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Interview with Emilia Kogan and Sima Shumilovsky






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Use of this oral history is governed by U.S. and international copyright laws. Please contact the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives for permission to publish.



Interview with Emilia Kogan and Sima Shumilovsky

Interviewed by Linda Schlott
Interviewed on November 14 , 1991
at the Saint Paul home of Mrs. Kogan

LS: Today is Thursday, November 14, 1991, and I am at the home of
Emilia Kogan to interview her for the project Old Lives, New Lives:
Soviet Jewish Women in Minnesota. I am Linda Schloff. The other
person who is here is Emilia's sister, Sima Shumilovsky. So, now we
can begin. First of all, tell me your address here, Emilia.

EK: 1765 Morgan Avenue.
LS: And tell me your birth date.
EK: 6/9/39.
LS: And yours, Sima?
SS: My is 10/11/41.
LS: Why don't one of you, Emilia, we'll start with you, and Sima, if

you have things to add, you will cut in. I want to know something
about your parents, about your parents lives. Give me their names...
EK: My mother's name is Tatyana, her maiden name was Katzman.
SS: And actually she left.
EK: She left the name. She never changed it.
LS: Speaking about not changing names, is that pretty common?

SS: At that time it was. It was like you are a real citizen if you
keep your name, you know, you don't belong to somebody. It was
especially after the revolution.

EK: But it was a different way. They were both teachers, and
teachers cannot work in one school together, a husband and wife.
And she decided to stay with her name, and father was on his name.

LS: Did they work in the same school?
SS: But it was many cases, not only for a reason.
EK: [Her] diploma was in her name and she didn't want to change.
LS: But what about today? We noticed that a lot of women who

come over from the Soviet Union today also keep their maiden names.
Is it still making a political statement today?

SS: No, it wasn't a political statement. It was nothing for the
government. It's the people's attitude for themselves, plus
sometimes her name could sound for the ear better than his Jewish
name. She is Jewish too, but sometimes her last name is not so
Jewish, like his name, that she would keep her name, not to have all
of a sudden this Abramovich or Haimovich.

LS: So, is that a reason why some Soviet women keep their names?

EK: Some of them, absolutely.

LS: It certainly has nothing to do with any feminism?

SS: No, never. Before it was a little bit, before, and they wanted to
be persons with their own names; lately this could be the reason,
because her name is not so much particularly Jewish.

EK: I didn't have what to lose. I was Glazer, he was Kogan--it's the

SS: I changed immediately my name because Glazer was very Jewish
and for the stage it was much more beautiful to say, "There is

Serafima Shumilovsky."
EK: She changed it before she got married.
SS: They announced it before I got married.
LS: When was your mother born?
EK: She was born in 1915, January 24.
LS: And when did she die?
EK: She died at 63, in 1978.
LS: And where was she born?
EK: In Odessa.
LS: Did she live there all of her life?
EK: Except for the war, yes.
LS: And your father's name?
EK: Abram Glazer.
LS: And his date of birth?
SS: March 15, I believe, in 1909.
LS: And when did he die?


EK: He was killed in World War II. He was 32 years old.
LS: So it was 1941? Was he born in Odessa also?
EK: No, Pervomaisk.

LS: Can you try spelling that?
SS: You can spell it whatever you wish. Per-vo-maisk.
LS: And where is that? What republic is that?
SS: It's Ukraine, a small town in the Ukraine.
LS: And how did they meet?
EK: He was a soldier, and she was in school yet, because she was 17

years old when she got married.
SS: She was after school already.
EK: She was 17 years old, he was 23 years old. It was some concert,

and they met each other at the concert.
LS: Was it a concert in Odessa?

SS: Yes, it was like amateur's concert.
LS: Did they get married almost immediately? Was this during the

SS: No, if it would be the war time, we would not [have been] born.
LS: Oh you're right, she was born in '39.
EK: And she was born in '41, and he was killed, and she [was] born

six months later.

LS: I didn't realize that, but you're absolutely right. So when did

they get married?

EK: 1932. My brother was born in '33. Boris Glazer ...

LS: There were three children in the family?

EK: Yes.

LS: So there was a big ... between '33 and '39 ...
EK: Yes, for nine years, she got three children.
SS: It's a hero for the Soviet Union, a good family.
LS: Did she not want children, because there is a big gap between

you and Boris?

EK: They were students. She was 17 years old when they got

married, and in one year she got Boris.

SS: They got just a little bit more mature and knew what to do not

to have babies, because in the Soviet Union, when you get married,

it's not your choice to have a baby. You just get pregnant

immediately and you have the baby.

LS: We'll be getting into that too. Who did they live with when they
got married? Did they live with your parents?

SS: Of course, they used to live with their parents at first. Of

course, Emilia, till they graduated the school.

LS: And then they found a place?

SS: No, there is a way in the Soviet Union when you graduate the
school, they send you to work, you have to go to the place. Usually
they send you to a small town or a village where it is difficult to
hire somebody. Then, when they send you, you have to go.

LS: So where were they sent?

SS: He graduated first, and I don't remember where he was sent.

EK: I know it was this way. In '39...

SS: What's '39? You talk '32 now, Emilia. OK, where did they live
when they were students? With their parents, of course.

LS: But after they graduated, then they had to leave?

SS: Yes, then they left the parents because they were sent to work,

and then the war with Finland started in '39, and they took him to

the Soviet Army, my father, he worked just a couple of years in the

school, and they took him to the Soviet Army, and there was a

request from the government to stay in the army, even though he

didn't want to be in the army.

EK: Because he was educated--it was not enough educated people.

SS: You know, during the purge of 1937, they killed all heads of the

army, and then they needed more educated people, and this was the

request from the government that he was supposed to stay in the

army, even though he got his diploma as a teacher and he loved his


EK: He was a physics and math [teacher] ...

LS: He was what?

EK: Physics and math, and she was chemistry.

SS: Chemistry and biology.

EK: And they were sent, not like teachers--like he is from military

-to Perzemysl in Poland...

SS: It's West Ukraine, because in '39 West Ukraine became Soviet

part. Before it was Poland, but with Hitler they divided ...

EK: they divided, and they stayed in Peremyshel, and when World War
II started, it started from this place. And she was pregnant with
Sima three months, Boris was eight years old, I was two years old.
He called on June 15--it was birthday June 9--he called and said,
"Tanya, I can't come because it's not very good on the border. I will
come on the 15th." And June 15 he called and said, "Tanya, there
will be a war. Be careful, keep the children. If it will be a girl, call
her Sima, and if it will be a boy ...


SS: ...he said, "Call the baby after my father," who was Shimon. That
means I would be Sima or Semyon, whatever.

EK: And this was the last talking. She didn't have letters from him.
SS: He was killed in the very first days of the war, end of June or
beginning of July.

LS: How did your mother get back? Did your mother get back to

EK: She came to Odessa with two children. Because he was in the
military, they gave him a special letter, and she took all family
because she had this paper, she [unclear] all family ...

LS: So she had to get back from Poland to Odessa...
SS: ... under bombing, under all this terrible stuff, she moved almost

a month, till she got to Odessa. Odessa was still open. She grabbed
the entire family ...
LS: How many the entire family?
EK: Oh, big family. It's two sisters, a brother, father and mother,

and we four. It was nine people.
LS: How far east did you move?
SS: They went to Kazakhstan, and then they stayed very short, and

then they went--if you know this area--Ural. ..
EK: Bashkiria--and she was born in Bashkiria.
SS: It's a different republic.
LS: So you all ended up spending the war in Bashkiria?
EK: Yes.
LS: And when did you come back?

EK: in '46.

SS: They moved before when Donbass--if you know the place where
coal mines are-EK:
... she worked in Donbass too, she worked as director of the

school, and they left her, because again they didn't have enough
educated people, and they didn't want her to move to her place. The
grandmother and grandfather took us to Odessa. After she had
explanation, because children in Odessa and she came back later.

SS: And they moved too. In 1944 they came to Donbass, and in 1946

we came to Odessa.
LS: Did you go to Odessa with your grandparents or you stayed with
the grandparents in Bashkiria?

SS: Yes, we stayed all the time with grandparents and mother, and
then for a short period of time--very short period of time--we came
to Odessa and our mother followed us immediately.

LS: And then, did she work as a school teacher in Odessa?

EK: No, for a long time she didn't work because she is Jewish, she
can't have the job.
LS: Now, wait a second, this is directly after World War II?
SS: Not exactly.
LS: I am talking, as soon as she got back to Odessa?
SS: There was a line in the office for teachers. There was a special

office, and it was sort of a list of people who were waiting ...
LS: Waiting for jobs?
EK: It wasn't enough children and lots of teachers.

SS: There wasn't enough jobs ...

EK: ...and not enough schools.

SS: Many schools were destroyed completely. Then it was not
enough schools, it wasn't enough jobs, and she was on the waiting
list for a job, and she was supposed to come every month for an
interview, for checking, and for many years she used to work
whatever she could to make money to feed the family, because we
were three children without a father. Of course, the government
paid her a pension--close to nothing.

LS: Were you living with your grandparents?

SS: Our grandfather died in 1947--very soon after we came back to
Odessa, and our grandmother who never worked in her entire life-because
she was the old style lady, a housekeeper--she used to live
with us. And she didn't have anything from the government--not at

LS: So your mother was the whole [unclear] What did she do? Tell
me some of her jobs?

SS: She worked 25 hours a day if you can believe it, and she sewed-mostly
it was sewing--and she would teach a little bit privately and
she would do anything just to make money. And of course, she sewed
everything for us together with grandma.

LS: Tell me about your living arrangements?
EK: Oh, it's a wonderful room. It was a room 28 sq. meters.
SS: OK, take a room like this.

EK: Like this, a long room and just in front window and a half. It
was a balcony but it was without a door. We had to go through the
window, but we were five people.

LS: That's right: three kids, your mother and your grandmother.

EK: Before it was six, but grandpa died in 1947, and it was five
people. After, he had a sister who wasn't married ...

SS: Not he, my mother ...

LS: Your mother had a sister? Did she live with you too?

SS: Then she came, she got married--if you know, family
Meyerovich--she has three kids--this is my cousins, and she is the
daughter of this sister. And mother divided the room in half-4hey
three lived in front--her sister, husband and daughter, and we five ...

LS: You three kids?

EK: We five--mother and grandmother.
LS: Wait a second, let me get this straight. Your mother, her sister,
and her mother lived in the front?

EK: No, no, no. Mother, three children, and grandmother lived in the
back. In the front lived the sister, her husband, and daughter. Then
it's eight. Do you understand? Without a bathroom ...

LS: Yes, mother, three children, and grandmother.

SS: In the back of the room, with no windows. Then in front of the
room was the kitchen, then you walk into our room--half room ...
LS: So the kitchen was a communal kitchen?
SS: No, it was communal bathroom in the hall for ten neighbors, but

the kitchen was ours, that's true.
LS: So you came through the kitchen, and then you came ...
SS: ... our room and then the door to the second half of the room, and

there was a family.
EK: But it was a very high ceiling. When it was divided, they put a
window to make a little bit light.

1 0

SS: But it was dark.
LS: And how long did all of you live there?
EK: Oh, my God.
SS: Emilia will tell you. She got married in 1950, and in 1957 ...
EK: ... we changed for another flat.
LS: And then how many of you lived in that flat?
EK: Then, again, me, my sister, brother, my mother, grandma, and I

got married--me and my child--in one room.
SS: And a kitchen. You would not believe it. [both laugh]
LS: When you think back, how did people manage? Did you just sort

of retreat into yourself? Is there a lot of screaming?
EK: Sure. We were friendly anyway. It wasn't so much fighting.
SS: It depends on the family. We used to manage to live nicely,

being friends, and there was a birthday of her husband, who turned
sixty, and my toast--1 asked the people how many sisters and
brothers-in-law they know that would not have a little argument, a

EK: .. .for thirty-two years ...

SS: and we used to live together. Then it depends on the family, but
mostly people have terrible fights.
EK: Even my mother with sister, they loved each other, they'd die for

each other, but they fought, because, for example, my mother told
me, "Emilia, go and peel the potatoes." She wanted me maybe to
make two pounds. If it was five pounds, I did it and left all the skin
outside. A girl ten-eleven years old. He comes and says to her
sister, "Look, she left everything." My aunt comes to my mother, "Go

1 1

and pick it up." And she was a teacher, and she had homework, and

she said, "I don't have time now. I will do it a little later." A fight.

SS: Many, many little things to come to a fight...

EK: It was not so serious, but can you understand so many people?
We were children, we mostly were on the street, and to this day I
can't imagine how we became good people. Maybe because the family
was a good family. '

SS: There was almost no parent care. We did not see our mother


EK: She worked day and night, and we belonged to our ourselves. We

could do what we wanted.

LS: How about your grandmother?

EK: She was busy with the family cooking and washing.

SS: This is a different style of life. We didn't have any
refrigerators. Then what you are supposed to do is go every single
day to the farmer market, make shopping for two families--and she
always got two lists of groceries because my aunt required
something and my mother would say, "I want this." And she would go
and buy two lists of groceries and come and cook for us and cook for
the other sister, and then when I grew a little bit to be able to do
something, my grandmother started to lose her memory, after my
grandpa died, she was in such a shock that she started to lose
memory--it was something in her brain, and it was difficult for her
to handle this situation any more, go for two. And I was twelve
years old when I took it completely on myself ...

LS: When were you?

SS: She got her responsibilities: cleaning the house, laundry, and I
was the cook.

LS: So it was divided?

1 2

SS: The brother was the handy man.

LS: So do men cook in the Soviet Union?

SS: Mostly not.

EK: In fourteen years I started to make money--1 started to sew for
people. I was fourteen years old.

LS: Your mother taught you how to sew?

EK: No, I studied at a special school. My mother did not want me to
be... [a seamstress]

LS: Let me ask you a little bit more about your mother. First you
said something about her not being able to get a job as a teacher
because of anti-Semitism. Was that a big problem?

EK: No, it was later. It was '53 when Stalin ...

SS: Finally, when her line comes [when it was her turn] and she
finally got a job, not a lot--there were some particular hours that
make your salary--she never got enough, they would not give her
enough hours. But it was a shortage of work and she understood, and
she worked at school and part-time somewhere, sewing or doing
something, and waiting that finally she would have a full-time job.
At this time, before Stalin died, started--! don't know if you know
something about the doctors-

LS: The "doctors' plot," yes.

SS: ... and they just kicked out mostly Jewish people from their work.

EK: and her immediately;

SS: Immediately, it was just such a good case, but they gave her a
choice: if she wants to continue to work as a teacher, they can give
her a job in a village, a little bit farther, maybe 80 miles from
Odessa, in a little village, very little.

1 3 .

EK: And she took it.

LS: She took it and left you?

SS: She took me.

EK: She took Sima and brother. My brother came after. She left, but
at this time I studied in a sp~cial school. ..

SS: It was a technical college. And she stayed with the aunt in this
room that we told you and with the grandma, and my brother came a
little later and joined us for one year. And then we came back.

EK: In that time I was alone. I studied three years.

LS: I want to get back to that now. So your mother was able to

work. Then, did she find some work in Odessa as a teacher later?

SS: Then she came back, she fought for a while and she got a couple

hours in one school, couple hours in another school. She got so sick

of it. ..

EK: And she lost the experience. It wasn't enough.

SS: Finally, she gave up, maybe ten or fifteen years before she died.
She didn't work as a school teacher any more. She completely gave

up this and she worked in a factory with a sewing job, that's it.

LS: What happened to your grandmother? You said when you were
about twelve, she started losing her memory?

SS: Yes, and she died ...

EK: This is very important. She lives with us. They go to work--she
is still alone. They change--my mother's sister, brother, and my
mother, but she lives with us, with my mother. At lunch time my
aunt came to give her food, in the morning my mother gave her food ...


SS: This was when she became ill.

LS: Was she bed-ridden?

EK: No, she didn't remember anything at all. She could rip all her
clothes ...
SS: It was the last couple of months of her life.
LS: But before that, when she just started losing her memory?
SS: She continued to live with us to the last day ...
LS: It was just an extra worry for all of you?
SS: For the last couple of years, she became worse and worse and

worse. She was no help any more. She was just a trouble-maker,
you know, but we understood. She would take things from the house,
take it with her and leave somewhere.

EK: Put some butter under the pillow, go buy butter ten times a day
and put it under the pillow.

