Accepted paper:

Remembering and Revisiting the Places of Emigration: Soviet Jewish American Perspectives on their Migration Experiences


Inga Veksler

Paper short abstract:

I argue that for Soviet Jewish Americans, visiting the sites of their transmigration is a form of redeeming the hardships of immigration and affirming their “immigrant success.” Exploring such place attachments reveals émigrés’ far more ambivalent evaluations of their migration experiences.

Paper long abstract:

Between 1971 and 1990, hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews immigrated to the U.S. through Vienna and Rome. During this unavoidable transmigration of two months to two years, families anxiously awaited visas in a radically different cultural and material setting. Though émigrés explored their temporary host countries on their meager finances, most vowed to come back "as first rate people," rather than as stateless refugees. Using the concept of emplacement to explore why émigrés formed intense attachments to the temporary places of transmigration, this paper focuses on the return trips to Italy and Austria, which many Soviet Jewish Americans did make ten or twenty years later. I argue that return trips were essential in redeeming the hardships of their immigration, fortifying notions of their "immigrant success"—a widespread self-image within the community. I interrogate this self-conception to reveal that émigrés' memories of transmigration reveal far more ambivalent evaluations of their migration experiences.

panel MMM04
Mobile sentiments: transformations of affect amid transnational migration