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Interview with Galina Dreytser

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01:58:53

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OLD LIVES, NEW LIVES: SOVIET JEWISH WOMEN IN
MINNESOTA


Interview with Galina Dreytser
Interviewed by Dianne Siegel and Shelly Rottenberg
Interviewed on November 14
at Jewish Community
and [?],
Center
1991

SR: Galina, your last name is spelled D-R-E-Y-T-8-E-R, and your
first name Galina, and if you can spell either your middle name or
your maiden name.

GO: My maiden name is Khaiklna--K-H-A-1-K-1-N-A.

SR: Your address is 1325 East Maynard Drive, Apartment 533. Your
telephone number?
GD: 690-2053.
SR: And is there an office telephone number or not?
GO: I don't have it yet.
$_R: Your birthday?
GD: My birthday is February 28, 1954.
SR: Now I know why I like you so much. My birthday is February 27.


And your birthplace?


DG: My birthplace is Leningrad, Russia. St. Petersburg, but I was
born in Leningrad.
SR: Now I have to ask you some particular questions. Your
education?


DG: I almost graduated from an electrotechnical college--electrical
communication college--in Leningrad.
SR: And how many years?
DG: Four years.


SR: Were you able to graduate or not?
DG: didn't graduate because I had trouble with rece1vmg of a job
place. I don't know how to explain it in English, but everybody after
college had to work three years in a particular place, and they were
going to send me to the Far East, so called Jewish District, and I
didn't, I refused, and so I didn't receive my degree.

SR: But you finished all your coursework? You were there for four
years?

GO: Yes.
SR: So it would be the equivalent of college degree in America. But
you didn't do your residency or internship. Your occupation?


GD: My field is electrical communication and maybe administration.
SR: Ethnic affiliation?
GD: I am a Jew.
SR: And your religion?
GD: You know, a lot of generations in Russia were growing up-


maybe four generations--without any religion. So, because I am a
Jew, it's supposed to be my religion, but I didn't know anything about
it.

SR: But right now, would you say that that's your affiliation now
that you are here?
GO: Yes, Judaism, right now, certainly.



SR: Your spouse's last name?
GO: My spouse's last name is Oreytser.
SR: And his first name?
GO: Vladimir.
SR: And his middle name?
GO: He doesn't have it.
SR: When were you married?
GO: We were married April 15, 1978.
SR: And the place you were married?
GO: Leningrad.
SR: And your mother's name, her last name, her first name, and her


maiden name?
GO: My mother has her maiden name right now too because she didn't


change it. My mother's name is lndenbaum--1-N-O.. E-N-B-A-U-M-


Anna.
OS: know her--she is a cousin to Lapitsky.


SR: Her birthdate?


GO: My mother's birthday is October 9, 1930.

SR: And her birthplace?

GO: Leningrad.

SR: And your father's last name?

3


GO: Last name is the same, without "a" at the end [Khaikin], David.
My David is named after my father. David was born maybe ten
months after my father's death.

SR: That's interesting because in Jewish tradition that's what we
do, but you say you didn't know anything.

GO: I knew, I knew that we don't have right to name after living

people, I knew it, it was my grandmother who
think it's the right idea to name children apeople which you love.
told
fter
me
close
about
relait.
tives,
I
DS: It keeps their spirit alive.

SR: The only immortality, maybe, that we have. And his birthday?
GO: His birthday is September 8, 1923.
SR: And when did he die?
GO: He died in 1978.
SR: And what was his birthplace?
GO: It's in Pskov District, USSR.
SR: Brothers, sisters and their spouses' names in full?
GO: I have a sister. He name right now is Grinberg. First name is


Yelena. I gave her a spelling in English and she doesn't like this

spelling.

SR: How does she like it?

GO: Y-E-L-E-N-A.

SR: Greenberg?

GO: And I gave her "i" instead of "ee" ...

4


SR: What does she want to go by?

GD: "1." It's not right, but it was my idea, but I fill out an affidavit
of relationship and gave wrong spelling.

SR: That's how a lot of Jewish people got funny names at Ellis
Island. OK, and what's her spouse's name?

GD: His name is Roman Grinberg.

DS: Are they here?

GD: Yes.

SR: Any other sisters or brothers?

GD: No.

SR: And now, your children's names in birth order?

GD: My big son's name is David, and he was born in Leningrad May 23,
1979. My little son's name is Eugene, and he was born April 30,
1988.

SR: Now this is just something we bounce off of and what we do if
it's OK with you is we'll ask you some questions, I will and Diane,
and if there is anything you don't want to talk about, you don't have
to. We already established the dates and places of the birth of your
parents. Do you know when they were. married and tell us a little bit
about where they met, where they got married.

GD: My parents met in Leningrad, and after their marriage they lived
and I lived near Moscow because my father was a military man and
we lived near Moscow until my father left the army. It was not so
easy to leave the army, and he was recruited during the war, and
maybe it saved his life because all Jewish people were killed in this
district because this territory near Belorussia, between Russia and
Belorussia, was occupied by Nazis. My parents were married in
Leningrad, and he lives maybe twelve years far from Leningrad, near
Moscow, but my sister and I were born in Leningrad because ·we

5



spent more time in Leningrad in ·our grandma's home than in our
home. But some time during our life we lived in our parents' home.

SR: Were your grandparents also from Leningrad?

GO: My grandparents were from Belorussia, but they left Belorussia
before the war.

SR: Is this World War I or World War II?

GO: After the revolution, before World War II. My grandmother--she
lives here right now--and she left a little village in Belorussia for
Leningrad in 1924.

SR: And was there any problem with Jews being in Leningrad?

GO: I think it was a problem, but when we were children and I didn't
know because maybe children teased us, but it was not so strong,
and it was very easy to get used to. By the way, maybe it was our
parents' mistake, I didn't know that I was a Jew until I became eight
years old, until other children began to tease us.

OS: Perhaps your parents hoped that you would avoid that if you did
not know.

GO: Yes, but it was a mistake. When our David became five or six
years old, we tried to teach him what we knew because my husband
decided it would be more right for David to know about his
Jewishness from us, not from other people.

SR: Tell me a little bit about your parents' schooling, where they
went to school, what they were trained as?

GO: My father lived in a little town, a little village between Russia
and Belorussia in Pskov District. He graduated from school in 1941,
when the war had begun, and after this he was recruited to the army,
and he served as first a soldier, and then as a military man of not
high position, and after the war he graduated from a military school,
because it was impossible to leave the army, especially it was the
end of 40's and beginning of 50's, there was a lot of anti-Semitic

6



publications in newspapers. It was anti-Semitic company
[campaign?]. Maybe it was easier, to be safe in the army than in
civil life. So my father had such kind of education. My mother was
nine years when the war began, and she spent two years in
Leningrad, and it was blockade around Leningrad, and after this her
family was evacuated to Siberia, and they returned to Leningrad in
1945, and she graduated from high school and she graduated from
maybe a two year college as accountant.

