I thought of myself as an invasive species. While on a winter trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia, I was searching for toska with my camera, another word without an English translation. A phrase that plagued me. Something that I thought I needed to find over there, something that couldn’t be found here and now, I supposed.
Vladimir Nabokov wrote, "No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness.”
In the end, I found less in the distanced portraits of Russian strangers than I did with my own neighbors and my own story.