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Interview with Jane Malikin

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OLD LIVES, NEW LIVES: SOVIET JEWISH WOMEN IN
MINNESOTA
Interview with Jane Malikin

Interviewed by Linda Schlott
Interviewed on May 17 and 24, 1991
at the Saint Paul home of Mrs. Malikin


LS: People will be listening to you and studying this transcript
twenty years hence, and it would be interesting to interview you
again twenty years down the line and say, "Well, you thought this and
this twenty years ago."

JM: We can set an appointment.
LS Right, we'll set an appointment. But what we generally do is
start out with really easy questions, just until you get comfortable


and I get comfortable, and I need some of this basic background
information.
[Linda, I didn't know whether you wanted this part included, but I


figured it's much easier to erase it than to insert it later, so I left
it in. -El]
LS: Will you spell your last name, Jane?
JM: M-A-L-1-K-1-N
LS: And what was your maiden name?
JM: Shapiro: S-H-A-P-1-R-0
LS: And what is your address?
JM: 1379 West Maynard, Apartment 171, St. Paul, MN 55116


1



LS: How long have you lived here?
JM: I've been here for a year, a little bit over: a year and one month.
LS: And where were you born?
JM: I was born in 1953, on July 12, in Kiev.
LS: Did you live any other places outside Kiev in Russia?
JM: Yes. For six years we were living in Kubishev, on Volga ...
LS: Can you spell that?
JM: K-U-B-1-S-H-E-V
LS: What area of Russia is that?
JM: It's on Volga, and it's Central Russia, and I went to school in


Grozny: G-R-0-Z-N-E-Y.
LS: How old were you when you lived in Kubishev?
JM: I was twenty-one.
LS: So you lived there from the age of twenty-one ...
JM: Yes, to age twenty-eight, approximately. And in Grozny, I came


there when I was seventeen and I left Grozny when I was twenty.


LS: What sort of school was that?


JM: It was the University.


LS: And what was your course of study?


JM: English.


2



LS: So you had a head start. No wonder your English is English
accented because that's the way English is taught in the Soviet
Union.

JM: Yes.
LS: Did you teach English when you graduated?
JM: It was a long and hard way to find a job there. I taught English


for, probably, ten years at a high school.
LS: In Kubishev?
JM: No. Actually, I started in Kubishev, right. I started in Kubishev


in 1979, and I ended up in Kiev, at a high school, and that's where I
made the decision to leave. So, it was in 1989. It was my last year
at school.

LS: You've had quite a lot of experience teaching.
JM: Yes.
LS: What is your husband's name?
JM: His name is Vitaly: V-1-T-A-L-Y.
LS: When did you marry him?
JM: I married my husband in 1973, in Kiev.
LS: What is your mother's name?
JM: Sofia.
LS: And what was her maiden name?
JM: Glukhman: G-L-U-K-H-M-A-N.
LS: And your dad's name?


3



JM: Yakov: Y-A-K-0-V.
LS: How old are they?
JM: My mother is sixty-seven--sixty-eight, I'm sorry--and my dad is


sixty-four.
LS: Where were they born?
JM: They were born in the Ukraine, in the same area, but in different


places, in small shtetls. And then my mother went to school in Kiev;
she went to the Polytechnical Institute, and that's where she was
when the war broke out, and my father was in a small village not far
from Kiev. That's where they are from.

LS: What did your father do?
JM: He worked at a factory.
LS: And what did your mother work at?
JM: She was an accountant.
LS: Was your father in the service in World War II?
JM: Yes. He was in the army for ten years. He was young. He was


taken to the army when he was sixteen and a half, and he had to
serve for ten years.

LS: Was that typical?
JM: It was typical for this age because they tried to let those people
who were older and who started the war, in the beginning, they let
them go earlier, and they needed young people; so he had to serve
there for ten years. It was kind of hard for the family.

LS: I should think so. Was your mother evacuated east during the
war.

4



JM: Yes, she had to walk out of Kiev. She was waiting for her
parents, and then all the students--almost all of them--left Kiev;
they used to [unclear], and I think, she was in the group of people
who were the last to leave the city, and when she crossed the bridge
which connected the left part of Kiev and the right part, the bridge
was destroyed behind her. They left the city, and the bridge-because
it was a way to Moscow--they destroyed the bridge. She
heard a terrible blast, and she turned around, and she saw that the
bridge was gone.

LS: Where did they end up?

JM: She ended up in Tashkent, and my father was--they had a horse

and a cow--and so they were kind of walking, and then they lost

everything, and they ended up in Kazakhstan--it's Central Asia too.

The way he was evacuated was much more terrible than my mother's

because he was fourteen, and his father was in the army, and he had

a sister and his mother, and his [grand]father was a rabbi and he did

not want to leave--he did not believe that Germans would kill him-


so he stayed there and he was killed with all of the Jews who were

left in the small village. But he left, and they survived.

LS: So, your grandfather was a rabbi? And he continued to be a

rabbi? In the small village after the revolution, what did he do?

JM: Yes. They had a small synagogue there.

LS: Didn't he have to work at something?

JM: No. I think all the family--my father's background--they all
were very educated, and they never worked, and I know that my--he
was my great grandfather--and my grandfather was a cantor at the
synagogue--it was a bigger town--and I remember him very well. He
kept kosher and for me it was very unusual; I couldn't understand
him. He knew Hebrew, and he prayed in the morning. I used to come
there every single summer and stay with them ...

LS: Now this was after the war? Did they go back to this village?

5



JM: No, he came to another town, a small town in the Ukraine-Nicopol--
it was on the Dnieper river, but my great grandfather was
killed.

LS: So it was the great grandfather who was killed?
JM: Yes.
LS: And what was his name, do you know?
JM: I have this picture of him, but I don't remember his name.
LS: What was your grandfather's name?
JM: Meir.


LS: And this is Shapiro, right?
JM: Yes, they all were Shapiro.
LS: So, he had been trained to be a cantor?
JM: Yes. It was funny for me because I didn't understand. I knew

Yiddish; I know Yiddish now--1 can't speak but I understand
everything--but Hebrew and prayers and songs was something very
very unusual, not understandable.

LS: Yes. We'll have to get into that later. Did you have any brothers
or sisters?
JM: I had a brother. He was killed in the army.
LS: When did he have to go to the army?
JM: In 1980.
LS: How old was he?
JM: Twenty-three--twenty-two. He graduated from the college.


6


LS: Was this an accident?

JM: No one knows, but they had an investigation there and it was a
terrible thing. My mother went to the military prosecutor. She
talked to him afterwards, and she said that he couldn't find the truth
because he was not allowed to tell her everything because he got
some kind of instructions from Moscow not to let people know
anything about this accident. Before it happened, three or four
months before, he had a broken arm--he had a fight with someone on
the nationality basis and it was a terrible fight--and then, three
months later, there were twelve people in the same spot, and then
they sent us a telegram saying that the crane, the arrow of the
crane, fell down and killed him, and there were twelve people in the
same spot, and he was killed and no one was injured...

LS: So you think it was set up?

JM: I think so.

LS: Do you think he was set up because he was Jewish or because of
some other reason?

JM: He was the only Jew there.
LS: Is that your feeling?
JM: He did not look Jewish; he was blond; he was good-looking, but

it's hard for me to tell.

LS: We've got through the parents. It was very interesting for me to
hear you talk about your grandfather because one of the things that I
am discovering is that a lot of the people here were not so cut off
from their Jewishness as we might imagine. And here we are
talking about your grandfather who knew... Was Yiddish spoken in the
household?

JM: Both grandfathers spoke Yiddish, both, my mother's father--and
we used to live together ...

LS: You are talking about Kiev now?

7


JM: Yes. My mother's father was living with us, and my father's

father was living in the Ukraine, but in another town, and in summer

I used to go there to see him. His wife was gone, like in 1950, so

didn't know her.

LS: You were telling me that you were lucky enough to have two

grandfathers: one who lived with you--your mother's father--was

he religious also?

JM: It's interesting, because, in a way, he was.

LS: We are talking about the 1950s, right?

JM: Later.

LS: We are talking about many decades after the revolution?

JM: Yes, I was born in 1953. Since I remember him, I think it was in
the 60s, and he went to the temple every single Saturday. I

remember he had this funny raincoat, dark, the way all Jews
probably in Russia, they would wear it, and a cap ...

LS: With a visor on it, you mean?

JM: Yes. And with books, and to me there was something magic
about the books and something unusually interesting because the
letters did not look like anything in the world, and I was fascinated
by my grandfather because he could read it. I don't remember if I
ever asked him to take me with him. I don't remember that. The only
thing I know is that he used to tell me a lot of things about Jewish
history...

LS: Oh, did he? Like what?

JM: He told me about Moses, and he told me about Jewish state, and
he told me about wars in Judea, and I will never forget one thing
that he told me. He was the one educator who usually talked to me
about Jewishness. He told me that probably one of the reasons that
Jews were spread out throughout the world was that they couldn't


come to terms with each other, and he was kind of sorry for that. He
said they were not wise enough to keep together. And that was the
reason, for him, it was the main reason for him why they couldn't
live in the same spot. He used to bring a lot of books home from the
libraries, and these books were written by a German writer, you
probably know him--Feuchtwanger, and this is how I came to know
all his wonderful books about Jews.

LS: And these were translated into Russian?

JM: Yes.

LS: Did you ever ask him about the Hebrew alphabet? Were you at

all curious about it?

JM: You know, I don't remember that. No, not that I remember asking
about that. I liked to read books, but probably I thought it would be
very difficult for me. I know that we had those books before we
left--1 don't know where the books ended up. I don't remember now,
but definitely we had books written by Sholem Aleichem, and he used
to read me some, and it was funny because the stories were funny
and they were understandable to me because I knew people ...

LS: Were these in Yiddish? Did he read them to you in Yiddish or in

Russian?

JM: I think they were in Ukrainian even. In Ukrainian, yes. And in
Yiddish he talked to my mother and he talked to his wife, my
grandmother, and he talked to me in Yiddish. I would respond in

Russian ...

LS: Exactly, as my grandmother spoke to me in Yiddish and I
responded in English. Did he write letters to people in Yiddish?

JM: Yes. It's really amazing: he did not go through the school, but he
would help me with algebra--he was smart, he was very very smart.
He was very big, a tall man, and physically very strong, and he looked
like a Georgian, like moustaches, and I do remember a lot of stories
about him. His father, my great grandfather on this side, was very
cruel; he was a mason, he built houses, and he was so cruel that my

9


grandfather had to leave his house when he was thirteen and never
came back. I remember all these stories, and I remember the stories
about the civil war he told me, when after the revolution they tried
to kill him--there were a lot of gangs ...

LS: Yes, my mother told me about that. My mother lived through the
civil war in Kiev. To her it was like one enormous pogrom because
she was a child, she didn't quite understand what was happening, but
just that there were dead bodies, dead or dismembered bodies of
Jews in the streets of Kiev, and they had to hide in the laundry tubs,
the girls ...

JM: My granddad managed to escape once and he told me about that.

LS: This is really amazing to me: here you are, a youngster, and
growing up in the 50s and the 60s, and really firmly tied to,
knowledgeable about the Jewish past because of your grandparents.
How many people lived in your apartment? Were there six of them in
the house? Was it a house?

JM: Yes, it was a house, and my grandmother was sick at the time.
was five years old when she got sick. The terrible thing about the
family, when my mother's sister was twenty-three, she was killed
in Odessa in a concentration camp. When my brother was twentythree,
he was killed also. When my grandmother learned ... she didn't
know anything about her daughter, and then in 1958 she got a letter
from Odessa, from the neighbor of her daughter, who wrote to her all
the things, all the story, how she was taken to the camp and how she
died, and she got sick and she had a stroke. She was paralyzed and
she was like that for seven years. She didn't talk, and she didn't
move. And we lived in the same apartment, in the same house, in the
same room. We shared one room. I was small, and I didn't realize
how terrible it was because I spent a lot of time outside ...

LS: When we are kids, we just accept the way things are.

JM: Yes, you accept, and you didn't go into details, and you didn't..
And it probably is good.

1 0



LS: When you say you lived in a house, were there a lot of other
people living in the same house?
JM: Yes.


LS: How many other families shared the house?
JM: The house was really big, but there were five or six families,
and they had not more than two rooms each.


