Russian culture, heritage contribute to wide knowledge base

Emily Brown, Copy Editor

Whenever his preschool teacher would ask him a question, he would merely nod. Perplexed, he understood exactly what she said, but he couldn’t respond to the rapid string of English words.

Senior Daniel Tabakh was born in America, but grew up surrounded by Russian culture. When he was a child, it was the only language he could speak.

“We wanted to cement Russian in his brain so he could use it in the future,” Daniel’s father Eugene Tabakh said.

Eugene was working towards his Ph.D. when he decided to bring his family to America.

Political instability and the lack of democracy in Russia convinced the Tabakh family to take the trip overseas.

They picked Kansas as a home because Eugene’s cousin lived there.

“They left Russia because of anti-Semitism,” Daniel said. “They also felt like there would be more opportunities for my older siblings in America rather than in Russia.”

English, Spanish and Russian are now included in Daniel’s language repertoire.

“If I’m talking really, really fast in Spanish, I will sometimes accidentally put Russian in there,” he said. “Sometimes, I only know a word in Russian and I completely forget it in English.”

Daniel said the local Russian population is very warm and open.

To him, it is like a large extended family.

“Our Russian community in Kansas City is very, very tight-knit,” he said. “They have known me since I was born. They have seen me grow up. And in Russian culture, you don’t call them Mr. or Mrs., you call them Uncle or Aunt.”

He said he enjoys communicating with others in Russian because it is unique to his background.

“I eat Russian food, speak Russian and even listen to Russian music,” Daniel said. “That is just how I was brought up.”

Eugene said Russian and American cultures are different in the way people interact.

He said people are a lot closer to each other in Russia and the social events typically last longer than events in America.

“In America, when you see someone you know, you give them a hug or high-five,” Daniel said. “In Russia, it’s a big kiss on the cheek. It is interesting to see different perspectives of culture from a different viewpoint.”

Daniel said he hopes to travel to Russia this summer. He said he wants to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“I miss my friends, the culture and the beautiful architecture and scenery,” Eugene said. “I want to show my son the art galleries, museums and the places where I grew up and became who I am today.”