Nash Chemodan (Our Suitcase)

This project explores nostalgia, memory, censorship and the immigrant experience as it is embodied by objects. Around 300,000 Soviet refugees came to the United States between 1987 and 1993. This project deals with the items that these immigrants took with them when leaving the Soviet Union for a life in the US. Because of the restriction on communication between relatives and friends already living abroad, many simply had no idea what to take and what to leave behind. As a result, families and individuals arrived carrying antiquated objects that they would never use again. These seemingly useless objects travelled halfway around the world because of their presumed necessity.

The premise of the project is two-fold. Firstly, it deals with facing the unknown and unpredictable on the other side of the Iron Curtain. With little money and no guarantee of a job, refugees prepared for a period of frugality and self-sufficiency. The things they brought with them were supposed to provide comfort or utility. Secondly, the fact that many still hang on to these obsolete articles points to a certain nostalgia, if not for a country that no longer exists, then for their friends and family from that time period.

Nash Chemodan was shot with a Kiev camera on 6x6 medium format film. The Kiev series was manufactured in the Soviet Union and continued to be made in Ukraine after the dissolution of the USSR. This project is made possible through a grant by the BluePrint Fellowship project of COJECO, funded by the UJA-Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group.