SR: And did she work? Do you remember if she worked while you
were growing up?

GD: Yes. At first she didn't work because I was little and my sister
was not so big, and after this she worked.

SR: As an accountant?

GD: Yes, for a project company, and by the way, we worked for the
same company with my mother because it was very hard for me to
get a job, but I knew officials in my mother's company knew my
mother and so I was hired in the same company.

SR: And during the war years for your father, did he actually fight?

GD: Yes. He did fight, he was in telephone and other kind of
communications, supporting kind of military [personnel],
maintenance.

SR: Did your family suffer when Stalin was in power?

GD: My family, as other Jews, they were afraid of this anti-Semitic
company [campaign?] after the war, but my husband's father spent
ten years in a concentration camp.

DS: Where was he?

GD: He was near Kalyma River. It was a famous place for
concentration camps, and he spent ten years, from 1936 to 1946, in
a concentration camp. He came out, and he wasn't allowed to live in
large cities. There was a list of maybe twenty or thirty big cities,

7



and so he decided to go to this very famous--it's not very famous
city, Vitebsk--but the painter Marc Chagall was born there. Vitebsk
was completely destroyed by Nazis during the war, and he was
allowed to live in Vitebsk, and he died early, maybe because he spent
ten very hard years in a concentration camp.

DS: Whose rule was it that he couldn't live in a big city?

GD: It was Stalin's.

SR: You said you didn't learn about being Jewish until you were how
old?

GD: Maybe eight-nine years.

SR: How about your own parents, what did they know about being
Jewish?

GD: He knew because they had passports with sign of Jews.

SR: But that's all they knew? They knew nothing about ritual or
history or how people practiced in the rest of the world?

GD: I [don't] think so, because, you see, it was another generation.
People really thought that it was possible to be together without
any distinctions of religion or ethnic, but it was a mistake. So I
think my parents belonged to this generation.

SR: In the way of thinking?

GD: Yes.

DS: How about your grandparents? Did they celebrate holidays? The
grandma that you spent a lot of time with?

GD: I don't remember that they [did]. I remember that we always had
matza for Passover and that's all. I don't remember anything else.

SR: Were the grandparents you stayed with your maternal
grandparents or your paternal?


GD: Yes, my mother's mother.
DS: Did she ever talk about being Jewish, that grandmother?
GD: Only as a disadvantage.
SR: So they really had a certain attitude that may have been very


prevalent at the time?
GD: Yes.
DS: Had you ever gone to the synagogue in Leningrad?
GD: No. With my parents, no. Only when I became adult, maybe in


college, we were curious and that's all because I know it was not


necessary for me, it's true.
SR: When you lived with your grandma, was it an apartment in
Leningrad?


GD: Yes, an apartment.
SR: What was it like, how many people were there?
GD: We lived in an old, old apartment in the center of Leningrad. Our


house was built in the beginning of 19th century and before World
war II my grandma and two of her sisters lived together in this
apartment. After the war, one of the sisters died during the
blockade, and other people entered this apartment. So it was
another family, my grandmother's family, our family, and my
mother's cousin's family. So three or four families lived [there]. It
was a huge apartment.

SR: How many people was that?
GD: More than fifteen people.
DS: Fifteen people in one apartment?


9


SR: But it was huge. Did everybody have their own bedroom?

GD:-No.

SR: You shared. Who did you share with, your sister?

GD: At first we shared this apartment with my mother, father, and
sister. The room was maybe more than this room, but it was one
room.

SR: How did you have beds for everybody?

GO: My parents had a big sofa, sofa and sleeper together, and we had
two big wardrobes in the middle of our room. It was when my father
left the army. And we had two beds behind this wardrobe, and my
desk to prepare my homework. Maybe it was [would be] a problem for

you, but it wasn't a great problem for us. It was a lot of people lived
[like that].
SR: You shared the kitchen?

GD: Yes, we shared the kitchen with other three families.
SR: And you shared the bathroom?
GO: Yes, and the bathroom too.
SR: Did you feel you never had any privacy or that wasn't even


something you thought about?
GO: If you don't know what does it mean privacy, it's not a problem.
SR: Who were your parents' friends? Who were they? What did they


do?
GO: We had a lot of relatives because my grandmother's sister lived
in the same apartment, it was the center of our relatives. My
grandma had more than ten sisters and brothers, because a widow
and a widower were married and each of them had maybe four or five

1 0



children, and after their marriage they had another three children. It

was in Belorussia, before the revolution, in a little Jewish place.
SR:
were
So this is your grandmother's brothers and sisters?
so many?
And there
GD: Yes. And some of them died during the war ...
SR: What about the blockade? Did they die of starvation?

GD: Yes. My grandmother's sister died from starvation, and before
the war a lot of them lived in Leningrad because all older sisters and
brothers went to Leningrad first and they tried to to move, like to
America, tried to bring others to Leningrad, and my grandmother was
the littlest, and she was the last who left this little Jewish place
for Leningrad, and she brought their parents to Leningrad too.

SR: Who did one sister die of starvation and not your grandma?
Because she was the youngest, she got more food or was she
healthier?

GD: I think maybe she died from starvation [during] the evacuation. I
know everybody had different resources in his body, and I think
because my grandmother had my mother nine years old and my uncle
was one year old, I think my grandma gave all food she had to them.
So I don't know--it depends on your health.

SR: Were there stories that they told you about that time?

GD: Yes, my grandmother told me a lot of stories.

SR: Do you remember any of those that stand out in your mind?

GD: Yes, I remember all of them, but I am not sure that I can explain.
My grandmother told me all food reserves of Leningrad were bombed
by Nazis the first day of war because they had maps of all locations
of all food warehouses of all Leningrad, and when she came to this
place, to the bombed warehouse, she didn't find any more, and one
soldier told her, you see, there is dirty grain together with soil, and

1 1



he told her, "It seems like only soil, but it's grain, and my advice is
to take a lot of them." And maybe it saved their lives.

SR: It's true what people resorted to. I had a Russian teacher who
talked about how they got skins of the potatoes and would make soup
with that.

GD: Yes, soup. It was very nice. My mother told me that she liked to
prepare... [End Tape 1 Side 1]

[Tape 1 Side 2]

GD: ... flour and that's all. And my mom told me that she was very
happy to prepare such soup because it was possible to try it.

SR: While she was making it, to taste it?

GD: Yes.

DS: So she took the soil that had had the grain spilled in it?

GD: Yes.

SR: And that saved them because at least they had something.
heard a lot of stories like that, how people lived.