LS: But you're saying you only had one room?
JM: One big room.
LS: And you had your mother and your father, your mother's mother


and father, and you? And your brother?


JM: Yes. He was born in 1958, when my grandmother got sick. It
was terrible.
LS: So your mother had a major ...
JM: I don't know how she did it.


LS: She wasn't working at the time, was she?
JM: She was. She was working; she had a paralyzed mother, and she
had an infant, and she had to go to work--it took her probably almost
two hours.


LS: Who took care of your grandmother?
JM: My granddad.
LS: It sounds very difficult for your mother, I mean, for everybody,


but especially for your mother.
JM: I remember because I have a very good memory, and visual
memory is very good, I remember like a picture, usually I remember
everything like a movie, and I remember that it was terrible.


1 1


LS: Do you remember her crying or yelling?

JM: No. I remember the room, I remember ...

LS: Can you describe the room for me?


JM: There was a screen, and behind the screen my grandmother was


lying, and it was a furnace ...


LS: Was it one of those big stoves?


JM: Yes.


LS: Were there still those big stoves that you can lie on?


JM: No, the peasant stoves. And there was a big big couch, a black


big couch, kind of leather covered ...


LS: Was it slippery?


JM: Yes.
LS: It was like horse hair. They used to be popular in this country


too.


JM: And it was a big round table.


LS: Was the table covered with an oilcloth that you could wipe off?


JM: Yes. I don't remember the color. And the chairs, wooden chairs,


and yes, we had a cellar, in the same room. So we had to open the ...


LS: Sort of a door in the floor and go down the stairs?


JM: Yes. And they kept cabbage and tomatoes and pickles down


there.
LS: Did she can things?


12


JM: I don't remember. Not at the time. At the time people didn't do
it. It was just some kind of barrels.

LS: Barrels, probably of sauerkraut?
JM: Sauerkraut, of course, sure. My grandmother, when she was well
enough, she had a cow. So they came from the village.


LS: Where was this house? Was the house in Kiev?
JM: Yes.
LS: And did she keep the cow?
JM: Yes. It was not exactly in Kiev, but on the outskirts of Kiev, in


the forest. That's where I was born, almost, almost in the forest. It
was a place where people used to come just to spend time on Sunday
and Saturday, because the forest was wonderful and the lakes. I
spent a lot of time there. That's why I like it here.

LS: So you have very fond memories of your childhood? It was full
of lakes and forest and lots of places to play.
JM: Yes,
LS: Were there many children [unclear]?
JM: Ukrainians, we lived among Ukrainians.


LS: But you did have playmates?
JM: Yes. It never occurred to me that I was Jewish. Nobody told me
that.


LS: The Ukrainians didn't?
JM: Never. As long as I lived there. And it was not in Kiev, but on
the outskirts of Kiev; it was kind of a village. My grandmother was
very friendly with the people there, and my parents... I never knew
that I was Jewish because we were so happy there.

1 3


LS: Even though your parents and grandparents spoke Yiddish, it

didn't occur to you?
JM: Nobody told me that. Nobody told me that I was Jewish, was not
like Ukrainian, because the Easter would come and I enjoyed more
than Christians because there were eggs, decorated eggs. I enjoyed
that. I never went to the church.

LS: Was there a church?
JM: Yes, there was a church, a small one.
LS: Even at that time[?]? So much for our conceptions about the


lack of religion in the Soviet Union.


JM: Only old people would go. But the Easter was a big holiday, and
the life was different from what is there.
LS: You mean because it was a small area? It wasn't like in the

cities?
JM: Yes. Probably it was different.
LS: It was more traditional?
JM: Yes.
LS: It hadn't been touched as much by the revolution?
JM: I don't know, but when we moved to Kiev, it was much worse.
LS: Did your parents celebrate Jewish holidays when you lived


there?


JM: Yes, something, as long as grandfather lived with us.
remember Hanukkah, I remember Passover ...
LS: But how do you say you didn't know you were Jewish and you


were celebrating all these holidays?


14


JM: I didn't know that. I knew that we had this kind of holiday and
they had that one, but I don't remember the word Jewish, I don't
remember it.

LS: It sounds like you just accepted things as things were. That's

the way children accept things.
JM: I didn't think of that. I was really small, because when we had
moved, I was ten years old.


LS: When you moved to Kiev proper, you mean the metropolitan area?
JM: Yes.
LS: Was this after both grandparents had died?
JM: No.
LS: Your grandfather was still with you? So, there were now five


people. What sort of a place did you move to?
JM: It was not far from the forest again. It was a new area, a new
neighborhood, but the people who lived there, there were kind of
mixture~ There were Jewish people there too. It was the period
when Khruschov was fighting for new areas, new neighborhoods with
five-story buildings. He tried to build as many five-story buildings

in the country, just to feed everyone with an apartment. So, we got
an apartment there and, in comparison to what we had, it was better.
LS: How many rooms did you have then?
JM: Three. Two-bedroom apartment. It was kind of nice, but that's


where I learned that I was Jewish.
LS: And who told you?
JM: Children.
LS: The other children?


1 5


JM: Yes.

??: Did you doubt them at first?

JM: You know, I was probably, I was aggressive. It ran in the family.
Like my grandfather, he was really aggressive and he was very brave
to fight because he was strong. I was a girl, but I was really
aggressive, and probably proud. And I would fight with kids. I was
not afraid of fighting. And I had a very sharp tongue. I could answer.
I had a lot of boys around. I dealt better with boys than with girls.
And then I came to be a teacher, I really liked boys more than girls.
It was easier for me to deal with them.

LS: Did you get in physical fights?
JM: Yes. It happened too.
LS: What would they say?
JM: We had a word for that. It's Polish.

LS: Which is?

JM: Zhid.

LS: And how do you translate that into English?

JM: I can't translate it. It doesn't have any parallel here.

LS: Have you heard of the word in English "kike?"

JM: No.

LS: That's a rather pejorative thing to call a Jew. It used to be

rather common in the 1920s [?] and it sort of means "dirty Jew."

JM: You know, I had so much anti-Semitism in Russia that nothing

can really amaze me here.

1 6


LS: I don't think that it's a word, it just hasn't been used in this

country very much. So, how old were you then? Were you about ten

then, when you moved?

JM: Yes. And at eleven, I had... [End Tape 1 Side 1]

[Tape 1 Side 2]

LS: ...You were saying you had a friend in your apartment building?

JM: Yes. She knew English alphabet at the time. I was about to

start learning English. We had only English in our school.

LS: Did other schools have other languages?

JM: German, French, Spanish, that's it. So, she taught me probably
ten words and the alphqbet, and when I came to school, it was
amazing because no one was English or British in my family, and no
one spoke any languages, except Yiddish, and my mother knows
German very well and my grandfather because when he was young, he
used to work for Germans. There were a lot of Germans in Russia; he
used to work for them, and he got along pretty well with them.

LS: So your grandfather knew Yiddish and German?

JM: Yes, and Hebrew. So, when my mother was in Austria, and my
father, they got by there pretty well. They enjoyed it.

LS: Talking about your parents, one question occurred to me: What
did your grandfather do for Germans? You said he was working for
them?

JM: Some kind of farming. I think it was farming. And he was ...

can't find the English word that stands for that..
supervisor in farmers, he was helping the landlorremember. I can't really tell.
he
d.
was
I dolike
n't
LS: So he had to work on a farm?

1 7



JM: Yes.

LS: He didn't buy grain or? ..

JM: No, no, no. But he was supervising, not actually working as a
farmer, but he was helping to do things, to settle things down. I
don't remember exactly what kind of job he did for them. They had
German colonies all over the place, and they were rich people, and he
really enjoyed working with them.

LS: There is a number of Russian Germans, as they are called, who
settled in North Dakota and became successful farmers there also.
OK, when you moyed to this area and the apartment building, you said
that was when you discovered that you were Jewish because other
people labeled you as such. Were most of your friends after that
point Jewish or did you still. ..

JM: They still were Ukrainians.

LS: Did you have Jewish friends?

JM: Yes, I had some; but not many--three or four. Most of the people
who lived there were Ukrainians. There were not a lot of Jews.
There were particular districts in Kiev where Jews lived. We didn't
live in that district, in any of them, and that's why my friends,
almost all of them, were Ukrainians.

LS: But these were friends who didn't call you names, right?

JM: No, I wouldn't be their friend. I went to a Ukrainian school and
graduated from a Ukrainian school.

LS: What other sorts of schools were there?

JM: Russian schools and Ukrainian schools, and English schools.
wanted to go to an English school, but there was no English school in
the area, and my parents were too busy to take me to the English
school in downtown Kiev.

1 8



LS: I want to ask about the English school, how early could you

start?

JM: At the age of seven.

LS: It sounds like, like... Why don't you tell me, what do you see as

the differences between the American and the Soviet grade school

systems?

JM: Even though I worked at school and I went to school for ten
years, I don't know the schools here. I've been to a school once, I
talked to the students at Como High School, but it seems to me that
here kids start at the age of five, they go to kindergarten, and it's
better, to me, I think it's a better way to educate; at five, you're
really smart and inquisitive, and it's really better for the kids to
have a head start.

LS: How old were you when you started school?

JM: Seven. All Russian kids, Jewish kids, Ukrainian, they would

start at seven. Now it's at six, but when I was a kid, it was at
seven, and up to the age of sixteen.

LS: What about the content? Do you have any way of judging the

content of schools in the Soviet Union versus the content here?

JM: You know, probably some things we studied differently than
here, like mathematics, and biology, and physics. It was really hard
to go to school, but I don't know what is the level here. I have my
former student in Philadelphia, and he writes to me and sometimes
we talk on the phone. I ask him about the school because he still
goes to school, and he says that it's easier, much easier for him. He
enjoys going to school here because it's just...

LS: It's a breeze, as we say?

JM: It's a breeze, it's really a breeze.

LS: When you went to high school, was that in the same area? A
Ukrainian high school?

1 9


JM:
was
Yes. We had forty students in a class, and five were Jewish.
a big number.
It
LS: Percentage wise, it seems fairly large.
JM: It was five, or even seven. Three of them are here , in the

United States. One in San Francisco, one in New Jersey and I'm here.

LS: Did you seven feel any stronger bonds toward each other than

toward the rest of the students?

JM: Never.

: LS: So [unclear]

JM: I was not a close friend of theirs. We became a little bit closer
with one girl after school, but not in school. And I never thought of
my friends as being Jewish or Ukrainians. To me it was not
important at that point.

LS: What was important?

JM: Important how we got along, was it interesting for me? I was
very communicative. I had a lot of friends, a lot, I think too many
people around me--l was sometimes tired of talking and socializing.

LS: Was school a happy time for you?

JM: At some point, yes. I can't say that it was very happy because,
probably, I had problems. I was very--1 am--a very defensive
person, so it was really easy to hurt me, and I had some problems at
school getting along with girls, usually with girls, but I had some
nice time.

LS: Adolescence is always a difficult time.

JM: Yes, but we had nice time. When I talk to other friends of mine,
they had better schools. It was the matter of school, and we had a

20


very average level of intelligence in our school. We had some smart

people at school, but not many, unfortunately.

LS: In the US there are after school activities, you know, there are

clubs through, say, Jewish Community Center, clubs through the

synagogue or clubs through--you name it--or sports. What sorts of

activities were there for you after school?

JM: Almost all the activities were concentrated at school. But

there were some others. The problem was the remoteness of our

area. It was a working-class neighborhood, where the workers used

to live, and all the places where you could go, like sports schools

and musical schools, you had to travel, by tram, and since my

granddad at that time was living separately ...

LS: Was he?

JM: Yes, he married another woman. My grandmother died, and he
married another woman, and so he was not living with us. And there
was no one to take me there. I couldn't travel all by myself; my
parents wouldn't allow me to do that.

LS: Why not?

JM: Transportation, the problems, and you had to change, and the

traffic was· really busy there, and they were afraid.

LS: Afraid that you would get lost?

JM: Get lost or probably get into an accident. I don't know. But they
wouldn't let me go there, and I wanted to go to some places. I liked
the sports school, I liked gymnastics, but they didn't accept me
because I was not as slim as they wanted me to be, and I couldn't go
to this English school at that time. So I went to school, to some
clubs at school. I learned English; I spent a lot of time in English-we
had an English club--and I went to the Geography Club--1 was
really interested in geography, in discoveries, in literature--! read a
lot.

LS: What about camps?

