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Interview with Dina Migachov

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

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OLD LIVES, NEW LIVES: SOVIET JEWISH WOMEN IN
MINNESOTA

Interview with Dina Migachov

Interviewed by Linda Schloff and Felicia Weingarten

Interviewed on August 12, 13, 1991
at the Saint Paul home of Mrs. Migachov and at the Schloff
home

[ ] indicate clarifications by transcriber, Eleanora loffe

LS: Today is August 12, 1991, and we are at the apartment of Dina

Migachov to interview her for the project "Old Lives, New Lives:

Soviet Jewish Women in Minnesota." We'll start by asking you your

first and last name.
DM: My name is Dina Migachov. I came from Russia in 1989, in July.


LS: What was your maiden name?


DM: My father's name is Isaak.


LS: And the last name?


DM: The last name? Migachov.


LS: No, before you were married?


DM: Raikhman.


LS: When were you born?


DM: January 18, 1942.


LS: Where?



DM: I was born during World War II. That's why I was born in a very
small village in the Urals.
LS: Where had your parents lived before?


DM: In Leningrad.
LS: Ah, so that was their place. Tell me a little bit about your
education.


DM: At first, I graduated from school. Then I went to study at an
Electro-Technical College.
FW: How many years did you go to elementary and high school?


DM: In Russia, it's together. It's ten years.
LS: Was the Electro-Technical College in Leningrad?
DM: Yes. I studied for six years. ' And I worked as an engineer and

programmer, but when my daughter was born, I changed my specialty
and I went to a teacher's institute and I finished three years, and
after that I had a right to work as a teacher in Russia.

LS: I see. And did you work as a teacher in Russia?

DM: Yes. During twelve years I worked as a teacher.

LS: What did you teach?

DM: Math and computers.

LS: To what grades?

DM: I worked in high school.

LS: Was the pay approximately the same?

DM: Engineers have more money, but it's not a big difference.

2



LS: Why did you decide to switch your career?
OM: I had a very interesting job, but a lot of business trips, and we
didn't have children for twelve years. That's why I was not so young
and I understood that in Russia I don't want to send my daughter to
daycare or something else. And I decided to be at home with my

daughter, but it's very difficult. If the husband only has a job, it's
impossible for a family to live.
LS: I understand. A family cannot live on one salary, but you still

had to leave Larisa when you were teaching, did you not?
OM: But in school I could take shorter hours, and that's why the first


year I took maybe eight hours per week, and then a little bit more,
but my daughter was at home.
LS: Is that unusual?
OM: It's unusual. It's very unusual in Russia because sometimes


grandparents help.
LS: Yes. And you had no grandparents?
OM: My mother died in 1971, and my father was killed during the


war.
LS: Let's go back to them. What was your mother's last name?
OM: Raikhman.
LS: And what was her first name?
OM: Khaya.
LS: Where had she been born?
OM: In Belorussia, in a very small village.


3



LS: Was it the sort of village we would call a shtetl? Are you

familiar with that word? Was it sort of a Jewish, a little village

mainly of Jews?

DM: Yes. Because her parents had to live in this village, but after
the revolution they got the right to go to another place. That's why
my parents from this village went to Leningrad.

LS: When did you say she died? In 1971?
OM: Yes.

LS: Do you know when she was born?

DM: In 1908.

LS: And your father?
OM: In 1910.

LS: What was his first name?

DM: Isaak.

LS: And where had he been born?

OM: The same place.

FW: What was the name of that little town, mestechko?

[DM: I don't remember.]

LS: Did you have any brothers or· sisters?

DM: No, because my father didn't even see me. I was born in 1942,

but he was killed in 1944.

LS: Did your mother remarry?

OM: No.

4


LS: And what did she do?

OM: She worked in a small organization; she was a salesperson.
FW: In a store, right?
OM: Baza, I don't know.

FW: Baza means "market." ["warehouse" or "distribution center,"

rather than "market"]. Clothing or food or?

OM: Clothing.

FW: Probably stores some place, inside, in a building, right? Like

they had in France, in a building you have stores of different things.

[No, those are called stores. Baza is a warehouse where goods are
shipped from the manufacturer and stored before being distributed
to stores. It was a common practice to sell goods in short supply

directly from bazas to friends, relatives, and various important

individuals. Thus, such goods never reached stores.]

LS: When did you come back to Leningrad?

OM: In 1947.

LS: Two years after the war?

OM: And I can tell you that we should have returned much earlier,
but the mayor of our city was a very strong anti-Semite, and he
crossed out all Jewish names, and he said that they can return
without his permission. And that's why we couldn't return on time.
That's why, when we came to Leningrad in 1947, we couldn't have
any apartment, and we lived together with my aunt.

FW: Because by the time you came back, the apartments were taken?

OM: No, our house was destroyed, but it was a big, big line. Stalin
did not want to build new apartments after the war, and that's why
nobody had enough place, but we lived together with my aunt.

5


LS: And how many other people were there?

OM: My aunt had two daughters, and my mother and, I we lived

together, five of us.

LS: Was your aunt a widow also?

OM: Yes.

FW: So, there were five women.

LS: Five women, in how many rooms?

OM: One.

FW: And a communal kitchen, communal bathroom?

OM: Yes, yes.

FW: How many people shared it?

OM: Another family.

LS: Were these cousins approximately the same age as you?

OM: One of them was exactly the same age, and we went together to

school, and we were friendly all our lives. Now she is in Israel.

FW: And the other one?

OM: And the other one was older by seven years, and now she is in

Leningrad.

LS: Can you tell me a little bit about your years in grade school and
in high school? Were they happy years for you?
OM: Maybe it's strange, maybe this was age, but I was happy because

I had a very kind mother and a very kind aunt. We were friendly with

6



my cousins, and I studied very easily and very nice in school.
graduated from school with a gold medal.

LS: The gold medal was not denied you because you were Jewish?

DM: You see, sometimes, in order to get this gold medal, I had to be
perfect, but I was. Now I understand.

LS: They couldn't keep it away from you. Is that what you are
saying?

DM: And maybe these years, in school, they liked me. Sometimes I
met teachers who didn't like me, but actually, because I was a
member of competitions ... ! had a lot of ...

LS: Sports?

DM: No, no, with math.

FW: She means contests.

DM: I had a lot of awards, and people knew me in our city very well

because I was the first in math contests.

FW: You were a mathematical genius?

DM: No, not genius, but I was good in math, and maybe I wasn't
perfectly [unclear]. I never made mistakes when I wrote something.

