Remembering the yoga of yesteryear in the Soviet Union and now watching the brutal attack on Ukraine

Vijaya S’navar Patil-

Vijaya S’navar Patil

(Vijaya is a Dayton, Ohio-based technology professional. After 16 years in the software and healthcare industries, she now holds a variety of roles including yoga teacher, host for a media company, and managing the Center for Advanced Manufacturing in local dry school.)

Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, now in its second month, takes me back to the Soviet Union in the 1980s and early 1990s, where my family lived. Our extraordinary connection to this land and the passion of the Indian people for all things is the life of my father, Professor Laxmankumar Sannellappanavar, as a sought-after yoga teacher.

Indo-Soviet friendship had many layers, one of which was my father’s yoga journey through what was then the Soviet republic, including to Kyiv, Ukraine. These memories flooded in as I watched the Ukrainian war with deep pain.

For me, it’s not about Vladimir vs Voladimir. This has nothing to do with Russia against Ukraine. It is a war waged between families separated by national borders who once lived together in the same country. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the most memorable part of our life in the Soviet Union was the Russian hospitality to us and all Indians. When I say Russians, it’s important to clarify that I mean citizens of the USSR or the former USSR, who are mostly called Russians. Not Ukrainians and Russians separately, but as a whole. Once a citizen of the largest and most powerful country in the world.

We flew into the Soviet Union in 1989 and out of Russia in 1992. With the disintegration of the Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other republics became independent. What a historic moment to live there! Looking back, I would say that this may not have been a good time for the Soviet people, many of whom had to deal with families, homes and their lives defined by new boundaries. It is up to those in power or those who cannot hold power to draw boundaries and create divisions. Ordinary people have always been the worst victims of powerful bureaucracy. Then again, the generations there have had the worst of the eras of different leaders. Their lives have been severely affected by many conflicts, including world wars. The people of the former Soviet Union may have accepted the new normal of living in a different country for the past 3 years, until Putin started this current war and uprooted their lives again!

Back in 1989, our family moved from the small city of Dawad (Karnataka, India) to Moscow, one of the world’s major metropolises, which was quite a transition. The move was the result of friendly relations between the Soviet Union and India at the time. The Indian government, at the behest of the then Indian ambassador to Moscow, TN Kaul, decided to build an Indian cultural center in Moscow to enhance friendship. Hence, the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC) was established under the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) at the Indian Embassy in Ulitsa Obuha, Moscow.

My dad was chosen to represent India and lead the yoga event at the JNCC in Moscow. It is worth mentioning that the interview is a thoughtful and rigorous process conducted by senior officials and experts to select the best from a large pool of candidates across India. Of course, because the next job is not the job of ordinary people. Once the embassy announced a yoga class at the JNCC, it began to see a steady influx of aspiring yoga. To meet the demand, my father taught yoga extended hours every day and even on weekends. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the waitlist for each registration period.

Father was the only foreigner allowed to successfully broadcast yoga classes on communist Soviet TV for 2 years, attracting 80 million Russian youth on their educational channel and many more on their main channel 1. He was invited to visit many republics, teaching yoga in cities like Kyiv, Odessa, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Tashkent, Kazan, Ryazan, etc. It is clear how much interest the Soviet people had in learning and adopting yoga. They practice yoga like fish in water. In retrospect, this need actually seems to indicate what people wanted and the direction they were heading towards a newer, richer life away from the dreaded past.

War memorials are common when visiting the Republic. In these four years of daily life, we have observed that women are the main force in many places. The war has claimed the lives of many men in their country, so women have to step up and even do tedious and laborious work in addition to taking care of their families. We met strangers who sang “Main awaara hoon” and told us how much they love Raj Kapoor and India! Yalyub Liuindiski (I love Indians) Heard it often. In the age of no internet, they know surprisingly a lot and aren’t shy about talking to us when we’re in public. We were part of a diplomatic circle, but even though we were kids, going out alone like locals, the environment seemed safe. We took the public subway to school and walked to the park with friends. Even strangers come across as enthusiastic and eager to learn more about Indian culture, traditions, language, etc.

My father’s yoga services had such an impact on people all over the Soviet Union that our family was always bathed in the immense love of Russians (aka Soviets), which we can still feel when we reminisce about those days to this love.Numerous bouquets by students to pay homage to their beloved “Guruji” (teacher), a 6-course homemade meal they invited us to eat, a special seat at the Grand Theatre to watch internationally renowned ballet dancers or participate in national A concert by well-known musician Rim Hasanov, followed by a private interview with him, large jars of fresh Smetana (sour cream) A student brought all the way to Moscow from a village in another republic just for us, many times with my father’s students enjoying Indian food in our house, soaked in Hindi culture (Culture), learning our native Kannada language from my mother, from whom we learned their beautiful Russian songs and language…some fond memories that stir pain in my heart today for knowing these loving People to give to the world lost their lives and families in the fierce war!

My heart has been heavy since the war began. The people of the former Soviet Union are facing the worst post-disintegration situation, that is, at war with each other. People who once traveled freely between Ukraine and Russia are now forced to fight and kill each other for survival. Then we heard about inhuman acts of violence against civilians that were completely unnecessary. We’ve read about such horrific invasions in the history books, but is this happening in this day and age? It’s unbelievable! In light of this war, all the progress we have made as human beings on basic human rights, and all the progress we have fought for for decades, seems to be thwarted. How can we let this happen and make it this far? While many of us continue to live comfortable and normal lives elsewhere, I can’t begin to understand what innocent people are going through right now in a war zone. I felt like I had blood on my hands and knew this was happening and I didn’t do anything for them.

Like many others around the world, I have been critical of Putin’s actions, raved about Zelensky’s courage, prayed for the Ukrainians, and wondered why the war hasn’t been ended by other powerful leaders. world. As I continue my worldly duty to my family and my community, I know that many families may be left without food, rest, or never to see each other again, and entire communities are falling apart. Images of babies being cared for in basement shelters, the struggles of the elderly and the disabled, the faces of the families of the victims, the brave people of Russia protesting in the streets that their leaders don’t care about their lives…impossible to miss Or forget about visuals and news.I feel helpless, but I continue to pray for this pain and suffering to end soon and for those who introduce “friendship” and Mill (Peace) Young me decades ago.

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