Стойкий Мужик: Symbolism Galore

Resilient Man. Standing Man. However you interpret it, the Russian term Стойкий Мужик now means the world to me, at least the me that I’ve evolved into these last 2.5 years, having been somewhat forced to become one, myself. Surely, the underlying concept of the expression has long been an integral part of my life, of who and what I am. Nowadays, it is so much more.

However it has been expressed–and in whatever language, I have always considered myself to be irrepressible (not to mention persistent, meticulous, and tenacious).  Yet the characteristic that has given itself enough credit to become indelibly sketched into both my psyche, and now my physique, is the utterly applicable trait of… resilience.  Up until the fall of 2014 (and until now, a few days before the potentially final custody hearing on May 25th, 2016), I’d never needed to live it so deeply, employ it so consistently.

Thus, on May 23rd, 2016, I had my first tattoo done.

Tattoo Done

It represents my recent life, to the T.

Стойкий Мужик (Stoikiy muzhik). It feels right.

I hope that on May 25th, the day I might very well be informed of my future, and how the Court has decided to determine it, I will be able to draw inspiration and strength from the symbolism I now wear between my shoulder blades. I’ll take anything I can get as a reminder to stay resilient.

Although I had not been familiar with the exact term, “Stoikiy muzhik“, previously, especially not in Russian, until I saw the 2015 thriller Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks, I had long understood all too well the notion of what it meant to bounce back up, to stand up once again after being knocked down, sometimes repeatedly.  Various events over the course of my 47 years required such resilience. Nowadays, however, I rely on and exercise, on a daily basis, that one influential trait–almost to the point of exploiting it unfairly, as if it is all I have to go on.

In some ways, it is.

Except my kids, of course.

You see, I’m exhausted. I am, admittedly, spent.  But I’m not done.

I’ve unfortunately been pushed to the verge of giving up, not on my children, the only focus I’ve had in life these last 2.5 years, but on court processes, in general, on getting my money back, on getting to the end of all the ridiculous legal matters that have burdened me all this time.

The only physical, tangible aspect of this taxing, harrowing phase that I use as a guiding light, as an end goal, is my darling kids.  They are my everything, even if that sounds cliché, and I’ll forever maintain hope that I can be an active, relevant part of their lives.

As they deserve their daddy, I deserve them.

It is clear, as many can attest to, that I’ve fought for them as best I could, without relying on nor resorting to deceit in order to get them and keep them in my life (which has been the only option for some folks going through such dealings, over the history of divorce, I mean). Those two darlings, without any doubt or hesitation, keep me resolute and tenacious, even if I am spent emotionally, strained spiritually, and drained financially.

The only fulfillment I feel, founded fully on fatherhood, is and will be the foundation of my fortitude, forever.

If they are taken from me, unfairly, my base will be gone.

However, in addition to my offspring being the physical driving force behind everything I’ve done, when others may have given up or bolted, I’ve been told, it is an undeniable resilience that has been the ONE intangible factor that has mattered most, that has kept me from staying down for long.

After every fiasco and every bullshit moment, hitherto, I’ve repeatedly bounced back up.  I’m practically a fucking Weeble Wobble. Actually, maybe such a reference doesn’t apply perfectly, for those 1970’s toys, which I owned and played with back in the day, would never fall down. Like those inflatable boxing clowns, you could push a Weeble over, practically force it to be parallel to the floor, and it would spring back up, never capitulating fully.

Not me.

Sure, I’ve bounced back up, yet I have, admittedly, fallen hard a handful of times during these 2.5 years because I’ve been pummeled, repeatedly. What is more, I’ve taken punches below the belt, to the point that I’ve lost my breath, forcibly expelling every lick of energy I had at whatever moment such illegal blows occurred.

Yet, unlike in boxing, no points have been taken for illegal blows below the belt. No warnings given. That such antics have been allowed to continue is a blow in itself.

Periodic points along the way reveal when I collapsed to the floor, completely.

After one case was astonishingly lost in Court last year, I momentarily considered throwing in the towel. That night, the day I’d learned of the Court’s decision to reject my case, I dramatically wept on my living room floor, alone.

In a few hours, I was back to documenting the truths that should have helped me prevail in further cases pending at the time.

Another time, last fall, I found myself close to capitulating, after I’d received notice that my case had been closed.  Thinking that there was no chance to get a fair deal in this foreign country, for I had LEGITIMATELY submitted enough evidence to support and substantiate my rightful claims–and more than enough to counter all the nonsense–I felt like I had no choice but to surrender to the system.