GD: Because they received only, I don't know how to explain, 125
grams for all day, and one very famous Russian poet wrote down,
"This 125 blockade grams together with sorrow and blood ..."

SR: When they came from Belorussia to Leningrad in the first place,
they came because there were more jobs or it was easier to live?

GD: I think it was easier to live, it was a big city, but my
grandparents did not meet each other at this time. They met in
Leningrad, my grandparents. My grandma left Belorussia for
Leningrad because all her sisters and brothers already were in
Leningrad. It was a better place to live.

1 2


SR: When you were growing up, who were your friends?

GO: My friends were all students from my elementary school, and
you see, we had the same school for village children and for children
from this military base. It was the same school, I don't know how to

explain, maybe in America the same school in the city and the
country, but it was a typical country school. We didn't have any
buses.

SR: You walked to school?

GO: I walked to school maybe one kilometer.

SR: Less than a mile. And you were friends with all the children?

GO: Yes.

SR: Were there children who were Jewish or you didn't discover
that?

GO: In this time I knew that some children were Jewish, because you
know, in this time, maybe twenty or fifteen years after the war,
there were a lot of Jewish people in the army. Right now, I think not
a lot. But it was another time, another expectation of people from
this life, so it were a lot of Jewish people, maybe not completely
Jewish, maybe it was mixed families, but a lot. I remember there
were maybe three or four Jewish families.

SR: Were you more friendly with those children or the same as with
the other children?

GO: The same.

SR: Do you remember any of your childhood friends, what they were
like? Can you describe any of them?

GO: I remember because attend [visited?] us in Leningrad a lot of
time and I remember because, you see, my mother, while they were
leaving Russia right now, maybe four months ago, one of her
girlfriends from this place was with her at the airport.

13


SR: She kept up the friendship?

GD: She is Jewish, yes. She is in Moscow because her sons married
with Russian girls, and another situation.

SR: Going back to your schooling, in elementary school was it
pleasant or unpleasant? Were those happy times for you?

GD: It was a happy time for me. I didn't have any problems. When I
left this place near Moscow completely, I began to study in
Leningrad, when my father left the army, I was in fifth grade, and I
think it was the first time when I heard anti-Semitic [remarks], in
school, in Leningrad.

SR: In Leningrad, not in the village?

GD: Yes.

SR: And how did you experience it, can you tell us when you first
realized you were?

GD: I know, I was a very good student, and you know, I tried to help
everybody with my knowledge. It was my habit in this place because
all of us lived together, it was really another community at all; so I
tried to help everybody. You know, there ar13 a lot of young pioneers
organizations. And I was a young pioneer.

SR: You were a young pioneer? You wore a red ribbon?

GD: Yes, of course, everybody had. When I tried to use, the chief of
the pioneer organization was a woman maybe twenty-five years old
told other students, "Don't get help from this Jew. She is a girl
from privileged society." I was so surprised because, of course,
somebody told me about it, and I was so surprised because I had
never heard such expression from anybody.

SR: And that was when you were about eight years old?

GD: Not eight, I think I was about eleven.

14


SR: And then what happened, did the children treat you differently,
did you feel differently? How did that change?

GO: Some children treated me differently, some not, and right now,
tried to keep my friendship with my friends from school all my life,
and right now I receive letters from my friends, not Jewish friends,
from Russia.

SR: How did you understand "privileged society?"

GO: did not understand it at all because I wasn't from privileged
society at all, but it was so surprising for me.

SR: She tried to turn them against you and that would be the way
she did it?

GO: Yes. And the second, it was the same grade, we had a man
teacher in Russian language and Russian literature and when, for
example, we had a parents' meetings and he called me a little star in
this grade, but when I was absent in our class, he could tell other
students, "It's shame for you, this Jew knows Russian better than
you." I was an example because I was the only Jew in my grade.

SR: And you did extremely well and caused jealousy as well as
admiration?

GO: Yes, in Russian language I was an example.

SR: That's an interesting story. Besides the young pioneers, what
other clubs did you belong to?

GO: Young Komsomol, of course.

SR: Tell us about it.

GO: Everybody belonged to pioneers, to Komsomol. It was impossible
to escape it.

1 5



SR: And what did you do? Was there mostly indoctrination or was it
mostly just activities?

GD: We had activities. I was responsible for helping students in
studying from our Komsomol organization.

SR: Did you ever question the Communist Party or did your family
ever question whether it was good for Russia, was there a lot of
privileges? Here it was supposed to be equality. Did it ever hit
you?

GD: You know, propaganda, if every day you heard the same, drop by
drop, you believe in it until maybe a special case pushed you not to
believe.

SR: Did that happen to you?

GD: Yes. It was maybe gradually, but it was a special case after my
college, I told you about it, because we had a special day and
representatives from different jobs were in our room and we had
from our college more than 200 graduates.

SR: And I am sure you were an excellent student?

GD: Yes, and I was in the first ten, and nobody gave me an offer,
because maybe a lot of Jewish students, we have Jewish college,
because it was possible to enter this college for Jewish people, it
was a special college, but I didn't have any support from anybody and
some Jewish students had support from some organization. So
maybe my case was not single, but in this time I was the only and I
was famous because after they offered me to go to the Jewish
District, I was famous and everybody tried to see me after this.

SR: Who tried to see you?

GD: Other students because it was the first case. didn't graduate
because I .had a special case. After graduation each student had to
work three years in a special place ...

SR: An internship for your job. [No]

1 6



GD: Yes. This commitment.

SR: Three year commitment. What did you study to be?

GD: Electrical communications engineer. We had a special day with
representatives from different jobs were in a special room in our
college and they offered students different jobs. We had a list of
more than two hundred graduates and I was in the first ten, but
nobody gave me an offer and that's why they tried to send me to the
Far East, to Jewish District. ..

SR: Where would this be?

GD: Near Birobidjan. Birobidjan is the capital of Jewish District in
the Far East.

SR: What is it called?

GD: You know about the Jewish District?

SR: No, not really. What do you mean by Jewish District? White
Russia?

GD: No. Do you have a map? You know Stalin tried to see [show] the
all world that he is fair to anybody and before World War II they
organized a special Jewish District near Vladivostok, near the sea
between Russia and Japan.

SR: Now we are talking about the Pale of Settlement?

GD: No. Not a lot of Jewish people lived in this place, but it was
named Jewish District. Jewish District near Khabarovsk and near
Vladivostok.

SR: You've got to go to the lectures that Steve Feinstein gives.

GD: My husband attends because it's impossible [unclear]

1 7



SR: You come to that one, I'll come to that one so we can hear about
what he said because the Jews under Stalin and afterwards. It's
history we don't know about, it's not in the book.

DS: And what was it called, not Khabarovsk because that's Lithuania.