I studied very easily, and now I understand that I had maybe a good
character. And they liked me. And I was happy in school. And when
people told me that I should not go to the university, I did not

believe them.

LS: Tell me about that. If you don't mind, let's spend a little more
time on your childhood. You said that you studied very easily at
school. Did you take part in sports outside of school or did you go to
camps in the summer time?

7



DM: Every year I went to a camp. It was popular in Russia, pioneer
camps, but in these places I felt anti-Semitism very strong. It was
very strong.

FW: Is that where you wore the red kirchief?

DM: Yes.

FW: Up to what age is it?
DM: Till fourteen, from eight to fourteen. I remember that boys beat
me.

LS: Boys beat you because you were Jewish?

DM: Yes.

FW: Was there a lot of political indoctrination in a camp or not?

DM: No, but I remember that I didn't like camps, but my mother
couldn't do anything, and she sent me, and I didn't understand deeply.
Now I began to understand what was happening in this camp. But I
knew exactly that they beat me and they were teasing me only
because I was Jewish.

FW: What did they call you in Russia? Did they call you bad names?

OM: Yes, of course. In Russia, the popular Jewish names were Sarah
and Abram. It was as bad language, and my mother told me that
when I was very small, they were teasing me Sarah, and I told them,
"And you're Abram," because I didn't understand, and from what I
knew it was connected. But then, zhidy, zhidovskaya morda.

FW: Zhid means Jew in a very derogatory way.

LS: And what's the other one?

FW: Morda means "face" but not in a nice way.

8



OM: Very rude. And I was a very typical Jewish girl and Jewish

woman. That's why I had a lot, but I grew with this, and I thought

that it was normal. Because we had a lot of relatives, a lot of

Jewish friends, and everybody could tell a story, and we discussed

it, and sometimes we cried, sometimes we laughted, but...

LS: That was part of your life?

OM: Yes. Very important part of our lives. When my mother was

young, sometimes it's very strong anti-Semitism, and she lost her

job, position, and then, a little bit later, it was a· better situation,

and she took her position.

LS: We keep talking about this anti-Semitism that was something

more than what I think of as background static in your life. It was

something that was present to a greater or lesser degree. Was there

anything positive about being a Jew?

OM: Actually, yes, because my mother told me a lot of times that if I
want to live about the same as Russian people, I should be much
better, and all Jewish people were concerned about education for
their children. And my mother was alone, and she never was a rich
person, and she never had enough money, but she wanted me to
graduate from college, because she understood that in this case I
will live not badly. And if I don't have good education, I should work
among low class people, and they can say everything in my face.

FW: What she is trying to say is that education was a way not only
to make you more money, but living a better and safer life. Had she
not been able to achieve that education, [and had worked at]
something menial, she'd be working with people of very little
education, low refinement, lower classes, where anti-Semitism
would probably plague her even more.

LS: Is that what you mean?

OM: Yes.

9



LS: One more thing, when you were growing up, did your mother and

your aunt observe any Jewish holidays? Were there any remnants

left in the house?

OM: You see, I was born in Bashkiria, in the Urals, and my mother
was scared even to teach me Yiddish because these Bashkirian
people, they were wild people, and she was so scared, because during
the war...

FW: Were they Mongol people?

OM: Yes, mixture.

FW: It's probably a tribe.

OM: And I knew this language very nice because I was small, and my

mother used me as an interpreter because she couldn't learn this

language, and I knew Russian, but she was afraid to teach me
Yiddish. When we came to Leningrad, my grandparents from my
father's side, they lived in Leningrad, and we celebrated Passover

and Purim with the Hamantaschen, but we ate them the whole year

because we liked them very much.

FW: But it's OK. You can eat Hamantaschen, any time you want to.

OM: And now I understand that we didn't celebrate properly Passover
because we ate bread and matza and a lot of very nice and very tasty
food, but we gathered together ...

LS: Who is the "we"? Who gathered together?

OM: All our family.

LS: Tell me of everybody who was living in Leningrad that gathered
together.

OM: My grandparents on my father's side had eight children, five
sons and three daughters. Four sons were killed during the war, and
one son was in another place. But three daughters lived in Leningrad.
One of them was my aunt, and we lived together. These three aunts


1 0



-one of them is now here--and my mother and all these relatives


with children ...
LS: There were the two grandparents, there were your mother and
you, and your aunt...


OM: No, my grandparents from my father's side.
LS: And the others are from your mother's side?
OM: The mother's side, they were dead, they were killed during the


war.
FW: In Belarussia.
LS: So, how many people would gather for a celebration?
OM: Maybe twelve-fifteen.
FW: The three aunts and their children, the paternal grandparents,


Dina and her daughter. And which one is here, Perla Meerovich, is
that the one?
OM: No, Busya Stysis.
FW: That's your father's sister?
OM: Yes, she is here with her whole family.


LS: When you got together, did the family then speak Yiddish?
OM: No. Only my grandfather knew prayers in Hebrew and he
conducted the ceremony, and somebody would pour water on his
hands, and one Russian neighbor did it, and he prayed. But we were
small girls and we laughed because we thought it was funny.

FW: Tell me, Dina, did your grandfather or your grandmother, did
they ever tell you why you celebrate the holiday, what is the
meaning of it.

1 1



OM: They told us, but you see, in Russia, we did not believe in God,

and we laughed. We would begin to argue with them, tell them that

it is impossible ...

FW: You mean, the Parting of the Red Sea?

OM: Yes, and we explained to our grandfather that it was impossible

because of this and this, and it was funny for him, but we were

small.

LS: Were you familiar with people speaking Yiddish?

OM: My mother spoke Yiddish with my aunt, but we didn't understand.

LS: You didn't pick up anything?

OM: Because I had my cousins and we didn't hear them, and my
mother was surprised that I learned Bashkirian so easily and knew it
perfectly well, but when we came to Leningrad, I don't why we didn't
study. I know now several songs in Yiddish. My mother knew them
and I heard them, but I didn't study Hebrew, and I don't know why.

LS: I am just talking about hearing your mother and aunt speaking
Yiddish to each other and beginning to understand what they were
talking about.

OM: Actually, when they wanted to tell something secret, they'd
begin to speak Yiddish, but they talked to us in Russian. Now I think
that they didn't want us to study.

FW: Understand, not study. We are not speaking of studying; we are
speaking of picking it up by ear.

OM: I think that they didn't want us to.

FW: And I think that you didn't want to either ...

OM: Yes.

1 2



FW: I had that in my own house. When children want to, the ears

pick it up, when they don't want to, they pay no attention.