LS: It sounds like she had what we call here Alzheimer's disease.
SS: Yes, but then everyone left her alone. She was no more a

EK: And it was a hard time because you couldn't put her in a Shalom
LS: There was no Shalom home?
EK: No. [laughs]
LS: But there were homes for people; ..
EK: who didn't have .all.¥. relatives.
LS: And they sound like they were worse than prison?

1 5

EK: Yes, very bad. Michael's aunt, you know how she died? It's
outside they have a bathroom, and she drowned in this water.

SS: She fell in the hole. This is the Soviet life.

LS: OK. What about your grade school? I guess I'll talk to you first,
Emilia. I understand you had problems at home. You had a mother
who was going crazy trying to find a job... Did you have fun at

EK: Yes. I liked to study, and it was seven grades you didn't have to
pay, but when you start the eight, nine, ten, the parents have to pay.
It was enough even if you had seven grades. After World War II,
people mostly had four grades, but seven it was educated. But I
went to a special technical school. ..

LS: After the seventh grade?

EK: Seventh grade ...

LS: Was it because you didn't think your mother could pay?

SS: She would not pay probably anyway because she was a widow
with three children.

LS: So you could have gone on?

EK: I could go if somebody could pay. It was changing, two years it
was changing. To ten grades. After you could study ten. But I went
to the evening school because I was in a technical school that didn't
give exactly the education, and I needed education for ten grades. It
gave more specific [training] like sewing.

LS: What was this school called in Russia?

EK: Proftekhshkola--here you say TVI.

SS: It's a technical college.

LS: And what did you take there?

1 6

EK: Tailoring.
LS: How old were you when you graduated?
EK: I was eighteen and they sent me to another city to work. There

wasn't a place for me in my city. They sent me...
LS: And you had to choice?
EK: No choice, I couldn't say no. I left my home, and first time in my

life I went to another city, stayed with a family, paid them-everybody
wants to make money--came a girl from a city, they had
two children and husband and wife, and they had just a living room
and a kitchen. I slept in the kitchen. It was, you know, a special
hole where people keep vegetables ...

LS: It's called a cold cellar.

EK: And my bed was so cold and I paid for this place like for a good ,
LS: Where was this?
EK: It was Tulchin.
LS: Is this near Odessa?
EK: It was far enough, it was like twelve hours by train.
LS: And how long did you have to stay there?
EK: I had to stay three years, but in two years I came back.
LS: Why?
EK: Because first of all, I wanted to be at home, and the second one,

it was really hard--it was two families--but why, because my
mother was at home and I put down that she was sick, and then I
came to the city ...

1 7

LS: Were you working at a factory in Tulchin?

EK: No, it was a special atelier. It's where you do just custom made
clothes. It's a special cutter, designer, who cuts, who takes your
measurements... [End Tape 1 Side 1]

[Tape 1 Side 2]

LS: ...as tailoring ...

EK: Yes, and in this time I graduated ten grades in the evening
LS: Did you get a degree?
EK: Yes. [unclear] it was not a degree, it was just diploma, like


LS: And what about you, Sima? Tell me about your educational
SS: None of it.
LS: What do you mean?
SS: No education.
LS: You went through seven grades, right?
SS: Yes. And I could go to ten, there's ten grades. I hate school, I

didn't like school at all. Whenever I could, I escaped it.
LS: You skipped school, ah?
SS: Yes. And finally, when I [unclear] just to leave it after the

seventh grade, I was the happiest person in the world, and nobody
would ever force me to go back to school.

1 8

LS: So what did you do?

SS: I started to work--one work Oob], another work. I didn't like
those works [jobs]. They weren't my favorites, my mother would
talk to somebody and finally got me something better, but it wasn't
a success. I was very young after school--1 was fifteen years old
and sixteen. They don't want to take children so young. Finally, at
sixteen I got a couple of works uobs] and worked there. They are
just like my son now, fooling around, and helping a lot my mother at
home. This I did with big pleasure, and when I was eighteen, all of a
sudden, from nowhere, I started to sing.

LS: You didn't sing at home?

SS: No. And for a short time it was like amateur jobs, a hobby that
turned very soon to a professional job, and that's it. For seventeen
years I made good money--more than some doctors or lawyers in the
Soviet Union, without any education.

LS: That's very interesting, but I want to go back just a little bit to
when you were growing up and the sort of Jewish community that
existed or still exist in Odessa?

EK: You know what, there was a place near us, it was a lot of small
businesses after World War II. They got permission to cooperate.
People who had money after the [war] to put artel...

SS: ... a cooperative.

EK: A cooperative. They put on money and they did some things, and

they built up near us a special palace ...
SS: They call it a palace--it's a club.
EK: And all Jewish kids
very good.
come there, but it wasn't long. It started
SS: It wasn't officially for Jewish, you
think that it was a Jewish ... not at all. ..
would listen and you would

1 9

EK: because most of cooperatives were Jewish people.
SS: Most of those people who were cooperated, and it sounds like it
was private, believe me, everywhere was government, everywhere.
Whatever they could, it was underground business, a lot of them, and
then they closed them all. But they built up this club, and because it
was in the area and because it belonged to the cooperators, most
Jewish children found a place there because it was mostly safe

because in other places to go to a dance, it was very dangerous, bad
for Jewish people. They would be beaten up there.
EK: Call you "kike" and what you want.
SS: For a while this was a place where we could come and be safe.
LS: Were there dances there?
SS: Yes, it was a nice place.
EK: I dance in this club. There was a special group and a teacher,

and I danced. And it was a gym, and I did it too, but it was close and
I liked it. I did a lot of things, but it was not too long. When came in
Ukrainians, Russians and who you want, it stopped to be, absolutely

LS: When did it start to be different?

SS: First of all, they finished all this stuff with these cooperatives,
they stopped it.
EK: It belongs to the city, to everyone.
SS: And it changed...
LS: Was this in the fifties or the sixties?
SS: This was the end of the fifties and just couple of years ...
EK: ...in '57 I graduated. It was '55, '53.

SS: End of the fifties, beginning of the sixties, and then it's gone
and that's it. It was a very short period of time when the Jewish
kids got the place like, not like it was created for us, but we found a
place where we were safe.

LS: I guess I always assumed that Odessa didn't have quite as much

anti-Semitism as ...

SS: Like everywhere.

EK: Everywhere, absolutely.

LS: ... because on the one hand it was a cosmopolitan city, on the

other hand ....

SS: At the same time, as more Jewish people you have in the city-some
cities don't even know that Jewish people exist. They heard
something, but they think that the Jewish people look different-they
maybe have horns--but they don't have so much hate because
they just heard something but they don't know, but if it's more
Jewish people, there will be always... From one side you would think
you have so many friends around, non-Jewish, and non-Jewish people
had you as a friend, but they are your friends, they are fine, but in
general, all of them don't like Jewish people.

EK: They say, "Oh, you know, I have a friend, Emilia, she is a good
woman. She is Jewish, but she is very good."

SS: "She even doesn't look and she doesn't behave like Jewish." That
means that Jewish have to behave some very special way.

LS: When you were growing up, did you have Jewish and non-Jewish
friends or mainly Jewish friends?

EK: We had mostly Jewish guys and Jewish friends, but when I
studied in the school and after, I had many non-Jewish friends, and
this is what I heard from them. They said, "Before I met you, I heard
in my family that Jewish people are the worst people in the world,
and when I met you, I see it's absolutely different." You see, it

comes with blood. They put in their children from [the day they are]


LS: What about you? Did you have mainly Jewish friends when you

were growing up?

SS: It was mixed, and in our neighborhood I got Jewish friends and

non-Jewish friends. My closest friend of my childhood got a

stepfather who was Jewish, but it didn't bother her to hate openly

Jewish people, even though I was her closest friend.

EK: [unclear] thing with her, she told her, "You are kike, you are


SS: When it started in 1953 with the doctors, "Did you read the
newspaper?" We were twelve years old, twelve. "Did you read it?
You see, they were all Jewish, all the doctors, they were all Jewish."
And since that I was adult enough to start to get out of her life
because I was really hurt, and we started to see each other less and
less, but it's impossible there to be just with the [Jewish people].
We were friends with other kids.

EK: But I have to tell you that I had never been in a synagogue in

Russia. First synagogue was the Temple of Aaron.

LS: Why is that? Was there a synagogue in Odessa?

EK: Because, next number of the house was a synagogue, but they did
a sports club.

LS: They made a sports club out of it? Was there any open

EK: It was just one synagogue very far from the city, and when it
was some celebration, people get their place, but my mother, my
grandmother, they did matza in this place, and they stayed three
weeks in the line to make the matza. Except if you come in this
place, you can't cross and you can't come inside...

LS: Because of the ~.crowd?

EK: Lot of people. One synagogue and one million population.
SS: No, population is not Jewish people.
EK: Population, I say, just people in the city.
LS: How many were Jewish?
EK: It's good one-third in our city.
SS: But the problem was that the synagogue was open when we were

almost growing up already, there wasn't any, finally they opened this
in a suburb of the city, in a place--1 think it was made on purpose-there
is a place in our city where at fall time, when the rain season
starts, this is the down of the city ...

LS: You mean it's a steep?

SS: And when it starts heavy rains, there is water, and sometimes
people use little boats to go through. They put the synagogue that
you can't get there without crossing this place. And when are
Jewish holidays? Fall time, heavy rain time, and the poor Jewish
people sometimes could not get to the temple. They couldn't get to
the synagogue because of this. And this they found a nice place for
the temple. And it was so tiny-tiny that even the mostly older
people would go. Because we were ashamed, we are completely
handicapped people from this side. We thought that to be religious
is such a shame or even think of something close to this--to go to a
synagogue, what are talking about?

EK: You are a pioneer, you are a Komsomol [member], and you can't
believe in God.

SS: It's no way.

EK: Our grandma was an Orthodox. She was kosher.

LS: So what did you do for meat?

SS: We were ashamed, for example, for admit that our grandmother
went to the temple. It's something that's a shame.

LS: So on the one hand, your best friend was saying, "those Jews,"
and giving you heat and on the other hand, you don't want to
associate with ...

SS: But this is religion.
EK: Jewish in blood, not in religion.
LS: OK. You made that distinction?

SS: Yes. You are Jewish whether you go to the temple or not. Does

not make any change. But to go to a church or to a temple, it's

something, what are you talking about?

EK: Compared to other people, you will meet here people older than
we are, they don't know now about Jewish religion. We know,

because our grandma, our mother told us. Our mother to the last day

celebrated all Jewish holidays.

LS: Did your grandmother speak Yiddish?

EK: Yes, she speaks Yiddish very well. [who?]

LS: I know she speaks Yiddish beautifully. It's a pleasure, it's a
mechaya [?] to listen because your pronunciation is beautiful. Do you
speak Yiddish also?

EK: I understand everything, but I can't speak. When I came in
America, first time in my life I used Yiddish because my volunteers
were Ann and [unclear first name] Spector, and they thought they
spoke Yiddish--they spoke mix Yiddish and English, but most they
tried to remind Yiddish, and I caught ndt English but Yiddish because
I have to communicate with them.

SS: And now me, because I was the youngest, somehow it happened
that I was mostly with my grandparents, because Emilia was born
two years before me and she was born in West Ukraine, like we told

you, and then the war started, I was born, and my mother used to
work, and I was with my grandfather who was a substitute for a
father and my grandma, and they spoke between them only Yiddish.
And I remember absolutely perfectly that my first language was
Yiddish, not Russian. I remember they were teasing me that I say
"shyshel" instead [unclear]. I remember this, I remember since I was
very little, from when I have a memory, but then I started to speak
Russian, of course. But in the family, I was the best speaker of
Yiddish from the children. My aunt and uncle, who were my
grandmother's children, they couldn't speak Yiddish. Somehow I
picked it up, and I spoke a lot to her Jewish [Yiddish]. But of course,
her Russian language was a mix of Ukrainian and Russian language,
terribly broken, and when she spoke to my mother, she never used

LS: She spoke Yiddish?

SS: Yiddish only, and my mother was educated in Yiddish. She

graduated--last year it was--Yiddish college. Her school college
teacher was Yiddish, and it was the last year: she graduated and
they closed it.

LS: You said your grandmother was Orthodox?

SS: Emilia didn't tell you exactly. She was kosher, but it was
before, before the revolution she was kosher.
EK: After the second war too. She didn't use pork, she didn't use ...
SS: But this is not kosher.
LS: I did hear of one person's grandmother who didn't eat meat from

'38 on because...
SS: No, this wasn't this way. After the revolution, when still were

old shops, meat shops, she would go with the kosher way, then it
all ...
EK: After the second war, she went to the...

SS: Emilia, this is not kosher. She would buy meat just on the


EK: No, no, no. When she bought a chicken, she never used it


SS: It's not kosher, you can believe me. She couldn't keep kosher
because she didn't have separate pots for milk and separate for
meat. It· was impossible. She was running two families--it was
impossible. There was only one meat market--whatever you had you
buy it. She would buy a chicken--she would not buy a dead chicken-she
would buy a live chich en and go to a shochet ...

LS: Oh, there was a shochet?

SS: It was a guy who did it. This was the only way that she could


EK: Even you can make a [unclear] but it was illegal. My brother had

a [brit?]--it was illegal, and a cousin.

SS: But when Passover was coming ...

LS: Did she change dishes?

SS: No, but she washed them, just boiling water, and then for this
time, for eight days, there was no bread in our house. She baked
with her older sister--the two old ladies--made home-made matzas
for the eight days. And we stayed with a the special draydel--not a
draydel--a special thing that cut the holes, and they baked it in a
wooden oven.

LS: Where was the wooden oven?

SS: In the kitchen. This was the only place that makes the
apartment warm. In the kitchen there was a wooden oven, and on the
top you cook. We got gas. We were the lucky ones. We got it when
we came from the war, immediately, two sides, just a small [stove].

EK: But in winter time we used the wood oven.

SS: In winter time, if you have the wooden on, you cook on it
because you save.

LS: What other holidays did you celebrate?
SS: Practically, everything: Hanukah, Purim ...
EK: She made hamantaschen, many times I cry here--it's not hers.
SS: It's nothing like she made. And only that she celebrated, but we

wanted to know why do we celebrate, and we knew all the stories on
her very old explanation, but the story: why do you bake
hamantaschen, why we celebrate Passover--we knew all those Bible

LS: Did you have a Seder?

SS: No, not a real Seder, like with Haggada, but we got the first
Seder, with all this food, except nobody dovened [Yiddish], nobody

LS: Because you didn't have a book?

SS: No, absolutely nothing.

EK: My mother-in-law, she born [?] on the first Seder.

SS: We would just get together, have this nice dinner, and as far as I
remember, she would not even say any prayer or a brucha[Yiddishblessing],

LS: Did anybody tell you the story about leaving Egypt?

SS: Our grandma, absolutely, we knew why we eat matza these eight
days and what happened and why and the Ten Plagues, and we knew
about Moses and all this stuff.

LS: You listened to her?

EK: We listened to her and our mother told us anyway.

SS: Every year our mother used to take us, like winter time, when

there is nothing to do outside, she would take us--the three

children--and read Shalom Aleichim books in Yiddish and would read

us in Yiddish all those wonderful stories.

LS: That's very interesting. I have not heard of anybody who had
that close connection and a meaningful connection because I've

interviewed other people who had had grandparents who lived with
them but they didn't connect.

EK: We were lucky. I will tell you something more interesting. My
grandma, when she became sick, came one old man and asked her. It
was no synagogue this time, absolutely. One man came and asked her
to rent a room--we lived five people--to rent a room for morning
and evening for minyan, ten men...

LS: Rent a room for a minyan?

SS: Yes. We got a kitchen bigger than the living room, we got a
living room--1 don't know who you call it, it was a bedroom, a living
room, a dining room--but the kitchen, because it was with no
windows and it was a kitchen because it got a stove--but metrically
it was bigger than the room where we [lived]. Then, they came in
there, they met someone in the synagogue, and they asked if they can
come and [unclear] in the morning and evening time in this kitchen,
and then they leave.

LS: So did they?

SS: Yes.

EK: For maybe threeor four years.

SS: So we didn't know how it usually works because we never were
in the temple, and we saw this one lady...

LS: There was a lady also?

SS: ...and she would stay and she would, "Can I go in your room?"
And she would in turn go into our room and stay behind the door and
go [shows]

LS: [unclear]

EK: Because she can't be with men in one room.

LS: I have to explain this for the machine because you did so much
mime here. She didn't stay in the same room with the men because
Orthodox women don't pray in the same room with the men. So she
went to another room and she was shaking back and forth, and I
assume she was saying her prayers too.