GD: It's not Lithuania, it's another state, in the map of Russia, this
is past Lithuania, and this is Far East and here and near Sea of Japan.
DS: And it was owned by the Soviet Union, uninhabitable land?
GD: It was a commercial for the West to have such district in Russia


because Stalin tried to show all world that he treated Jews fair.


Because they had their own land.
SR: So that's when it first hit you that you were going to be
discriminated against because of your ethnicity?


GD: Yes.
DS: Could you say no?
GD: I said no and I didn't receive my diploma.
SR: That's why she never got her diploma and that's when you went


to work for the same company that your mother was working?
GD: Yes, but it hurt me very much and maybe if I tried to get a job, if
I tried more and more, maybe I would be able to do it, but that was


hard, and in the same company that my mother worked and Lapitsky
Bella worked, because they were in the same company.
SR: Then did it hit you that you had no future there?
GD: I knew about it. Even though I had some expectations before my


graduation, I didn't have them after.
DS:: You lost them?


1 8



SR: She was an outstanding student and look how she would be
treated. Did you then begin to question other things that had been
part of your socialization and the things that you were taught about
the communist regime. Did it make you question more than the
treatment of Jewish people? Did you begin to think about the
regime? What was some of your thinking at the time, besides the
personal affront?

GD: I knew that it was so unfair about me and it was all. After this
I began to think and I didn't want my future children to have the
same situation at all.

SR: But you weren't married yet?

GD: I wasn't married, no.

SR: How long did you work for this company?

GO: Fifteen years--all my life in Russia.

SR: Were you ever aware of the state of Israel and what was going
on with Jews in Israel, in the United States? Did you have any
awareness of the larger world and Jews elsewhere, especially
Israel?

GO: knew about it because I read a lot of articles in Soviet
newspapers about the USA and Israel, especially about Israel, it
wasn't very good articles. But on the other hand, my father tried to
hear [listen to] the radio and Voice of America and [Radio] Free
Europe and Voice of Israel--it wasn't heard very good because they
tried to eliminate it.

SR: What did you think about it? How did you feel about the Jewish
state? Did it have anything to do with you? Do you remember your
thoughts at the time, your feelings? I am sure they've changed, but
at that time?

GO: At first, I didn't understand what it means for Jews a Jewish
state. I didn't understand it for a long time. Maybe when I became

1 9



an adult I understood that the existing of the Jewish state is the
reason of our safety, and I understood it in Russia.

SR: When did you understand that? When did you understand that?

GO: I think after twenty years, maybe when I was married with my
husband.

SR: Did you ever think about going to Israel?

GO: My parents didn't think about it, so I didn't think too.

SR: Where did you meet your husband? How did you meet your
husband and did it matter that he was also Jewish?

GO: My parents wanted us to have Jewish husbands, not because of
religion, because they were afraid of our future husbands maybe
[being] from anti-Semitic families. It was maybe a typical Russian
problem, not American. My mother always told me, if he would be
Russian, only orphan, as a joke. So I met my husband, he worked
with my cousin, and we met each other in my cousin's home, and we
began to meet each other more.

SR: How old were you at the time?

GO: I was twenty-two, and when we were married, I was twentyfour.


SR: Where did you go when you dated? Seems like there is no place
to ever be by yourselves?

GO: When we met each other for the first time, I had tickets to the
conservatory because one of my friends played violin in this concert,
and we went together, and next time my husband invited me to the·
theatre ...

SR: Cultural things?

GO: Cultural things. You know, there are a lot of theaters in
Leningrad, famous, a lot of culture.

20


SR: And you were brought up, even in your growing up years, you
must have gone?
GD: Yes.
SR: You love music, ballet?
GD: Yes, a lot of museums.


OS: Are you able to do that here--music and dance?
GD: No a lot. I heard our American friends told us that the second
place after New York City in America is St. Paul to spend a lot of
time with pleasure... [??]


SR: Theatre I suppose it's language more than music. You will and
you have young children, that makes it hard, babysitting. So you
went together for two years before you got married, and in your
family did they teach you at all about sex education?


GD: No.
SR: Nothing?
GD: Nothing.
SR: Were you prepared for all the responsibilities of married life?
GD: I read books.
SR: Did your friends discuss such things?


GD: Sometimes, but very seldom. It is treated as private .
. SR: Was that a problem for you?
GD: No, it wasn't a problem.
SR: What was your wedding like?

21



GD: Our wedding was after my father's death.
SR: What did your father die of?
GD: He had an operation and he didn't wake up after anesthesia.
SR: Oh dear, what kind of operation?
GD: It wasn't cancer, it was maybe beginning cancer, but it wasn't


so dangerous...
SR: What part of his body?
GD: Stomach.
SR: A polyp, a tumor?
GD: Not polyp. He had problem with his stomach ...
SR: Ulcer?
GD: It was ulcer.
SR: It sounds like it was a bad operation?
GD: Yes. I think it was an accident because nobody could explain


why. He was in a very good clinic, and my uncle's wife was his


anesthesiologist, and he was near, and she near my father . all the


time of the operation. I don't know why. Maybe it depended on him


because he was so afraid of this operation.

DS: But you know that even in this country there is always a risk of

any operation, always a risk.

SR: That's awful. How old was he?

GD: Fifty-four.

SR: Sad. So he never knew his grandchildren?

22


GD: No. He dreamt about boys, but he had two girls, and right now he
would have three grandsons because my sister has a son too.

DS: Your father did what? After he was in the army, he continued to
do his electrical. ..

GD: Yes, he was an engineer, quality engineer in some factory.

SR: Now we are going to ask about the wedding. Did you have a civil
wedding?

GD: Civil wedding, yes. We had a civil wedding, maybe two months
after my father's death, because we shifted our wedding. until my
father was in the hospital. It was not a loud wedding, we had a civil
wedding and we had a family dinner after this wedding, and after
this day we went to Talinn, capital of Estonia ...

SR: So that was your honeymoon?

GD: Yes, for a week.

SR: You went on your honeymoon, and then where did you live when
you came back?

GO: We lived with my mother, with my grandmother, and with my
sister. She was young, she was seventeen in this time, and we lived
together for two years, and when David was one year, we began to
live with my mother-in-law.

SR: You did?

GD: Yes, all of my life. It was only here that I began to live with my
family, and it's nice, it's really nice.

SR: Less complicated? And your husband, what is his work, what's
his education, and what did he do during that time?

GD: My husband graduated from high school with a gold medal. ..

23



SR: Tell us what's a gold medal?

GO: Gold medal is the highest award for high school graduates in
Russia. He graduated from school with a medal and he tried to be
enrolled in the Moscow Physics Institute, but it was impossible. He
missed one year.

SR: Why was it impossible?