LS: Well, you got the gold medal, and you thought you'd go on to the

university, right?

DM: Yes, I went to the university, but I went to school very early,
and I finished school when I was sixteen. And when I went to the
university, they told me, "You are too young to go to the university.
We can't take your application." Then, smart people explained to me
that it's impossible. I could go to the university if I were thirteen,
if I graduated from school. My mother told me, "Try to go to another
college. Next year you will be older and you will go to the university
if it's true. And I went to Electro-Technical College because I knew
that it's a very good college and they gave very nice education.

LS: And did you know they would let you there?

DM: I was sure that they will take me, but when I began to study, I
found out that it was very difficult to go there. They had a percent.

For example, three percent is possible.

LS: They had a quota, in other words, for Jews?

DM: Yes, but I graduated with a gold medal and I passed all exams
with A's, and they took me, but I was sure that it was because they
didn't have anti-Semitism. But then I understood, I found out that
only because I passed very nice, and after the first course I had a lot
of friends in this institute, I studied very well, and it was nice.

LS: Tell me about your friends. Did you have friends who were both
Russian and Jewish or were they mainly Jewish? How did things
work out for you, both in high school and then in college.

DM: Actually, we had Russian friends too, but I don't know why but
my closest friends were Jews. Maybe because we could complain to
each other, we could understand. We had Russian friends, and this
girl asked me, "Tell me about anti-Semitism. You live much better
than I live."

13



LS: Did you?

OM: Yes, because I graduated from college; my husband graduated
from college and then he made his Ph.D. [Candidate of Sciences is
more like Masters, not Ph.D.]. But she didn't graduate even from
school. After eight classes [years of school] she went to a medical. ..
I don't know how to say it...

FW: She went to work in a laboratory? [No, it's a nursing school, at
the level of a vocational technical school.]

OM: Yes, she didn't have any education, and she complained that I get
much more money than she. I couldn't explain to her, she couldn't
understand us. She didn't want to hurt my feelings, but she was
surprised why I speak about anti-Semitism if a lot of Jewish people
live very well. But I couldn't explain to her that Jewish people don't
like to drink so much as Russian people and they have much better
education, and they are concerned about it from the very small age.

FW: She also couldn't understand that besides a better standard of
living they still suffered from anti-Semitism in other ways. And
this lack of understanding prevented you from being as close as you
would be with a Jewish person, to whom you didn't have to explain.

OM: Yes, they understand me without this big discussion. And
actually we have usually the same cultural level with Jews.

LS: Then, when you went to college, did you have Russian friends

also?

OM: Yes.

LS: Was it easier there because everybody there was at the same
sort of intellectual level?

OM: Yes. But I studied in this college, and we had much more boys
than girls, but I knew exactly that I don't want to marry a Russian
boy.

14



LS: When you said you knew that, was it something your mother told
you?

OM: Yes. I knew that my mother would be upset very much.

LS: Why would she be upset? In some ways, rationally, it might be

better for you. You'd get rid of that nationality.

OM: But I didn't want to do it. It's very difficult maybe to explain,

but I began to understand in school already that Jewish people were

higher in their education and their level, and maybe I was proud of

it, and I didn't want somebody to think that he made me very happy

because he...

LS: ... He is raising you up to the level of a Russian?

OM: Yes.

FW: She would not stop being Jewish; the child would have the right

to choose. She would remain Jewish.

LS: It's true. You would remain, but it would be easier for the next
generation in many respects.

OM: Yes. And a lot of people, a lot of people did it because they
wanted their children not to have these troubles. But I didn't want
to lose it.

LS: Why? Why?

OM: I noticed that Soviet power wanted to spoil us, to make [do]
everything [to make us feel] we felt lower than Russian people. They
told us that Russian people are much higher than all other.

FW: They wanted to belittle them and humiliate them, and they were
telling them that the Russian people are better than they are.

OM: I never saw Jewish dances, for example, only as parody.

FW: Parody of it. She only saw parody of it but never the real thing.

1 5



OM: This dance.

FW: She means the Hassidic when they dance like this.

OM: But I understood that Soviet power wanted to spoil Russian
people too, and when I saw that we can't buy a bottle of milk but we
can buy a lot of bottles of vodka and what's going on, I decided, NO, I
don't want them to make my life; I want to be myself.

FW: She uses the word spoil meaning really "hurt" or "ruin." Spoil

would be a different way to use it.

LS: Thank you, Felicia, yes. So, you decided for yourself that you

want to live your own life and have your own ideals and standards?

OM: And in my opinion, children with different parents have a lot of

troubles, because they don't feel comfortable with Jewish, they

don't feel comfortable with Russian. They didn't know who they are.

And I didn't want, my daughter would be Russian, but I would be
Jewish. Why? I wanted to have a very nice, very good family, and

only this [unclear] I have.

LS:. Were you in any other clubs? For instance, I know that you loved
math. Did you enjoy sports, the theatre? What else did you like to
do?

OM: Oh yes, I liked to read very much, I liked the theatre very much,
I liked cinema very much, music, but I didn't like sports at all. I
never did anything, even morning exercises, but when I married, my
husband likes downhill skiing very much, and he spent maybe five
years before I began to do it and enjoy it. Now I like it too, but it's
only one sport.

LS: Let's talk a little bit about dating. Dating is when boys start
going out with girls .... [End Tape 1 Side 1]

[Tape 1 Side 2]

16



LS: I was told that in high school, it's usually common for groups of

boys to go out with groups of girls and sort of go to concerts or go

meet down the streets and go a cafe, walk along the river banks ...

OM: It was in our lives, and it was very interesting, and we had at

school very good friends, and then in this college ...

LS: What year did you start this institute?

OM: In 1958. I was sixteen.

LS: That is young. That was right after Stalin died.

OM: Stalin died when I was in the sixth grade. He died in 1953, in
March, and I didn't understand anything. My mother was afraid to say
anything wrong, and it was--now I understand--very scary times.

FW: Tense times.

OM: When he died, it was a big, big meeting in our school, and our
teacher of history told us--1 don't know how to translate it-


[Russian]

FW: That the sun went down, the bright, beautiful sun became

darker.

OM: And he began to cry, a very old man, and all our school began to
cry, and when I came home, my mother was surprised that I am
crying, and my aunt cried, and "What will be, what will be with us?"
And my mother said, "It will be much better." And I was surprised,
and I was not pleased. Then, when I became a little bit older, we had
a lot of conversations with my mom, and she told me that she
understood it completely in 1931 or 1932, when it was ...