SS: Yes. We would say to grandma, "OK, grandma, it's OK with those
guys, but why she walks in our room?" It's in the morning, summer
time, you are out of school, and here she is. "It's OK if I will stay
here?" What can you say? It's OK.

LS: Did your grandmother know how to pray, do you know?

SS: Oh yes, of course.

LS: She knew Hebrew?

EK: My mother knew very good Hebrew.

LS: Did they teach you any prayers?

EK: No, we didn't remember them.

LS: No, I am talking about any, your mother and your grandmother.

SS: No, we know that our grandma knew exactly how to pray because
she would go to the temple, to the synagogue, and she was praying
there, I know it exactly, but she never--1 don't know why--never
tried to teach us.

LS: That's one of the great mysteries, that's one of the things that I
don't exactly understand, because your grandmother, more than any
other grandmother ...

EK: It's not usable there. She knew we would never go to the temple.
LS: It's not usable. It's not usable. That's very interesting.
EK: I don't know, maybe she was very busy.
LS: If she told you stories, Bible stories, I am sure she would have

taught you how to pray if you had asked, if you had expressed any
EK: We didn't know even we had [unclear]
SS: We didn't know we can ask for something like this.

LS: You had been brainwashed. So, were you good Komsomol kids?
SS: I wasn't in Komsomol. I left the school too early, and I was such
a bad student that they would not give me the honor to be in

EK: And I had to be in Komsomol. If I am not, I can't go to the school.
LS: To the technical school?
EK: Yes.
LS: Did you go to any camps?
EK: Yes, pioneer camps.
LS: Was that fun?
[both laugh]
LS: Tell me why you are laughing. It's a foolish American question, I


EK: No, it's hard to explain.

LS: Most of the time you go to camp in America, it's a lot of fun.

EK: No, because summer time, kids didn't have to be in the street,

and they decided better to put them in one place, to have some

person who will ...

SS: There were moments.

LS: Did you enjoy camp, Emilia?

EK: Yes, we went to the camp in summer time. It's like a resort. It
was a beautiful place, but it's the discipline, like you are in jail.
Your mother can't come to you during the week, just on Sunday and
just for special hours.

SS: You stay overnight there.

LS: Sure. So most of the time at camps ... [unclear]

SS: It was terrible because the kitchen workers stole more than a
half of the food, taking it home. Then the food was just, they would
feed dogs better than they were feeding us. The fun was just they
would make an open fire, a huge open fire, beginning of the season
and the last day of the season, and they prepared performing, the
children, they danced--whatever you can do, your talent--then
everyone waited for this open fire ...

EK: And there was a closing, and during this time everybody cried,
"Take me home."

SS: And the parents come Sunday with bags like this with food and
leave you the food.

LS: Did you say you went to camp too?

SS: Of course.

LS: Did you enjoy sports in school?

SS: No. When I was little, I got polio, believe it or not, seeing me
now dance and when I sing. And this gave me so much trouble while I
was growing, my feet were much, you know, deeply, turned in, and I
got even a hard time to walk and lots of trouble until maybe the
period of the time when I was fourteen and I got physical changes
through this period and started to go better and better, and I was, of
course, one maybe of millions who survived polio, being with
straight legs like I have, it's just, they thought, it's a miracle.

LS: And was it nothing that medicine did? It's just straightened out

SS: No, there was, of course, lots of medicine, but my mother caught
it very early. She got a lecture in the school, and she came home-they
just got to say that it's an epidemics now--and she came home
and I started walking and all of a sudden I couldn't get up. And she
picked me up, went to the doctor, they caught it in a very early
period, and she was very pushy--for her children she would do
anything--and she was sitting on the doctor's head--it doesn't work
and it doesn't work, but somehow ...

EK: She was lucky herself.
SS: I was lucky.
EK: But I used a lot of sports.
LS: What about going out?
EK: This is the way in Russia. For example, I have friends, and every

Saturday or Sunday we change from one flat to another. We brought
our music. Children come at home because it wasn't clubs.

SS: There was always a company.

EK: A company: it was five to ten pairs--boys and girls and they
meet each other, and this was the way. But just at home, from one
home to another.

LS: Was this during the time that you were in school?

EK: I got married when I was twenty years, but when I was in

school, yes. In school they did like New Year's Eve: we wore special

clothes, masquerade clothes, and this was for all night--music and

dancing and food. And November 7 ...

SS: ... the anniversary of the revolution ...

EK ...big holiday, and May 1, Labor Day. What this means: everybody

goes outside, especially in our city, because it's warm. We went to

the park and brought with us the food ...

SS: ...picnic...

EK: ... picnic, and we had good time--children, our parents--all

together with parents.

LS: How old were you when you met your husband?

EK: It's a long story. I met him just one month.

SS: They were dating for one month.

LS: And how old were you?

EK: I was twenty and he was twenty-seven.

LS: So this was in '59?

EK: '59, and we got married in '59.

LS: And you were dating one month?

EK: Yes, exactly one month.

LS: That seems to be the way in the Soviet Union. Why is it so fast?

EK: I didn't know him exactly. His brother was dating my sister, and
my sister knew very well his family, and he came, he saw me-because
I worked in Tulchin and I came for a vacation--and he saw
me, then I came again, he saw me again, and we started dating on
July 23, 1959--on August 23 we got married.

SS: You see, if your tape have enough place, I'll tell you why we are
dating so short. There is a different style of life. Now it changed a
little bit. When we were young and our mothers, it's a different
style of life. We dated somebody--there's no way to have sex life
before you get married. First of all, it's a different custom there,
different attitude, plus where can you have sex with somebody? You
don't have place. You don't have motels or places to go or your own
basement. We lived tight with the family--only legally, finally you
can have sex--legally, get married and bring the husband, sleep
together with him. But then you do it legally and it's OK, in front of
your parents. You wait until they fall asleep--did she breathe
already, was she coughing? Oh, thanks God, she stopped to cough,
it's OK, let's go. This is the way, mostly. Then, this way, dating for
months, two, three, they are people. Maybe they are not in love so
much, but sexually they are attracted to each other, so let's get
married. And they go, they make the paper--and here they are,
coming--OK, mom and dad ...

LS: Yes, it hardly seems that you have a chance to know one another

very well.

EK: And this is a problem. How many marriages don't survive
because if she doesn't have where to live or he doesn't have where to
live, that's it.

SS: They can't get married, plus they get married, and she is
supposed to live with his parents or he is supposed to live with her
parents, and here it started. Mother-in-law and all this ...

LS: Did your mother care if you married a Jew or non-Jew?

EK: Yes, sure. She talked to us a lot about it. It was a Jewish
family, and we didn't know another way. It was a lot different

people come to our parents. It wasn't such pushing, we had
ourselves ...

SS: Yes, they would not push us... [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side 1]

LS: Then you are saying it was just a normal thing--you could not
imagine dating anyone else?

SS: Yes, you couldn't imagine. It was so much in our minds, that it
was like a normal thing to date only somebody Jewish. It probably
came with something that we heard in the family, but it wasn't
particularly that, "Look ... " It was just we grew up with this.

EK: It was unusual when a Jewish girl got married ...

LS: ...to a non-Jew?

EK: But now it's ...

LS: You are saying that was unusual?

EK: It wasn't...

LS: It wasn't usual when you were growing up. Is that what you are

EK: In our time, it was very unusual if a Jewish girl got married to a
non-Jew, but after it's changed. Now it's a lot. Now it's no question.

SS: Then my grandma would say, she would sit with me, and there
was a time when she forgot all names--she couldn't remember her
daughter's name, but somehow she remembered my name. And she
would say, "Simochka, just don't marry a non-Jewish guy. You are a
growing, beautiful woman now--and I was married already, but she
didn't remember--don't marry a non-Jewish guy, and I would say,
"Grandma, why? Tell me why? Do you hate the non-Jewish people?

What do you feel?" She said, and when you talked to her now, she
was absolutely clear, she didn't remember what happened five
minutes ago, and she would say, "No, Sima, you are wrong. I don't
have any hate for anybody, not at all. The whole problem is that I
remember all the time that they hate us. This is the difference.
don't hate non-Jewish people, but I know how much they hate us.
They created the problem, and whatever it will be, the most loving

a dirty Jew.'
in your life, finally that they will come and
I don't believe in a good non-Jewish
was her explanation.
he will
that's it.
LS: And how did you meet your husband, Sima?
SS: It was working ...
SL: ...as a singer?

SS: No, it was before--! was eighteen--and I was singing already,
but it was amateur singing, just the start, and at this time I worked
in a place--they call it "kiosk"--selling newspapers, mazazines. It
was one of the jobs that I went through. And some of his friends
told him about me--they saw me there and they told him, "Oh, there
is such a keen little girl." And because it's [unclear] and because he
wasn't afraid to come and start to talk to me--that I will just call
the police--he stopped on his motorcycle while the door was open
from the kiosk, I was taking some mail inside, he saw me and he
started to talk to me, and you see, we are married for thirty years.

LS: How long did you go with him?

SS: A year. Oh, this was a long time.

LS: Why so long?

SS: I don't know. We were dating a year. He was patient enough.

LS: Tell me about your wedding. You first, what sort of wedding did
you have?

SS: A family wedding. My husband was the rich guy. He got what we
call dacha. It's like a cabin; it's a summer house--it didn't belong
completely to him, his mother remarried and she got this rich
husband with this dacha that was built in 1937 and he still got it-and
in this place, because we got married in July, we made the
dinner right there, on the open porch, for his and our family only, not
even including friends.

LS: Oh, is this somewhat unusual?

SS: At this time, it was normal. At this time people did mostly
weddings in the families. If somebody had a bigger apartment,
bigger room, this family would be the poor family, because they
would always have the entire family use their apartment for
weddings. We got relatives, my mother's cousin--aunt Clara--she
got one room but huge, and every wedding, every anniversary,
birthdays. And it's like a normal thing. You come and say, "OK, we
have a date coming, we use your room." We were so close. It's not
everywhere like this. Our family was very close and friendly.

EK: Like here--it's one family for St. Paul/Minneapolis.

88: At this time, it was normal to have a family, invite a big family
but to do the wedding at home. Cook a lot, every relative helped you
to cook and to bake, and you take the furniture out and put the
tables, so this is how we celebrated. Ten years later it changed.
While we were growing, it changed. People started to do the
wedding like here, in restaurants, completely different, but at this
time it was normal.
LS: But you had very few people.

SS: It's not completely few because the family was big, the whole

LS: How many were invited?

SS: It was maybe forty people.

LS: And what did you serve?

SS: Oh, don't even ask. A lot. Everything. Gefilte fish and chicken,
and caviar, and salmon, and different kinds of prepared meats.

EK: My mother did gefilte, scumbria ...
SS: It's gelfilte fish.
LS: But what's different about it?

SS: It's different because it's not like here, the cutlets, but it goes
the whole little fish that is very special from the Black Sea. You
take off the skin, you do the meat, you grind it, you do it, and you put
it again in the skin and cover it, and it looks like a live fish.

LS: Oh, how beautiful.
SS: It was beautiful. When Russians serve a table ...
EK: In July in Odessa, it's a lot of vegetables, it's in season, it's too

much. In winter time, you would not have found for a million

SS: Then it's a lot of stuffed things, like we do stuffed cabbage,
stuffed peppers, zucchini. If you would see that table--and this is
what happens, people don't understand and say, "You have not enough
food, but when you come to visit somebody, the table just can't...

LS: ... hold all the food... And did you have dancing afterwards?
SS: No, at my wedding.
EK: Yes.
SS: No, it wasn't real. It was just a tape maybe.
LS: Did anybody get married with a rabbi in those days? Was there a

EK: No, it wasn't possible even.

SS: I don't know, maybe somebody. I can't tell you. We didn't know

anybody that we know that would get married with a rabbi, because

my mother's generation, her cousin got married with chupa and a

rabbi--it was a big deal--because in her family were no

communists, nor anybody in the Soviet Army, nobody was related

with any job for the government. Secretly anyway, but they invited

a rabbi and made the chupa, and the entire family would say, "Clara

got a chupa!"

EK: When my brother got a bris [?], my father wasn't...

SS: He knew, but he was for a couple days not at home, that if he
would be asked, he would say that they did it secretly, I didn't know.
He got an excuse.

LS: When you got married, where was your wedding?

SS: At Clara's house.

EK: No, no. We got married, and we went to give the paper, this is
government ...

SS: It's the mayor's office where you go.

EK: And we come and we have to wait thirty days, but my husband
put on 100 rubles inside and asked them, "Can we get married
today?" They asked him, "What happened? She is pregnant?" He
says, "No, we have to leave town." And I didn't know.

LS: What town were you in?

EK: We came to give the paper.

LS: In Odessa?

EK: In Odessa.

LS: And you moved back to Odessa by then?

EK: Sure, two years later, I moved back to Odessa. And she says,

"You come at lunch time and everything will be ready." I din't know

about it. He talked to her. When we went, he says, "You know, today

you will be my wife." I said, "How?" He said, "They put on

everything back thirty days." And why we didn't have a wedding like

a wedding, because today we came, we got married, we came to tell

my mom, "We got married!" She says, [Yiddish] We came to his

mother, but his mother prepared to invite my mother on this day for

dinner, for the first dinner, to meet her, and we got married on this

day. They asked us to go to invite all relatives; we ran to invite

those, and she had a dinner.

SS: They took a taxi and started to stop... This is the way. You don't
send [invitations].

LS: You took a taxi and you ran to all the relatives ...

EK: To all the relatives, "Come today, come today, come today ..." and
we came back--it was a weekend, it was a Saturday-

LS: So everybody showed up?

EK: Yes, everybody. It was forty people too.

LS: But how did she make it? She didn't have a meal ready for forty

EK: My mother and they sent more to buy. In those times you could
buy. It was thirty-two years ago.

LS: What time of the year did you get married?

EK: August. It was plenty of food. She worked on market place.

LS: Who, your mother?

EK: Yes, his mother, my mother-in-law. She had a lot of food all
time at home, [unclear] she prepared, and her sister lived in the
same place ...

SS: Plus she used to live next to a little farmer market, and
immediately they made a couple trips, got everything they needed.
My mother came--two of them ...

EK: And her two sisters, and everyone came.
SS: And I helped a lot because I was a cook.
EK: Three sisters--Lyuba, Roza and Musya--they came: you do this,

and you do that... and it was a table!

SS: If you would see the table, you wouldn't believe me.

LS: And then you moved in with your mother?

EK: In this day [on that day], I went to my home because we didn't

expect [it], because in her apartment. ..

LS: When you say, her apartment, whose apartment?

SS: Mother-in-law's.

EK: I have to go to her. Look, he pushed me to get married, and she
doesn't know we got married, and I asked him after we signed the

papers, "Where will we live?" He said, "In my apartment." I said,

"Did you ask your mother?" He said, "Sure, why do I have to ask? I
am twenty-seven years old." But it was a big fight. I didn't know
about it. When he came home, it was a big fight, but what could she
do? My sister, my brother, my mother, and my grandma lived
together. And he lived with his mother and father, that's it. His
brother was in the army in those times.

SS: My boyfriend.

EK: And it was a big room, open door to a small bedroom, and one
dark place like a kitchen, a little room. When I came, I see
everything's open, and I heard--we were virgins, it wasn't in style
like here, and I heard, it's something I don't know, and I said, "I will
not stay here, and I went with my parents. On the second day he
comes and he says, "We'll go to us." I say, "No, I will not stay there."


He says, "OK, then we will stay in your apartment." And I say, "Your
mother will not know where you are, no telephone to say." He says,
"She will understand." My grandma slept in this big dark kitchen, and
we slept in this other room. My grandma, take her back to the big
room, and they left us in this dark kitchen, and then, on the second
day we came to his parents, and it was everything open. And they
left us where she walks around--here's the corridor, here's.. and this
was the way.

LS: No privacy at all?

EK: Absolutely. '.Everything was heard. And I don't know, he was
older than I was. From the first day he put all money into her
pocket. What we had salary, we gave to her. If I had to buy
something, I can't--1 never had money, because she was the [unclear].

SS: They used to live this way. He used to give the money to his
mother. This was her very own problem. Usually, it's not like that.

LS: I understand, but it sounds like a terrible way to start a

SS: But she was lucky, she didn't have it for a long time.

EK: Yes, we got a child, it was a big fight for the name--the oldest

LS: What was the fighting about?