As many foreign friends and local counterparts, alike, have said, I have no chance to win anything here.  The cards are stacked against me, and they are, undoubtedly, stacked.

However, in a short while, I was again ready to proceed–and back in action getting my documents done, countering nonsense claims, organizing, collating, etc.

Surely I weebled and wobbled, and I was done for a moment, but not for long.

Moments like those, even though I allowed myself to get knocked over, were ephemeral.

Facing proven prejudice and forgery, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP.  Facing deceit and fabrication, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP. Facing an uphill battle, language barriers, money challenges, and being alone without family here through these challenges, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP. Having lost a few cases when I could have and should have won (and would have won in my own country, without any doubt in mind–or dozens of other minds), I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP.

Стойкий Мужик (Stoikiy muzhik). That’s me. 

What about the rest of the tattoo, though?

It is full of symbolism, as most tattoos, I assume, are.

The foundation is Стойкий мужик, underlying the blue lotus flower, giving it a base on which to rise above all else.  As blue lotus flowers represent rebirth in various belief systems, and lotus flowers in general are said to rise out of mucky waters to blossom beautifully, using “standing man” as a pedestal seemed the right choice.

The lotus is oft seen as the seat upon which the Buddha sits, but I wanted to have the notion of starting over to stem from my own resilience, since bouncing back has to happen first before the process of rebirth can ever take place. And at this time, the time of getting the tattoo in May of 2016, I haven’t yet given focus to starting over, even though friends and family goad me to. My focal point is still survival and keeping going–which requires a resilient approach, which is the bedrock of all.

Branching out to the left and right of Стойкий мужик are the names of my children, in Russian.  Admittedly, one reason I chose to not put their names in English is because it clashed a bit with the Cyrillic lettering in the middle, but there was more to it than that.

In January of 2014, I made a choice to stand by my principles. And following my own heart in knowing what was right prompted certain parties to act in a way that shattered my heart, starting off a nightmarish 189 days without my children.

If, on January 5th that year, my good college friend William had been in town for a visit, since I’d posted on my Facebook that I could use help and support–after a hellish first three months of separation, I would have taken him on an outing with my two kids. If my childhood best friend (40-year-long friend) Derek had been here, too, I would have done the same. The same goes for my high school friend, Mike (now known 34 years), or long-term friend Robert. Instead, an 18-year-long friend came for a visit, and on the Sunday she was here, a day before she left, I invited her on a four-hour tour with my kids.

I’d met her husband and first child in 2001, in Canada, and even stayed in their house with my then girlfriend, at the time. So I told her that it would be ridiculously unfair that she NOT see my children on January 5th, especially because I was proud to be a daddy and wanted to introduce them to her.  To have her return to Canada without even seeing my kids would be absurdly wrong. The principles that told me that I will forever stand by.

However, on the same night of her visit, I received messages that I had done something wrong, unsubstantiated and egregiously inaccurate accusations that I had had an affair in front of my kids. There was no such thing, and I will take that truth to my grave with me, knowing that my principles were right–even though I was beaten down for 189 days without my children because of standing by them.

Because the start of the pure hell that has been this 2.5 years began in earnest from that experience (though it started before that), I wanted to have Russian in my tattoo to reveal the commencement of absurdities is connected to that language.

When I saw Bridge of Spies, I immediately wrote said friend to ask for clarification about the meaning in Russian of Стойкий мужик, and she told me that “standing man” is not fully accurate, but that it rather means “resilient man”. I trusted her translation, just as I trusted her in front of my children two years before.

As you can see in the video clip from Bridge of Spies here, this notion is a powerful one.  When I watched the film last year, I couldn’t help but focus on this part, for I definitely have felt like the man who’d been beaten down, only to recuperate and stand again, repeatedly.


I’ve watched the video clip countless times since first seeing the film. It inflates my hopes each time, just as my tattoo will prove inspirational.  That’s why I’ve gotten it.  I need to draw inspiration from it.  My resilience is the foundation of all intangible strength, with my children being my tangible wingmen, if you will, helping form the foundation from which my rebirth will eventually emerge, once I get through this hellish nightmare.

Стойкий мужик. Resilient man. You better fucking believe it.


[Thanks must go out to the people who helped fund the tattoo. An ephemerally important, erstwhile gift was hocked to provide the cash for such an endeavor. That one tangible item meant nothing to me any longer, and, in fact, it was a bittersweet eyesore to behold. Thankfully, it is now gone, and with it physical presence forever absent, so to will be the connection to the people who gifted it to me. The tattoo is far more valuable than platinum, or gold… or silver, for that matter. It represents my resilience, and that is invaluable.]



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