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Regina Spektor, Musician, b. 1980

“They would call Russia with quarters.”


I always loved when we got lost in Central Park and you couldn’t see the city, and then the tall buildings would peek out over the tree line. I’d wonder, Who’s living in there? What are their lives like? I loved the tallness of everything.

I came to New York from Russia via Vienna and Italy when I was about 9 and a half. We lived in this walk-up on Kingsbridge that was kind of cool—there were a few Russian families who moved there all at the same time, so we had a lot of friends in the building. But there were bars on the windows, and a lot of cockroaches, and it was kind of scary in its own way. And obviously no one knew the language. There was also a big strike at Bell Atlantic, and nobody could get phones for a while. The thing that scared me the most was that I would have my bedtime—and they would tuck me in and turn out all the lights—then they would leave to go to the pay phones to call Russia, with quarters. I hated that feeling of being left in the dark in this apartment I didn’t know.


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