GO: Because he is a Jew.

SR: So again, it was discrimination pure and simple?

GO: Yes. He missed one year and after he was enrolled in--it's a
famous college too--Leningrad Electrotechnical Institute. It was a
very famous college. It was established before the revolution and
because he had his medal and award, he had priority to go to this
college, but as I know, I graduated from school three years later
than my husband, it was impossible to enter this college, but there
were maybe five Jewish students in his college. After he graduated
from his college, his mother left Vitebsk for Leningrad, he changed
his apartment. It was a surprise, but it was such situation, he was
able to change his apartment from Vitebsk to Leningrad, and he got
his job in a little plant, medical equipment plant. It wasn't a great
job, but a lot of times he tried to change it, but it was impossible
for the same reason. So he worked for the same plant for fifteen
years. He was in different departments, as a manufacturing
engineer, as a [unclear] engineer. ·

SR: So his degree was in engineering, but physical. ..

GO: Physic and electric ... [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side 1]

SR: Galina, it's been a number of weeks since we were together and
we are going to continue with the project that we started and it's
with Dianne Siegel and Shelly Rottenberg as your interviews and
,Galina Dreytser as the interviewee. We are going to ask you some

24



questions going back to some of the information you already covered,
but there were some questions that we wanted to go into a little
more depth. The territory that you said was the Jewish ... How did
you ph rase it?

GO: Stalin established this land to show that Jewish people in the
Soviet Union had special land for them. But it's not the same people
with land. It's land without people, and it's really a land without
Jewish people, because it's false. There were a lot of Jewish
settlements in Belorussia, in Lithuania, in Ukraine, but Stalin chose
the Far East. Why? Who knows? He was a crazy man and his
decisions were unpredictable:

SR: But the name is?

GO: Birobidjan, Jewish District with the capital Birobidjan.

SR: Spell it?

GO: I think it's Berobidzhan.

SR: That is where they wanted to send you?

GO: Yes. There is the same city in the Far East, I don't know. I am
not sure about exactly the number of Jewish people that live in this
town, but I think not a lot.

SR: But it was a way of letting the world know that, more of a
political, public relations.

GO: My mom told me that it was some special movies to show how
Jewish people go to Birobidjan to build their own land, but it was
false from the beginning to the end.

SR: Propaganda. The other question was when you were told that
that's where you had to go to work, where did you really want to go
to work, what was your first choice?

GO: I am not ambitious, and I wanted after my college to stay in my
favorite city, Leningrad, with my parents, because you know, I think

25



there is a tradition in Russia, very often Jewish children want to
study and live in the same city with parents. It's very different
from America. And by the way, I think in America there is no great
difference between central cities and other cities in the middle of
the country [province]. There are several cultural centers in Russia-
Moscow, Leningrad, maybe Kiev and maybe [unclear] and that's it. In
other cities--1 think so because after my college I had some
business trips to other republics and other cities--it's uncultural. ..

SR: I am not sure if that's different here.

GD: I tried to explain. There are no differences in America, but a big
difference in Russia, and I wanted to live in my city, with my
parents and where I wanted to live.

SR: But I think Jewish people often are attracted to cities and
places which are cultural centers, even in this country.

GD: Yes, and what city with a Jewish community too. It's important.
SR: But the college you went to wasn't a Jewish college?
GD: No, it was Electrotechnical College, and I don't think so that

there was some Jewish college. I think the last Jewish school in


Russia was closed in 1936.
SR: The next question is you named your son David. There was King
David.


GD: My father's name was David. My father died some months before
David was born.
SR: Did you know the custom of naming the child?
GD: Yes.


SR: Who explained that to you?
GD: My grandmother explained to me. I was named after my
grandmother's sister because sha died during the Leningrad blockade,


26



but her name was Golda,· and I got my name because the short name
from Galina is Galya and it's close to Golda.

SR: So one is more typically Jewish, and one is more Russian.

GD: Yes, you see it was a really difficult time. I was born in 1954,
one year after Stalin's death, and my parents married, my father
decided to pick up my mom from Leningrad to the little city near
Moscow, and when he decided to go to Leningrad to marry my mom,
Stalin died, and they were afraid to be married in those days. It was
so dangerous. One year before my birthday, there was a very famous
case of Kremlin doctors and everybody [was] scared.

SR: What about burial ceremonies?

GD:
was
cereYou see, burial ceremonies,
Jewish environment, was
monies were the same for all people.
my environment,
not religious,
even [though]
so the burial
it
SR: Was there a Jewish cemetery?

GD: Yes, it was a Jewish cemetery; sometimes it was one very old
Jewish cemetery in Leningrad, but you see, there was very close
another cemetery, and Jewish people had Jewish plaques in the
cemeteries.

SR: So if you were Jewish, you would be buried in sort of a section
of a regular cemetery.
GD: Yes, if you want to.


SR: How about for your father?
GD: My father was buried in a special section, we wanted to. My
grandfather too.


SR: Is it marked in any way?
GD: It wasn't marked, but, I don't know in America, but it's very easy
to see the Jewish last names.


27


SR: But there was no Magen David?

GO: If relatives wanted to have Magen David, you can do it on the
stone, but my father was a military man and we didn't.

SR: Your grandmother didn't ask you?

GO: My grandmother died at this time. Nobody was religious in my
family. And it was different Jewish and non-Jewish plaques in the
cemetery because non-Jewish plaques usually had crosses.

SR: This is another question. What was the name of the town, in the
Gulag that your father-in-law was sent to?

GO: I know he was in one of the camps on the river--its name is
Kalyma--but I don't remember because Gulag was a lot of camps.

SR: But you don't remember the particular one?

GO: ·I don't remember. I am not sure if my husband [does] because I
have never seen my father-in-law.. He died when my husband was
twenty. So I hadn't seen him.

SR: This one is about the grandma's stories. She told you about the
siege of Leningrad, and you said you were also named after her
sister, Golda, who died at the siege of Leningrad. What other stories
do you remember that your grandma told you, that left an impression
and gave you an idea of your heritage?

GO: May I repeat my previous story my mom told me that she was
ten years old and her brother was two years old when the war began.
My mom told me that she liked to prepare a special soup with water
and flour because it gave her opportunity to try it extra times and
my grandma one time told me a story, I think it was an opportunity
to save her children because when all food warehouses were bombed,
one soldier gave her advice to collect soil with grain together and I
think this grain saved them.

SR: Any other stories that you remember?


GD: I remember. There was a special road through Lake Ladoga to
the territory not occupied by Nazis, and my relatives spent two very,
very difficult winters, very hungry winters in Leningrad, and after
this there were evacuated to Siberia, and it was a very difficult way
because they were bombed a lot of towns, it was winter, the truck
drove people on the ice, and it was very dangerous, a lot of people
were drowned, and there was very strong frost and my uncle--he
was I think two years old--he lost his gloves and his fingers were
frosted and he lost a finger.