EK: If it's in Jewish tradition, first of all, the wife has the name,
the second one who doesn't have parents, and I didn't have the father,
but the problem was, when I got married, they called his father
Yasha but he was in papers Abram, and my father was Abram too.
And when I wanted to give the name, they said, "You can't, because he
is alive and you can't..."

SS: You can't give a name if his father was alive and he was Abram.

EK: Why we decided, because grandpa was like our father, he was
Shaya, and my daughter was Aleksandra, but she had a Hebrew name
in this minyan, I gave her a name--she is a Shayva. 1

LS: She is a what?
EK: In the minyan ...
LS: The minyan that met in your house?
EK: They gave her a name, and she is Shayva.
LS: OK, her name is Sheva in Hebrew. That minyan is just so

interesting. How long did you live with your mother-in-law?

EK: I lived with her about a year--1 lived with her a lot, but we
divided this room ...
SS: The bedroom ...
EK: We opened the door on the other side, and this was my big room.

It was nine square meters.
LS: So you divided up her apartment?
SS: Yes, and they got an opportunity to open the door to another

hallway [so] that they were completely divided. She divided this
little kitchen, gave them a half of the kitchen and the bedroom, and
they got their own little but room and they had a kitchen.

EK: This width [shows], just the sofa can stay in this, and this
length [shows]. It was here a sofa, here for one child a bed, for
another child it was an armchair that you can open--1 didn't have a
table ...

LS: Could you walk between them? You had to walk sideways?
EK: Yes, when it was open, you couldn't walk, but it was lucky

SS: ..she got her own, very little but own. It was an old house and it
got huge walls ...
EK: I cut the walls and made the ...
SS: ...she made holes in the walls and made a little bathroom ...
EK: ...a bathroom, and gas, and water.

LS: Is this the bathroom you were talking about?
EK: It was outside--one bathroom for all. You know how it's built.
It was two-three ...

LS: Apartment building and a courtyard?

EK: Yes, and just a yard inside, and one bathroom with two holes for
all people.
SS: Like a hundred people.
EK: But I put in my place a bathroom, then I did it for my mother-in

law, because she ...

SS: Then she got this very little but her own apartment, and I used
to live for eighteen years with my mother-in-law.
LS: Were you able to divide up their apartment?
EK: No, she didn't have another side to make a door.
LS: So you had no privacy either?
SS: No, till I came here. My first time in my life, I got my private

life here, in the United States.
EK: After I got a good apartment because my husband worked
twenty-six years in one place, and he worked in a newspaper, and
because it was very small--even for Russia it was a very small
space for four people--and he had the apartment.

LS: Tell me what year Aleksandra was born?
EK: May 20, 1960.
LS: And then the next, Marina?
EK: And Marina, November 8, 1964.
LS: Did you really want two children or?
EK: No.
LS: You wanted one?
EK: I wanted twelve, but who can afford it. In Russia I was a hero

when I had two children.
LS: But I mean the second one was planned?
EK: No. I was pregnant and I prepared--today I have to go to make

abortion--but I had a very bad dream in the night, and an abortion
you have to pay for this, it's illegal. ..

LS: It's legal?
EK: It's legal, but if you want to make it good, it's like a black
market, under the table. And I talked to a doctor, and we decided
that I'll go tomorrow and I'll do it [unclear] and I said to my husband,
"You know what, I had a very bad dream ..."

LS: What did you dream?
EK: It was like my oldest daughter died, and I said, "You know what,
I don't want to leave her alone and I don't want to be scared for this
child." And I prepared to go to the door and I had three steps. I
stepped, and he took me by the arm and said, "OK, don't do it."
Because it's a small, you don't [unclear] to child, and in this year,
1964, Khruschev started to take example from America and he

wanted to put on everything to Russia, and it was no bread, nothing.

I am pregnant--no milk, no bread, nothing in the stores.

SS: You understand what was going on? Khruschev was here, and he
saw life here and he started to ask the farmers how they do it. They
have so many groceries and everything--more than enough. And he
saw a lot of corn everywhere, corn, corn, corn. He came back--and
they called him a corn king--he came back and he said, "OK, we put
everywhere corn." You can't go and just overnight change the
country. With this corn they made it up so that two years later we
got this terrible starvation--shortage of everything.

EK: This time I got Marina. You know how many times I cried that I

left her, but after, you see, here she is.

LS: Yes, here she is.

EK: We never planned children in Russia. You can't plan, absolutely,

because it's never a time, not because you make a career or

something--because it's not food, no place to live, no clothes ...

SS: A child--no diapers, you can't nurse if you don't have milk, and
there is almost every second woman, if not more, complaining that
she doesn't have milk in her breasts, and it's mostly because of the
shortage of vitamins, of the food that we got. You know, you can get
fat like this from bread, but you don't have enough vitamins in your
body, then most women didn't have milk, and we were supposed to
prepare the food for the child every three hours.

EK: [unclear] in a day.

LS: I want to know something about what you were doing when you
moved back to Odessa. Did the government find you a job?

EK: No, I found myself.

LS: How did you find this job?

EK: I had a diploma, and I came to a factory and I told [them] who I
am, and they took me to the laboratory. It was some constructors

and designers who prepared the clothes, I sewed the clothes, and

they showed in Kiev, for example, three hundred examples [samples]

and they choose ...

LS: Oh, you were making sort of models?

EK: Yes, then they chose three models, and they went to the factory,
then I had to go to the people who worked [there] and show what they
have to do. It was an interesting job, but I had nothing--fifty-four
roubles in a month.

SS: They pay very little everywhere.

LS: So what did you do? Did you work on the side?

EK: After I was, I don't know if you have it or not, like a kontro/yor-
1 checked clothes and put on my stamp when it's done ...

LS: Yes, you see that here--No. 54...

EK: And this was more ...

LS: This made more money?

EK: Yes. It's not helped, just I worked at home, I worked day and

LS: You worked at home for private people?

EK: Just for private, because it was illegal and I could be in jail for
my own job after the work. I worked two shifts--first shift one
week, the second shift second week, but sometimes if I want more
money, I can work two shifts. But mostly I worked at home, and I
was scared of each knock on the door for my own work.

LS: How did you get a clientele going?

EK: Oh, it's not so hard. I didn't want strange people, just if I know
you and you know very well, you can send her. If not, you will not do
it and I don't want it.


LS: So you had a sewing machine of your own at home?

EK: Yes.

SS: Everyone had.

LS: Everybody has a sewing machine?

LS: And what about buying materials?

EK: Most of the material it was lot of, now it's nothing, but in those

times, it was lots of material, but people couldn't buy--the salaries

were so small. It's just a little people come to sew because they

want something, and you can use one dress for ten years, for some

wedding, for some New Year's Eve. It was absolutely different: you

[unclear] this beautiful dress, and that's it. And people ...

SS: ...they saw a coat and you say, "I made this very nice coat for

myself for ten years."

EK: A suit--my husband had one suit for all celebrations. When we
went to America, I sewed for him two suits--he was rich.

LS: It sounded like you were making a lot of money at some point?

EK: It was, compared to the life, it wasn't a lot of money, but
compared to other people, for sure.

LS: I am just talking about compared to other people in the Soviet

EK: Yes, sure, but if I want to buy something, I can't. For example, if
I want to buy a car and I come to buy a car, they are asking, "Where
did you take this money?" Because his salary and my salary, they
understand that I can't for this salary buy a car.

LS: So what could you do with that money you made?

EK: Just buy more expensive clothes, more expensive food, some
gold, to buy better furniture, to make better repair of the house ...

LS: You were talking about the bathroom you put in in Odessa? Was
this in the next apartment that you got?
SS: The last one.

LS: How many apartments did you have? You had the apartment with
your mother-in-law, then what?

EK: With my mother-in-law, then we divided with my mother-in-law
and had this small [one] ten year--ten years four people in nine
square meters.

LS: And then in 1969 you moved?

EK: In 1969 I moved to two bedroom and living room. It was big.

SS: But it was an accident. The government would not give them

such a big apartment, but they were first on the line.

EK: They had to put two families in this apartment.

LS: So what happened?

EK: But because this guy who had to go with us together, he didn't
want the commmune. He was first in the line because he lost his
eyes[ight] on the work [job]. We lived in worse conditions, but he
lost health, and this meant he had to take the apartment first. But
because there were three people, and we were four people, and it
was a two-bedroom apartment--it means three rooms--and he
couldn't have it because they were three people, they could have just
one bedroom. And they decided to give him one bedroom with kitchen
divided with us, the bathroom and everything divided with us,
because it was three separate rooms. He decided better to wait to
give me the line before and better to wait and have his own.

LS: So four people could take a two-bedroom apartment?

EK: No, no, because it's two girls. If it's a boy and a girl, yes, but if
it's two girls, they can be both in one apartment [room].
LS: So how did you get the apartment?

EK: You see, it was just apartment in the [unclear]
SS: The government gave the place where Michael worked an
apartment once a year, and it was a two-bedroom apartment.

LS: I understand, but why were you eligible if you had two children

of the same sex?
SS: Because this guy said, "I will not go." He said, "No, I will wait,"
and they didn't have a choice, they were next, and they said [], they
were [unclear] but they gave them this apartment.

LS: So this was the apartment that you stayed in until you moved to

EK: Yes.
LS: OK, and what did you do in this apartment? Tell us what you did
in this bathroom?

EK: Oh, what I did! It was separately a bathroom, a two ...
SS: The bath was separate and the toilet separately.
It was separately kitchen. I put on ceramic tiles.
blue, the separate bath was pink color, and it was

and ice, and the bathroom was light green, but it was an ornament
made with black and white, and very beautiful. With the pieces left,
they did very beautiful floors, and the balcony the same I did the
floors. And it was a lot of things. If you don't know, [unclear], the
doors I did put on this way ...

LS: ...sliding doors?

EK: Yes, and it was you can see through ...

LS: Plastiglas? So all of this stuff was available?
EK: It wasn't available. We paid a lot of money for this.
LS: So it was there if you knew who to contact.
EK: Yes, if you have money, you can buy everything.
SS: It's two economies. One is the official and the second

u nde rg round--everything.

LS: Was this true everywhere but especially in Odessa?

SS: Everywhere.

EK: Everywhere. In Odessa it was easier because most of Jewish

people had a lot of connection, business kind, and they bring from

another city, I had a beautiful oven, unusual, it was from Romania ....

[End Tape 2 Side 1]

[Tape 2 Side 2]

LS: So your kids were growing up...

EK: My oldest daughter graduated special French school that was one
in the city.

LS: Was she having any trouble with anti-Semitism when she was
growing up?

EK Sure, she had. First of all, when she graduated the school, in
Russia, the best mark is 5. She got all 5's and she had just one 4. In
this case she had to have a medal--gold medal--but they didn't give
it to her. But when she went to take the test in the university, for
foreign languages, special French, because she is from a special
school, first it was the French. They put 4 because they can make it

LS: What?

EK: They can make lower, and the teacher said, "Kogan, how you can

come here? Your mother doesn't understand why she sent you here.

You are a smart kid." She gave her understand that she is Jewish.

But they can't make lower because the teacher said, "You are so very

fast. How will you study [teach] your children [students] if you talk

so fast?"

SS: She was trying to talk fast to show how proficient she was.

EK: It was for her easy, really. She talks even now very fast. This
was first, and my husband said, "Oh, no problem, I want to see the
four tests." And he said, "I want to see all four 4's." The second was
Russian, and she is very good in Russian till this day. When she
write her paper, went to a special concours [contest] in Moscow and
they had the first place. And this they can do...

SS: The style was not exactly, the style of writing. They can't find

mistakes, but they can say th(3 style is not correct.

LS: So did she get a 4 in that also?

EK: She got four 4's and they didn't take her.

LS: Who didn't take her?

EK: The government. [?]

SS: They have a number that you can be accepted. In four tests you
can have not less than 20, for example, and she got 16, 16 points,
that's it.

EK: But it was in those time, it was 16 1/4, for example, and she
had 16.

SS: They did it on purpose; they didn't put 2 or 3, they gave her four

EK: She studied with one guy, a Jewish guy, who had all S's from
first grade to the tenth--not because teachers liked him, because he
really knew all lessons very well. And three years before he
graduated school, he went to the university for math, and when he
gave the test, they put on him 2. It's the worst mark. He takes a
copy, comes home--first of all it was for students from the third
course [year] of university, the second, it was exactly like he did,
but they say ...

SS: They gave him a test for somebody who almost graduated the

college, when he just tried to get to the university, but then he

checked--everything was right--but they said that he didn't do it in

the right order.

EK: And they started to sue the jury, and this was a big deal. It was
ten Jewish kids that they put them down the marks, and they took
him, but I don't know how to say--it's a special program, if you have
a gold medal, they take you without tests. They did for him too, do
you remember?

SS: No, with the gold medal, if you graduated school with a gold

medal, you have to have one test, but they put a 2, that he failed.

EK: Then they put a 3, and he has to pass all tests. He did it, but for
sure, can you understand this.

LS: Yes, I can understand. It just seems like a terrible burden.

EK: And this pushed me to go. I didn't believe before. Jewish people
say, "How can you let her go if you don't have some connection to pay
money and that's it?"

LS: How can you let her go where?

EK: To university. You have to have connections to pay a lot of
money for this, and I say, "I don't believe it. My girl knows, and if
she knows, she will pass." But when she didn't pass, I said, "That's

it, II

LS: You said, "That is it. We are leaving." Did you say, "We are


EK: We are leaving, and this was the decision. After we went with

her on the street. My sister just left. And we walk on the street...

LS: What year is this, '79?

EK: It was '79, yes. And three guys--middle age, like forties, go to
us and they are smiling. I thought somebody knew her because she
translated a lot of French in those times. I knew I don't know them.
And they smiled to us. I understand maybe they know her like a
tranalator because she is too young for them. He comes and says,
"You, kike, you still stay here, you don't go to Israel?" On the street,
a lot of people, and I say, "You, Nazi, where did you hide Hitler?" And
nobody helped me. He comes and he wants to beat me. I say, "Try!"
And I knew if we go to the police station, he will [unclear] And this
is most everybody. It's not anti-Semitic, what is it?

SS: You, for example, go to the police and you say, "This guy called

me names." And they said, "Did he hurt you? Did he do anything to
you?" He says, "You're kike." And who are you? You are not Jewish?
So what's the big deal. He called you--call him back names. He
didn't hurt you; he didn't do anything to you. He called you names-call
him back names and say good-bye."

LS: I want to go back to when you were living with your mother-inlaw.
You had the two girls. Did you have maternity leave when you
were pregnant and after the kids were born? How many months did
you have off?

EK: Before, usually they give two months, but I had just one month
with Sasha.

SS: Emilia, you have to tell what's really going on. They give you 56
days before you have the baby and 56 days after.

EK: But they try to steal from you the days and if it's gone they don't
pay you for this, and that's it.

LS: And then what did you do?

EK: Then I immediately started working. Immediately, in what, two
LS: And who took care of the baby?
EK: This was a story. With my oldest one, I had my own babysitter.
LS: Your mother-in-law was no help?
EK: No, she worked. My mother was very young. My mother worked

and she worked in those times.
LS: And you were living with?
EK: I lived with my mother.
LS: I thought you had your mother-in-law.
EK: I lived with my mother-in-law.
SS: It's not exactly. The mother-in-law was her neighbor. She was

living absolutely separately.
LS: I know, but it was really next door, wasn't it?
SS: It's not completely. They got like the steps to the downstairs ...
EK: It was a door between two rooms--this door was closed...
SS: But they didn't have any connection because her mother-in-law

got downstairs, and she got completely from a different way

LS: Nevertheless, she could have been your ...
EK: She never helped me because she worked too much, and this was
not this kind of woman who wants to help.

SS: Come on, she was 45 or 46 years old at this time.
EK: No. She was 52 when I got married.
LS: But she was too young to retire?
SS: Of course, she worked.
EK: But some people, my mother was younger, and she had three

children, and everybody had children, and she helped everyone how

she.can. But if she doesn't want to , she doesn't want to help.
SS: Counting that she worked more than 40 hours a week, you can't
ask from her too much.

EK: And my child was alone at home.
LS: And you had a babysitter come in?
EK: No. Marina was alone about a year. I worked in the same place

where my apartment was, it was...
SS: ...it was a branch of the factory.
EK: I was a controller [inspector] with a stamp. I [unclear] around,

and she was born in November, two months I was at home, and after
it came summer, she was in the backyard, and children would come
and say, "Emilia, she is crying. She needs some water and this and
that." And I ran this way and this way al the time. And after, it was
very hard to have a kindergarten. Our factory had a kindergarten, but
they took people from what place you want if they have some

LS: So there was no space?
EK: It was enough space, but for money.
SS: You have to pay somebody.