21


JM: In summer we went to the camps. I didn't like the camps. I
don't know why. Probably, because in summer I didn't feel like
getting up early in the morning and doing everything on the schedule.
So, probably that's why.

LS: What about being indoctrinated into the Soviet system? You
know what I mean? When you were growing up, you were supposed
to be a patriotic Soviet citizen, the communist party is something
you want to belong to, to be a contributing member of the socialist
society, socialism is the way of the future, etc., etc. This was, no
doubt, presented to you in school and in your clubs. How did you take
it? Did you think it was something you had to put up with, was a big
joke or something you truly believed in at the beginning?

JM: I just want to make clear that when those people who came
from Russia are telling you that they never believed in the system,
they never believed in communism, they never believed in this and
that, I would never believe them. The propaganda was terrible. I
don't think that I ever was interested in the communist ideals,
never. What was really patriotic about me was World War II. I
really keep it in my soul, even now: the songs, the stories, the
movies. That's how I felt Jewish, because I knew all the stories
about Jews during the war, how they were persecuted. That was the
only thing which I really remember that would make patriotic
because I was really thankful in my soul, I was convinced that only
the Soviet Union saved all the rest of the Jews and they saved the
world from Nazis. That's what was really patriotic about me. Then,
when I grew older, especially when I married my husband, we didn't
take seriously neither Brezhnev nor anyone else, and we talked very ...
I can't find the right word. I can't say that we opposed the system,
that we were dissidents, but we didn't take them seriously.

LS: Were you disillusioned?

JM: Yes. Probably we were disillusioned, but still we were not that
well informed about what was going on. I didn't know the true story
of what has happened to people before the war, during the war, after
the war. I didn't know, I don't think we know it now either, but when
I found out the truth, when Gorbachov come to power and they


started glasnost and openness in the country and they would publish

things which had never never been published, it occurred to me how

terrible the system was. But I just complained about the system

sometimes, and I think mostly I complained because I was Jewish.

couldn't enter the university in Kiev. I was told by the teacher not

to do that.

LS: Not to apply?

JM: Even not to apply because it was impossible. I had a private

instructor, and she was from the Institute of Foreign Languages in

Kiev.

LS: When you say private instruction, why and it that usual?

JM: Yes, it became usual and it's becoming more and more usual. For
two years at the end of the school, the teacher was sick all the time
and they couldn't find a replacement. So I didn't have any English
classes, and I was willing to enter the institute and set my heart on
being-,..not an English teacher--but to learn the language, and so we
had to find a private instructor. She was from this institute. She
was a nice lady. She was Russian. And she told me not even to try
because it would be very very disappointing for me. So, I didn't.

LS: What about your other Jewish. classmates? Did they have the
same experience?

JM: I think that all of them went through colleges--not all of them,
some of them--but it took them more time. One of them who was
really brilliant--she is in New Jersey now--she tried four times ...

LS: To enter the Kiev University?

JM: Not the university, but one of the colleges in Kiev. She
succeeded. She did it, but it took her a long time. I didn't want to
wait. So, after school, I went to Grozny and it was a competition
there too, but I was successful.

LS: What about your brother?

23


JM: He didn't go to school in Kiev. He went to Rostov, and so he

studied there.

LS: Did he go there for the same reason?

JM: Yes.

LS: After your grandfather stopped living with you, did your parents

observe any Jewish holidays?

JM: No.

LS: Did they continue to speak Yiddish?

JM: Yes, even now sometimes.

LS: Did your parents ever listen to the Voice of America?

JM: Yes, we listened. I listened, and I had mixed feelings toward
listening to the Voice of America because the propaganda was really
strong and probably the way I was brought up, I was loyal, and I
thought, "Well, it couldn't be this way. There must be some truth in
what they're saying, but it couldn't be that way, it couldn't be that
horrible." I just tried, you know, like ostrich, when you try to put
your head under your wing, this is how I tried to get away from
everyday life, from everyday problems. I do remember what struck
my mind, when I was listening to Deutcher[?] and they said that
communism and fascism was the same thing, I couldn't believe that
and I was terrified by that. They can't say that. The people saved all
Jews; they saved the world from Nazism. Well, I was young.

LS: Did your parents have friends in the neighborhood?

JM: Yes. They had more Jewish friends than we did. They had some
relatives and my father had Jewish friends, but they had Russian
friends and Ukrainians as well, many of them.

LS: Did they have social clubs, did they meet at people's houses?

24



JM: Yes. They met at people's houses, but usually they met to talk,

to have dinner together.

LS: You do this at people's houses rather than going out?

JM: Yes, they would even sing songs and dance sometimes.

LS: What sorts of songs?

JM: Russian. We had some Jewish records. My granddad would buy

them, and so we played them too.

LS: Was there a problem playing them? Were you worried about

neighbors hearing?

JM: No, not that I remember.

LS: Do you remember the 1967 war? Do you remember any

repercussions? I know that was when Russia broke off diplomatic

relations.

JM: Yes, I remember.

LS: What do you remember about that?

JM: We felt very strongly about Israel. I can't say about other
people, I am saying about myself, my appearance is very Jewish; so,
some people in Russia--and I can't blame them--try to hide their
Jewishness, pretend that they were not Jewish. They paid money to
change their passports, to change their nationality in their
passports. To some extent it was easier for them to live. We never
did that. We never thought about it. And it's amazing that I had
Ukrainian friends and I liked English--English was the favorite
subject for me at school--and I liked Ukrainian and I read a lot of
books in Ukrainian and Russian, but as for the Jewish problems, as
for Israel--and I'd never been to Israel and I'd never heard and I
never had anyone there at that time--we took it too deeply, too
close to heart. We were so concerned, it's amazing, in our family.
And it's a lot of families. And I think that almost all the Jewish
people in Kiev, almost all of them, were concerned about Israel. It

25


ran in your genes; it's amazing, because they tried to assimilate you,
they tried to make you feel that being Jewish and looking like
Jewish it's horrible. And some people were very proud. I do
remember the lady--she lives now in Sibley Manor--and we were
coming to the United States together, and on the way, the whole way
to the United States, in Austria and Italy, her main talk was that she
didn't look Jewish, among all the Jews she didn't look Jewish, and I
think that the system made people think so, made them ... [?], but
still when the war broke out in 1967, Jews were extremely
concerned, and they were listening to their radios, and they were
really very supportive--mentally of course--very supportive to what
was going on in Israel. It's amazing.

LS: After the war, when diplomatic relations were broken off and

Israel was sort of a [unclear] country, at least in the eyes of the

Soviet Union, did Jews in the Soviet Union suffer because of this?

Was there any outbreak of hostilities? What happened?

JM: No, not hostilities. It was as far as I understand it now. I was
too busy with other things and reading the newspaper, I probably
didn't understand things as clearly or as vividly as I can see them
now, but it was kind of propaganda. All the newspapers and
magazines, when people try to make you think this way and that way,
and so all those stories about Zionism and Israel and bad stories,
terrible stories, so they put, I would say in Russian--1 can't think of
an English proverb at this point--when you put oil into the fire to
make it bigger-


LS: I guess what you are saying is that, instead of quenching
enthusiasm, people were aware ...

JM: No, the anti-Semitism, it'd been there for years, for centuries,
but with Israel and Zionism they tried to make things even worse.

LS: I was wondering how it affected you and your parents?

JM: It was hard to find a job; it was hard to go to school; it was
hard even in the streets. For my dad, it wasn't that bad. He doesn't
look Jewish at all. For my mother, for me, for my husband
afterwards, it was really bad.

26


LS: People would actually stop you in the street and shout things at

you?

JM: No, in transportation, on the bus, the tram, in the store--not

every day, not every single minute, but it happened.

LS: Was it something that was a [unclear] or was it something that

was a turning point in your life?

JM: No, I don't think it was a turning point, no.

LS: But did it increase your awareness of who you were?

JM: Yes.

LS: Did you then want to meet more Jews? Were you more

interested in finding out about Zionism or Israel?

JM: It was interesting because when I graduated from high school, it
was in 1970, and I went to Grozny--and it was in the Caucasus--and
probably you know, there are 100 nationalities living in the same
place, and there are Germans and mountain people, I don't know how
they sound in English, and Armenians, a lot of Greeks. When I came
there, in my group, in the particular group where I was learning
English, we had Armenians--! was the only Jewish, no, there were
two of us--and there were Azerbaijan and Armenians and different
different ethnic groups, and they called me--there was a popular
documentary on TV at that time, it was like a series, and it was.
called: "Zionism Without a Mask." Something like that: "Unveiled
Zionism."

. LS: I can imagine what it was like from the title. Zionism must
have been equated with fascism and whatever.

JM: Exactly. They showed the history and they showed the fathers
of Zionism, and they told terrible things about them. When I came to
Grozny, it was for the first time in my life when I was not afraid of
being Jewish because a lot of people there, in the Caucasus,
Armenians, you know, they look like Jews. Those people, the native

27


people there, they looked like Jews--1 was happy, I was happy at

last. [unclear] why Jewish people in different parts of the world

they feel sometimes the same way.

LS: Yes. So you felt comfortable in the classes. So, you were

talking about "Zionism Unveiled?"

JM: It was the period, it was 1970-71-72 when I was there, and

there was a war in 1973, there was the Yom Kippur War, but I was

standing strongly for Israel and for Jews. And they could talk about

that in the Caucasus, and it was really amazing and I was really

happy. And so nobody treated me badly, but they teased me-


Zionism, Unveiled Zionism--they just teased me. So I had this

nickname at the university.

LS: Which was?

JM: Zionism Unveiled.

LS: [laughs] That's really cute.

JM: Not because I was that brave--1 wouldn't do it in Kiev, but there,
with Armenians and Greeks and Germans, and Russians, I felt better.

LS: Yes it was They had some of the same feelings of resentment.
wanted to ask you about dating in the Soviet Union because I really
don't know much about that. Did you start going out with guys in
high school, the way people do here?

JM: Yes.

LS: And what did you do? Did you go to movies or dances?

JM: Yes. I didn't go to the dances because I didn't like dancing when
I was in high school. Probably all my life there I was a little bit
ashamed--not ashamed but embarrassed--because of my nose. I
thought it was so ugly that, really, I was afraid of going anywhere
and dancing, even though I had a lot of friends, I socialized a lot, but
still I had this feeling, and probably that's why I became
embarrassed to dance, although when I was little I loved it. We

28


went to the movies; we walked a lot; we went to our friends'

apartments; we listened to the music ... [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side 1]

LS: Was it difficult to find those records in the Soviet Union?

JM: Yes, at that time, yes.

LS: Did people in high school and junior high get any sort of sex

education?

JM: No, not at all, and that was a major problem for many many
people, for many generations; To tell you the truth, I didn't know
anything about that, and we got information that was kind of dirty
information from each other. But when I worked at school recently,
before I left those last three years, I used to be a teacher of "Ethics
and Psychology of Marriage." I had this course and taught this course
to students and I realized how much I had missed and my friends,
because we had more information at that time and I was really very
open with my students, and they were very open with me. And they
needed it.

LS: Tell me this, did you have little films when you were in fifth or
sixth grade about menstruation?

JM: No, never.

LS: Did your mother have to tell you or did you wake up one morning
and said, "I'm bleeding to death." Is that what happened?

JM: Yes, that's what happened to me.

LS: Well, that happens ill America too, in some districts. Did you
have little film strips about ants and bees and pollination, about the
way animals have sex?

JM: Never, nothing of this kind.

29


LS: So, was your information from your mother or was it from your
friends?
JM: From my friends, not from my mother.
LS: Do people ask their mothers about that sort of thing?


JM: No.
LS: Did your mother go so far as to say, "Be careful about what you
do with boys?"


JM: Never.
LS: She didn't warn you about anything?
JM: No, never, never. It was not acceptable ih Russia.
LS: Did your friends tell you what boys and girls do?
JM: Yes, we talked about that when we were teenagers.
LS: When would you say boys and girls are having sex in the Soviet


Union?
JM: You know, in the recent years, probably at age of fourteenfifteen.
When I was in school, actually, when we were graduating,
we were in the tenth grade, my friend had sex with a girl who was
eleven, and she got pregnant, and she ·gave birth to a boy. It was
unusual; it was a disaster at school. Her form-mistress--we had
form-mistresses at· school--she was Jewish, by the way, a teacher

of French--she was fired from school because her student got
pregnant. She didn't do anything about that. [Laughs]
LS: What could she have done?
JM: This is so funny.
LS: Why didn't this eleven-year-old have an abortion?


