Pin It
Favorite

Russians' Tale - Leonid Bergoltsev 

by Suzanne Schreiner & r & & r & Missing the Motherland & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hen the immigrant story sticks to the script, the "tired, huddled masses" come to these shores, throw off oppression and poverty, and step into the American dream of freedom and success. They love this country, think it's the best place in the world and never consider going back. But life doesn't always stick to the script.


Leonid Bergoltsev is a short, stocky man who says his best days are behind him. From 1958-72, he was a globe-trotting photographer with the magazines Soviet Life and Soviet Union. He had a large apartment in Moscow and received dozens of awards for his work. But it is America, he says, that is the "motherland of real-life photography. Life magazine, 1936-1972" -- he trots out the magazine's dates from memory -- "was my manual during a lot of years." The professional's secret is simple but elusive, says Bergoltsev: "A real magazine photographer must be in right place at right moment and if so, at that moment, God will push with his finger."


He came to America in the late '80s at the invitation of local photographer Don Hamilton. While here, Bergoltsev's daughter Olga met and fell in love with an American man, and so the family came to America. Chance brought this & eacute;migr & eacute; here, not a dream of a better life in America. And Bergoltsev admits he misses Russia: "There can be no new motherland -- only one, like mother."


But the motherland has moved on. Visiting Moscow four months ago, he saw a Russia that was absolutely another country. People were very different, he says, "more materialistic, closer to America." Scores of Mercedes and SUVs are nudging aside the Russian Lada, the gritty, trusty workhorse of Russian winters. In the country where the ideal had been equality among comrades, the gap between rich and poor now yawns. "Most [Russian] people are much poorer than before," he says.


As for America, shrugs Bergoltsev, "In this country, dollar rides first." Renown and prestige are no substitute, apparently. He looked for work in his field, but didn't hear from employers who promised to call. His friend Don Hamilton organized a retrospective of his work at the Chase Gallery in 2004, but the photographer whose work has been compared with Cartier-Bresson was disappointed that more people did not see it, even as he praises Hamilton for his efforts.


He and his wife Nina live in a modest apartment in Hillyard and get by on Social Security and Bergoltsev's part-time office job. Life consists of two parts, he says, the material and the spiritual. In Russia, the material life is harder but the spiritual life is much better. As to this country's celebrated freedom, says Bergoltsev, "It's very good when it brings some result. In America, you can say anything you want, but they won't listen."
  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • See a Need, Fill It
  • See a Need, Fill It

    Publisher's Note
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Connecting the Dots
  • Connecting the Dots

    How the Washington state budget touches us all in Eastern Washington
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • The Clouds Finally Part
  • The Clouds Finally Part

    A newly protected, 275,000-plus-acre Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness is a monument to working together for Idaho
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Gathering at the Falls Pow Wow

Gathering at the Falls Pow Wow @ Riverfront Park

Aug. 28-30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


marijuana


Comment


Publisher's Note


BUSINESS


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation