For centuries, Russian Jews have been persecuted with acts of hostility, unable to go to synagogue or practice their religion without fear. When the Soviet Union opened up in 1985 during the period of perestroika, tens of thousands of Jews fled Russia in hope of a better life.
Regina Spektor was born in 1980 in Moscow. When she was nine, her family were some of the many Russian Jews who were accepted into America as refugees under the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Service. A classically-trained pianist, Spektor began writing her first songs at sixteen. She then gained popularity in New York’s anti-folk scene.
Mainstream recognition came in 2004, when she signed with Warner Brothers. Her fourth album, Begin to Hope, was certified Gold by the RIAA. Since then, she has performed at the White House, been nominated for a Grammy, and written music for the hit TV show Orange Is The New Black.
Spektor is known for vivid and eclectic lyricism that often takes the form of narratives or character studies. She views her voice as an instrument as much as her piano is. Her musical inspiration comes from influences as broad as punk rock and Jewish klezmer music. The result is her whimsical style that is distinct within contemporary music, transcending genres and labels.
Despite her fame as an American singer-songwriter, Spektor remains influenced by her Russian heritage. She has released songs in Russian and referenced the Russian poet Boris Pasternak in her lyrics. In 2012, she returned to perform in Moscow for the first time in 23 years. She has spoken at length about how her refugee experience has affected her. “When I walk through the city, I just think that I see my family. I see us in everybody, you know?”
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'Alison is a law graduate from Oxford University and is pursuing a masters in Contemporary Chinese Studies. She researched and wrote this article as part of her Oxford University Micro Internship programme'