30


JM: First of all, to tell you the truth, I don't remember that they

knew anything about abortions at school, and she didn't tell anyone

that she was pregnant. I do remember the hassle about that

pregnancy, and the whole school was so excited about it.

LS: Did that make you afraid to go out with guys?

JM: No.

LS: When did you learn about abortion, the option?

JM: Probably, when I was at the university; probably, I don't

remember. And since I don't have children, I was not interested.

LS: When did you meet your husband?

JM: In 1973.

LS: Were you quite done with the university then?

JM: No, I was at home just at that time.

LS: How did you meet him?

JM: It was a chance. It's amazing how things happened. My father
and mother were invited to their friends' house, but my mother was
called from work, she had to go to work; and at that point my dad
didn't want to go alone. So, I had to accompany him, to escort him to
this birthday party. We had an hour-long fight because my skirt was
too short, and he didn't want to go with me because he said that I
would embarrass him. I was about not to go at all, and then we had a
fight over my make-up, and finally we set out. When I came to this
house, I saw my husband, my future husband; there.

LS: What's his name?

JM: Vitaly. I recognized him because four years before that, I had
seen him in the same house--he was my father's friend's daughter's
friend. I saw him with a girl; they were playing piano and singing. I

31


was sixteen then, and he was twenty-four. And then I found out
when we were married, I told him that I had seen him before, and he
said, "I do remember you. When you came in, I thought, 'Oh gee, she
is so ugly, she would never marry anyone because no one would
marry her."' It was his girlfriend and they were supposed to be
married. Her brother was a dissident, a Zionist, a real one, and they
went to Israel in 1971. My husband was supposed to go with them,
and his parents didn't let him go. In Russia, it was obligatory to get
the permission. They didn't give him the permission, so he didn't go.
And you know, they are dead now--my husband's parents--the only
thing that I would never forgive them is that they didn't let him go.
He would have been much happier now if he had done that.

LS: Your husband was trained as a musician, right?

JM: Yes, and his girlfriend was a musician too; so they got along
pretty well. She was very smart. By the way, her husband was
killed in the Yom Kippur War. She came to Israel and married an
Israeli guy, and he was killed.

LS: Has she remarried?

JM: Yes, and he is an American.

[What follows is barely audible]

LS: How long did you go together before you decided to marry?

JM: A week.

LS: A week?! Oh gosh!

JM: Actually, we met each other on Saturday, and he proposed on
Monday.

LS: Tell me more. How could that happen? Did you fall in love?

JM: No, I was curious. He was the first Jewish guy in my life.
People I met before [What follows is not audible] ... It was
unacceptable in my family.

32


LS: You know, this is one thing I find very curious. On the one hand,

you say your parents did not celebrate any holidays, but at some

point they drew a line, is that what you are saying?

JM: Yes, they really drew a line. My father... [Not audible] [End Tape

2 Side 1]

[Tape 3 Side 1]

LS: You were telling me about meeting your husband at a birthday
party, and then you said that he proposed to you after one week, and
you were curious because he was the first Jew you had ever gone out
with, and you were just about to tell me what your father had said ...

JM: My father was strongly against non-Jewish marriage, and it was
his big concern. I was--1 am--a very devoted daughter. I didn't want
to disappoint him or make him feel bad. So, even though I had guys
of different nationalities before, I never thought of one of them
seriously, I never took them seriously. Even though I had
propositions--one guy had proposed to me and I liked him much more
than my husband when I met him--but it wasn't acceptable, and I
was too young to worry about that; I thought, "Well, I'm only
nineteen, [unclear] [Pause, checking equipment]

LS: If you don't mind telling me for the third time why you were

interested in your husband and why you weren't interested in the
other guys you dated, seriously interested?

JM: Probably, I was seriously interested in them, but it never
occurred to me that there would be any chance for me to marry them.

LS: Tell me again, why?

JM: Because of my father's approach. He was probably against mixed
marriages.

LS: What about your mother?

33



JM: I don't think she was as strongly against mixed marriages as my
father, but, I think she was probably against too, but not that
strongly. She didn't talk about that.

LS: What did your father say?
JM: My father would say, my father and grandfather--they both were
against--my grandfather would say that he wouldn't let him come
into the apartment because he could not imagine me married to a
Christian guy. And when [unclear] with my dad, he would say, "Well,

you can't step on me, you can't do that to me, you can't, you can't, you
can't..." And as I told you, I was too devoted to ruin his [unclear]
LS: I know you had two grandfathers--your grandfather who lived in

a little town--when did he die? The one you visited in the summer?
JM: He died in 1978.
LS: And your other grandfather, your mother's father?
JM: He died in 1979.
LS: I see. And you were saying that you used to visit them and you


used to visit your grandfather in his little town. What was the name
of the town?
JM: Nicopol. It's a Greek word.
LS: N-1-C-0-P-0-L?
JM: Yes.


LS: You said your grandmother was dead by that time?
JM: She was dead by that time; he had a second wife. Both
grandmothers were dead by that time.


LS: How long did you stay with him in the summer?
JM: Two weeks.

34


LS: How did he live? Did he have any sort of job at that time?

JM: No, he was a cantor. That was his main job.

LS: But it was still a job? You didn't go to the synagogue with him?

JM: No, never.

LS: Even though he was a cantor?

JM: No, it never crossed my mind. I heard him singing songs, I heard

him pray in the morning, and I couldn't bother him. I knew that I

couldn't do it. And I knew that he was listening to Israel, and my

second cousin lived in the same town. He would joke that my

grandfather's radio was not a big radio--it was usually on the same

frequency, only Israel.

LS: How many years did you go to visit him in the summer?

JM: Many years, many years--I think for more than ten years--and

then I went to Kubishev, and I never saw him again.

LS: That was where you taught schooi--Kubishev?

JM: In Kubishev, yes.

LS: I think I want to go back to your husband now. He proposed to
you after a week. Did you laugh at that time?

JM: Yes, I laughed and I didn't take it seriously. He was fun because
he had a wonderful sense of humor; he sings very well; he is a good
musician. So, he played the piano and sang me songs. It flattered me
because he was twenty-eight and I was twenty. He had nice friends.
It was the first aii"'Jewish community for me. People I used to deal
with and to be friends with were non-Jews, most of them. Here, it
was another picture. He had friends--Jewish boys--who were nice,
smart, interesting. I liked socializing with them. It probably played
a very important role in my saying "Yes." I couldn't say that I was in
love.

35


LS: When did you say "Yes?"

JM: The first day, the first time he proposed. I said, "Yes," because I
thought it would be possible to say "No" because it took us two
months to wait until we could marry--a usual procedure in Russia.

LS: So, even though you laughed, you said "Yes?"

JM: Yes. It was fun and funny for me because I was flattered. He
was a very smart man, and to me it was, wow, and he was the first
Jewish guy in my life, so I knew that my parents wouldn't oppose
that.

LS: Were you done with college, with your training?

JM: No, not yet.

LS: So, once you married, then what?

JM: Then, he didn't want to go to Grozny, of course. I couldn't find
any place in the whole Ukraine to go to school [unclear--noise] and
had to go to the Caucasus again. There is a place near Pyatigorsk.
It's the same area where Mr. Gorbachov is from. So, I changed my
school to Pyatigorsk Institute of Foreign Languages. I missed my
German because for three years I had been going to the University
and I got a second language there. Once you are out of a daytime
class and you go to a correspondence class""-like in Pyatigorsk it
was a correspondence course'""'' would go there for three or two
times a year, just to pass the tests. So, I lost my German.

LS: Then, did you live in Kiev?

JM: I lived in Kiev. I studied English all by myself, without any
tapes ...

LS: How can you do that?

JM: I don't know.

36


LS: Were you confined to reading books?

JM: I [unclear] I tried my best. It was not perfect, but when people
from White Bear Lake that actually helped us to come here. When
they came to Kiev in 1987, I communicated with them. I never asked
them how bad or how good it was, but I understood them and they
understood me.

LS: Tell me about the people in White Bear Lake.

JM: They helped us to come here.

LS: Who are they?

JM: Kerry and Howard [?] Gorchberg. I don't know if you know them.
He works for Land O'Lakes.

LS: How do they spell their last name?

JM: G-0-R-C-H-B-E-R-G

LS: How did they meet you?

JM: They had a family back there, and ·I was the teacher of one of the
boys, and they invited me to interpret for them. They are actually
here. [?]

LS: Are they Jewish?

JM: Yes.

LS: They had family back there that they had come to visit and you
were their interpreter, and then they helped you?

JM: Yes, we became friends. I was fascinated by them, to tell you
the truth. They were the first Americans in my life. I was a little
bit afraid of meeting them because I was told that he was the vice
president of a company, and I thought, "Oh, here comes the
capitalist." I thought that he would be very arrogant, I don't know,
just was scared. And when I met them, I changed my mind. They

37


were nice; they were smart. They didn't talk about money all the

time. I had my stereotypes, you know. They were very intelligent,

very amiable.

LS: How long were you together with them?

JM: A week. And then, I used to write to them and they would

answer. They had subscribed me to the National Geographic. It was

a big event in my life. That was the way to learn English again to

read National Geographic. I always liked geography.

LS: Yes. There are, things like the perfect combination of geography
and English. I wanted to go back a little back before we get to
[unclear] I've skipped a lot. You got married in... Tell me again what
year you got married?

JM: I got married in 1973.

LS: OK. In 1973. Was this before or after the October War in Israel?

JM: After. It was in November.

LS: Did your husband have an apartment in Kiev? Where did you

live?

JM: Yes, we lived with my parents. He had an apartment; he had his
parents there; we couldn't live with them. His father was a very
special person. Too special to live together.

LS: Had he been living before his marriage with his folks?

JM: When he went to school, he lived in a dormitory, and then he had
to come back to his parents because his mother got sick, and he had
to help. So, when I met him, he was living there, but he didn't like it.

LS: And his employment was as a musician, is that correct?

JM: He worked at a musical school, yes, and at a restaurant.

38



LS: And at a restaurant also? Is it difficult for musicians to find
full-time work in the Soviet Union?

JM: It's difficult, but much easier than here.
LS: What sort of musical instrument did he teach?
JM: Clarinet.
LS: And what sort of a restaurant did he work at?
JM: lntourist--for foreigners.
LS: Did he have any English skills?


JM: He had English at school, but...


LS: So, you had to move in with your parents. Is that correct?


JM: Yes, and it was not a very good idea. We got married in 1973,


and in 1975 we left for Kuibishev.
LS: When did you finish your correspondence school?
JM: In 1976.
LS: So, you left for Kuibishev before you had any sort of diploma. Is


that correct?
JM: That's correct.
LS: Why did you pick Kuibishev?
JM: My husband was invited to the Kuibishev Opera House to work


there; so we went there.


LS: And you finished your correspondence work there?


JM: Yes.


39


LS: And then, were you able to find a job there?

JM: Yes. It was hard.

LS: Why was it hard? Was it hard for everyone?

JM: It was hard for everyone. Just because I didn't have anyone in
that city and nobody knew me, without any reference. I started at
school as a secretary, and then I met a nice teacher and she gave me
a reference to one of the principals. So, I started there as a
librarian in the school library. Then, eventually, I became a teacher
when I graduated from that college and when they knew me as a
teacher, because I substituted a lot. It was a terrible school. They
had very difficult kids and terrible [unclear]. It was kind of like
working in jail. It was terrible.

LS: You know how in America the last year of college one has sort of
teacher training, you go out and you are supervised as you teach. Are
you familiar with that? Do you have that sort of system in Russia?

JM: Yes. The problem is I was finishing the school as a

correspondence student. So I didn't have that chance, and it was
very hard.

LS: So, you really had to learn on the job, and you had a difficult

school?

JM: Yes. And probably it helped because I started at the most
difficult, and then it was easier for me to adapt to work, to less.

LS: Since your husband had a position with the opera company, were
you provided with an apartment when you got there?

JM: We lived in a terrible apartment the first three years. It was-you
don't have this kind of apartments here~-it was a former hotel;
so it was a long long corridor with a lot of doors and a lot of
different people. I'm trying to make my husband [not clear] because
there were a lot of Jewish people there, and the most interesting
thing for me and for probably everyone would be that these people
that had high positions--well, interesting positions--one of them

40



was an artist at the local TV, another worked for the Kuibishev

philharmonic, a lecturer, and all these people lived in unbearable

conditions.