SR: So these were the stories?

GD: Yes.

SR: And they stayed with you?

GD: Yes, I remember.

SR: Did she tell you over and over?

GD: When we lived together with my grandmother and I was a girl, I
heard all these stories a lot of times.

SR: Other stories that she told you, was this the theme that was
most important to her?

GD: Yes. And one story, one woman promised my grandma to give
some food in exchange for some treasure and my grandmother gave
her what she had this time and this woman brought my grandmother
to some apartment and told her, "Wait for me!" And my grandma
waited for her for some hours and she was gone, and my grandma [is]
a very wise woman and she told me, "I am lucky. Somebody could

have killed me. But I am alive, I saved my children.
mean some rings, it does not mean anything."
What does it
SR: So she didn't get too upset about it?
GO: No. They had a very old piano, and one time
exchanged it for one loaf of bread, and she was happy.
my grandma

29



SR: Desperate times. So this was something that she told you a lot.
Any other good stories? Any other stories that were not so...

GO: Not about blockade?

SR: Yes. About her childhood, about her memories?

GO: My grandma was the last kid in a big family. It was a Jewish
settlement in Belorussia, and they were a widow and widower in the
same village, and the widow and the widower had a lot of children,
and they were married--and by the way, all the population of this
village had the same last name--Lapitsky--because my
grandmother's maiden name is Lapitsky,but when the widow and
widower were married, they had the same last name. All stepbrothers
and step-sisters had the same name, and they were like
real sisters and brothers, even though they didn't have a blood
relationship. My grandmother was a sister for everybody. Right now
only my grandmother is alive, she is here, and you see, three sisters
lived in the same apartment in the main street of Leningrad--Nevsky
Prospekt--and I spent a lot of time of my childhood [unclear]. It was
the center of a big family, and you see, I know all our relatives, and
by the way, some of my cousins who didn't live in the same
apartment, they know me maybe but they don't know others. I know
everybody because it was the center of all the big family.

SR: What was the avenue?

GO: Nevsky, it's the Neva River in Leningrad. It was an old building
and we lived on the last floor, without an elevator. We had another
style of life for all people in Leningrad, in the Soviet Union. We
lived, not only Jewish people, we lived in big apartments, maybe
somebody had separate from another family apartment. We lived in
big buildings, and usually we had yards because the land was very
expensive in St. Petersburg and it was very tight yards between, and
we knew each other, all people, and we had a lot of children the
same age, in the same grade because in Russia we studied together
maybe from first grade to tenth. Usually, we had friends among
these children and sometimes all people keep this friendship for all
life. I think it's quite different from here.

30


SR: It depends. In the big cities you find that too. Growing up in
New York City, you'd find that. Not that they'd all in the school, but
they'd be thrown together and they'd play in the street.

GD: I watched the movie The Brooklyn Bridge and it was exactly the
same.

SR: And I think for our childhood was. We lived in houses, but we all
grew up together. Not so .different. It may be that people have
moved to the suburbs now and there is not as much tight
neighborhood life. And there still is depending on the geography ...
This question had to do with the value of work. You said you were
not that ambitious so that you were not so upset when you couldn't
get the job in a place that you wanted to be and you took a job that
was not in the area you were trained for. Would a man have done
that or would he have gone where he could have gotten a better job?
I think the question is about the prestige of work. Did work have
more prestige for men in your time than for women?

GD: After this event, after my graduation from college, I was upset
not because I didn't get a very prestigious job, but because I was
treated differently from others. I wasn't prepared for this
treatment, and I think it's maybe my parent's fault because I should
be [have been] prepared for anything from this area. I think in Russia
at first we had to be moms. I wasn't a mom at this time, but I think
it depends on what kind of people you are, in any country.

SR: Do you think there was real equality between men and women in

the work world. Again, this is the
world that women's work was as
reality things was ...
way
impoit
rtant
looked
as
from
men's
the
work.
outside
In
GD: It was the same in Russia too.

SR: It was? No, I am saying that was our sense of Russia. It wasn't
true here until recently.

DS: Men worked. It was important for men to work. Women could
work, but they could not work.

31


GD: I think in Russia for a middle-class family it was necessary to
work for a woman because it was impossible to survive. It's
necessary to have two incomes.

SR: Now it's becoming like that here, now it's changed. That came in
with both the women's movement and economic changes.

GD: I think economic changes are more important.

SR: Do you think among your friends and other women who were
more ambitious, was work as important to them as it was to men?
Did it have as much value? In your generation, in your experience?

GD: Almost all my friends had children after college or during the
college, and they thought that it was more important to be mothers
than to be workers. I think usually we tried to get jobs near our
home and jobs which could give us an opportunity to quit from the
job early and to take some work home.

SR: So you can be with your children?

GD: Yes.

SR: And for men, would they have the same value that they wanted
to get home early to be with their children or was that more of a
woman's attitude?

GD: I think it was woman's attitude.

SR: That was true in this country too. Now it's changed. Then there
is another expression and let me see if you know it. It's called the
glass ceiling, where women can only move up so high. It's invisible,
but they can't move up any more. Did that exist in the Soviet Union?

GD: Yes.

SR: Explain and give me some examples. It's called the glass ceiling.

32



GO: It's a very smart expression. You see, it's not only for Jewish
women, it's for all women. Each profession had special [unclear],
it's impossible to go to the very top. It was true for every field,
maybe even as a teacher, as a doctor, they preferred to deal with
men. I don't· know why, but it was politics of the Russian
government. It's true, and before we left Russia, we had a lot of
articles, because of glasnost, we had articles in newspapers. I don't
know about today's situation--! think it's the same.

SR: Were there certain particular jobs that were for women,
women's jobs, women's tasks, things that your mother did that your
father didn't do, your grandmother did but your grandfather didn't do,
your sisters did but if you had had brothers, they wouldn't do?

GD: You mean at home?

SR: At home and maybe also in career choices?

GD: Career choices, it was typical career choices for women in
Russia to be a nurse, to be daycare teachers and I think that's all.

SR: That was more typical?

GO: More typical, yes. And at home it's usual work at home--to
cook...

SR: Did you share, for example, your grandfather, did he do chores at
home?

GO: I think my grandma did all work· at home, and I think my mom
too, but in our generation--! don't mean me and my sister but in our
generation--very often because everybody worked we shared our
duties. With children, it's more popular.

SR: Do you think that women still have more responsibility with
children?

GD: Yes.

SR: It's a little bit that men help but...

33


GO: It depends on the family, but usually it's true.

SR: So the women have two jobs. We are going to move on. We got
as far as... We didn't get to Minnesota, did we? Did we talk about
when you came to Minnesota.

