parties, I said I was Muslim and I did not drink alcohol. All Americans feel free because there are many people from Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh are among them, a boy named Yusuf was from North Africa. He did not drink alcohol, they have a normal attitude to it – it is your view of life.
Probably you know Ilshat Gizatullin, he comes from Naberezhnye Chelny but is living in America and shoots a funny series called Zulfat using what he has.
I don't know him personally. But we watched these series. Moreover, we did it with his close friends! I think he is in Chicago now. We celebrated Thanksgiving. A guy from Boston came. And we had a great time with Pittsburgh Tatars in a family atmosphere. By the way, every Tatar meeting includes Tatar songs. There are many girls who song in Tatar well.
From Boston I went to New York because I was dreaming of it during the last five years
What are the most popular songs?
I remember there was a contest at a meeting in New York. Old people don't know modern Tatar singers. They have not been in Russia for 50 years. They remember more what they heard when they were children, of course.
Have you heard a girl who sings rap in Tatar? What do American Tatars think about it?
I was in America when this video saw the light. Tatars divided into two groups there: some of them who moved a long time ago want to conserve the classical Tatar culture. The other half says that the Tatar culture should develop in all areas. Any area will find its listener and spectator. This is why there are many discussions on this topic on Facebook.