LS: Why was it unbearable?

JM: Can you imagine one kitchen for ten families?

[Phone rings]

JM: Since I was here, people seem to be very nice, but you never
know ...

LS: If they are willing, how much are they willing to do. She is very
straight forward about what she can do and what she can't do. She is
resourceful. We were talking about that part of the problem
revolved around the fact that you had to share cooking facilities
with so many people, and the rooms...

JM: And the rooms ... And cockroaches ... They were big. I never had
them at my home in Kiev, and to tell you the truth, Kiev was ...
Kuibishev seemed to be very dirty, even though we met a lot of
interesting people there, a lot of Jewish people there; we had a very
nice company of people, very nice bunch of people, but Kiev itself
was beautiful and more educated, and ...

LS: It sounds like you are talking about Kiev as a real City, and this

is a provincial town.

JM: Yes. A lot of drunk people, and it was a dirty town, and I didn't

like that.

LS: But you were there a long time?

JM: Yes, for six years.

LS: Did you try to go somewhere else to live?

JM: We tried, but I wanted to live only in Moscow--my Chekhov

period--! wanted to go to Moscow. I had this crazy idea stuck in my

41


mind--1 couldn't get rid of it, but my husband had a very good job
there; they appreciated him, and he was a very valuable worker. And
he worked at the Musical College. And he had a lot of propositions to
work on TV and to work on the radio. He is really smart; so they
wanted to use him. But the city itself I didn't care about.

LS: Did you form good friends, female friends there?

JM: Not female, just had couples, very nice people, very intelligent.
And you know, when Jewish people live in small amount in a town-it's
a big city actually with more than a million people--when the
community is small, people appreciate each other; the value their
ties, and they try to be together, try to stay together, and all those
people who were intelligent and smart they kept being together,
spending time together. I was very happy that we [unclear]

LS: Yes, you had a nice circle of friends. Was it not possible to find
a better place to live?

JM: We got an apartment finally, and because the director of the
Opera House was a Jew and my husband was--1 was very mad at this
man--but eventually he gave us an apartment. We got like studio,
but it was a separate apartment and it was ours. It was nice.

LS: Did you continue working at the same school?

JM: Yes.

LS: Did things get easier for· you or did you still feel that these kids
were not...

JM: No, I got along very well with them. It never occurred to me
that I could be a teacher. I didn't want to be a teacher. Probably,
had too many bad teachers in my life. I didn't want to be a teacher,
never wanted ...

LS: What did you want to do?

42



JM: I wanted to be an interpreter, I wanted to speak English. It was

not a very smart idea, but for me, it was English. I was interested
only in the language.

LS: But you found that you were talented as a teacher?

JM: Yes, because I was interested in people.

LS: What made you decide to leave the Soviet Union?

JM: When people were leaving ten or fifteen years ago, the closest
family, like my aunt--the older one--she is in Israel, and my cousin,

she is in Israel...

LS: When did they leave?

JM: In 1978. And then another cousin--the other one--he is

Philadelphia; he left at the same time. And my second cousins were
leaving, and my brother wanted to leave, but they didn't let him go.

LS: Who didn't let him go?

JM: [unclear] my family. We couldn't go at that time. We didn't want
to go.

LS: OK, you say you couldn't go...

JM: And we didn't want to--both. My father's parents wouldn't allow
him to go. He had a brother there. My grandfather was dying at that
time. It was in 1979. And then, we didn't let my brother go, and
then he had to go to serve in the army. And then in 1980 they
stopped the emigration. Then in 1987, when we met those
Americans and their family and I talked to their nephew--1 taught
him English--and we became very close at that time. I can't say that
we became friends, but it seems to me that we were very friendly.
So, it was his idea. He decided to leave the country.

LS: Whose idea?

JM: [unclear] Vladimir's, the nephew. He was there, in Kiev.

43


LS: There is something I am confused about. You were living in
Kuibishev?

JM: Oh, we moved.

LS: You moved back to Kiev?

JM: We moved back to Kiev when my brother died. It was in 1981.

LS: So, that's the part I am missing. Was it difficult to move back?

JM: It was terribly difficult, incredibly difficult. You know there is
such a thing as domicile: if you live in one place, you have to have a
passport in this town. When we moved to Kuibishev, we lost our
domicile in Kiev. Kiev, Moscow, and Leningrad are considered to be
the most valuable cities, most attractive. So, when we decided to
come back, we couldn't get our domicile back. And without the
domicile, we could not find work. So, we went to a lot of troubles.
Finally, we got it. We got a domicile in 1982.

LS: Then was your husband able to be employed again?

JM: Yes. He started working at the Symphony Orchestra.

LS: That sounds excellent.

JM: Before we left for Kubishev, he couldn't find any kind of job
performing, and when we came back, this orchestra had just been
organized. It was a new orchestra, and probably that's why. He
played in an audition, and they hired him.

LS: It sounds like you were really set. Now, you moved back to be
near your folks after your brother died?

JM: Yes.

LS: Were you able to find a job as a teacher?

44



JM: It was very hard for me because I couldn't speak for many
months after my brother died ...

LS: When you say you couldn't speak, what do you mean?

JM: I just couldn't speak. First couple of months I didn't speak at

all. I lost my speech. Then I started speaking, but it was kind of

pronouncing words in syllables, not the whole thing at a time. It
was like ... I can't tell you, like saying one word, in syllables, saying

one, then another one, then another one ...

LS: Is this something beyond depression?

JM: Probably. I don't know. They said it was just because it was

such a terrible thing to happen to me. They were sure that I would

resume my speech.

LS: I had some questions, Jane, about what we had talked about; but
I would like to get into a new area, and then I have a feeling we may
have a wrap-up session. You were talking, when we left, about when
your brother died in 1982--1981--and your problems afterward with
what sounds like a very severe depression. After you began to come
out of this, did you then find a teaching job in Kiev?

JM: Yes. I came to Kiev in November of 1981, and I couldn't find a
job. In Kubishev, where we had lived before, I had been working as a
teacher for six years and a librarian, and when we came home, I
couldn't speak very well actually, it was still a disease, but my
husband insisted on my going to school. He thought it might have
helped me to get out of depression. I tried and when I saw that I
couldn't succeed in this kind of field, I tried elsewhere, but they
didn't want to hire me.

LS: Because you didn't have this permission to live there?

JM: No. I had the permission in January and I started looking for a
job in January--otherwise, I wouldn't have even applied--but. I
couldn't find any job, even at the place where my father had been
working for thirty years. They knew everything, but they didn't want
to hire me. They had an opening as a translator for some technical

45


things. You know that we have district party committees, and so the
first secretary of the district party committee was the man who
previously had worked with my father at the same place. And
my father--he couldn't get into the building--so, he waited for this
man outside, and when he saw him get out of the car, he stroke up a
conversation with him and he recognized my father. My father told
him the whole story, that I had to come back to Kiev and I couldn't
find a job. And he promised to help. Even for him, it was hard. He
was a nice man--1 mean he was a party member--but he used to be
an engineer and knew my dad, and he was probably not anti-Semitic.

So, he tried to help me, but he had to ask the person who was
in charge for the school district three or four times, and it was very
unusual, because for this person, the first secretary of the district
party committee is a supervisor, but still this man who was in
charge of education tried to oppose as much as he could, and I had to
go there twice or three times, and he didn't want to talk to me.
Finally, he found a job for me, but it was not teaching but being
some kind of a teacher's aid, working with kids after school. I had
been working there for two weeks, and finally--it was through the
network--usually Jews in Russia, many of them, have to ask other
people to help them with finding jobs and give them
recommendations or sometimes somebody maybe paid money, I don't
know ...

LS: Is it only for Jews or do Georgians have the same problem or
other nationalities?

JM: No, for Jews it was a real problem, because it was not a law,
but people did not want to hire Jews, and it was a common problem.
Nobody told you, "I'm not hiring you bebause you're Jewish." That's
what happened to me many many times in Kiev, and my husband was
asking the man who did not want to hire me to write it down and to
write down the reason, and he· didn't want to. He just said, "No." My
husband's friend's mother was on good terms with the principal of
the school, and when there was an opening for a teaching position,
they called me, and so I had an opportunity to move to another
school. That's how I got myself [a job];

LS: What grade did you teach then?

46


JM: When I came to the school, I taught seventh grade.

LS: Was there any resentment at the way you'd gotten the job or is

that just accepted in Russia?

JM: It is accepted. The principal talked to me first, of course. She
talked to me and she said, "Yes." I had a recommendation from the
city from where I moved. Then, the teacher of the Russian
Literature who happened to work there as a teacher, she had been my
teacher when I was a schoolgirl, and she recognized me and she gave
me a reference too. But the principal of the school had to talk to her
supervisor, who was in charge of the district educational program,
and she did not want to hire me. So, the principal came back and she
was just red, and she said, "Well, I had to talk to her until I was blue
in my face. I thought it was like an hour. And she said, 'I don't want
to hire Jews."' Because the principal was Ukrainian, and that woman
was Ukrainian. The principal was very nice. She told me, "Well, I
succeeded, I won."

LS: How long did you stay at this school?

JM: Until I left the country; it was seven years.

LS: What were the relations with other teachers? Did you form a
nice, cohesive group? I don't know anything about what the school is
like for the teachers themselves. Did you form close friends with
other teachers?

JM: Yes. First, we had some Jewish teachers there--not many, but
we had like four, out of fifty. I had some friends, and we became
very close although they did not want to see me off when they found
out that I was leaving,· but we were very good friends during many
years, and I really appreciated that friehdship.

LS: When you say you were really good friends and you were very
close, did you do things with them after school?

JM: Of course. We went to the concerts; we met each other at our
apartment buildings, and we went to the movies, and we went to the
cafes, and we were very friendly, really very close.

47


LS: Did you ever take vacations with them?

JM: No.

LS: What triggered your reasons for wanting to emigrate?

JM: I really didn't think about that, as I told you before, but what
really triggered my husband first, he was really scared when-remember
the violence between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, when
Armenians were killed, and nobody helped them--and he just said,
"Well, I don't know what to think but it looks like, if it happens to be
here, nobody would defend us either." It was very scary. And then
the situation in Central Asia, where Turks were killed, and we saw
the demonstration in Kiev--actually we didn't see it but we heard
about it--my husband's colleague's son happened to be in Kreschatik
(it's the main street of Kiev) and he saw these posters appealing to
kill Jews, and it was scary.

LS: What year was this?

JM: It was 1989. Then I had a student, she worked for the KGB as a
secretary--as a typist actually, not a secretary--and when she came
to my house one day ...

LS: When did she come to your house? She was a previous student of
yours and you had kept friends?

JM: We were on friendly terms with many of my students, and they

would come to my house, many of them ...

LS: That sounds lovely. It's less usual here, in America. Are Soviet

teachers closer?

JM: Even in Russia. It was not usual at our school, and probably
sometimes teachers were jealous, but sirl6e I didn't have my own
kids, I spent a lot of time with my students. They are still writing
to me, many of them. So, this student, she graduated in 1985, and
she would invite us with my husband to her home, and we went to all
the weddings, to important occasions. So, she came and we talked,

48


and first she was very resentful about people leaving the country;
the next time she came, she said, "You know, it's a little bit scary"-she
never told me anything about her job, I didn't ask--but she said,
"You know, there are several organizations in Kiev, and people who
are taking an active part in these organizations, they are not
working people or uneducated people--they are writers and artists
and correspondents--and they all want Jews to leave the country,
and they are just calling for killing Jews." And she said, "I'm just
afraid that it would hurt you somehow, that you would be hurt." It
was once that she mentioned that, and we never came back to this
again, but it was really scary. Because she didn't tell me anything
about her job, but it was the only time she really looked very
concerned about us, although she was Ukrainian, of course, and I
think she was really ... pretty frightened. Also they cried a lot-children--
that we were going to leave.

LS: You had mentioned that you had other relatives who had left?

That was, probably, a decade before. Where had they gone?

JM: My aunt is in Israel and my cousin. And my other cousin is in

Philadelphia.

LS: And what made you decide to come to America, what made you

decide to come to Minnesota?