FW: Collectivization and the deportation of the kulaks, mass
arrests...

OM: They lived in a very, very small, very poor village, and they had
to find kulaki...

17



FW: They had to find the landed peasants.

DM: They took people who were not so poor and sent them to death.

My grandfather on father's side, they had eight children, and he had ...

FW: He was a grinding mill, miller?

DM: Yes, but he was very poor, but he had something, and they

decided to deport him too.

FW: Because he was a small businessman. He owned a mill.

DM: ... but somebody told him in advance and he took all his eight
children and a horse and they ran away to the Crimea.

FW: They ran away; somebody warned him that he'd be arrested as
the owner of a little property.

DM: And my mother told me that she understood who is he, who is
Stalin, but she had to keep silence, she couldn't explain to me
because I had this really big mouth, and I could say something.

LS: So, the grandparents had to be careful of what they said around
children, otherwise it would be reported in school?

FW: Very often, children reported on their own parents.

DM: Yes, and they told us, Pavlik Morozov, our favorite hero, who
went to the KGB...

FW: He renounced his own parents and he was made into a national
hero, and he was worshipped in schools and so on, where actually he
was a little traitor, no good.

LS: We were talking about going out with boys. When you were in
high school, did you have boyfriends? Were you interested in boys at
all? I know you were a little younger ...

DM: We were friendly. We had a small group, maybe six children,
boys and girls, maybe eight, but we never went with one boy. I had a

18



sister--she was my cousin--she was my age, and very often two
boys, we met them accidentally... It was a nice time, but we were
very modest. We could go to the cinema, to the park, but it was not
something sexual.

FW: And it wasn't really dating; they were friends.

LS: I understand. Then, did you get more serious with anybody in

college before you met your husband?

DM: No, I was friendly with somebody, but when it became much

more serious, I stopped it, because I understood completely that

can't marry.

LS: Why? Because he was not a Jew?

DM: He was not a Jew, and you see, we had a lot of boys in this
college and few girls, and we knew that our boys wanted before the
end of college to get married. It was very strange times, but
actually we had a lot of marriages inside our group. All our girls
were married inside our group. Besides me and maybe one girl.

LS: You are talking about a time when it was common to marry

fairly early, fairly young?

FW: She is also saying that there were so few girls and so many

boys...

LS: I understand.

DM: I met my husband when I was in the fourth level and I

understood that...

LS: He was at the same college?

DM: No, I studied with his sister. And she introduced me and I
understood that it would be very serious. Because I understood that
it depends on me, and I liked him. But we married only when I
finished.

1 9



FW: How long did you know him before you were married?

DM: More than two years.
LS: That's a fairly long time.
FW: You had a civil ceremony like everybody else?
DM: Yes. No rabbi. It was impossible.
LS: And what year did you marry?
DM: In 1964.
LS: Tell me again your husband's name.
DM: Valery.
LS: Tell me what he was trained to do.

No rabbi?

DM: He graduated from another college, a ship-building college, and
after this he went to study to the university, but only in the
evening--he began to work and study at the university.

LS: Study what?
DM: Math.
LS: Also math? And then he received a Ph.D. in math?
DM: No, then he started to study for Ph.D. in another college ...
FW: What kind?
DM: [confusion over how to translate the name of the college]
LS: We'll call it Institute of Water Transportation, Maritime


Engineering.


20



OM: It wasn't very easy for a Jewish person to go there. It was very
difficult. That's why when he found a place where they told him that
he could go to this place, he stopped to study at the university and
went to defend ...

FW: To defend his dissertation.
LS: So, you had a civil ceremony. Did you have a dinner after that?
FW: In a restaurant or at home?
OM: Yes. We went to ... I don't know how to say it in English... [Palace


of Weddings] It's a very nice ceremony, and a lot of people came ...


FW: It's a special office, and there was a woman or a man who
pronounced you man and wife... A woman or man?
OM: Maybe a man, maybe a woman. And music very nice, palace, and

a lot of guests ...
FW: And afterwards, where did you go?
DM: We rented a cafe, and maybe fifty persons were there, all our


relatives and friends, and we had a very nice dinner and dance.
LS: Were there any sort of Jewish dances or songs?
OM: No. Nobody knew them.
LS: Did your mother tell you anything about how to have children,


how not to have children?
FW: Did you know much about sex?
OM: No.
FW: Nothing?
OM: Nothing. Never in my life my mother talked with me.


21



LS: What about your cousin? Your older cousin, your younger cousin?
OM: Nobody.
FW: So, what did you know and who told you?
OM: My husband told me.
FW: Oh God... Dina, it's a private question, but she told you about


menstruation, didn't she?


OM: I told her, only because I understood that something
changing or something was wrong. No.
was
LS: You thought you were bleeding to death? Everybody does.
interesting because I can remember when I was in fifth grade,
sister brought home a book that showed something about
It is
my

menstruation and what sex was like. And I brought it to school, and
the teacher made me take it home.

FW: I had a friend who told me.
LS: Usually, by the time you are in high school, your friends are
telling you what goes on between boys and girls. And you are saying
that nothing happened?


OM: Nothing happened. You see, maybe because I liked to jump and


run till sixteen, till school was over. Maybe I was too immature.
FW: You mean, at sixteen, you didn't know how reproduction
happens?


OM: I read a lot. That's why I understood something ...


LS: You understood intellectually, but you didn't know, you couldn't
imagine doing this ...
OM: But nobody explained this.
FW: Was it typical or were you maybe a little different?


22


OM: Maybe I was a little bit different because ...
LS: You were younger than your friends ...
OM: Yes, I was younger, for two or sometimes three years, and I


liked to play with boys, for example, and run ...


LS: You were whc~t we call a tomboy here. It's a girl who likes to
play boys' games ...
FW: Also, she grew up only with women. There were no males

around.
LS: That's true.
OM: And even I didn't tell something to my daughter too. But


fortunately they have this education in school.
LS: You think that's fortunate?
OM: I don't know fortunately or not, but I gave her a magazine--she


likes to read very much--and I knew that if she will see any text,
she will read it. That's why I gave her a magazine, and then I told
her, "If somebody will tell you something, tell me about it please."
But she is about the same as I.

LS: She doesn't want to discuss it with you.

OM: But I understood when I began to talk a little bit with her, I
understood that she knows.
FW: They told them in school? They prepared them?
OM: In this school, no, in St. Paul. Academy. Maybe they made it


earlier, I don't know. Because in our school, in Talmud Torah, they
began to expain to them in fourth grade maybe.

