I used to learn Russian at primary and secondary school, ages ago. It was not my choice, but as I liked foreign languages, I put my heart into learning it. Maybe it was also due to our wise teacher, who steered clear of the political/propaganda tones and introduced us to the world of literature and art. Thirty-odd years on, I can still remember some of the poems we learned by heart.The songs of Okudjava and Vysocky were an important part of my youth, as were films by Tarkovski ,Mikhalkov or Shukshin. Like many Poles from eastern Poland, my family was also connected with Russia-my grandmother and her sisters studied in St.Petersburg (then Petrograd) before the revolution, and while she moved to Vilnius in 1919, my grand-aunts probably died in (then) Leningrad during the terrible war siege.
I have no practical reasons to learn Russian now. But this time it's my choice. And I enjoy digging out the forgotten words. Maybe one day I'll use it to learn more about my family roots, maybe I'll just be able to translate new lyrics from new bards' songs, who knows?