JM: I didn't write to my cousins. either in Israel or in the United
States, partly because I was in Kubishev when they left, partly
because they didn't write us. When my brother died, nobody either
called or wrote a letter, so I just gave up thinking about them, but
the man who was leaving the country and whose relatives were here,
was talking about coming to the United States and staying in the
same place, and then those people from White Bear Lake, Gorchbergs,
they actually helped us

LS: So you kept up correspondence with them?

JM: Yes. We were really thankful to them. None of our relatives
helped us.

LS: And that's why you decided to come to Minnesota?

49


JM: Yes.

LS: So, you had no relatives here?

JM: No.

LS: What sort of relatives did you leave in Russia?

JM: There is no one really left there. Probably, one second cousin

and my father's cousin.

LS: So, the four of you left, is that right? You went to Vienna, and

you were saying that your parents got along very well there because

of your mother's German. And then, how long did you spend in Italy?

JM: We spent there two months and a half. It would have been nice,

but we had a very cold apartment and we had to stay in the same

room.

LS: Yes, it's very difficult, not luxurious.

JM: But I worked there; I worked there at the Jewish school. And
this is the second time I felt I was so happy to be Jewish. It was
actually for the first time I felt it. I went to the school, and I didn't
want to go there because there were a lot of rumors that to get into
the school you had to pay money, to bribe someone. We never did
that. But my husband again insisted on my going there. I went there,
and the principal at school was an Israeli. I talked to him, and he
was very nice. He was the first Israeli man I really saw in my life.
He was a very very nice person. The next morning he sent me a note
saying that he decided to hire me. So, for the first time in my life,
talking to him, I was not afraid that I was Jewish.

LS: It was a benefit this time. [Laughs]

JM: Can you believe that? All the previous times I would think, "Oh,
they wouldn't hire me because I'm Jewish. They wouldn't tell me
anything, but they wouldn't hire me." And this was the first time

50



when I was very relaxed and very calm because I knew all along that
he wouldn't object to my being Jewish.

LS: What time of year did you get to Minnesota?

JM: It was the end of March.

LS: I see. So, there was still snow on the ground?

JM: No, there wasn't. It was cold, and I saw in Europe a man who
was from Minneapolis. He heard us speaking Russian, and he came up
saying that his family, his ancestors, came from Russia. And that he
never spoke Russian, but he wanted to welcome us. He was a
businessman from Minneapolis. I didn't ask his name, but he was
very warm, and it was very unusual then. Another man--he was
Norwegian, but he has been here for twenty-one years--he came up
and said, "I know how hard it is to be an immigrant, and I'm just
feeling for you and I'm very happy for you." I was very nice. It was

the first night we came. It was in New York.
LS: That was very nice. How long did you spend in New York?
JM: Three hours or so.

LS: So, you saw the inside of the airport, which is a pretty
bewildering place.
JM: It's really bewildering.


LS: I know. It's bewildering for Americans too.
JM: We actually couldn't realize what was going on around us,
because we came from Italy, and just twelve hours on the plane ...


LS: Coming over, did you just look at Manhattan from the airplane?
JM: No, I can't remember.
LS: In any case, when you came here, to America, was there someone


here to meet you at the airport?


51


JM: Yes. Gorchbergs and the man who had come before.
LS: Who was that?
JM: Their nephew who really pushed us. He was my student; I taught


him English.


LS: Oh, that Gorchbergs' nephew?


JM: Yes. They all met us at the airport, and they were very warm,


and the meeting was wonderful. So, it never occurred to me that


maybe in two weeks their nephew wouldn't be our friend any more.

But they were nice, they were really nice.

LS: Did they take you to this apartment?

JM: No, not to this apartment but 1377, and we shared the apartment

with my parents for six months probably.

LS: And who paid for the apartment?

JM: For the first month, Jewish Family Service paid. Then, my

husband and I got the assistance from the Jewish Family Service for

me and for [unclear] And I started working in June and my husband

started working in July.

LS: And what did you work at?

JM: At JCC, at the JCC Nursery School.

LS: Oh, at the Nursery School. Had you ever taught nursery school

before?

JM: No, but nobody asked me. They wanted me to start working right ·
away, and I was a little bit mad. I didn't want to start working
there because it was a long day and I had been in the country for two
months and I wanted to find something good, just to look around, and
to help my husband. And I started working from nine to six. It was
really hard for me. I had difficult time, but the kids were nice.

52


LS: And where did your husband find a job?

JM: Since they found a job for me, it was urgent for him to start

working because I didn't earn much. So, they took him to the White

Bear Lake Country Inn, and he started working there as a prep cook.

LS: I see. No jobs for musicians, ah?

JM: To tell you the truth, people from the vocational service at the

Jewish Family Service--! don't know how well they tried to find... I

can't tell exactly and I don't want to tell anything about people, but

of course, I would have preferred that they had found something

better for him because it was really hard for him to do that and it

cost--1 can't tell you how tough it was on us--because this kind of

job for the man over forty-five and with his background and with

young boys in the kitchen. They made him wash their yard, and they

made him wash the course--everything--and he didn't mind to work

hard, but he was humiliated many times--many many times--and it

still continues, because they didn't talk to him and they don't talk

here [unclear]

LS: Yes, it's probably just young kids working there.

JM: Yes. Of course, I understood they didn't want to pay, and I
understand that; it's normal--people pay money to Jewish Family
Service to help people, not to feed them for months and years--but
it was because we didn't have kids, I think, we couldn't be picky or
we couldn't even protest. And I didn't want people to tell me that we
give you money and you have to be just more obedient, like docile, or
something like that.

LS: Yes, I understand what you are saying. I do want to hear what
you have to say because, obviously, with the numbers that are
coming in, the vocational service can't do [unclear--too much noise],
and with the economy the way it is, they can't fit people to what
they have been accustomed to work at; but there probably could be
greater sensitivity, at least in explaining to people what they have
tried to do and where they have met dead ends.


JM: Yes. Gil tried to help him. He had an audition for the Minnesota
Opera. They didn't have an opening. It was kind of an audition just


to see how bad or how good he is as a musician. I understand
everything. I didn't object to my working there. Of course, I never
worked with kids ...

LS: With nursery school kids ...

JM: With nursery school kids, and it was hard, but people at JCC

were very nice to me, and when my dad was at the hospital, they

were really really nice. And kids were nice, and parents were nice,

and I can't say anything about that. I can't complain at all. My big

concern was my husband, and since he was not young enough to make

a fresh start, it was--and it is still--hard. I can't judge, I don't

know how hard it is to find a job for people.

LS: Have they tried to find him other auditions or has he tried to

find other auditions?

JM: He couldn't try anything because his language was not good

enough. I couldn't help him because I had been working. I worked

from nine till six. And then, in September, I started working at the

International Institute twice a week in the evening--1 tried to earn

as much money as I could. And he had to get by by himself, and he

couldn't do that. He couldn't speak on the phone. They might have

tried, and we talked to them again, but it just didn't work. You can't

meet everybody's needs, you can't.

LS: No. Would you have rather that he be given some time to go to
the language school and then find work? Is that how you would have
expected it to work?

JM: Yes. He went to school. He went to the International Institute,
until, I think, during summer, and I probably wanted them to help him
to find something or to change his profession.

They decided that it would be cooking. And they knew better
than I did. We didn't know anything about cooking in this country.
We didn't know that young boys are working at the kitchen; we didn't
know that they wouldn't pay him a lot. He's been working for a year,
almost, and he still earns much less than. people who started

54


working only two months ago, and Jewish Family Service helped

them to start working.

It's tough when you have to work so hard and you can't earn
enough. Maybe, it's not nice to say, but it has to be said, we don't
have anyone here, my husband doesn't have a person here, no family,
no one, and when I was not feeling well and when my dad was so
sick, and I didn't know how I would feel if something happened to my
dad, I thought that my husband would be left on his own--not earning
enough to support himself--and he still can't earn enough to support
himself. To me, it's very frustrating.

LS: What about you? You are employed full-time at this point,

right?

JM: Yes. I'm much happier now. I still earn the same amount of

money as when I used to work at JCC ...

LS: But you're not working as many hours?

JM: No. I'm really happy now. On the other hand--1 had to mention
that, it should be mentioned--but I think, Jewish Family Service told
the supervisor at the International Institute to hire me full-time; I
think it was their idea. So, on the other hand, I should be grateful to
them for doing that. So, it has both sides.

LS: Right. I don't know that life always gives you what you want,
and when you come from such a distance, with so many obstacles on
the way, you think that the obstacles that you had in your country
would recede, but new obstacles arise in this country.

JM: In this community. We were happy to be here, and my husband
was ready to work hard, and he knew all along that it wouldn't be
easy for him to be a musician. In this community, we were taken
very well; almost everybody was nice. Probably because it hurts
when somebody very close to you suffers, and you can't help,
sometimes it seems that life is unfair.

LS: It colors your whole attitude.

55



JM: You know, you're happy to be here, but you can't be happy when

your husband suffers.

LS: Right. So, as far as his work is concerned, can he learn about

auditions, in some way other than through the Jewish Family

Service? There must be some network of Russian musicians now, is

there not?

JM: It's very funny, but yesterday I talked to one American man, and
it's very hard for my husband to play the clarinet and [unclear] and
somebody telling him, "You can't practice." He can't practice because
working in the kitchen his hands became just terrible, and he got
eczema on his hands, but you have to practice. And he goes to school
in White Bear Lake.

LS: He goes to school?

JM: Yes. He learns to be a cook. When he started working there, he
wanted to earn more ...

LS: So, he is going to the technical institute to become a chef.

JM: Yes.

LS: Oh, I see. And if he does that, at some point, he'll make far more
money.

JM: Maybe, I don't know. Maybe it'll work out, of course, but as for
the music, it just doesn't work. .He got to know some musicians
here, and he asked, I think, two persons... [End Tape 3 Side 2]

[Tape 4 Side 1]

JM: ...called them twice, and they never called back. They didn't
want to help him. And yesterday one man told me that he talked to
another musician--he's been here for ten or twelve years and he's
famous here--and he said that Russian woodwind musicians can't
play well, they had the whole, like another approach, or another
technique, skills. And that man--the American man--he heard my

56


husband play, and he was fascinated, and he talked to him, but that

man didn't want to help. He was from Russia. That's why my

husband doesn't want to call people from Russia asking for help. It's

human to forget how it was for them--1 don't know--1 can't say

because it's really objective ...

LS: You can't be objective when it's somebody that close to you.

How did your parents find their adjustment to this country? I know

your father has had a lot of medical problems, but when he was

feeling better, did they find themselves totally disoriented or have

they been able to create some network of friends?

JM: My father and mother, although they don't have many friends
here, they are quite happy. My father was the one who was scared
most. He was so scared to come here. They are happy, and they
enjoy their life here. The only thing is that my dad is really sick. He
is still very sick and he won't be better.

LS: Do they go to the Center much?

JM: Not right now. They are kind of secluded because my dad can't
be anywhere for a long time--he has a lot of medical· problems and
he is on [unclear] disability. They had a terrible life in Russia, and
my dad was joking, "Well, finally we got to communism. [unclear]
about the communism and came to the United States, and now we
live under the communism--like having everything--we don't have to
work, we're getting money ... " Well, they're quite happy. He never
thought that communism would be in the United States.

LS: How many hours a week are you working?

JM: I work 54-60 hours a week.

LS: That many hours a week? That's a lot more than full-time, isn't
it?

JM: Well, I work not only at International. I used to work--1 don't
work in summer--but I work as a medical interpreter, sometimes,
it's not even part-time, it's [unclear] work,and on Saturdays I worked
at Sunday school at Mount Zion. Yes, I was pretty busy.

57


LS: You mean that you taught Sunday school?

JM: Yes, as a teacher's aid. I started working there in September.

LS: Why did you decide to do that?

JM: I talked to Isaac, the educational director at Mount Zion. It was

Gail's idea. She talked to Isaac, and she told me to go and just have

a talk with him. We talked, and he thought I would be useful there.

And I think, in a way I was, although for me it was quite a new

world.

LS: It boggles my imagination, to tell you the truth, to think of you

coming out of the Soviet Union and ending up teaching Sunday school

at Mount Zion. You leave me with my mouth hanging open.

JM: It's really unusual. Of course, I didn't know many things I should
have known, but I knew some Jewish history from my grandfather
and then I read a lot, and my duties were to help the teacher. So,
what I did, I was reading books, I was with students when they had
music and art, so it was not that stressful, but it was very
interesting for me ...

