Weekly Reads: The Union of Synchronized Swimmers

Alma Chow // The Watchdog

The swimming suits hung from the branches like crows—like fateful omens, people would say, but only afterwards.

– Cristina Sandu, “The Union of Synchronized Swimmers”

“The Union of Synchronized Swimmers” by Cristina Sandu is a novella which follows six women scattered across the world after their escape from an unnamed Soviet state. Anita, Paulina, Sandra, Betty, Nina and Lidia were just normal girls who spent their free time floating and splashing each other in the river. Soon, the leisurely time they spent in the water was transformed into a rigorous training regime. It all pays off when they are selected to represent their country in the Olympics and use this opportunity to finally escape the Iron Curtain. 

Originally written in Finnish then later translated into English by Sandu herself, the story contains themes of trauma, feeling displaced in a foreign country and intricacies with language. The girls take turns narrating each of their stories post-Soviet state, each with their own challenges and hardships. A perfect story of “the grass is not always greener on the other side.”

“The Union of Synchronized Swimmers” is a short read that leaves much of the story open-ended and leaves you yearning for more. I highly recommend it to anyone willing to explore abstract concepts of how language and immigration may affect your identity.