LS: That's pretty common.

23



DM: In my opinion, it's too early.
LS: Fourth grade, it's ten?
DM: In my opinion, it's too early.
FW: It depends how much and how.
DM: Maybe because I grew up with women ...
LS: Yes, it's possible. Tell me about where you lived after you were


married?
DM: At first, we lived together with my mother, in one room.
LS: And was your aunt there too?
DM: No, no. When I graduated from school and began to study in the


college, at last, Stalin had died, and after him Khruschov began to
build.


FW: So, you got your own place.
DM: We got a room in a communal apartment, and I remember that in
one room one family lived with two children and a grandmother,
parents and two children. In another room lived a family with two
children, and we with my mother got one room,--it was terrific.


FW: Three people.
DM: Two at first, and then Valery came because with his parents,
they had a very small apartment and he had a sister. He came to us


and we lived together, but we decided to buy a small--in these times
we could build a cooperative ...
LS: You could buy a cooperative apartment?
FW: They began to build cooperatives, ones you could buy.
LS: And how did you get the money together to buy this?


24


DM: Valery's parents gave us a little bit, and then we paid for all our
lives.
FW: Did you need a down payment?
DM: For down payment his parents gave us money.
FW: How many rooms did you have?
DM: Two. My mother's room and ours.


LS: Did your mother live with you after you were in a cooperative?
FW: You had your own kitchen and your own bathroom? No
communal?


DM: No.


LS: Did you think about buying one without your mother, leaving your
mother where she was.
DM: My mother was alone all her life, and I was everything for her.


She told me, "Dina, I don't want to live alone." And I asked my
husband. I told. him that I can't say "good-bye" to my mother because
she will suffer very much. He is a very nice, very kind guy, and he
told me "OK." He wasn't happy very much but he agreed. And in my
opinion, it was excellent because in Russia it is very difficult to
keep two houses. My mother did everything for us.

FW: She cleaned, she cooked?
DM: Yes.
FW: And when Larisa was little, she ...
DM: No, no. She died before.
FW: She died before you had Lara?


25



LS: What a shame.

FW: She would have helped you a lot.

OM: Yes.

FW: I guess this was why you could work only a few hours because
mama was gone already.

OM: With mama, I could continue to work as an engineer without any
problem.

FW: By the time Lara was born, the other babushka could not help?
Valery's mother?

OM: Valery has another kind of parents. They live their own life.
Actually, at first I was angry with them because they didn't want to
help. In Russia, it's normal, not because I am lazy or didn't want to
do something, we couldn't live without parents if I don't want to
send her to daycare. But in daycare it's more than thirty children,
and they were sick constantly. But they didn't want to help us with
the child. I was angry with them, and a lot of trouble was ...

FW: A lot of hard feelings.

OM: Yes. And I didn't want to talk to them and so on. Then, they
showed us that they have their. own life, their style maybe, and when
we decided to go here, we suggested to them to go with us to
America. They told us, "No." You can do it and maybe you should do it
because of Larisa, but we will continue to live here.

LS: And that's what they've done? They are still alive?

OM: Yes. We get letters every week, and we send letters to them and
call.

FW: Where is Valery's sister?

OM: In Leningrad.

26



FW: Married to a Jewish man?

OM: She had two husbands. The first of them was Jewish and she
had a son, but the second husband is Russian.
LS: Is it fairly common for women like you to not have to take care

of the house because they've got a mother?

OM: Yes.

LS: That's pretty common, ah? You really rely on your mothers a

lot?
DM: Yes. And I remember exactly that my mother told me, "You


shouldn't do it because I am here." For example, with washing
dishes and cook. "Why should you do it? I'm here."
our
LS: She had retired by then, I take it?
DM: Yes.
to say it. ..
And in Russia, a lot of people had the same attitude. How

FW: "You will have plenty of work yet." "Don't worry. You will still
have many years and a lot of work ahead of you." So, we'll take over,
we'll do what's necessary.

LS: How did you find your job? Did you enjoy what you were doing?

DM: No, no. After I graduated from college, I understood that it's
impossible to find a job. In Russia, it's another habit. They must
find us a job.

LS: But that's very nice, isn't it?

DM: Actually, yes, but they found jobs for all Russian students and
they didn't find for Jewish.

LS: That was common not to find jobs for Jewish students?

27



OM: Actually, maybe it's not their fault because all organizations
didn't want to take Jewish [employees].

FW: It's a Catch 22.
OM: And I began to look for a job. I had very nice grades, and I had
very nice education.


LS: How can you look for a job in Russia when there are no want ads


in the paper?
OM: This relative called me, "In our organization we need [someone].
Come to us." And I came and they told me, "No."


LS: It's word-of-mouth then?


OM: Yes. And as a result, I found a very bad job, terrible. I had to
work during the night. Day, evening, night, and so on.
FW: Shifts. You worked in shifts.
OM: Yes. And it was a very responsible job and very hard job. And I


worked among Russian people, low level, and I heard everything--bad
language and that I am a Jew and so on. As a result of this job, I
stopped to sleep at all.

LS: You got so mixed up in your sleeping schedule?
OM: And my... [shows]
LS: Your eyes were twitching, your muscles were twitching.
OM: It was terrible, but I couldn't find a job. And then, I worked


maybe two years, and then I stopped.
LS: Stopped working, period?
OM: But I had no right to do it because I had to work three years


after college. I don't remember but something was wrong, and
another government or other laws, and I could quit. And then I found

28



a little bit better job, but it wasn't interesting, and nobody needed
my education, and I made something not interesting, but I was happy
that I can work during the day. Only then, I found in this
organization--! was afraid to quit because I couldn't find another
job--but in this organization I fould a job--one person found me and
offered me to work as a programmer.

FW: Was it a Jewish friend?

DM: Yes. He was Jewish. He wasn't a very good person, but he was
Jewish and he understood that I can do a lot, and I worked very hard;
it was very interesting. I had a lot of business trips to very wild
places. Only steppes, and they found in this place asbestos, and they
built a huge plant, and they needed to make calculator, to automate
it. Nobody wanted to go to this place.

FW: They were faraway places?
DM: Faraway, and nothing. We couldn't go to the theatre or ...
FW: Was it what, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan ...

DM: Kazakhstan [?] But it was a very nice climate. I had very strong
allergies in the spring. In April, in May, I was ready to die. It was
terrible. But in this place it stopped. And I asked my boss to send
me in April and May. And he told me, "Oh, excellent. But if you begin
to do this job, you should go in summer, in winter, and so on." And I
said that I can do it.