LS: So, when you read this stuff over ...

JM: You know, I was reading for them and for myself, because it was
new for either side and it was interesting because everything was
new, although I had this interesting experience at JCC learning about
[unclear] and other holidays, I had some experience in Italy working
at the Jewish school, and I'm picking up everything really fast, but it
was interesting. The children saw me being so absorbed and so
interested in everything, I think it even helped that they saw a
person who was really--they didn't know and I think they didn't feel
that I was quite ignorant in everything--but I was so inquisitive
about everything ...

LS: Yes, I think that they get to be pretty blase' and unhappy that
they are at Sunday school.

58


JM: Yes, but it was nice, and people there were nice. I had to read a

lot in order to get ready because I didn't want to feel like a dummy

there, and for me, everything was new, like for every single Jewish

woman or man out of the Soviet Union. We didn't have that

experience, never had, and so I appreciated it.

LS: When you say you didn't have the experience, it sounds like you

had...

JM: We never had Sunday schools.

LS: True, you never had Sunday schools, but you grew up with two

grandfathers--not everybody gets that background.

JM: Yes, and because my granddad knew a lot about Jews and Jewish

history, it helped of course.

LS: Did he tell you about holidays?

JM: I didn't remember a lot because, when my grandfather moved, we
didn't observe the holidays. But I knew Hanukkah, I knew Passover, I
knew matza--1 knew all that--but of course, I had a lot of things to
find out here, to learn and to read about. Maybe I was better
informed than many other people but not enough.

LS: What are you learning, what are you reading about?

JM: We learn about holidays and introduction to Torah at Sunday
school, and I knew all these stories from my grandfather and from

reading. So, I knew about Isaac and many others, about Moses, but
not much, and the history. So, I managed that. Sometimes I had
questions. I had to ask teachers and it was understandable.

LS: What sorts of questions?

JM: About the holidays, about some words I never came across,
don't remember now. I took the Bible, just the book, to read for
young boys and girls, and it was interesting for me. ·1 had to go the
way that probably I should have gone twenty years ago.

59


LS: Someone else who came from Kiev was telling me that: although
she went to work on High Holidays, she would leave work and go to
the area where the synagogue was, just to be with other Jews on
that day. Did your parents ever do that?

JM: To tell you the truth, I don't trust people--I'm very open and I'm
very straight. I'm telling you the truth--and don't trust people who
kept telling things about being very Jewish there, because I knew
many Jews in Kiev--1 am not blaming them because it was not their
fault--but people tried to... I can't express myself... It was kind of
policy to make people forget, to assimilate, to forget about
Jewish ness.

On· the one hand, they kept reminding them all the time, not
giving them the opportunity to [unclear] I know that the Kiev
synagogue, there was one synagogue there, and I know when my
granddad would go there, only old people would go there... My mom
went there a couple times, but she didn't like the idea of not being
with other people--1 mean, women were not allowed to sit with
men--and she didn't have time; she had difficult time working and
her mother was paralyzed for seven years, and so she didn't have
time. I don't know whether she went to the temple· when I was in
Kuibishev.

When I went to my granddad, to the small town, my [grand]dad
would go there, but not often. I never went there... ...about Jewish
and would go to the temple. I even knew that in Moscow and
Leningrad, young people went to the synagogue and met each other
there.

LS: It sounded like it wasn't to go to pray; it was just sort of go to
even be in the street in front of the synagogue with other Jews, a
way of affirming that you [unclear]

JM: I don't know, maybe other people, I don't about this lady--maybe
she did it, but not many people. I don't want you to believe in that
because people tried not to speak the language; when I was young, I
was a little girl, and we went somewhere with my granddad and
with my mother, and they started talking in Yiddish on the bus, and
was sort of worried that other people would hear that they were
talking Yiddish, and I was scared. A lot of people in Russia were
happy not to look Jewish. So, I wouldn't trust everyone, I wouldn't

60


believe everyone, but maybe this lady, she might have been, she

might have felt this way.

LS: So, you are trying to tell me to take all the information I hear

with a grain of salt, as we say?

JM: A little bit, yes. Maybe people, she believes now that she really

went. Perhaps, perhaps not. Perhaps, she really went there.

LS: Are there many teachers at the International Institute?

JM: No--six probably.

LS: What kind of a group of friends have you made here and how have
you done it?

JM: It's a very difficult question, one of the most difficult. In terms
of friends, what do you mean?

LS: The sort of friends that you had in the Soviet Union, when you

went to concerts and cafes ...

JM: We had a lady, she is very close to us, she is from Minneapolis.

She has been with us for a year and she has been very close and

helpful.

LS: Is she another Russian?

JM: No, she is American, and she is not Jewish. She would take us to
places that we would never have gone without her. This was one
woman. And there were some other people here who were very nice
to us. Paul Ross and Connie Ross and Ellen and Kevin Rothman [?] and
people from JCC. I can't say that we are friends with people from
JCC, but they were nice. And Bernie and Debbie Weiss. [?] You know,
you can't become as close as you were with people in Russia,
because you shared the same situations--difficult situations, even
tragic situations, and very happy occasions--but here, it's still hard
to figure out who is still close to you. Everybody is so busy here and
it is so different in a way...

61


LS: How is it different and how are they more busy here? That's
something I don't quite understand.


JM: I used to work a lot in Russia, but I still had enough time in the
evening and I had my Sunday, and my husband was not that busy.
Here, people study; they go to schools; if they want to succeed, they
have to learn just to do something about that, or sometimes they
come home exhausted, because I think that people who work here put
a lot of efforts in that and it's a little bit more stressful than in
Russia because you have life-term jobs there and you feel very
secure about your job. Here, it's different.

LS: Yes. That doesn't surprise me. What about friends in the Soviet
community?

JM: I don't have any. It happened. I don't know why. I felt very
miserable. It's a little bit better now since I met some other people,
Americans, who are very friendly. Maybe, we'll develop friendships
some time. I can't say that they are my close friends, but I think
that they are very nice and I like them. And I think that they like me
and my husband. As for the Soviet community, on the one hand it
would have been normal to become friends with people here because
we share the same situation, we have to deal with the same
problems, and we have the same background with many of them-there
are a lot of people with higher education that we have the
same background--it didn't work that way, I don't know why. First,
because many of them didn't work, some of them stayed on welfare.
They had time, they went to the same schools. Some of them didn't
work for a long time and they didn't go to school, but they had time
to see each other; they went to the same places. I was working--1
kept four jobs in January, in December--and I was so busy, I didn't
have time even to talk to the people, and then my father's illness,
and all the problems, and I went through terrible times here. I don't
know why it happened so, but I wish I had friends here, but it didn't
work. I have friends in New York--1 met them in ltaly--1 have
friends in some other cities, but not in St. Paul--1 mean the Soviet
community.

LS: Yes. That's not to say you won't have friends later on. People
are coming all the time.

62


JM: You know, you need time to develop friendships. You need time,

you need to feel better about yourself, about your situation, about
your job, about your family. You need the time to think, you need the
time to spend with people. I can't say that I have this time.

LS: So, you are feeling that you are still in some sort of limbo?

JM: Probably, and I have to work a lot. I have to read. I want to be

perfect or just trying to be perfect--nobody is perfect. I want my

English to be better, better, better and better. I don't like to ask
questions and to feel that "Oh, I don't know this word, I don't know

that word." I want to move.

LS: You are still working at the International Institute now? Sunday
school has stopped until fall?

JM: Yes. If they want to hire me again, they would send me a
contract by the end of June. If not, then it means that I won't work
there.

LS: But there is an option. There are all sorts of Sunday schools
that are always looking for teachers. Did you know that?

JM: No.

LS: Do you attend the synagogue?

JM: Yes. I've been to many synagogues here. Mount Zion is a reform
synagogue, as you know, and I like Mount Zion, and we became their
members. They have a lot of music and more English. So, for me, it's
easier, I feel more secure there. We have friends--Paul and Connie
are members of the same temple--we met some other people there,
wonderful people, like Maryann Bork [?] and her husband, and some
other people who have been very nice to us. When people say, "I
became a member of Beth Jacob because I believe in God and I know a
lot"--no, you can't become religious overnight. And I don't trust
people--they were very active in Russia, active communists in
Russia and active people in Russia--and they came here and they are
active again.

63


LS: They are active Jews here?

JM: Active Jews here. [Both laugh] They were active non-Jews

there. I met some people that I knew their background there and

again they are active.

LS: When you said you went to a lot of synagogues, was this because
you were curious?

JM: No. People invited us. You know, when you come to this country,
everybody is interested in you. And to me it looked like, "Oh,
everybody liked me. I am so special. It's so good to be here, and the
community is wonderful." Everybody seemed to be very concerned
about you. And then, all of a sudden, time passed, and it's not this
way.

LS: No. As you said, people are busy, and that is an American trait,

sort of to pick people up and drop them.

JM: It really hurt me. I had terrible time to realize ...

LS: It may have had nothing to do with you, but with other people's

lives.

JM: I didn't know that. I had to read a book--one book and another

book, I am reading another book--1 want to understand the American
way of life, the American attitude. And it's normal as it appears to
be. It's normal here. In Russia, we had closer ties, and people were
connected really tight to each other, but here it's not the same way.

LS: Why do you suppose that is?

JM: I can't tell you. I thought about that, and I think that partly
because of the tension people experience here and very stressful
life. On the one hand, you have everything here--we never had it in
Russia--but on the other hand, life is very hectic here, you just run.
It's amazing: I don't have a lot of friends here, I don't have a lot of
responsibilities here, but I still don't have time. I can have an
appointment every single day. I am trying to avoid some things, just

64


not to be constantly on the track, running around, but I'm curious
about everything, and you can go to this school and to that school.
Everything is interesting. These opportunities are killing me.

I didn't have any opportunities. I was a teacher, I read, but it
was kind of lazy life. I spent a lot of time with my students, talking
to them and listening to music. It was a very relaxed situation.
Here, no. Americans, to me, they are very pragmatic. Maybe because
they tend to move from one place to another, they don't want to be
too close, to stay too close to people--maybe not to be hurt when
you have to leave people. You don't like to leave people if you like
them. I don't know, but to me it seems a different approach to the
problem and a different way of making friends and keeping friends.
To tell you the truth, I like it now; I am getting to know the life here
and I like it more. Being friends in Russia and meeting people very
often, it takes so much of your time, and you can't really sit and
think about yourself or do something for yourself. It's just very..
how to say.. I can't find the word now. That's my problem, because I
know a lot of words, I understand it, but when it comes to talking ...

LS: This really is the most difficult test of language.

JM: Yes. There is a very good example. I had a lot of former
students there. They would come to my apartment, almost every
week, twice a week or three times a week, and of course, I was glad
to see them, but I had to read, I had to do something at home, and I
couldn't because they were coming and sitting there. They just
called and said, "We're coming."

It's not the way here. You have your schedule, you have to stick
to your schedule, but in Russia, no schedule, "Oh, all of a sudden,
they are here, surprise!" I remember, JCC kids--surprise! I had
those surprises almost every week, and it was sometimes very
annoying. Now, I appreciate every single minute of them because
am not sure when I'll be able to see them, and I appreciate every
single minute spent together. But here, you know that you will see
this couple in a week and you know that you will do that particular
thing next week, so it's kind of, in a way, convenient.

LS: It is convenient, but it is very programmed in a way and it
seems sort of artificial.

65



JM: Well, less emotions--isn't that good?

LS: I don't know if that's good or not.

JM: It's good in a way, again. Well, I don't like my way of life and

my approach to life, my attitudes--it's very emotional, very

demanding. When I feel very good about people, I'm demanding and ...

LS: It's too draining on you? So, you like this better. I haven't been

able to talk about that with anyone else, but there is this big debate

about friendship and how superficial some people find it in America,

versus deep friendships in the Soviet Union, but it's interesting to

hear you say that. There are minuses to these deep friendships too,
when you can sort of be monopolized, when there is nothing left for
yourself.

JM: Sometimes it happens. I met people from the United States who
were in Kiev, and they are very good friends of ours and they helped
us, but they can find, like minor problems and major problems. For
them, to help us when we were here was major, and so they helped
us. They found time and they found right time to help us or to talk to
us on the phone or to write to us. So, I think that probably it
sometimes superficial, but it depends. You can't make
generalizations. They are dangerous really. There are a lot of people
here, and their friendship is very deep, and the life is different and
it makes people act differently.