EK: But one day I came at home and Marina put on her hat around the

neck, and she was blue, and I started screaming. I brought the child

to the factory and I said, "If you don't give me tomorrow the

kindergarten, you will answer for everything." And my husband

worked in the newspaper, and he came with his special

correspondent from the paper, and he started talking to them that in

your kindergarten children from other places and she works here and

my child can't be. They said, "No, it's not true," but they gave me

immediately a place.

LS: Where was your Sasha? She was just what, three years old?

EK: Sasha started to go to the kindergarten when she was three
years old because I had a babysitter. It was an old woman, and I paid
her, but she was very old, even Sasha was hard for her, and she
started to go to ...

SS: There are two kindergartens: one starts at three, the other

starts practically from two months. They call it differently:

nursery and kindergarten. Sasha started the kindergarten, and

Marina didn't have any babysitter and she needed to start with this

little group.

LS: That sounds really scary to have that happen. And you had to do
your own grocery shopping?

EK: Grocery shopping, sew, cook, wash ...

LS: What about your husband? Was he much help at home?

EK: He helped when he worked and he put the children in
kindergarten, the school. It was different age--one go to the school,
one go to the kindergarten, different places and different way. For
sure, he helped me a lot.

LS: Did he help you at home? Did he cook or clean?

EK: He doesn't cook but he cleaned, and he was a good helper.

LS: Who were your friends when you were married?

EK: We had lots of friends. My house was an open house, and I had

lots of other friends.
LS: Were they friends that you grew up with or were they mainly
your husband's friends?

EK: Different ways. With who I grew up, I didn't have even. Most I
met from work and when I studied in this special school.
LS: I don't think you told me what your husband's name is.
EK: Michael.

LS: Was he a newspaper reporter or what did he do?
EK: He was a photo [unclear]. If a correspondent brought a picture,
he had to put it on the zinc in the newspaper ...

SS: It was a technical job, he wasn't a correspondent.

EK: But except this, he was a correspondent. He had a permission to
go any place and to make some articles and he did it.
LS: Did he travel?
EK: No, just in the city. He could travel too, but he didn't use it, just

in the city.
LS: Were most of your firends Jewish, or did you have other friends?
EK: It was Jewish, but it was a lot of mixed couples--he was

Jewish she was Russian, if he was Russian ...
LS: But did it work out? Was your grandmother wrong?
SS: You know the rule, of course, it depends. We got friends in my

family that we were good friends for many years with a family--it
was completely different. In Emilia's family all her firends come
from her side. Her husband didn't bring any friends to the family.

She was the one. She would meet people and bring them home, and in
my family, all my friends would be from my husband's side. He
would bring friends and they would become our friends. His friends
were completely--everyone non-Jewish. There were no Jewish
wives or anything. It was non-Jewish families. My husband is not
completely Jew himself. He is a mix. His mother is Jewish, so in
Jewish law he is Jewish, but his father wasn't Jewish.

LS: So did your husband disturb your grandmother? Or was she not

alive then?

SS: She didn't know that, plus not only that my husband thinks this
way, but his father was the only one person who was non-Jewish,
and he doesn't have any connections [with non-Jewish people?] His
father was not alive from 1937 in Stalin's purges, and since then he
was growing up in a Jewish family, with his Jewish mother, aunts,
cousins, uncles, and he counts himself absolutely Jewish, he looks

like a Jew, he thinks like a Jew ...

LS: So why did he have no Jewish friends?

SS: Somehow in school he made friends, but they were ... it's a long
story. You know, I met my husband, he was 26--25--at that time,
and I was 18.

LS: So you both married people who were somewhat older than you?

SS: Yes. My husband was 25, and he was surrounded with friends,
who--now I understand, at that time I didn't understand--they were
so anti-communist, just crazy, they hated everything, and when they
were together, all those jokes that we read now, they were talking
with that special way that makes fun of everything Soviet, and it
was very sincere.

LS: And what year was this?

SS: It was 1960.

LS: That early, ah?

SS: Yes.

LS: And what year did you get married?

SS: 1961. And this group of people, he chose those people not

because they were Jewish or non-Jewish, but they found with each

other ...

LS: They were just sort of cynical about the system?

SS: Yes. My husband was in the Soviet Army, taking place
[stationed?] at this time in Germany and he saw a little bit outside
of the Soviet Union. When he came back, he was completely shocked.
When he came to Germany, he didn't realize the whole difference, but
when he came back from the army, seeing the poor country at that
time. When he left for the army, he was 18 years old, a little kid;
when he came back, he was more mature and understood what's going
on. Comparing to Germany, which went through the war and
everything, why were at this time were much higher in the material
position at least than the Soviet Union.

LS: And this was what was called East Germany?

SS: Yes, of course. Since he came back, they called him "comrade,"
this was his like nickname, and they made a group of people like
this, and my husband was the only one not educated. They were all
highly educated people, with very high professional diplomas,
because they were friends from school, and my husband was the only
lazy one who didn't go to [college]. When he was a little boy--eleven
years old--he made his first motor, a real motor that worked, and he
was crazy about it all his life. He was a born automechanic. He
graduated a mechanical school, became an automechanic, was an
elder mechanic in the army, driving huge trucks. He loves it.

LS: I want to go back now and find out more about what you did, how
you made a living, how you discovered that you're a singer, and what
sort of jobs you got, and was it...

SS: I don't think it would be interesting to somebody to find out how
I became a singer, it's not a regular way.

LS: But was it outside the system or did the state have to do

anything? Did the state have to find you jobs or is it free

SS: No, no. The state does not have to do. Some people here think if
it's the Soviet government, no. Nobody looks for jobs for us, nobody
gives us jobs. We found the jobs ourselves.

LS: So this is one area where the government doesn't interfere?

SS: Absolutely.

LS: And it's one of the few areas.

SS: But if you don't have a job, you can die in the street--nobody
will give you a penny.

LS: I mean, did you have to continue with a regular job so that you
wouldn't be considered a parasite? I thought that everybody had to
have some sort of a job that the government found them.

SS: You have to have a job. If you don't work somehow and you don't
show up too much, maybe they would never pay attention to you, but
if you are caught with something, and there it starts, "Aha," and
you're inconvenient for the government, then this would be a
beautiful reason to say that you are lazy, you don't work, and they
will throw you from the city.

LS: So what did you do, how did you balance this so that you didn't
get thrown out of Odessa?

SS: But I worked. Why was I supposed to be thrown out? I got a job.
LS: What sort of job was it?
SS: Like I told you, I was young, I worked, I was trying ...
LS: But once you started making money singing?


SS: It was professional. I worked. Of course, you don't have private
jobs. Everywhere you work ...

LS: But I thought that maybe when you said you were singing that

this was sort of a private job?

SS: Not at all. There is no private jobs. It was my job. And I was

paid by the government.

LS: Did the government find you palces to sing?

SS: No. It's different, it's completely different.

LS: It wasn't like a concert pianist, when they told you where you

would sing.

SS: It has an organization that keeps mus1c1ans, singers, dancers,
any kind of artistic people, and this organization finds jobs for you.
It's like an agency that you don't have to go looking for a job--you
work for this agency, they hire you, and you work with a particular
band, and I would call like at one o'clock every day and say, "Where
do I work today?" "Today you work there and there." Before I got my
first baby, I was already pregnant even, I made my last tour and I
worked with a huge band, huge orchestra, touring around the Soviet
Union, everywhere--best cities. Then I got pregnant and I decided I
can't go big tours anymore, where will be my baby. The job was very
convenient because if I worked evening times, my baby is with me
all day, evening time my mother-in-law was home, my husband.

LS: She was helpful?

SS: She was very helpful to me, and I would leave the baby and go to
work, and the job would take me two-three hours. Of course, the
government tried--the agency belonged to the government--and the
goverment tried to keep us busy, not just the two hours, and they
would make some crazy meeting, something just to keep us busy, but
anyway, whatever they tried, the people always find a way ou·t. Then
they would say that we have to have a rehearsal every day at ten
o'clock in the morning. Who would do it? We would do it when we

needed it. But in the paper we got two hours rehearsal because when
they pay us, they want to have forty hours of work.

LS: It sounds like you didn't have to work as hard as Emilia?

SS: It was completely different. She left the job very soon, and she
was at home, working only at home; for many years she didn't work
any more in the factory or anywhere.

LS: But didn't she have to be registered or?

SS: No, you don't have to. You can be a housewife. It's your choice.
Yes, if you don't want to work after you stay at home. The only

illegal way that she worked at home. [?] Then last years, before


LS: Tell me, how many years did you work in the factory? When did
you quit?

EK: I quit... I was just eight years at home.

SS: Last eight years she didn't work.

EK: And I worked for fourteen years, and I left in '79, and in '71 ...
From '57 to '71.

LS: So the last few years you worked at home and you made probably
a lot more money working at home?

EK: Sure. I had an excuse because Marina went to the first class-this
was a tradition, if a mother can stay with her child at home,
it's good, and I got two. Why it was like an excuse, it was really not
an excuse--she was seven years old ...

SS: But you don't have to report. You just say to the people, "Why
are you at home?" "My children are in school," that's it.

LS: So they don't stop to ask you how you are making your money?

SS: No, no. If the husband works and if they didn't catch you, and in
this case they don't go especially to catch you. Last years, even if
they would catch her with the sewing, they would just say, "That's
it," they would take the materials from her house and they'd close
the business. They would not put her in jail. They would maybe give
her a good penalty. The times changed, of course. And it wasn't so
strict, nobody looked too much. If they would like to find, they
would find. No, they were more looking for political people than for
those who worked at home.

LS: I know you were telling me about anti-Semitism right before

Stalin died, but do you have any memories of the '67 war?

SS: It was always, absolutely, nothing changes.

LS: I mean, any resurgence of interest in things Jewish during the

'67 war?

SS: There was all the time some new periods because of this
because of that, because Israel was involved in the war, we were
treated terribly there, in the Soviet Unioh. Some people, just a
group of people that we call intelligentsia, sometimes they were
very proud of us. Non-Jewish people would say, "Oh, your guys, they
are Jewish." But it was a very small group of people who thought
that we belonged to a nationality that shows something, but mostly,
that would just give them more food for just chewing us out for
being Jewish.

LS: How did you feel when you learned about...

SS: We were proud.

LS: Were you listening to the Voice of Israel?

SS: Of course, Voice of America, Voice of Israel, and we were very
proud, and of course, like always, reading between the lines that
whatever the Russian government would lie, even sometimes when
they were saying the truth, we didn't believe in it because we
always know that everything they say is opposite. This is why
people in the Soviet Union are divided in groups. Some people,

because they don't believe so much the Soviet government--they
always show in America the black side, black painting, just
terrible--then people think that in the United States everything is
free. It's such a rich country that you come and the dollar bills are
just lying on the floor and falling from the sky, because they think
it's opposite to what the Soviet government says~ Some people
believe so much the Soviet government, especially the country
people, villages, small towns, that they say, "You go to United
States? My God, it's so scary. Those capitalists will just kill you
there. You will work eighteen hours a day, you will have no
weekends,it's so terrible, you'll die in the street." There is different
kinds of people. There is a very little group of people who realize
what is really going on.

LS: I suppose we should talk about why you decided to go then. Did
you say you went first? Why did you decide to go? Was it because
of your children?

SS: No, my children would probably not have any problems there
because they would not be Jewish in the papers. Because my husband
in the passport was Ukrainian, my children would be Ukrainian. You
put in the passport what you want. Nobody forces you: if the
husband is a Ukrainian and you are Jewish, most go by the father
there, not by the mother, but you can choose. They got a beautiful
last name that didn't have anything to do with Jewish.

LS: So did they have trouble in school?
SS: No, not at all. My son wasn't in school. He was seven years old.
LS: When were your children born?
SS: My daughter in 1963 and my son in 1970, and he didn't start the

school, but in school my daughter never got problem like a Jewish
girl. This wasn't the reason. My reason was maybe even an
exception. I wasn't treated like Jewish at my work. I didn't have
really problems that somebody would, no, but it doesn't matter. Last
couple of years before we left, our reasons were completely
political, completely. I knew that in status I will lose, I will be no
more singer, I will not make more money, I will not have--like there

I got a car and I was a big shot with a car--here, everyone here has a
car, it's not a big deal. There I got my little apartment, but it was
nice, it was with all good things inside--1 mean when you have the
hot water, cold water, bathtub, you have the telephone. I knew that
here my apartment would look like a hole in the wall.

LS: So you had no illusions?

SS: Absolutely, no illusions. I expected worse than it, turned to be,

but to leave the country, to leave this terrible, lying, completely ...

everything, you know, everything's upside down in this county. Who

is nobody is somebody, who is somebody is nobody. The newspapers

lying, the radio lying, the politics are terrible. You read every day, I

would open the newspaper... [End Tape 2 Side 2]

[Tape 3 Side 1]

LS: What, what were you saying?

EK: When Leonard Volovetz graduated from Macalester College and I
told you, and you sent him a check, and I do know who is [unclear], all
family knows this.

SS: Then, every day our local newspapers, Odessa newspaper, local
one, would have for some no reason, an article. It would be about
some Jew who got an underground business, and they would put his
full name--Abram Khaimovich Abramovich--that you would have no
doubt that he is Jewish, or they would put an article about the
aggressors in Israel, or they would put an article about some Jew
who did this, who did that... Every day--it wasn't a day without this.
And you live in this. Nobody has to hate you personally, but you live
in this atmosphere of hatred, plus everything they write about Lenin,
Stalin. Today was Stalin--they kissed, excuse me, his behind, and
than for twenty-nine years they kissed it off. Then they buried him,
and he became enemy number one. Then was Khruschev--a god for
ten years--and the same way. You live in this, you hate it, it's
terrible. How can you live with this? And I couldn't read the
newspapers any more, I couldn't see the T.V. Everything was so


disgusting. You can't live in this lie. You have like to bathe every

day in this dirt. Then our reaction was completely political. We

were talking sometimes with my husband--nights--we would start

to talk and I would start to... I was the one who would always show

him, "Look, they say that Lenin was against the tsar, but what did

they do to Lenin? They put him in jail, but they let him read books,

write books, do this, do that. If somebody would be against Stalin,

where would he be?"

LS: Dead.

SS: That's it. Then how they can compare and say something. They

don't even know what they are talking about. And I would give him

examples with Trotzky, Lenin, this and that. And my husband would

say, "Yes," and we would talk sometimes till the morning.

LS: What about your husband's friends? Were they still. ..

SS: Still the same. It was non-Jews. Even worse--they were hating
all of this, and when the door got open and people started to go
honestly ...

LS: When was that?

SS: 1973-74. The way was to Israel. Somehow, I don't know where
it came from, I can't explain this, it's something of a mystery--!
don't know why--1 was born when the war was on but I was very
little; maybe I read a lot in my life, many, many books, I am a reader,
I read a lot, even though I didn't have a special education. Then I was
always number one in school with Russian language and reading and
all the stuff, except mathematics, I hated it; then history, languages
I knew well, and I read a lot, and with all this reading you discover
every time something. I was reading a lot, maybe this, I don't know,
but I got the same dreams almost every night. Since I remember
myself, I remembered my dreams, and I was telling my mother and
then my husband--! am Jewish, and I am followed by Germans, and
they try to catch me, and I hide here and hide there, always wake up
sweating. Concentration camp something all the time--1 never saw
it, I never lived this. Then the immigration started, I thought, "Being
so much afraid of war, that it's something in my head, every time I


was under bombing, maybe my mother was pregnant, I don't know,

but I saw it so in my dreams all the time that I thought I can't go to

Israel, with the wars. It's the truth. I didn't have the courage to go

to the country with my children, being so much afraid of war, but

when the way started to go to the United States, it was no question.

I started looking for people who would send me an invitation,

because we had to have an invitation from Israel.

LS: Who did you get one from?

SS: Then there was our cousin's husband's mother. She went to
Israel following her daughter. And I came in and said, "Would you
send me an invitation when you will be there?" And she said, "You
know what? Actually lots of people asked me. I will not do it. But I
will do it for you because you are the leader. If you go, they will all
go. Because her daughter-in-law would rip every invitation. She
would say, "No, no way. I don't go anywhere from the Soviet Union."
And she said, "If you go, they will follow you. I will send you the

LS: [unclear]

SS: She sent me the invitation ...