FW: Summer must be very hot there.

DM: But it's very dry. And the first [time] in my life I felt so nice. I
wasn't very sick, but in Leningrad it's very damp and 94-99 percent
humidity. Here, eight-twelve. I worked in this place for three
years, and I went to this place ...

FW: Coming and going? You didn't live there, but you came on
komandirovka? [business trips]

29



DM: Yes. Three or four times a year for the whole month. After one


of them, I discovered that I am pregnant.
LS: You wanted to have a child before then? And did you go to
doctors?


DM: Yes. And they found that I am sick, and they made surgery, and
after this, they told me that everything's OK, but...
LS: You still couldn't get pregnant?
DM: Yes.
FW: Was it a problem with the ovaries? You had ovarian problems?
DM: I don't understand.


FW: Matka? [No, that's uterus]
DM: No, it's ovaries. They were covered with something and they
couldn't work properly. They cut them, and they grew up again
without cover, and actually everything was OK, but I couldn't have
children.


LS: But you still didn't get pregnant?
DM: And I had a lot of treatment...
LS: What sort of treatment? I am just curious... Did you have pills?
DM: How to say?.. Hormones, and I noticed that it's very difficult


for me because I felt very good, but after I began to take them, I felt
this way. [Shows] I found a very nice doctor and we went with my
husband because he was upset and he told me that it's a pity that we
don't have a child but he wants to have a wife.

FW: To stop taking the hormones?
DM: Yes. We went to one doctor, and he told me that I can live
without this, and everything will be OK, but without children.


30



LS: Did you give up the hormone treatment? Because it was making


you too tired or what?
DM: Yes, because I didn't feel good, and I only went every year to
Sochi. Its a ...


FW: It's a resort area.
LS: It's on the Black Sea?
DM: Yes. And I took all the treatment here because it was very


nice ...
LS: Oh yes, but those are mud baths and things like that, aren't they?
FW: Mineral baths ...
DM: Yes. And for the skin and so on, it was actually wonderful, and I


left only this thing and downhill skiing, and I stopped to think about
children. I was jealous very much--one time in my life I was
jealous--1 didn't want to have a big house or a big car or something,
but when I saw children ...

LS: Is it common to adopt children in the Soviet Union?
DM: No, no. It's very, very difficult.
FW: Because when they do, they usually hide it, right? They don't


tell the child, they keep it secret?
LS: But tell me, why is it difficult to adopt?
DM: I don't know. It's a big, big line, and we should write an


application, and we should wait for a long time, and then they tried
to give us bad children.
LS: What do you mean by bad?


31



DM: Sick, but I don't understand, is it a healthy child or not.

Actually, my husband told me, "Who [would] refuse from his child?

Only people who drink a lot."

LS: So, you were afraid they were damaged children?

DM: You will grow up [raise the child], but then you will see that he

is very sick.

FW: Public opinion is against it also, because we had one family

here who didn't tell the children they were adopted till they came

here and there was such an emotional. ..

LS: Is that true? Do you feel that way too?

DM: Yes. If people want to adopt children, they should change the
apartment,· maybe city, and nobody should know, because public
opinion is against parents--! don't know why--and they began to
explain to children, "It's not your native mother, and she is not good,"
and so on.

FW: Machekha, bad step-mother.

DM: And it's so strong that everybody is afraid to adopt, and actually
the problem is this is not healthy children, because good parents ...

LS: Good parents wouldn't give up their children.

DM: But if they die, for example, relatives can ... [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side 1]

LS: Why don't you tell us what yot,J were saying about the doctors
here. You were saying that you felt you really got an excellent
treatment in Russia. You felt that doctors spent more time with you
there than here.

32


DM: And it was very good; she was very well educated, this woman,

and she spent a lot of time for me. You see, I made [had] operation

when I was twenty-four maybe, but I became pregnant only when I

was thirty-four, and she remembered me. And she said, "Oh, why I

didn't know from the first day." She was very kind.

LS: Did you have any problems with your pregnancy?

DM: No. The first time in my life that I was healthy completely, and
I should have finished my job, and I flew to Kazakhstan, and
everybody told me, "Why should you do it? Stop it. You didn't have a
chance for such a long time. Why do you want to risk?" My husband
told me, "You will suffer then if something [goes] wrong." But I felt
very nicely, and I felt guilty that I couldn't finish my job. And I
went, and I actually had sickness in the airplane, but this period I
didn't have it.

FW: Oh, she is saying normally when she flew she threw up, but

while she was pregnant and she flew, she felt well.

DM: Maybe because I suffered for such a long time, God helped me,

but I had big ...

FW: ... Rosy cheeks ...

DM: Never in my life I had, before or after.

LS: So, you had a wonderful pregnancy?

DM: Yes.

LS: You enjoyed it very much. That's good. And was your delivery
easy?

DM: This woman spent a lot of time and a lot of attention for me and
everything was OK, and she was near, and a lot of people around. In
Russia it's impossible to have relatives in the hospital, but a lot of
nurses because she was already in a big position, this woman who
began to treat me.

33


FW: So, she saw to it that there were a lot of medical personnel


around. She was a gynecologist, yes?
OM: Yes. When I saw her the first time, she was a usual doctor, but
now she had a very big position.


FW: While you were in labor, did they give you injections for the
pain?
OM: No.
FW: And when the baby was coming, a gas mask?
OM: No, natural birth.
LS: Is that common, not to give anything?
FW:: Nothing, no anesthesia, nothing?
OM: Maybe a little bit, I don't know. No. Everybody cried ...
FW: Screaming?
OM: Screaming.


FW: How many days did you stay in the hospital?
OM: Maybe ten. I delivered probably the first day, but then we
stayed with my daughter. Everybody is in the hospital seven or ten
days, if everything is OK. Nobody forced us to go away. On the
contrary.


LS: But didn't you miss your husband? You know, people want to


leave so that they can ...
OM: But I was so afraid, how can I be with my daughter, I don't know
what to do with her. But actually, earlier than in ten days they
didn't allow.


34



LS: Did they give you classes on how to take care of the baby?
DM: Yes. It's voluntary, who wants to, but I wanted, and made, for
the first time in my life, exercises, and I went to listen to lectures,


and all my relatives laughed at me because they told me that I will
deliver with a ...
FW: Script. She will deliver with a script in her hand.
DM: But I did everything in order to have a good birth and a normal


child. My aunt who is here--it's very difficult with food in Russia-when
I was pregnant, she gave me every day fresh cottage cheese;
from another part of the city she went to me...

