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Sunday, September 19, 2010


Shaker Heights, OH- Zbygniew Khrystich, a machinist at nearby Smithson Industries, is a first generation American of Polish-Russian descent who has made his hard-working, immigrant parents proud. A respected union leader and local zoning board member, he and his wife, Elena, are also the proud parents of two teenage daughters, the eldest of which is beginning her sophomore year at Cleveland State this fall. The 52-year old (who could easily pass for a man ten years younger) enjoys a round of golf every Sunday after Mass, weather permitting, with the same three friends he’s known since high school, and their families often vacation together come wintertime. In many ways, he is the personification of the American dream…and yet, he is unhappy.

“For most of my life,” Khrystich explained,” I was plagued by the notion that something was missing from my life, and I’d never know true happiness until I found what it was.” It was only recently, after some sessions with a therapist, that Khrystich began to suspect that the source of his unhappiness: his own name.

“We have a large Italian community here,” he continued, “and when I’d see some of those names- Aiello, Napolitano, Esposito- I would feel a strange sense of unease, as though they were members of a fraternity that would never accept the likes of me.” But Khrystich credits Dr. Shlomo Mendelbaum, his psychologist, with helping him unlock the mystery. “Now I know that it is my deep-rooted envy of their melodious, vowel-enriched names that has made me unhappy all these years.”

“Ziggy, as I like to call him,” explains Dr. Mendelbaum, “has harbored such deep resentment all these years toward these people, despite their outward kindness and acceptance of him in the community as one of their own.” Even his wife, Elena, by all accounts a devoted wife and loving mother, has stirred his sense of unrest. “She has more vowels in her name than consonants,” Dr. Mendelbaum explained. “It’s almost unfair.”

Further complicating the matter is the fact that Khrystich’s parents, Thaddeusz and Ludzmilla, are alive and well and living nearby, and would be horrified if their beloved Zbygniew attempted to distance himself from his ancestry. “Every Christmas it’s the same- pierogies and borscht, pierogies and borscht,” Khrystich continued, becoming more animated. “Do you have any idea what that looks like when it’s all on the same plate? I’m tired of food that looks like something hacked up by a bulimic Cossack. Christ, I’d give my left nut for a lousy slice of turkey.”

But Dr. Helmut Dinckelacker, another local psychologist who once treated Khrystich, begs to differ. “I don’t think it is ze lack of vowels,” he explained in his heavily accented English, “so much as it is ze abundance of consonants zat is ze problem. I suggested to him zat perhaps he drop an ‘h’ or two from ze surname, or maybe even change ze ‘y’s’ to ‘i’s’, but he just called me an idiot and stormed out.” Dr. Dinckelacker then shook his head and sighed. “Without even paying ze bill, I might add.”

When asked for a reply to Dr. Dinckelacker’s comments, Dr. Mendelbaum was unimpressed. “Oh, please. That quack is clueless; his patients never stop calling me. In fact, I’m thinking of naming the 3,000 square foot extension I’m building on my house ‘The Dinckelacker Wing,’ with all the business I’ve gotten from him over the years.”

Khrystich, for his part, seems resigned to his fate. “Well, Dad just had a checkup, and his cholesterol’s lower than mine, so it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere,” he said with a sigh. “And both of Mom’s parents lived well into their nineties, so it looks like I’m stuck for now. But once they kick, you’ll be able to find me in the Yellow Pages under ‘Alopecia Areata.’”

DD (Vic Venom reporting)

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