GO: No, not yet.

SR: Your decision to emigrate, do you remember why you made the
decision and what prompted it?

GO: I thought we had this topic but I can repeat it. I think we
wanted to emigrate when I had my first child, David, but you know,
the gates were closed for more than ten years and I think we lost
our chance this time because we decided to wait when David had
been six months or eight months because it was a lot of problem to
travel with little kids, but it was our big mistake. We had exactly
the same situation when I had Eugene and we got invitation, and we
decided to go to OVIR as soon as we could.

SR: Tell me what OVIR is.

GO: It's a special department of visas and registrations. It's
necessary to go to OVIR when you go abroad as a tourist, as an
emigrant, if you want to have guests from another country.

SR: So you had thought about it and what prompted it was the second
child and opportunities for him?

GO: Yes. But it was not especially when we had our second child. It
was by chance. It was funny, but we had the same situation--a
little kid and choice and we decided to have our chance right now
because Russia is such an unpredictable country.

SR: And you had relatives in St. Paul?

GO: Yes.

SR: Who are those relatives?

34


------------~--~----


GO: My father's sister. They have been living here, I think, for
thirteen or fourteen years.

SR: What's her name?

GO: Her name is Miriam Amnuel [?]

SR: And they sent you an invitation?

GO: No, you know, it was impossible to leave Russia using an
American invitation. We had an invitation from Israel, and when we
arrived in Vienna, everybody told "I want to America, I want to
Israel, I want to Australia."

SR: That's when you decided?

GO: Yes. [End Tape 2 Side 1]

[Tape 2 Side 2]

GO: ... Israel, but it was necessary to get invitation and our friends
were leaving Russia when I was ready to have Eugene and we asked
them to help us with invitation, and they asked their relatives in
Israel because our friends live in Boston here, and I don't know who
helped us. Maybe they asked Sokhnut to help us, but we got
invitation, and I don't remember the name, I think it was not a real
name from Israel. When I had Eugene, we put Eugene's name in the
same invitation. But right now, they changed, and when my relative
was going to go here, I sent them my invitation from America and it
was OK.

SR: So things have changed, got more open, more possible, for the
Jews, not for all the people.

GO: Yes.

SR: When you came here, did you first go where you are living now?
Was the apartment set up?

35



GD: Yes.

SR: Who helped you, who furnished it?

GD: My relatives helped us a lot to buy furniture, to go to the first
shopping and to explain the situation because even though we studied
English in college, in high school, but we didn't understand a lot of
things. We understood nothing in English language too because it
was necessary to adjust, to apply our knowledge to the real
American language.

SR: Right. You were taught mostly English English?

GD: Little English. It was really poor Russian British English.

SR: So that was OK when you first came. Do you remember any of
the impressions till now?

GD: We were so exhausted because of a very long way from Rome to
New York City. Eugene was one year old and he didn't sleep all night.
But my first impression was I was very surprised because I
imagined America like Manhattan and New York City, a lot of sky
scrapers, but when I saw a lot of little, little houses, I was so
surprised, I said, "It's a village, it's not America." I didn't know
that America had one-floor houses.

SR: So your image was that of Manhattan?

GD: Yes. Like downtown--all America like downtown.

SR: Who else helped when you first came?

GD: The Jewish community helped us a lot because the Jewish
community gave money to buy furniture, to live for the first time,
and a week after our arrival we went to the English courses, and
Jewish community paid for Lis--a lot of help. It's not help, it's life.

SR: What was your reaction td that? Was it useful? Did it feel
good? Did it feel intrusive?


GD: I felt very good. I didn't have problems with my feelings.

SR: Is there anything that you can suggest that maybe agencies can
be more sensitive to how they give help, how they give advice, what
they do, what they don't do. Is there something, now looking back
that might have been maybe easier?

GD: One thing, it's my opinion, everything is OK. I think we shouldn't
give [take?] everything for granted. I think it's great help without
[unclear] adjustments.

SR: Did you have a family, did someone match you with a family tie,
a tutor? Did that work out when you first came?

GD: We had tutors but not the first time when we came, and they
helped us maybe some months, and it was very helpful.

SR: And how about, you have a family tie, like another Jewish
family?

GD: One family invited us for our first Hanukkah, but I am not sure it
was (through) family ties (program). One woman in Talmud Torah
helped my David with English. It was, maybe you know, it was Susan
Fishman, Dr. Fishman's, wife from Dr. Levitz [name?] clinic, and they
invited us for our first Hanukkah, and Susan helped David a lot with
his English, and we have met a lot of times. I think it's great help.
And another family, I think, David and [name?] studied the same
grade at Talmud Torah. Their family all the time invited us for
Sabbath and for Jewish holidays.

SR: Was it comfortable for you not coming from a religious
background to be thrown into a community that takes all this for
granted?

GD: Sometimes I feel myself as some sort of museum when
somebody asked me about my job and Russia, but in this family right
now, it's the family of my son's friend, I feel myself as in my home.
It's very seldom because usually if we meet people, in the

37



synagogue, sometimes it's really true, I feel myself as I am .a
museum

SR: You are a museum?

GO: I am not a museum--1 am a thing in a museum. I am an exhibit in
a museum.

SR: That you are not a person?

GD: I am a person but I am an object of interest for everybody, and
sometimes it's not so pleasant because I can't ask somebody,
"What's your profession? What do you do?" It's usual but it's a
usual question.

SR: But you could say that.

GD: Is it polite?

SR: If they do it to you, it's polite. It has to be two-way. In this
one family you feel very much like you're friends and they are
interested in you because you are Galina, and it happened naturally.

GD: Yes. It's not a special program.

SR: Yes. Sometimes these special programs are artificial and
sometimes they work.

GD: But I know a lot of families, and they became very close friends,
not because of some obligations, but because they like [each other].
But you see, it's impossible to say to somebody, "Be friends!"

SR: There has to be some attraction, something you have in common.
Do you think your family that's been here a long time feels proud of
you or do you have different mentality and sometimes, not that they
are ashamed, but they've been in America, they've been influenced,
they've been socialized here, in America, and that there is some
strain between you and your attitudes?

38



GD: My relatives moved here when they were maybe forty years old.
If you live in Russia maybe for twenty years, you will still have
Soviet mentality, and I hope that my children will not have Soviet
mentality.

SR: What Soviet mentality? What is Soviet mentality?

GD: It's impossible to explain. If somebody has a very Soviet
behavior, I can tell you, "What do you want? It's a Soviet person." I
don't know how to explain. It's spirit, it's a special spirit. It's a
slavery spirit. It's true. I think it's impossible to escape from this

slavery for us. It's not slavery in the literal sense, but it's
mentality slavery. It's true and I realize it, but I can't do something
with me.