LS: What year?

SS: It was 1976. I got the invitation, and when the invitation

arrived, it was my mother's birthday, I remember it so perfectly.

came to my mother's birthday in January and said, "Here I am." I

showed this beautiful invitation with all those ribbons surrounding

it. ..

LS: Oh really? I've never seen one.

SS: And my mother just got white. She said, "Are you serious?" I
said, "Mom, we didn't decide anything. It's a big step, but we are
thinking about it. You have to be prepared. We are thinking about it."
And my husband got scared a little bit because he knew that I will be
not a singer any more, and I was the main money maker in the family
the last years especially, and even though he knew that the United


States was a country of cars, but it's different cars and he realized
it perfectly. And he is not a mechanic that would be good here. It's
completely different ways. He was afaraid to take the two children,
his mother, and me, and go. Then we let it be frozen. We put it
somewhere and I told my husband--1 didn't push, I didn't say
anything--! just said, "Vic, we have this invitation, you have to
know. When you grow up to understand that we have to go, there is
no way to stay here, this opening will not take a long time. The door
will get closed forever. It's a miracle to leave the Soviet Union. We
grew up in a time when you think United States were like Mars or
moon. Can you get there? It was like an impossible dream,
impossible dream. To be in the United States? Never. We couldn't
go like tourists to Bulgaria next door, or Poland. I said, "If we will
lose this chance, that's it. I am ready any time you grow up to
understand it you have to go, I am ready. You don't have to ask me.
The time will come; you'll tell me we go--we go." He was quiet for a
year, the New Year came and the invitation almost expired, somebody
was going to Moscow, to the embassy where we can continue it, and
all of a sudden my husband came and said, "You know, my friend goes
to Moscow, I want to give him the invitation." I said, "Why?" Why do
you want to bother somebody if I see you don't make any
movements?" He said, "Sima, let's continue it." We gave it in
January to continue it for another year. It was in January a year
since we got the invitation, in May one morning--1 remember it so
well--we were sitting Sunday morning having breakfast and my
husband said, "Sima, we are going." And I said, "Why? I want to
know why? I want to know the reason." He said, "Sima, don't you
think I didn't talk to people around all this time." He talked to so
many people who left. Propaganda means a lot. Many people asked
him, "Idiot, you have the invitation--what are you doing here?" And
gave him many, many reasons and encouraged him, "What are you
worried [about]? You are a handy man. They don't need educated
people in America. All they need is hands." They completely lied.
They do need educated people here. You can't do a lot with your
hands here, not at all, but this was what they were telling him. And
finally he told me, and the same moment we got the breakfast, my
mother-in-law came to the kitchen, and I said, "Vic, tell your
mother." She said, "What?" He said, "Mom, we decided we'll go." And
when you say you'll go, they don't ask you the question where. They

know what you are talking about. In this time it was hanging in the
air. To go or not to go?

EK: A joke was, when two Jewish people stand talking, the third
come and says, "I don't know what you are talking about, but you have
to go."

SS: Because it was all people were talking about. And she said,
before she made a joke and said, "And when are you going?
Tomorrow?" And he said, "No, mom, I am serious." And I told my
husband, "If your mother will say no, we will not go. You are the
only son ..."'

LS: What about the brother?

SS: My husband doesn't have any brother.

LS: Oh, that was your boyfriend. I am sorry.

SS: He said, "Why?" I said, "No question. We will not go without
your mother. It's out of question. We will not leave this older
woman here. You are her only son. My children are her only
grandchildren. No. We have to take her with us or not to go." And he
said, "Mom, we are s.erious. Will you go with us?" And immediately,
without thinking or saying, "I will give you the answer tomorrow,"
she said, "Children, if you are serious, where you are going, I am
going with you." She didn't have to go. She worked all her life there.
She got a good pension, she got this apartment, and if you would
meet the woman today, who is turning eighty in February--she was
sixty-six--she would speak to you English, she doesn't need any help,
fluently, the pronunciation may be terrible, the accent may be
terrible, but she expresses herself completely, she can go to a
doctor's appointment, welfare appointment, she translates papers
for everybody. She perfectly got into this life, and there is no day in
her life, whenever I talk to her, that she would not say, "Why God
gave me those last days in my life a life like this? How did I
deserve this? For what?" And when you have somebody in the
family with attitude like this, you are lucky.

LS: You really are. So her transition ...

EK: Oh, she had a lot of pain from socialism. Her husband was in '37

taken to jail a11d she has a paper--no date when he died, no place...

LS: He went to the Gulag? Is that what you are saying?

SS: Yes. Stalin's purges. Disappeared, nobody knows where. Like in
1956, when Khuschev was in power and he destroyed Stalin, they
called her to the government place and apologized for the mistake
that was made. And they paid his two months' salary after twenty
years. Wasn't it sweet? And my husband bought his first
motorcycle for this money. The mother gave him the money and said,
"It's yours." She was hiding from him all those years where his
father is.

LS: But didn't it follow him into school? Wasn't that [unclear] How

could she hide it from him?

SS: Usually, yes, but she was in a position that it happened in
another city. Kiev was occupied by Germans, you know, the archives,
every document is gone, and then she came to Odessa and said that
her husband got killed in the war. That's it. Then the government
knew, of course, but in school and everywhere... But he asked her all
the time, "If my father was killed, why don't I have pension from the
government? Why this? Why that?" And he thought that he was
divorced or he was maybe a bastard.

LS: But it's better to be a bastard than to have a father who went to

SS: When he opened to him what happened, he says that maybe for
three days he couldn't stop to cry thinking that his so young father-he
was thirty years old or something-

EK: And he, who doesn't believe when somebody catch the people, he
says, "If he is not guilty, nobody will catch him."

SS: Not catch him--his father was such a devoted communist,
believed in this, and when some neighbors were taken in the night,
somebody else taken and the wife told him, "Alex, there is something

going on. They will take you." He said, "Tanya,--both our mother and
mother-in-law are Tatyanas--what are you talking about? Are you
thinking that those people are innocent and they are taken? What
are talking about? I am not guilty of anything. Why would they take
me? I don't like the way you talk. You think those people were taken
for nothing? They were enemies! You don't know what they did."
And she didn't believe in this, but he was so devoted. Finally, one
day he was taken, and she didn't see him any more.

LS: So what happened, when you decided to leave, did you lose your

SS: No, not me. I left my job myself because in my office where I
worked, this musical agency, they are supposed to give you some
papers when you leave--1 don't know what they needed it for--it's
just to torture people. They have to give you what they think about
you--1 don't know how you call it--like characteristic

(recommendation or evaluation) of you And to take from our boss
who was half-Jew and he tried to be so much non-Jew for the
government that he made our lives miserable and he would make so
many problems that I decided, "Leave me alone." I quit the job, and I
found a job--my mother helped me to find the job in a part of the
city where most of Jewish people live and work; then therefore, to
give you these papers it's like piece of cake, because they are so
used--they got copies that you couldn't read any more there, ten
copies at one time typed on the machine, then I worked three months
in a store selling food, and in three months I came and I said, "Give
me these papers." And the lady in the office who hired me said, "I
understand now why you came here. I was surprised, a singer ... " I
told her I lost my voice, and there is nothing else I can do--l can be
a sales person.

LS: And what about your husband? Did he have a hard time?
SS: He worked till the last day.
LS: They didn't fire him?
SS: No. It was a little bit different at this time.

LS: And then, did you go to Vienna? Did you go to Italy?

SS: Yes, yes. And we got absolutely crazy time for this half year
since we decided to go. If you would see the paper job we did, you
would say a person cannot do it. You would say it's impossible. Not
only documents. To give the documents to the government, we came
evening time Sunday, stood there overnight till Monday morning, but
we weren't the first on the line, and they took documents from six
people--we were the seventh--good-bye. The next time we came
Saturday and we stood there two nights, but we were lucky, we got a
car, then we slept in the car, and we got finally, we gave the papers-
we were the first or second, I don't remember. They looked in the
paper, and we prepared those applications that got five hundred
questions. We were working maybe a month on those. When she was
leaving, it changed for a year--the government did for them the
applications, there were people who you hire...

EK: In '79 it was 51 ,000 emmigrants.

LS: And you left in '78?

SS: In '78. It was 32,000. Then it was a crime if somebody helps
you to do this. And they change it, you never know. Then we were
working a month on these, sitting, fighting--you can't change it, you
can't scratch--it's just terrible. Good we got some copies of these.
Finally we give them the papers and they found a little mistake and
they said, "No, you'll come back." And there we stayed again two
nights overnight, finally. You know, you get out of there, you lose
ten years of your life. We gave the papers in August, in November we
got the permission. You live the three months, you don't know will
they say yes, will they say no. If they say yes, they don't leave you
lots of time. Then you have to get rid of your furniture, of
everything you have. Give again a lot of papers. Give back the
government the apartment, get rid of your documents ...

EK: And for mother-in-law, they gave for six months the pension,
but they gave it on the last day. You can't take the money with you-what
you can do with it?

SS: No, you can't take it with you.

EK: And you can't spend something to buy and you can't take it with

you, nothing.

SS: Finally, you have a couple of months after they give you the
permission, but you don't know before--if you will sell the car, what
would happen if they say no, and you have everything in the last
moment. You have to get rid of everything. You s'it, you know how
you sit the three months, shaking? But I thought, we are not
important people, and we'll leave a good apartment, it's a good
reason--we are leaving a good, nice apartment--there was a guy
from high military title who was waiting for my apartment, and I
thought they will kick us out. And I started to sell everything, to
prepare, to make bags. We got the permission, they gave us two
months ...

LS: When you came to America, did you come here, to Minnesota?

Was this your destination?

SS: We chose St. Paul back in the Soviet Union, and we are the only

couple in the whole immigration in the Twin Cities who chose St.

Paul back in the Soviet Union.

LS: Why? Why did you choose it?

SS: I told you we were different, our reasons were different.

LS: I understand: you had political reasons...

SS: Not only. We were a little bit different. We didn't want to go

like a crowd of people, and United States is New York. United States

is not New York or California. The little information we got there,
the little books, magazines, we started to learn about the fifty
states, and between all the states, we found, we thought, Seattle,
Washington, would not be bad. The climate is like Odessa, and the
population, but we knew that probably it would be a problem. Then,
St. Paul, Minnesota, the middle part of the United States, the real
America. Minnesota, with the Mississippi River starting here, the
10,000 lakes, and first of all, the population. Quiet, nice people, no
crime. We thought--a good place to live. We started to ask, and


everyone say "Why?" Many people never heard ever that St. Paul

exist. All they know is New York or San Francisco, Los Angeles.

EK: Chicago...

LS: When you came here, what did you find? There were the four, or

five of you?

SS: Five of us. We walked out from the plane, and here are the
people from. We were flying, but we thought, "Boy, we asked this St.
Paul. Maybe there is even no Jewish people. No, we knew that
Jewish people; will take us. There are some Russians. How will we
speak? What will happen to us? We asked for it, but we were
scared, of course. Then, we came, and we saw these smiling faces-the
volunteer family who was the host family for us.

EK: You know who? Brenda and Tony Strauss.

SS: Grabbing us and kissing and hugging, and Shirley Rosenblum, and
a Russian translator who was here for two years and we thought
that he is such an American now that the end of the world, he knows
everything. They brought us to this apartment.

LS: Where was that?

SS: St. Paul Avenue--Davern Park Apartments--furnished, clean,

beautiful. We never expected this. We were hoping for the worst in
the world, that we come and will sit on our bags, and here--nothing
was forgotten. I can't remember even like a washcloth. Everything

LS: How many Russian families were there here? That was pretty
early, wasn't it? You were still a novelty.

SS: Oh yes. One family in three months would come. Then it started
to go.

LS: Then what did you do? Did you go to the International Institute?

SS: International Institute. Unfortunately, it was summer time. We
came in May, time of vacation. We got together it was five weeks of
school. And in July--we came in May, started the school May 15-vacation,
vacation, vacation--in July my husband started to work in
Richfield Bus Company ...

LS: Where?

SS: Richfield Bus Company.

LS: So he did find a job as a mechanic?

SS: Immediately. The first interview and he got the job.

LS: But you were saying America didn't need hands?

SS: This bus company was old and so mechanically behind that they
were on this level and they took him because they saw that he will
be OK--an America would not go to work there. But he accepted the
job and he was glad. I was accepted to the factory that the host
family owned--it's Strauss Knitting Factory. And I would not say, "I
don't want it, I don't like it." It was completely different--not only
the work that I had never done, but it was the style of life. I was
working evening times and could sleep in the morning. Here I started
to wake up five o'clock in the morning, be at six o'clock in the
morning on the bus stop and starting to work at seven. It was
difficult, but it was not in my mind that "Ah... " It was, "Thank God,
thank God. I have this job and every morning I go to work, and every
week I have my check. Look, they gave me a job." Even though I am
without language, I am without this and without that.

LS: And what were the kids doing?

SS: School.

LS: I know this was during the summer, wasn't it?

SS: They started, they call it like Tissel [?] or I don't know--it's a
school that they learn the language ...

LS: English as a second language, for kids who do not know English.

SS: Yes. And then they started a regular school, and we even didn't

know when, how--our son spoke to us Russian at home, of course, he

was seven years old and he couldn't speak to us English and we didn't

know his skills. But one day, like in the late fall time, but it wasn't

winter I know, Tony and Brenda carrie, and something Tony asked me

and I didn't understand--you know, we were talking by hands, by eye,

but we started a little bit already, and something I didn't

understand, and I said, "Alex, do you understand?" And of a sudden,

Alex started to speak to Tony like he was born here. And I stood
· there--he speaks English. That's it. They have no accent.

LS: What about your daughter?

SS: She speaks perfect.

LS: How old was she when she came?

SS: Fifteen.

LS: Wasn't it much more difficult for her?

SS: Absolutely not. They loved it.

LS: Wasn't it difficult for her to fit in with teenagers because

teenagers are so cruel to one another?

SS: You know, they grew up in our family, they were so prepared

that somehow they didn't have any difficulty.

LS: Did the other children, and even the Jewish children, accepted

SS: No, in school, no. Jewish children are a clan, but they got so
many Russians there, in school, that they were friends there and
keeping their company.

LS: So it took them a while?

SS: Yes, but I don't think she took it too close to her heart. She was
fine with her friends, and that's it, and she started dating a year
later, she started dating this boy who was twenty-two years old,
American boy, and she would not even look in the school for
somebody. She was dating him for three years, got a wonderful time
with him--he was a completely adult, educated, after a college,
young man, and she didn't look for any more friends.

LS: Are you saying that it really wasn't much of a problem for you?

SS: Not at all. We came to St. Paul, when we just arrived from the
airport and we saw the city, we were just driving and it was exactly
like we saw the city before in our mind. We accepted it from the
very first day we saw it. This is our city, we love it, and people ask
me, "Do you miss your Odessa? Do you miss the sea?" I am ashamed
to say but no, I don't. But when I leave St. Paul and go somewhere, I
come back and I say, "Thank God I am home, I am in my city again."

LS: Do you feel comfortable with American life here?

SS: Yes, I am not mistaken here, we are anyway somehow we are

outsiders. They accept us some way.

LS: When you say "they," are you talking about Americans or
American Jews?

SS: American Jews, but we don't know anybody else. They would
invite us for a dinner, they would invite us for a Passover, but they
live their lives. We can't communicate a lot because we have a
completely different style of life. We are not poor compared to our
lives before, we are fine, but we are poor compared to those
American Jews that we know, and plus, they have a different social
life--they have their friends, they are invited to lunches, dinners ...
We don't belong there--we know our place. I don't even play this
game. "My American friends!"

EK: We never tried. Believe me, if we want, we can have American
friends, but we know that anyway ...

LS: You know there's always going to be that gulf?

SS: Yes. With my host family Tony and Brenda we are dearly related

till today. Not so many families continue. I just saw Brenda before

yesterday, and she is my friend, she is my client for sewing ...

EK: ... they say, relatives. You know what, Tony was in some place-some
Russian man had surgery and Tony came and he said, "You know,
I am Sima's relative."

SS: Yes, they call us our family, and we are friends till now. Many
Russians that came with us in the same time forgot the names of the
host families. Just us. We are maybe. different.

LS: Maybe you are different, and maybe that you were lucky.

SS: I call it lucky because whenever people complain, I say, on our
way we didn't have bad people. We didn't have any bad experiences.