FW: They wanted her to be well-nourished, so she brought her fresh
cottage cheese.
DM: And I hated it, but I ate it.
LS: Is it common to breast feed children in the Soviet Union?


DM: Yes, yes.
FW: Tell me, how is it possible when a woman works and she breast
feeds?


DM: But first year we shouldn't work.
FW: You stayed home?


DM: We stayed home for a year.
FW: With pay?
DM: They paid for four months, before delivery and after.
FW: So, it was eight months paid, right?
DM: Four months, but all other without payment, but nobody ...

35



FW: Four months before delivery?
DM: No, no, two.
FW: Two months before delivery and two months after.
DM: Yes, and nobody could fire us.
FW: And then, if you decide to stay home longer without pay?
DM: In this case, they have a right to fire. This is why women are


usually only for one year.


LS: Wait a second, I still don't understand. If you want to stay home


until the baby is six months old, could they fire you?


DM: No.


LS: So, your job is secure for one year?


DM: One year.


FW: After one year, they can fire you if you don't come back.


LS: Do most women stay home for one year? And they can afford it


even though they are ten months without pay?


DM: Yes, actually, they can afford it. In my opinion, they can afford


much more, but they want to live better.


LS: You stayed home one year. Is that correct?
DM: Yes.


LS: And then, what happened?


DM: Then, my boss invited me and asked me to continue to work and


told me that I could work during the night or evening and so on. But I


knew my job and I knew my boss, and I understood completely that in


several months he would tell me, "OK, it's your job, go."


36


LS: Go to Kazakhstan?


DM: Yes, and I didn't want to do it. He was angry with me, but I
fired.
FW: You quit?
DM: Yes, I quit and went to evening school.
LS: Did you go to evening school because you wanted to stay home


with the baby until your husband came home from work?
DM: I was sure that if it's evening school I could work in the
evening, but then I found out that that is another style. Nobody


wanted to study after work, and they made the whole day for
students.
LS: So it really was a day school?
DM: One day per week, but they've got complete salary for this day,


and actually they did not want to study, but they had to. It was a


very strange school.
FW: So, you had to go one day a week, not evenings? Evening school
became a one day a week?


DM: At nine o'clock you must be in school and study ...
FW: In the morning?
DM: In the morning, and study math and humanities and physics, and


chemistry, and so on.
FW: So you studied one day a week?
DM: The children. The people in evening school. But I worked


different days.
LS: I guess, I am still confused. You were a student...


37


OM: Students should study one day, but we had a lot of students in
this school. That 's why we should work but during the day,
u nfo rtu nately.

FW: Who should work, why should you work? I don't get it.

LS: So, you came twice a week, but where did you leave Larisa?

OM: With relatives, with neighbors, but then I hired
she came to my house...
one person, and
FW: An older lady?
OM: Older lady, and all my salary I gave to this persbegan to work as a tutor.
on. But then I

LS: While you were still going through this course at school?


OM: Because at school I wasn't busy too much, and I began to work as
a tutor.
LS: A math tutor?
OM: Math tutor.
FW: Evenings, when Valery was home?
OM: No, no. Larisa was a very quiet and very nice girl.
FW: People came to your house?
OM: Yes, they came to my house, and at first, when she was small,


gave her a tape recorder and records, and she heard [listened to] it
and then ... and she knew a lot of songs and rhymes, and then she
began to read early, maybe between two and three years ...

LS: She began to read?
OM: To read, and she liked it very much ...


38


FW: At two and a half?

OM: Between two and three. At three, she read already well.

FW: My God! Who taught her the alphabet?

OM: We bought... blocks and she was so excited, she took them and

she knew all letters maybe the next day, she was so excited and

didn't want to give them to me. When we went for a walk, she

stopped near every car and read the license. She liked, I don't know

why, but she liked it very much, and she began between two and

three--1 don't know--she didn't read yet, but she liked to see it, and

she was busy ...

LS: So, she picked up the letters at that age?

OM: Yes, and I could work at home.

LS: You tutored, and was your husband helpful at home?

OM: Yes.

LS: There is always a problem of husbands not doing enough. You
know, wives are doing so much...

DM: Actually, I made more than he because he was busy on his job,
and he went in the morning to his job, but when he returned home, he
didn't like to go for a walk with our daughter--he hated it actually-but
I liked it very much. I had a lot of acquaintances and friends, and
we talked a lot and we were in the fresh air, and I rested a little bit.
That's why he told me, "OK, go for a walk, but I will [work] in the
kitchen." He preferred to be in the kitchen than ...

LS: Did he do cooking?

OM: Yes, sometimes.

LS: And did he clean up?

39



OM: Yes.

LS: Very good. And did he shop?

OM: No, because if you go in the evening, after your job, you couldn't
buy anything. It's empty. That's why I shopped, but it's not so easy
[as?] in America. I had to go every maybe two hours. I went for a
walk with Larisa and looked. "Oh, milk," and I got milk. Then, "When
will you have meat?" They told, after two. After two, I had to go
again to buy meat, and so on. The whole day, a big car with
something, and we stay and wait. What will they give us? And
sometimes we see a long, long line. And if you ask, "What...

LS: "What are they selling?"
OM: "What are you waiting for?" "We don't know, but something."
FW: You always had that little bag with you?
OM: Yes, and sometimes, frankfurters, sometimes very nice cheese,

and sometimes nothing, sometimes [unclear]. You cannot...

LS: You said you had a lot of friends in the neighborhood. How did
you meet them?

OM: I walked with Larisa ...

LS: Was it mainly after you had her that you made friends in the
neighborhood or did you know a lot of people?

OM: It's after, because before I never was in our yard even. I had my
friends from college, from school, and we went to cinema, to
theatre, to visit somebody, but I didn't know my neighbors and my
yard. But when I began to go for a walk with my daughter, I saw a
lot of people with ...

FW: Prams?

OM: Yes, and we began to talk a lot and--you know my friend in San
Francisco--we had daughters the same age and we began to be

40



friendly with her. We liked to read very much--in Russia it was
much more important for us because we couldn't go abroad, for
example ...

FW: Not everybody had television?
OM: Most people did.
LS: What did you like to read?
OM: Actually, it may be strange, but I liked very nice foreign


language literature from France, America, Brazil and so on.


