Our brown dog: Bigga than Ben

I had heard about the dark comedy Bigga than Ben taking the UK’s film festivals by a storm and playing at a few cinemas in Moscow. So, this morning, I got online to check it out. The Ukrainian was in the kitchen preparing his breakfast. I call him over to watch the trailer.

Yes, it’s about 2 common low-life Russian thieves in living in London illegally. The Ukrainian was not impressed — he prefers the world of more glamorous thieves as depicted in the likes of Eastern Promises.

But…he should have paid more attention to the thieves’ tactics. For when he returned to the kitchen to eat his breakfast, he found half of it missing.
“Anna! You thief! You asshole!!” He yelled at the brown dog.
“Michelle! Look at what the brown dog did!” He brought the evidence of the 1/2 missing breakfast out to the living room. I shrugged my shoulders. What could I do? He was the one who left a very prized plate of chicken, vegetables, pasta and apple pie out unguarded.
“Come here, Annochka,” I called the brown dog over using the Russian diminutive of her name. “Who’s my good Russian doggie?”
“You know,” I then responded to the Ukrainian with a wink and a sly grin, “When you live with Russians, you become like Russians.”

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2 Responses to “Our brown dog: Bigga than Ben”

  1. Misha Says:

    Hi, I am Ukrainian myself although my native language is Russian. I would never describe myself as Russian because of my nationality, citizenship, residence and multiple other reasons.

    When you say “When you live with Russians…..” – what do you mean by that? Do you think Ukrainians are a subgroup of Russians? Or maybe they are Russians to you because many of them speak Russian? Why not just call him “Russian” – especially once he gets his green card and ultimately US citizenship, thus technically losing his Ukrainian citizenship?

  2. puigirl Says:

    Hi Misha,

    I have long been thinking about writing an entry to explain why I use Russian and Ukrainian so interchangeably in my blog — as I realize it may be confusing and some might wonder about the validity of doing it. You have provide me the impetus of doing so.

    I call my husband ‘the Ukrainian’ because he was born and raised in the eastern part of Ukraine. So, when I met him and still now, I think of him as Ukrainian. However, the more we have been together, I’ve realized that him being Ukrainian is not the whole story. Culturally, he is quite Russian. I asked him about this and he answered:

    “I grew up thinking myself Soviet. Then the Soviet Union collapsed and there were all these new states. I didn’t know what to think myself anymore.”

    The Ukrainian has a grandmother and uncle in Moscow (although maybe his grandmother has passed away now?). One of his parents has Russian on their passport. His mother attends the Russian Orthdox church and not the Ukrainian Orthodox church. Etc, etc.

    I understand their is quite a divide in Ukraine these days (which I’m trying to learn more to understand.) It seems the more Eastern industrial part of Ukraine is very Moscow facing and supports close ties with Russia. The western part of Ukraine is much more Europe-facing and support Yuschenko becoming a part of the E.U. My husband is not a political man. He merely wishes for a decrease in corruption and greater prosperity in Ukrain.

    I also use ‘Russian’ often not to refer to Russian nationals, but to Russian speakers. When I lived in Western Europe, I was most commonly refered to as ‘English’ rather than ‘American’. This bothered me at first as my family has lived in the States for hundreds of years. But then I realized that Australians and Canadians were referred to as ‘English’ as well. By living in a non-native-English-speaking culture, I finally grasped just how much in common all the various English-speaking cultures had. So in essence, I *am* English in regards to my mother tongue and my country’s mother culture. (Though here in California, you can heavily feel the Spanish and Asian influences on culture).

    There are a lot studies on how language affects and unites culture. You can look some of them up on the internet. For all the differences between Ukrainian and Russian nationalities, I think you will find their cultures to be quite similar (far more similar than, say, American and Ukrainian cultures).

    Lastly, I say “Russians” at the end of this anecdotes because the movie clip is about Russians in London. There is a stereotype (which is definitely not true for all native Russian speakers) of Russians being corrupt thieving liars. The film clip supports the sterotype. So I was teasing my husband!!! 🙂 (You may have seen in an earlier post that he lies much more easilty than I do — I grew up in Iowa where lying is extremely forbidden so very few Iowans are good at it.)

    I greatly welcome your comments and hope you leave some more! It is difficult learning about the subtleties of a culture and region from so far away. But I am trying greatly to understand my husband and where he comes from! I am looking forward to visiting Ukraine soon. 🙂


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