EK: [unclear] invite us, we invite them. My volonteer invite her ...

SS: For big events, of course. We don't go to each other for lunch
like next door, but for big events...

EK: But I have to tell you, even any time when I want, I can come.

SS: If I would call Brenda and say, "Brenda, I want to come," she
would not say no, but I wouldn't do it. But for a big event, I know she

invites me and I invite her back.
doesn't go without Brenda.
And every big event in the family
EK: And Shirley Dworsky is very good too.
SS: Shirley Dworsky somehow chose me herself.
friend, and I am very proud of it.
She made me her
LS: Yes, she is a wonderful person.

SS: I know I didn't do for it anything, but Richard Dworsky was my
accompanist for a long time.

LS: You fit into that family very well because she has so many

musical talented children.

SS: Yes, and Shirley somehow herself, I would never have the
courage to ask for something, but she would offer, she would offer
me all the time something. She has a cabin, for example, and I know
that Shirley is a nice woman, but she is a strict woman--she likes
some ways that she lives and she wouldn't let anybody to interrupt,
and I knew her a little bit, and my husband is a fanatic fisherman.
She heard this when I met her thirteen years ago, and she said, "You
know, I have a cabin. If you'd like to be a guest, you can come." And I
said, "OK, thank you." And that's it. It goes one year, second year, the
third year, we did for me maybe incredible things that nobody... {End
Tape 3 Side 1]

[Tape 3 Side 2]

SS: ...We go to the cabin, and once she asked me, "Sima, I offered you
so many times? .. " because she repeated and repeated, and I said,
"Shirley, I understand that you do it sincerely, but I can't just call
and say, "OK, can I go to the cabin?" If there is a possibility, just
let me know that this particular weekend we can come." "Oh, I didn't
know." And she called me and said, "Sima, I go this time. Go with
me, I want to show you everything. Next time you can go yourself."
And I thought, "What?" She brought us to the cabin, showed us
everything. The first night we stayed in the guest cabin because she
was there, then she left home and left us in the cabin and since that
we use sometimes the cabin during the summer time more that she
uses it. She calls me sometimes and says, "Sima, I am sorry--my
cabin is free this weekend and I forgot to let you know." Because
she wants to let me know in advance, that I have time. "I put the
keys in your mailbox. If you can go tomorrow, go."

LS: But still in all you feel there is sort of a gulf between ...

EK: A distance, for sure.

SS: Of course, I know that.

LS: But you think it's due just to economic circumstances?

SS: Not only. We are from a different country. Again, Shirley is a
good friend, but Shirley has completely, absolutely, 2,000 percent
different life. She let me in her life to some border, and I am glad
that sometimes she stays with me in the cabin overnight and she
would talk to me and tell me a lot about her life and I really
appreciate this, because I feel that she is very open with me. And I
know that Shirley is smiling and a very nice to everyone, but she is
not very open. It's a big value for me that she trusts me and talks to
me this way because of somehow I think who I am.

LS: So you made some real contact?

EK: Maybe it's we and other people maybe don't think about it, and

they are pushing. We don't.

SS: They try to invite those friends and, you know, how they do it,
they make dinners, dinners, dinners, invite those Americans. don't
think it's this is the way.

EK: And they are proud. "You know, yesterday, I invited Americans

and they put [unclear]

LS: It adds status to have American friends?

SS: Yes.

EK: And I will tell you: we have a very big family here ourselves.
My daughter was [unclear] her birthday. We decided to do nothing.
It's just my family--came twenty people.

SS: And it was my fiftieth birthday, and I wanted relatives and not
many, but some friends--1 got over forty-five people--we couldn't
see each other. It was a brunch. Nobody could make a toast--it
didn't work, too many.

LS: It is wonderful. As far as the help that you got, was is as much
help as you needed from the Jewish community?

SS: More than we needed. I can't complain. I thought that they did

absolutely terrific job. Maybe they didn't do it after. Maybe they

didn't do it so well before, but maybe we were in the middle, but

they learned how to do it.

LS: What about when you came?

EK: The same.

LS: You had the same amount of help?

EK: More than I expected because when she came, like she. says, it
was one family in three months. A year later it changed. Why I
didn't expect at all, first of all, I knew because I have a sister, they
will put everything on her. But when I came, I was very surprised. I
really didn't expect it. She wrote me, "Emilia, don't worry. It wasn't
cotton to buy to make some sheets." And I wrote her "I don't know
what to do." She said, "Don't worry. You will come, I have enough, I
will give you for the first time." After, it's so many here, it's not
expensive. I paid a lot of money on the black market for the cotton,
and I did it. I came and I have a full closet. I can't use it because
they are small and they are different--without elastic--and in three
months I spent $400, go to Target, take her credit card, and did
myself beautiful [unclear] colors and everything. Put the curtains
together, what I want, everything.

LS: So you came because of your children's opportunities?

EK: Children, and political too, and because she was here.

LS: What about your mother?

EK: My mother died. We just prepared with her the paper. She was
63 years old, and she wrote Sima a letter.

SS: "Soon we will see you." At evening time she wrote me a letter,
evening time October 31, and November 1 she died in the morning.
And I got her letter, and they made two letters together, because it
was Monday, the post office didn't work and the two letters came


Monday. Of course, the first I opened my mother's letter. I read it,

wonderful, she is coming, the papers are ready. I opened the other

from her--my God, second day date, November 1, with a good psirah,

and that's it.

EK: And she really was a Jewish woman. If she was here, believe

me, we would [unclear] go everywhere.

SS: They would go, yes. She would go to the temple. My mother-inlaw
never was in the temple before in her life. She was, you know,
this educated woman, worked in the office, was a big shot there,
became from just a bookkeeper, growing, growing, growing. Here,
there is no Friday, even now--she has big problems with her legs-but
there is almost no Friday that she would not be in the temple,
and because when she was a little girl, she was in the heder [Hebrew
school], and she knows how to read. She doesn't understand, but she
knows how to read Hebrew. And she prays now. She sits in the
temple. [unclear] I sit there like an idiot, I look in the book knowing
nothing, and she sits and she sings and prays and she knows
everything. And she reads English too. She reads books. You know
how many books she already read here in English? And not only the
ones that I read. I read the trash. She reads the serious books. She
reads the biography, shortly ago, of Mrs. Reagan, Nancy Reagan's
book, Reagan's daughter's book, now the Kitty Kelly stuff, because
she wants to compare. This woman who is eighty years old ...

LS: And does she go to the JCC too?

SS: Of course, she is in the choir there, the Russian choir.

LS: So she is having a pretty rich life here.

SS: I told you, she is the woman who accepts everything and uses
everything that is given to her here.

LS: What did you do when you first came here as far as work? Did
you go to the International Institute too?

EK: Just two weeks, because I came in July, July 10, and exactly in
14 days it was vacation, and October 20 I started to work.

LS: Where?

EK: In Sew What. It was Hoffman Taylor Shop on West Seventh
· Street. It belongs to Sew What, he just bought this shop, but he

keeps the name Hoffman's. And I worked two years.

SS: The job was waiting for her already.

EK: It was , she (Sima) made for me, the commercial.

SS: They expect that a tailor will come, a wonderful seamstress,

and just wait, she'll come. She came, and she got the job


LS: Even though you didn't speak English.

EK: Absolutely. Bella Schneider was a manager. She spoke to me

Yiddish, but I say I catch Yiddish here better [unclear]

LS: Schneider spoke to you in Yiddish and she told you what to do?

EK: No, I told her what to do because she translated to the

customers in English and she translated to me in Yiddish.

SS: She was the only not sewing manager in the Sew What branch.

How she left, this was the contract, she sold her husband's

business--her husband died--she sold the business to the Sew What

Corporation with a contract that she stays being a manager, but she

was the only one not sewing manager.

LS: Is she an American?

SS: Yes. She was born in Canada in a Russian family, became
American· here, came with her husband, but she was more surrounded
by Polish people because her husband was Polish, and like I told you,
you are not accepted in the society just like this.

EK: And she is higher than theirs. She came from Canada. He is
Polish. Between Poland ...

SS: Because you see, between the Polish people, she is halfAmerican,
but mostly her friends are Polish because with her
husband she couldn't get, and she is a very simple, not educated
person, and he was a tailor. You belong where you belong. This is
the truth. She never became rich or something.

EK: With her, we feel very well.

LS: So you were very lucky to find a very comfortable situation.
What about your husband?
EK: My husband, it's bad for him. He doesn't speak English till this

day. He understands lot of it, he watches TV, but it's hard for him to
LS: And your daughter? She was ready for the university?
EK: Yes, three years ago she graduated.

LS: When she came here, your older one, Sasha, what was she ...
EK: Sasha, she went to the university, she studied two and a half
years ...

LS: Did she study French here?
EK: No, when she started, just education, and when she had to decide
what to do, she said, "Mom, you know, I don't know what I want. I

have to go to work and I will see." And she got a government job; she
works in the transportation building ...
SS: She does driver licence ...
LS: But she didn't go back to get a degree?
EK: Now she studies in the university.
LS: OK, so it's taken her some time to decide.

SS: Yes, she wanted to decide what she wants.

EK: Yes, she wants to make a Ph.D. without graduating the
university. All she needs now is to take some credits and after ...
LS: A Ph.D. in what?
EK: She knows in what, now she knows.

SS: Something that's related to her job.
LS: And your other daughter?
EK: She graduated University of Minnesota three years ago.
major is French, minor is Russian, and she works in Jewish

LS: She works in the Jewish Family Service now, right. And how
long has she worked there?

EK: More than a year. She worked before with me.

LS: When your children came, did they have trouble adjusting?

EK: No, absolutely. Children who want to come, there was a [no
doubt. They understand what they want. They told me, "If you will
not go, we will go ourselves."

SS: We were even an exception in the Russian community. We were
even in this side of life, we are an exception. Our children somehow
never dated any Russians.

EK: Not my children.

SS: Most get involved and get married, dated Russian with Russian
only, even the children, somehow it started with my daughter, and
those guys came and maybe they saw her or whatever, I don't know,
but our family somehow they never date Russian boys. And my son,
of course, no question.

LS: How old is he now?

SS: Twenty-one next month.

LS: I am still curious about this difference that you feel. Is there
anything more that the Americans could be doing to make that gulf


SS: They can't do it. You can't wake up in the morning, overnight and
change something. This is the society. We know people who live
here for forty years, more--fifty years--came in 1948, people from
Poland who became millionaires here and still they are separated.
They are in their own society, in the community of Polish people.

EK: I will tell you, it was a party, Shirley Rosemblum, her son
graduated school, and she invited us for an open house. And it was a
woman, a very close and good friend to Shirley Rosenblum, but she is
from Greece and she says, "We are very good friends but anyway
everybody in their own place.

SS: Somehow this generation that came can't mix. Our children,

they are Americans. My daughter is married to an American man; she
lives an absolutely American way, completely. It's not at all
anything that looks like our life.
LS: Is she married to someone Jewish?

SS: No. And this is the way. I can't come to my daughter all of a
sudden, like we did in Russia. I have to ask. She would anyway say,
"Of course, mom," but I would not just come like a small ball on her


EK: You know, twenty years ago, to us came from America my
husband's uncle, and when he told me he had to make an appointment
to come to his daughter, I couldn't hear of this.

LS: You couldn't understand it?

EK: Absolutely. [unclear]

SS: We were people growing up without telephones. You know how

we would go visit somebody--friends, relatives--you knock on the


EK: You are home, OK, no? We'll leave a message, very sorry ...

SS: Sometimes you stay in your curlers and robe-oh, excuse me,

come in, and nobody even tries excuses.

EK: And you know what, in case it's a very close friend or a sister

come to me, I can take her with me and everybody understands it. If

she comes to me [unclear] or she comes from another city and


·SS: If I came to her and didn't prepare her because I couldn't, and I

come and say, "Oh, you are dressed. Are you going somewhere?" She

says, "Yes, I am ready to go. Let's go with me." And you bring

somebody and it's OK.

LS: I suppose you would call it a more of informal way of living.

SS: Yes, it's just the style of life. It's not because we want it. It's

because the life dictates ...

EK: Today I do it, tomorrow you will do it because. tomorrow I come

to you suddenly.

SS: If you have no telephone, how can you do it? You can't call

before. We would make a trip with two trains to come and kiss the

door because nobody is at home.

LS: I see. Some people have felt that it's just the Americans, people
who have grown up here, just have a really sort of put themselves to
find out anything about the Russians who are coming. I mean they .
could be a little more curious, they could be a little more [unclear],
they could be a little more welcoming ...

SS: I was in a meeting at JCC. They invited me somehow, I can't

remember why, they invited me to a meeting that they wanted to

make a party and bring the Russians and Americans together, like to

make a Russian borscht and potato salad the way we do it, and bring
us together and put the tables this way that would be Russians and
Americans and make us friends. And everyone was so excited about
this idea, let's do it, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then when they asked me,
maybe I am a little bit aggressive in this way, but I said, "It's a
wonderful idea and it's nice, but don't put fantasies in this because
we will come for this dinner, we will meet, and they will say, "Oh,
it's so nice, and the borscht is delicious, and they will take the
recipe and they will talk this evening." Tomorrow I will see these .
people on the street, they will not say "Hi." This was in school. The
temple would bring the Jewish children to the temple and bring the
Russian children who came and asked them questions, and the
American Jewish children, from Highland school, for example, would
come to them and say, "Oh yeah, you are from the Soviet Union, and
they would ask so many questions and become friends, here, at this
particular moment, on the second day in school, they are a clan of
the Jewish kids, they would not say "Hi." That's it. They will not let
you in. You don't have the status to get in. You have to be dressed
particularly, you have to have the Guess label, you have to have this ...
You don't fit.

LS: Are you saying that that's true of the American adults too. It's
not just a trait of teenagers.

SS: A little better, yes. They try to be friendly, but you can't go too

EK: First of all you have to understand that friends are different.
And we are friends. A friend, for example, in America, it's a little
bit changed between Russians too. But in Russia, if I can sew, I sew
for you, if you make for me manicure, you will do manicure for me.
A friend--it's not question about money. It's just you do favors. If
they need something fixed up, who can make windows, they will
come to make windows, who can make the floor, they will come to
make the floor. If I have today last ten dollars, and you will come
and say, "I need it," I will not ask for what and I will not tell you I
don't have any. Even if it's my last, I will give it to you and that's it.
This is the way. Here it's a little different.

SS: It does not mean that everyone is that way, but mostly ...


EK: This is what it means for us.

LS: But in America, what do you think friends are?

EK: Everything for money.

SS: Not, Emilia, they have a it hear too. I hear a lot that "my friend

came to put in wallpaper ... "

EK: Right, we were so surprised with you. It was a big deal. You

know, you understand, it's not this money but this way. And I was

surprise because when he told me he had an envelope and he doesn't

know for who and he told me Mrs. Schloff and you just talked to me

and you didn't... All family knew it. They don't know you--you see I

told you you know who is the woman--it was how many years ago.

LS: It was your nephew's graduation's present.

EK: And now he is a big man. He got married.

SS: Not exactly. You know, here friends exchange favors too. I hear
it a lot. I work with people, and they would say, "A friend came to
help me to put the wallpaper in the kitchen," and people do it. But I
mean, in Russia, it you see somebody in the street, you walk in the
street-there is no cars like here--and you say "Hi" and they ask you
the same question like here, "How are you?" But they mean it. When
they ask you, "How are you?" they want to know. Sometimes you are
dying because this person starts to tell you all his troubles, stories,
and you just don't know who to get away from her, but this is the
way. If you ask, he answers your question. Here, they ask you "How
are you?" and willing to hear, "Fine, thank you." There is in the
Russian newspaper a joke: they say, "Hi! How are you?" You say,
"Fine." On the second day--somebody in the office, in the hallway-"
Hi! How are you?" You say, "Ah, not so good." "Oh, fine. Good, good."
And the third day, "Hi! How are you?" You say, "Ah, I am sick." "Oh,
good, good." Like a week later, he says, "Oh, where is the guy? I saw
him every day in the hall." And they say, "He died." "What? I was
asking him every day, and he was fine." He would not listen.


LS: Yes, it's a very good Russian joke. So you feel like you are in

your own Russian world here?

SS: Mostly, yes. Of course. You know where I feel mostly

comfortable in feeling that I am a part of American life? At my


LS: And where do you work?

