My friend Polina had the skin of two lynx in her wardrobe. Coming from Oakland, California, the only pelts I had ever seen were in museums. While these pelts caught me off guard, I was even more surprised to hear her claim that her grandfather had killed a bear with his bare hands. It’s the type of story that many people tell about their forefathers. Most of the time, these legends are just that.
When Polina located her home videos, she showed me what she was like as a young child. One particular scene was set in her grandparent’s house. In the living room, she bounced and sang as her mother, aunts, and grandparents watched in amusement. Sure enough, spanning across the majority of the wall behind her, a large, black bear pelt. Russia.