Feeling Left Out in Russia

I’m left-handed.  In many countries, that’s no longer a big deal.  In others, it is.  In Russia it is.  Well, it was when I spent time there in the late 80’s and early 90’s, as a tourist and then on my year abroad.

My first experience of Russians’ discrimination against left-handedness was in August 1987 in Leningrad (aka St Petersburg/Petrograd).  I was sitting in my hotel, writing a postcard home.  “Wish you were here,” etc.  All a sudden a hand appeared from nowhere, grabbed my ballpoint pen from my left hand and thrust it into my right hand, and the reasonably attractive owner of the aforementioned hand exclaimed to me in a Russian accent, “Good!”  My Russian and my reactions were not good enough for me to be able to tell her, “Get lost, and mind your own business.”

Fast forward to January 1992, a lonely prison wall, hang on, that’s Fields of Athenry, a three-man cell room in a student hall in Voronezh, Russia.  My British room-mate was out and about.  My Russian room-mate was sitting on his bed, reading Three Men in a Boat.  Every few seconds I saw him looking up and looking at me in annoyance and disgust.

Finally after twenty minutes, he burst out with:

Зачем ты пишешь левой рукой?  Тренируешься?

[“Why are you writing left-handed?  Are you training, or something?”]

I chose not to get into a discussion.

Being a leftie is like being a member of a slightly exclusive club.  To quote the UB40 song, I Am the One in Ten (in the UK, at least).  Schatz (a doctor) tells me there are more left-handers among the British than among the Germans.  Well, that makes sense, the Inselaffen are a strange mongrel people.  Being a “ginga”, I must be in another one in ten in the UK.  Therefore statistically, I must be 1/10 x 1/10 = one in a hundred.

I sometimes ask bl00dy foreigners people of other nationalities or Brits who have lived abroad about attitudes to left-handedness in their countries.  Last week while enjoying spam and tomato on toast (gotta say, it was most pleasing to the palate) with the locum chaplain and his wife, I asked “Mrs Vicarage” about attitudes in Japan, where they were “stationed” for 30+ years.

It turns out that the left hand is discouraged for writing.  It is only used after a cremation.  Family of the deceased queue up, “chopsticks” in left hand and place pieces of the cremains into the funeral urn for burial.  Very strrrrrrrrange.

Are lefties a persecuted minority in your country?

Have a sinister day, won’t you!


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