SS: I work for Sew What alterations. What happened, Bella
Schneider helped me to find a job at Sew What alterations because
she sold her shop and she found out that I sewed. She introduced me
to the owner, and I started to work thirteen years ago. After the
factory, it was my first job after the factory. I started to work,
then Emilia came, she worked for a while for Sew What alterations,
and we decided to open our own business. We go into business for
five years together, and it will be six years in February since the
day came and it wasn't a decision that we were making for years.
All of a sudden, the economics were not so good, and it just looked
like for two owners it wasn't enough.

EK: Even now, for myself, it's too much, but to hire somebody, it's

not enough.

SS: Emilia told me that she would maybe not stay in St. Paul, that

her husband does not like it here, and maybe they will move to New
York or California or Boston--they got different plans--and I
thought, of course, I will stay in the business, I love the business,
but they saw that they don't move, they don't go, that somebody from

us is supposed to be the one who is supposed to say good-bye to the
business. I decided, after all, I am the pioneer. I said, "Emilia, you
know what? I am leaving the business. And while she was just
thinking about it, three days later I started to work again for my
first owner. I called him and I said, "Ted, I want an appointment."
"What for?" And I said, "Give me an appointment." I came, I told him
that I will [unclear] will you take be a manager in my Roseville
store? "Yes, when can you start? Wednesday can you start?" "Yes."

LS: Are you saying that you feel comfortable with non-Jewish ... ?

SS: No, I have different customers there--Jewish and non-Jewish.
LS: But I am talking about the people you work with. When you say ...
SS: No, with my customers. At my work, I feel like everyone else.

They come, they are my customers ...
LS: But that's a superficial sort of...
EK: Yes, absolutely.
SS: I am a worker, they are my customers.
LS: You feel like you fit in?
SS: I do my job.
EK: This I feel absolutely. They stop just to say "Hi." They call just

to say "thank you" and just "How are you?"
SS: They are thrilled with your job, they love it, and the behavior is

not different if I would be American or I am Russian or I am anybody.
I am a good tailor.
LS: What about, when you go to movies or even reading newspapers,

do you feel like you are missing something?

EK: Of course, especially expression of--people laugh, we.
understand each word, but we don't know the ...
SS: ...the background of it.
EK: Like when we talk, we know from one word what we mean, but

somebody it sounds absolutely different.
LS: Were you saying you can't read what?
SS: I can't read serious newspapers. I can read trash books like I

told you--like Danielle Steele, Sydney Sheldon--1 am fine, I
understand everything; I can read very "serious" magazines, like

Inquirer or Star. Here I am fine. When it comes even to Time

magazine or a little bit more, the language is already more ... big

words, and here we are a little bit... You can see that sometimes to

express ourselves we use another word because we don't know the

right one.

LS: Yes, there is so much that is implicit in newspapers and


SS: It's hard, but in the movies we are fine, mostly, even if it's a

comedy where there's lots of jokes, then maybe 20 percent of the
very interesting jokes we would not understand, but mostly we


LS: So do you feel comfortable living here or do you still feel like an

SS: I know that, but I don't feel it too much. It doesn't make my life
uncomfortable. We are so much involved with the Russian
community that we don't have time to complain ...

EK: What I want to say, you take my word, maybe, for example, I am
alone or she is alone, we have to come to this community, but
because it's so many,..

SS: Yes, we are so much involved with the Russian life and I do, like
you saw in the temple, I sing, and I do this little bit and this little
bit, I do the Jewish singing a lot here, and you know, I don't feel like
am lost here a little bit. In my head, I understand where I am, and I
don't pretend that I am on the same level like every American. I
know my place. It's not like somebody put me in this place. Nobody
even mentions to me like "You stay in your place," but I just, if I
would try to be somebody else, try to go more to socialize
somewhere, try to squeeze and be not accepted, my life would be
miserable. You know, when you want and you want to fit, and you try
to make American friends and invite somebody and get to somebody-
we don't try so hard. We feel comfortable where we are.

EK: When we invite, they come and it's a big pleasure.

SS: Yes. I don't want to make friends by inviting them every week

for a dinner. This is not the way to make friends. They would come


LS: What about the newer Russians who would come? You know, you
went out to work so quickly when you came. Do you see a difference

between your group and the newer Russian group?

EK: Yes, it's very hard for them. First of all, it's hard for them-they
are behind 12-15 years, and how compared to Americans we are
poor, they feel ... first of all, they are on welfare. When we came,
Jewish Family Service kept us for [four] months, nobody knew about
welfare, nobody tried, we decided it's a shame.

LS: Well, the welfare payments were much less then too.

EK: Not because [of that], the word "welfare" was like scared us.

Now they feel very comfortable. If they have to go work for four
dollars, they decide--four dollars, and I will miss my medical
assistance, I will have to drive the car, it's gas, it's a car--it's

better to sit on the welfare.

SS: I started with $2.19, and I was fine.

EK: I started with four dollars.

LS: So you think that they should be taking jobs more rapidly?

EK: Yes.

SS: It's different, it's very different. It's very diificult to be a
judge in this case. You see, many, many of the Russians who come
now--it's a strange way to explain--from one side you say the
Jewish people can't get to the universities, but if they don't let you
go to the door, you go through the window. They pay under the
ground, they do anything, but most of those people are educated, and
when they come, how many educated people needed in the Twin
Cities? But finally they found jobs. Educated people who are really
educated, they found jobs ...

LS: It's very difficult. It takes time and it isn't as good as it was
when you came.

SS: It takes time but they are well educated.
LS: Right, even for Americans.
EK: I think. Everyday people come, they cry.
SS: But when they start to work, they start with a good start, they

are making good money and very soon you see them, two years later,

the level of their life--1 don't know how to explain it--but this

family that makes together $50,000, for example, and an American

family that makes $50,000, there is a huge difference. They live

much richer than an American family with the same money. It's a
different style of life. They don't spend the same way as Americans

spend--for a cup of coffee in the morning for $3. They make their

own coffee.

EK: Today I forgot my breakfast, and I said to my husband, "Go to
Dairy Queen and get some." He says, "No, I will go at home and I
would bring you the breakfast." [End Tape 3 Side 2]

[Tape 4 Side 1]

SS: I want to add that people who came now are not different--we
say sometimes "They are different, they expect too much, they want
this, they want that." It's a little mistake. I understand--this is my
way to understand. Those people came after they got somebody in
the United States for ten, thirteen, fifteen years, having letters,
information, having pictures, come to visit, have all these packages
and parcels that we were sending them for ten-twelve years, and for
them United States does not sound any more like it sounded for us-like
I told you, it's like to go to the moon or in space. It's like my
sister lives there, my uncle lives there, my brother. It stopped to
sound so mysterious, so unbelievable. They go with big expectations
because a little bit we spoiled them. We send all these things there,
and I think they believe that we pay here for a pair of jeans 50
cents, for a pair of tennis shoes, a dollar, that it's free, that we

would live here half year and there we stand in the picture with a
car, but they don't know that it's a piece of junk and it costs here

nothing, and everyone, a teenager has a car here. It's not so
prestigious like there. When they come here, they find that the car
doesn't make them happy. If they would have a car back in Russia,
they would be big shots, but here with a car he is still a poor man
and he is on welfare. Then they lost a lot in status. Being there, if
he was the one who got the connection and could buy tomatoes in the
winter time, he was so proud of himself. He comes here and
everyone eats tomatoes in the winter time, big deal. And the second
thing I told you, it's not nysterious any more, America is something
next door, and they come with different expectations. It's not their
fault--it's their problem. And here they see us, who spent here
thirteen years, and here we are in houses, having three cars, having
the furniture already, having this, having that, we go on vacations,
and they come and they can't do anything, and they don't want to
understand that we started the same way and it needs time. But
they want a VCR immediately, they want an answering machine

EK: ... air-condition immediately ...
SS: We got an answering machine two years ago ...
EK: I don't have it till this day--1 don't like it at all.
SS: But it's a different story if you don't like it, but I
to these things, we lived here for a while, and finally
we grow
bought this

and we bought that. They want it the first day they are here because
they see us, and plus, people who visited here brought all those
goodies back to Russia and everyone got a VCR there and it was such
a [shows]--he has a VCR ...

EK: For example, my brother was here three years ago, and he
brought to Russia everything, and now he comes, he wants himself
and he can't buy it.

LS: Let's go back to the family that has come here. You Sima, your
husband and family and your mother-in-law were the first. And then
you came next with your husband and two children?

EK: One year later, with husband and children and mother-in-law.

LS: Oh, your mother-in-law came. You didn't mention her. How is
she doing in this country?
EK: For her it was hard.
SS: She died.
EK: She died, but she understood the life, it was good for her, but

she was an uneducated person and she couldn't take the language at
all, and anyway she loved America ...
LS: She loved America?
SS: Yes, she was fine. She never complained--! never heard her.
EK: She said, "I am in a golden gate, I have everything what I want..."
SS: ...cage. "I am in a golden cage."
EK: "I have everything but I can't speak."
SS: She couldn't even watch T.V.
LS: Yes, that's very painful. But she had friends?

SS: She got friends and she loved the stores, shopping ...
EK: ...and she parepared food and baked and she could buy everything
what she needed for baking, and she was shocked for sure.

SS: She saw the grocery stores, "Wow," she loved shopping, she
loved grocery shopping.
EK: She loved grocery, she loved clothes.
LS: So she had a good time. And then who came next?

SS: Our cousin, the one who was tearing apart the invitation, and
like her mother-in-law said that if I'll go, she'll go. Of course, she
decided to go.

LS: Now, how is she related to you?
EK: A cousin--this is my mother's sister's daughter.
LS: Was she the mother's sister who lived with you?
SS: Yes, this was the cousin of whom I was the babysitter number

:,one--1 am eleven year older.--she came for reasons that the chicken
here is cheap. She doesn't even try to fool somebody. She came
because the life is better, the chicken is cheap, everything is in the
store--if everything is so easy to buy, why should I stay there?

EK: She has the best life in the whole family. He is an engine.er, and

he has a good job.
SS: In our family, he is the only educated person, I mean in our close

LS: And he was able to find a job?
EK: Yes, and she has her daycare business ...
SS: Making very well.
LS: When did she come?
EK: She came in 1979.
SS: No, 1980, two years after us.
LS: And then who else came?
EK: She, with husband, two children, the third girl born here, her

father and my aunt, but then died two year later.

SS: And between this, there is a family who are not our relatives.
They are related to my cousin because of her husband, but this is the
boy whom you gave your check. But they came to us because the
cousin wasn't here even. They came a month after Emilia, but they
are not really our relatives.

LS: And what are their names?

SS: Volovetz. This is Leonard Volovetz, Michael and their mother

who--we don't know anybody being more American than this lady

became--it's unbelievable.

LS: How old was she came?

SS: Fifty-five.

EK: You will not find an American woman to take from this life

everything that she takes.

LS: Like what? What do you mean?

SS: Everything. She reads all newspapers ...

EL: ... where is some concert and where is some social life,

everything. This year she was in New York, Yiddish festival, she
went for a month, she was in New York.

SS: She is a singer here. She became a singer here. She never sang
in Russia. She became a singer here.

LS: At that age?

SS: Yes. She goes everywhere. She is a very pushy person but in the
good meaning pushy. She would come in the Twin Cities to every bar
and say "I am a singer. Would you like me to sing? I will do it for
free." But this way she gets noticed.

LS: Yes, you have to do it in America. And then who else came?

SS: Now our brother.

LS: Why did your brother take so long to come?

SS: Whether it would take him even longer and he would stay in the
Soviet Union, it would be better. He is our own pain in the neck.
LS: Did he come with a family?
EK: His wife and son.
LS: Didn't you have a relative in Germany?
EK: Yes, my husband's brothar. He was in Israel six years, and from

Israel he moved to Germany.

But Michael's cousin came three years ago, with her husband and
And the family grows.
LS: Is the family still growing?
EK: Sure. We wait now for Michael's cousin. This is the furniture

prepared for Michael's cousin. She will come January 8.
SS: Now Michael has his relatives coming.
LS: But can he invite his cousins? I thought you had to be closer


EK: This is his aunt will come with daughter and husband.

LS: So that's a second degree relative or something like that?

EK: It's his mother's sister. She is eighty-three years old.

SS: And they got a reason. They pushed it a little bit faster.

EK: Because their son was killed in Moldavia when it was sort of ...

SS: ... like a little Jewish pogrom.

LS: When was this?
SS: It was local.
EK: In '89. And they killed this guy twenty-three years old.
SS: A group of hooligans caught a couple of Jewish boys.
EK: And they have a paper, and I sent a paper, and immediately they

had permission.
SS: Because they would wait five-six years.
LS: So his aunt and his cousins are coming. Will they be staying

with you?

EK: It depends on how [unclear] apartment because they will come

January 8. If we know for sure before, we will take an apartment,

but we have to take one from January 15 or from the next month,

then they will stay with us.

LS: So your family is coming together. Instead of Odessa it's coming
together in St. Paul?

EK: Oh yes. We have an uncle in Russia, we have an aunt in Russia

LS: And they are planning all, aren't they?

EK: Because our uncle's daughter got married to a non-Jewish guy,
her daughter got married to a non-Jewish guy, and they live in

SS: Then my uncle has now a huge family--his daughter is married
to a non-Jewish boy, his granddaughter is married to a non-Jewish
boy, and they have their parents--non-Jewish--who wouldn't go, and
the husbands wouldn't go because they don't want to leave the

1 01

LS: But there are some families who have Russian husbands who


SS: Yes, but in my uncle's family, he is married to the Jewish

[woman], but his daughter who is married to a non-Jewish boy, he

has three brothers, his mother, father who don't want to go

anywhere. They have a good life.

LS: And he wouldn't leave without them?

SS: And he would not leave without them. Then, it's like a chain.

EK: Some Russians, if they have one son-in-law who is Jewish, they
would go all family, and some...

SS: Again, there was a joke. They invited this Abramovich to the

K.G.B. and said, "Look, Abramovich, you are seventy years old, you
were an old communist, you were so many years in the Communist
Party, and you have a good life--we know the salary you make, you
make good money, your life is comfortable,we gave you a long time
ago a wonderful apartment... Why are you going? Why are you going
to Israel?" He said, "You see, I would stay, honestly, I am such a
good communist and I love the Soviet Union, but my wife and my
children and my in-laws, everyone pushes me, they want to go." "OK,
tell them that they go and you will stay." He said, "I can't because
they are all non-Jewish, I am the only one Jew."
LS: What do you do about Jewish holidays here?

EK: We celebrate every holiday.

LS: Who has the Seder?

EK: I. have this year. It's a line: who wants we do it, but we

SS: Say, this year I do Rosh Hashannah, then my cousin would say,
"And I'll do the Yom Kippur dinner. Next year Emilia said, "OK, you
did it last year, I'll do this year."

EK: We prepare soup and chicken, matzoh balls, gelfilte fish ...

SS: We even pray a little bit.

LS: What do you do?

SS: I bench the Iicht (recite the blessing over the candles), just say
the prayers that I know.

EK: And her mother-in-law, she prays too and does it how it has to


SS: And we do a little bit for Passover. We learned to read a little
bit the Hagaddah (Passover Seder prayer book) because we have it in
Russian, and we put all the little stuff that's supposed to be there,
and then we sing the Russian songs.

LS: What Russian songs?

EK: Let My People Go. And they come with non-Jewish boyfriend,

husband, they come everyone.

LS: Everybody comes?

SS: Yes. Fortunately, it's not like usually these Jewish people say,
"My daughter married to this adorable man. He is non-Jewish but he
is so ..." It's not this way. He is a nice, quiet man whatever he would
be, and he is from a little town, Montevideo, and his parents and he,
he brought my daughter who was poor, who was Jewish, who didn't
have anything, and they never even said, "Look ..." It was no question.
They don't know the difference--they are from this town, they don't
know, Jewish, non-Jewish, they don't care. They love everyone-people,
black, white, dogs, cats--everyone is good and darling, and
they talk quiet and nice, and my son-in-law, you put him in this
corner, and he stays in this corner; you take him from here and put
him there and he stays there. He is quiet and nice.

LS: Are you saying whatever your daughter wants to do ...

SS: Yes, but I really know that he doesn't have anything against her
that she is Jewish. She is Helen, that's it. He is not religious
himself; he doesn't go to the church, he doesn't go to the temple.

EK: And we went to the temple and ...

SS: ... and they came. Sometimes, if she wants him, she says, "Let's
go to the temple." He goes. But he would not convert--1 know this,
and she would not convert. They will live like this.

LS: This time we are really quitting, and I thank you very much.