LS: So, you have been working so hard here, I don't know what sort
of activities you've been able to take part in?

JM: We went to the theatre, twice or three times.

LS: What did you go to?

JM: Guthrie. And we would not have been able to go there if it had
not been for that woman from Minneapolis who took us. Now we are
going on June 1 ...

LS: To the Guthrie?

66


JM: No. To the Ordway, because one Jewish couple--they were at
JCC--Paul and Connie Ross took us to the concert, and so we met
their friends--! don't remember their names--but they gave us their
tickets to Ordway, and so we are going. We went to JCC; it was
Cantor Skivary [?] the other night, and we went to Minneapolis a
couple of time, to the lakes and ...

LS: They have concerts at the lakes.

JM: Yes. We went to the Minnesota Orchestra Hall, and that's it
probably.


LS: Have you been to the concerts at Lake Harriet?

JM: No, not yet.

LS: You know where the bandstand is?

JM: Yes. Probably, we'll do that this summer. We went to the Art
Institute. Karen Gorchberg took us once, and then we went with
Evelyn from Minneapolis, and it's kind of interesting.


LS: You are finding your way around. There is a fair amount that is
inexpensive. There are concerts at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
on Sunday afternoons... [End Tape 4 Side 1]

[Tape 4 Side 2]

JM: ...and who else ... Dianne Siegel. They called us one night telling
about the clarinetist who was performing at the JCC and my husband
didn't want to go because it was too painful for him to know that

~somebody is playing, performing,. and he has to work in the kitchen.
So, probably, it's even better...

LS: I have an enormous amount of sympathy for your husband
because there are so many people who have been very highly trained
and all of a sudden find that their skills are not needed or devalued
in this country ...

67


JM: I think that the most difficult part was that he is a hard worker.
He can work hard; he did it in Russia, and he knew that he would not
find a job as a musician, but it was not a good idea with cooking
because of these young people there, and he feels very secluded
there and very isolated. Nobody talks to him, and it's kind of
demeaning.

LS: I don't know what the answers are because I don't' know what

the job market is, but I know from speaking to a lot of young people

who just graduated from the universities that they are working in
jobs that they find demeaning also, and these are Americans.

JM: Yes. And for him also, he wants to talk to someone, and he feels
like he is dumb sometimes; he says, "Nobody is talking to me." With
his background, and they don't even say "Hello" to him...

LS: That's not good. Well, there were just a few other things I
wanted to ask. One of the items I had on the list was, did you think

the labor and job problems were going to be as severe as they are?

JM: I didn't think about the job. I didn't think about anything. I can't
say now that I was sure of something or I was expecting something.
I was happy enough to work at JCC, to tell you the truth, because I
had never worked with kids--and I like children--and it was good,
but it was very hard to work long hours there and not earn enough
just to support yourself. And of course, I wanted to teach. And I
think that what I really didn't expect was that language problems-the
more I penetrated into the language, the more difficult it is for
me. I found that there is no bottom. I'm just plunging inside. It's
terrible--the more you learn, the more you need to learn; there is no
end.

LS: Where does that leave your husband who has much fewer
language skills?

JM: Maybe because I want to know the language as good as people
here.

LS: Yes. Your expectations are really extremely high. Do you feel
like you are fitting into American life now?

68


JM: Yes. People are hard working here, very motivated, and very
inquisitive--many--and they want to do everything. And I am very
happy here because I want to learn Spanish, I want to go here, I want
to go there, I want to learn, I want to go to school. You won't believe
it, but I want to go to the university--! dream about that--1 want to
learn something, I want to listen to people speaking English--1 like
English--1 still like English.

LS: Well, there are evening classes at the University, as you well
know...

JM: I work in the evening.
LS: Well, we'll see, maybe you'll get a different job.
JM:
was
It's really interesting,
understandable, there
I liked English when I was in Russia--it
was something unusual about it,

something faraway--but here, it's the same, I like the language and

want to know it better, and I like to listen to people speaking.

LS: How do you feel that most American Jews have accepted you?

You've described these warm people. Are there other people who

treat you as a poor Russian cousin?

JM: Sometimes, I had this experience too. I want to be really
sincere, and to be sincere, to tell you the truth, I had an experience
when I was treated as a poor Russian cousin, it was terrible. I was
mad because I am a very proud person and I know that I am smart
enough not to be treated like that and to understand that I was being
treated like that. It was terrible, but then I overcame that because I
met other people and they were nice.

LS: Do you have any advice for people who run the Family Service or
JCC or advice for Americans so that they will understand that you
are coming over as an educated person from another culture but that
does not make you a less valuable member of society?

JM: You know I had this mixed feeling the other night at Mount Zion,
when I saw people there and I didn't meet the people I knew, and


there were some other people there, and they knew that I was from
Russia, and they heard about that, but I thought, "Maybe I am too
poor; maybe they're too wealthy." You know, my stereotypes,
probably it was not stereotypes, probably it was true--1 was not one
of them.

LS: It's very possible. This is a class society, as it is well known.

JM: Yes. In Russia, there were classes too. People who had a lot of
money--1 was not interested in them, they were too stupid for me,
so I didn't go there myself. Here, the same way, I met very nice,
wealthy and very warm and smart people. So, I don't care about
other people. To me--l came from the classless society, probably
because of that, so my attitude is a little bit different--but I
understand, my husband, when he tried to calm me down, he said,
"You are not one of them. Try to understand that. You were a
stranger to them." To tell you the truth, I am very thankful to them
because those people give a lot of money; they helped us to come
here, and you have to be thankful for that. Now I know how hard it is
to earn money here and how hard to give it away. And I can't blame
them. You can't be loved by everyone here. That was my goal in
Russia: I wanted to be loved by everyone.

LS: A goal to drive you nuts. I think that there were just very few
questions. When you grandfather went to the synagogue with a
raincoat and his hat, was that when you were living in the forest and
had to take the train down to the synagogue? That was quite a ways,
wasn't it?

JM: The tram. Almost two hours. Because we had only one
synagogue. Then he would come and he would tell me how it was and
he would pray and he would sing. But he didn't sing as much as my
other grandfather.

LS: You have not really talked about your relations with your mother
very much. You much closer to your father it seems to me, is that
right?

JM: She is stronger than my father. She is stronger. Her father was
a strong person, the one who lived with us, and she is a strong

70


person. She has overcome this terrible event losing her son and I
think she is doing better because of her stronger inner self. As for
my father, he is a weak person, and I feel very sorry for him. I think
it's normal that daughters are closer to their fathers and boys are
closer to their mothers. I am close to my mother. I'll do anything
for her. They are the only ones I have--my husband and my parents.
I was a very devoted daughter all my life.

LS: There is one question I had too, about what's the average age for
women to marry?

JM: It's not the same, it varies. It depends on the time. Now people

get married when they are young enough, like nineteen, eighteen ...

LS: How old were you when you got married?

JM: Twenty.

LS: And was that average? A lot of your friends were getting

married then?

JM: Yes, it was average at that point. My mother married my father

when she was twenty-nine.

LS: But that was because of the war?

JM: Yes, and he is younger than she.

LS: But did you think about waiting, instead of getting married when
you did?

JM: I didn't think about it. I was young.

LS: Because you didn't sound like you were swept off your feet with
love?

JM: Only five days before the wedding, I realized that I really loved
my husband, not earlier, this is the way I am ...

71



LS: Well, I have a daughter who is twenty-four, who wouldn't think

of getting married this year ...

JM: Maybe I needed a friend. I had friends, a lot of friends--my
friends were getting married--but he was very interesting to me; so
maybe because of that, it was unusual, and he was very smart, and I
thought, "Oh, it would be very interesting to have a husband who is
so smart and unusual"--! never had musicians. I never thought it
would be so hard to deal with musicians.

LS: It sounds like he is a very solid counterpart to you, that he

really compliments your personality in ways that's very necessary.

JM: We went through terrible times together, and it's really solid.

And we have supported each other, we gave a hand in most difficult

situations; we never betrayed each other.

'

LS: Did you make a conscious decision not to have children or was

that just the way things worked out?

JM: Well, it just didn't work out. I went to the doctors, and it would
be a lot of money. It just didn't work out. And it's terrible because,
I think, my husband's main goal was to marry a girl and to have
children.

LS: I don't know if things ever work out the way you ever expect

them to. I had a question about what is it that you like least about
American culture. Maybe we can start narrowing it down probably
to, perhaps, the attitudes of children at school. You had children at

Sunday school, and compare that with the way you were viewed as a

teacher in Russia.

JM: First, I had these kinds of thoughts--which was not very nice--I
didn't like the way they acted, but then. I realized that, probably, it's
good when you can be relaxed and you can be so outgoing and you can
act very different from us. We came from another culture that was
so suppressed that we can't behave like they behave. And I love that
in them now. Maybe sometimes it's not nice. I can't perceive it the
right way because you have your stereotypes, you have your
background from there, but here ...

72


LS: You are talking about the spontaneity of the children?

JM: Yes. They are very spontaneous. And I saw them at the Festival

of Nations, and I saw how... they are very easy-going people, and it's

nice to teach them. I had these mini-classes at the Festival of

Nations. I taught them Russian in fifteen minutes and Ukrainian. It

was so much fun because they are very responsive; they are not shy,

but they are so nice, they appreciate if you are doing your job well.

It's very interesting for them. Sometimes, I really feel, "Oh, my

gosh, the way they act, the way they behave." But it's normal. It's

easy when people are so easy-going ... relaxed, spontaneous.

Sometimes .it maybe goes beyond, but usually, I think it's normal.

LS: What about the emphasis on money in America? Don't you find

that rather different?

JM: It's different, it's very different. It's different but not bad.
hate violence on TV--I think it's too much--but I can't judge; I still
am kind of curious, I still find the way, I am still thinking, I am still
trying to understand, and while I really do not want to make
generalizations about this country, this diversity of this country--!
like this word "diversity"--it's not bad to be different, it's not bad
to feel different, it's just different.

LS: That's what you like the best?

JM: Yes. And sometimes it was hard with my students because you
could not provoke them, you could not find them, because they were
so deeply hidden inside, they were usually so tense.~.

LS: You are talking about your Russian students?

JM: Yes. So, sometimes, it was hard to deal with them. Of course,
we are different with these students. I have my background, and
probably it will take me years to become more comfortable in this
society, but they like people, new people, they are very curious.
People are people everywhere--although they are different. You
know, people are interested in money in Russia too, and it's small
wonder, but here, I think, kids know that they have to work to earn

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money--many of them--and I was fascinated, I came home and told

my husband. We were talking about our money, that we used to bring

money for tzedakah (charity) every single Sunday, and then they had

to decide where to send that money, or to keep that money--they

were so mature, I was amazed--kids at the age of eight are thinking

and making decisions who to help. They know at this age that they

have to help people. Only one boy said, "Let's divide this money." Of

course, he was kidding, but all the rest of them knew that it was

their duty to help other people, and they knew whom to help, they

knew all these organizations.

LS: It sounds like Mount Zion is doing a very good job.

JM: Really? And I don't think that kids in Russia would do the same.
And these kids know that they have to do something to earn that
money--to sell KooiAid or something else, and I met kids from very
well-off families and they worked very very hard. I appreciated it
because people in Russia, especially Jewish kids--many of them-they
would sit and wait for their parents to give them money, even
when they were married, they still got support from their families,
from their parents--and not to pay for their school because it was
free--but just for everything, to buy a car on the parents' money, and
you know, it spoils and you become so dependent on somebody's help.
So, I think that many people, even though I was mad at my husband's
job, I think many people appreciated his efforts to work, that we
started working right away. And I felt better about myself and my
husband because we worked.

LS: And you are supporting yourself now.

JM: And we are. I had our medical insurance in August and we came
at the end of March.

LS: That's quite remarkable. Was that a [unclear]

JM: Yes. And I am happy with that.

LS: I think that I've got most of the questions now that I wanted to
ask and I want to thank you very much because you are the first
person I interviewed who is younger and,of course, you have been

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thrown into the thick of adjustment, and with your background and
your active desire to delve ever deeper into the study of the English
language, you've set yourself a great task, and I thank you very much
for taking this-time to share your experiences.

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