Sasha Victor

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My Mother Tongue

     Inspired by Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

My mother tongue
I use only when talking on the phone to my mother in a whisper
so no one hears a foreigner, and
I hide in the corners of rooms so no one finds me not belonging.

Or I use my mother’s tongue
to entertain
to laugh off the language that is
my only meaningful way to communication with my mother.

“Happy birthday, Mama,” we sing in English to celebrate her 70 years,
the first half learning the mandatory Russian in Ukraine
the second half learning the mandatory English in America.

She finds no refuge to speak her own mother tongue,
to share with her son the Ukrainian words her mother spoke to her.


Sasha Victor immigrated to America as a child of political refugees during the tail end of the Cold War. He's thankful for the opportunity to live the American Dream but is frustrated that the whole experience often gives him indigestion. Check out his words and cat pics on social media at Sasha & Sebald. “My Mother Tongue” was previously published online on social media.