SR: Is it about not realizing how much freedom you have and how


many choices you have?
GD: It's some part of this spirit, but it's not all because, you see,
sometimes behavior of American Jewish people and Soviet is so
different.


SR: Give me an example.


GO: I am not sure if I can do it because maybe I will see a certain
situation I can explain it, but it's hard to do right now.
SR: Does it have to do with trust?
GD: Sometimes it can be freedom and choices and trust.
SR: Is it different in your public behavior, in your private behavior?
GO: All aspects of human life, all aspects, different, because you


were born here, I was born there and that's all.
SR: I know, I think, in some way, but I don't find it in you because
sometimes, I think, you maybe talking about something else, that
people cannot be as honest with me because they are afraid to really

39



express their true feelings because it was not allowed, but I don't
feel that about you.

GD: I can explain it. For a long, long time we think in one way, we do
in a second way, and we speak in a third way. It's so strong in us
that it's impossible to escape.

SR: But you are not that way?

GD: Sometimes, I am the same, I know it. I can't explain why, but
sometimes I can catch myself in this way. Oh, it's me or not? It's
me. I name it slavery.

SR: Are you pleased with the schooling in America? Is it OK for
your children? What are the differences?

GD: We got used to see the same school system, and it's very
difficult for me to adapt to this system. Sometimes because I was a

student and I think the college
college, but I think American
improved.
where I
system
studied
of educwasn't the best
ation might be
SR: It's not vigorous enough?

GD: I think there should be more requirements for students, maybe
because I am a Soviet person, but because I think children should
know their own history, their own geography, and geography of the
world. It's an example. They should know famous American writers
and English grammar too. It's not maybe a Soviet tradition--it's a
European tradition.

SR: It is. It's more rigorous, it's more classical, there is a certain
body of knowledge that you need to know, and there are American
educators that are saying the same thing, but we make different
assumptions about our education too.

GD: But from another side I like this system of education very much
because the student and the teacher are in the same level, they are
equal. It's very good for students. If somebody pressed children,
they become angry, they become unruly, and when teachers trust

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children, they are proud, and it's a better system. It's a better
system--1 can see in the daycare, and the American system of
education brings up children using positive emotions, but negative.

SR: Not shame.

GO: Not shame. The Soviet system of education uses shame emotion
because you have the same meeting for all parents and if my son did
something wrong, everybody knew about it. I think it's wrong.

SR: It's embarrassing. So, that part you like, .but the contents, you
like more the method, but you would like it to be more information
that they require and probably more subjects.

GO: Yes. It's a good way, but sometimes it's necessary to use
another method.

SR: How about Jewish education? Are your children getting some
Jewish education?

GO: Yes, my older son David spent two years in Talmud Torah of St.
Paul. I think they were really happy years for David and for us. I
think we were lucky that after leaving Russia David spent two years
in a very friendly, good and soft environment. He got a lot of
knowledge, he shared his knowledge with us, and sometimes he
shames us for something because we don't know.

SR: You didn't have an opportunity.

GO: Yes, but he can't understand it because two years for a tenyear-
old child is a lot of time. So, what about Jewish education,
everything is OK.

SR: And where does he go to school now?

GO: He goes to Ramsey [?] Junior High School and he attends evening
school two times a week.

SR: Will he be Bar Mitzva'd?


GD: He will have Bar Mitzva May 23.
SR: Something wonderful to look forward to.
GD: Yes. It was impossible to have Bar Mitzva in Russia. You see, it

wasn't necessary for us, but right now it's necessary. He wants [it]
and I want [it].

SR: It's coming of age. It has religious but it also has ritualistic,
it's somebody becoming responsible in the Jewish community.

GD: It's a good tradition. Do you think all Jewish people in America
are so religious?

SR: No.

GD: But I think Judaism and Jewishness become a tradition because
you will belong to a special community. Can you explain to me, if
Jewish people in America are not religious, why are they Jewish?

SR: Because Judaism is more than a religion. It's a culture. It's
humor, it's food, it's a mentality, literature, a history. It's a lot of
things. But it's also confusing. People grapple, "What is my Jewish
identity?"

GD: I think mentality of Jewish people is American mentality.

SR: No, it's not quite, it's a mix. Just like you can pick out people
who are Soviets...

GD: But it was quite different from other Soviet people too.

SR: I can pick out who is Jewish in the world. There is something
different, and even people who were not allowed to be Jewish in the
Soviet Union, there is something in the blood--1 don't know what it
is.

GD: You see, it was impossible in Russia but some people converted
to Judaism here. They were not born in Jewish families.

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SR: Yes. Usually they intermarry or they are searching for
something.

GD: But it is not necessary in America to be converted after
marriage but some people converted.

SR: They do because it's easier to bring up children or I think the
spouse may want it and hint at it or they know and it's often the
women that do it for the men.

GD: But sometimes men.

SR: Less common but yes.

GD: In Russia we celebrated New Year with the same attributes as
Christmas.

SR: I know, it's confusing, and now we say "Don't do it."

GD: But we have very interesting lectures here and you know
Professor Stephen Derfler from Hamline University lectures us and
we asked him about New Year tree because you see it's a tradition, it
was like my childhood. He answered us, it's not a Christian
tradition, it's a pagan tradition, and if you have your New Year tree
after Christmas without any Christian [ornaments], Jesus and
crosses, it's OK, but elder son doesn't want to have it because we are
Jewish people and my little son doesn't know what it is because we
left Russia when he was one year old, and only I want to have it and I

will buy maybe one branch.

SR: It's what associated with childhood and happy times, and it's so
much a part of you that it's hard to say, "Oh, for me it has a
different association." For your it's an association that's stronger
than even ...

GD: We have some books for children in the Russian language and
some story about the Father Frost and my Eugene because sometimes
my mother-in-law and my mother baby sit Eugene, they read him the
story, and then Eugene watched TV, Oh Father Frost. It's not Father
Frost, it's Santa Claus. It's not for us. Why?

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SR: Americans have some trouble with that too because Christmas
is so commercial and many American families--! know when my
husband was growing up, they did have a Christmas tree, and they
are Jewish, but they wanted to be like all Americans. It's a personal
switch and it's finding sometimes new rituals that mean something.

GD: You know, when we lived in Russia, the word Passover and
Easter in Russian is the same, and some Jewish families had eggs,
and I was not religious, but it was impossible to buy ma tza in
stores, it was possible to buy at the synagogue, but every Passover
in Russia I bought a special separate bag and I brought to my job my
matza and I invited everybody, and everybody liked it and they asked
me, "When will be Passover?" So I would bring matza for them.

SR: I think that's the end of our interview. It was lovely. We may
have some more questions, but we are going to stop now.

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