LS: And who did you read? Tell me one or ~wo of the authors you
read?
OM: I liked very much Kurt Vonnegut. It was my first book in

America I read Kurt Vonnegut in English, Gat's Cradle. And I liked
Hemingway very much, and Faulkner, and I liked very much Gabriel
Garcia Marques, one of my favorites. And I liked a lot of writers
from France, and I liked German--Jewish actually--Leon
Feuchtwanger. It was my favorite. And Thomas Mann and so on. We
read a lot. Actually, Russian literature is very nice too. Tolstoy and
Chekhov--Tolstoy Lev and Aleksey-


LS: I am thinking about more modern Russian authors ...
OM: Yes, Chinghiz Aitmatov--he is now...
FW: A Tatar, Mongol?
DM: No, Kazakh maybe, but he is a very talented writer.
FW: What is the name?
OM: Chinghiz Aitmatov.
FW: It's not translated.


41



OM: It's a pity because he is a very talented [writer]. And Trifonov
and a lot. We read a lot, we discussed a lot...


LS: You discussed things while your children were playing?
OM: Yes, and we liked this very much. And we went together to the
stores and ...


LS: So, how many friends did you have like this? You had one close


friend?
OM: One close friend and several not so close, but we helped each
other because everybody had various tough [times in] life.


LS: How did you help each other?
OM: If I should go to my school, I could give me daughter to a friend ...
FW: She would babysit. And she knew you would do that for her?
OM: Yes.
FW: And when you knew some good food was ...
OM: Yes, I called, and sometimes I bought because if I call and she


will come and nothing ...
FW: Did they allow you to buy for more than two families?
OM: Sometimes.
LS: Did you meet on the playground or where did you meet your


friends?
OM: On the playground.
LS: Were these both Russian and Jewish or mainly Jewish?
DM: You see, Jewish, because we had the same attitude for education


and my friend Nina did not want to send her children to daycare too.


42



And we connected very well. Because all Russian women were with
us till one year, and then they sent their children to daycare, and
they went to work. But we continued to be with our children.


LS: You wanted to be with the children. Was it common for even


Jewish mothers to stay home longer with their children?
OM: For Jewish, yes. ·But a lot of grandmothers. Jewish
grandmothers were an example. Usually they were with their
grandchildren.


LS: You are saying that even though daycare was available, people,
women didn't want this because there were too many children and
they didn't get the care and they got sick?


OM: Yes. We lived in Leningrad. It wasn't a good climate at all, and

the children were sick constantly with runny noses and pneumonia.
FW: And I heard that food wasn't very good there and there were not
enough people working for that many. Is that true?

OM: No, with food, it wasn't.
FW: It was OK? Were there enough people in each room?
OM: Yes. It was about thirty children.
FW: I mean teachers. That's what I heard, not enough teachers.
OM: Yes, if they had enough, they could do two groups for fifteen, but


they didn't have enough because they pay very small salary.


LS: That's true. True in America also. Was Larisa named for
anyone?
OM: I wanted to name her after my mother, but if I named her Khaya,


it would be easy to kill her at once, because children will ...
FW: Ridicule her and beat her up.

43



OM: Beat it out if they beat her, but they would be teasing her and so
on. But my mother wasn't Khaya in the civil [documents]. She
changed her name too because it was impossible to live with this
name. And she was named Clara. But it was a Jewish name too.

LS: Also identified as a Jewish name?

OM: Yes. Instead of Klara, I decided to name her Lara. Actually, I
wrote her as Larisa; it's very strange.

FW: In actuality, Clara is not at all a Jewish name. It's an

international name.

LS: But as soon as it becomes identified... When you said she was
getting beat up too, was she getting beat up any worse than you
when you were a child? Were things getting worse all along?

OM: Yes. It was much, much worse. You see, when I was a child,
somebody could tell me that "Jews"and and so on, but when I became
older, I never heard that, for example, they don't want to hire me
because I am a Jew. No. They don't have place.

FW: There was a hidden anti-Semitism.

OM: And in this evening school, it was a very nice place for grown
children, because I wasn't busy and all people understand, and when
this school was closed... Not closed but...

FW: And they had to stop admitting new students because it was
overcrowded?

OM: No, they made much less, fewer students. And they had to fire
somebody.

FW: Not fire somebody, but dismiss some of the students?

OM: No.

FW: Dismiss some of the teachers?

44



DM: Students didn't want to come to us. That's why they didn't need

so many teachers.

LS: And that's where you were working? Is that correct?

DM: Yes. No, no, after maybe five years I worked in this place, but

then they had to fire somebody, and they fired only me and another

teacher who was a Jew too. Our principal told us. She didn't tell us

that we are Jews, and that's why she was firing us. We understood

it completely and she did it only because of this. But, she told me,

"You're a very nice woman. You have a very nice education. You can

find a job anywhere. But these women they don't have good

education, they don't have such a nice .character, it would be very

difficult for them to find a job." That's why she fired us.

FW: The good ones and keep the bad ones.

DM: But she understood why I am sure that only because of anti


Semitism. She fired me then and she asked me to teach her niece

math. She knew that I am a tutor, and she asked me. She understood
that I am a good teacher.

LS: But she had to let you go. Did you get another job after that?

DM: Yes. It was very easy to find a job in school because they don't
pay enough money and it was dangerous because children did not
want to study, but they must. In Russia they must finish school. But
the big boys and big girls, they didn't want to study. But it's very
important what grade you get there, and it's much more important
than here. If you give them bad grades, they can catch you after
school and beat you up.

LS: And did they actually do that?

DM: Not very often, but sometimes.

LS: That really sounds so much more like America.

45



FW: This happens in America sometimes also. In your classroom,

how was the discipline? Did they listen to you, were they quiet or

not?

OM: I'll explain. At first, it was terrible, and when I began to work,
I decided that only till the end of of year because I couldn't go away
in the middle of the year. But when I came at home, I said, "Never in
my life I would go to this school." But step by step I understood who
interferes with me and who not and I took this guy who interfered
much more and told him, "I don't know what will be with all other
children, but I will give you ... two, it's...

FW: Bad mark. One is the worst and two is bad.

LS: So, you established discipline.

OM: I began to do better and better, and then my director [principia]
told me that for the first year I was excellent, and then I knew math
very well and they understood that my knowledge· is good, and they
began to give me better classes, children who wanted to go to
college, to university ...

FW: Brighter students.

OM: Yes. And with these children it was much easier for me, and
then I began to work as a teacher of computers. Nobody knew
computers, but one day they told us that we need to teach computers.

LS: In high school?

OM: In high school. Nobody had computers in school, nobody had any
technology.

LS: That's very interesting. ·And they were planning to put
computers in the high schools? ·

OM: Yes.

LS: What year was this?

46



DM: It was three years before [I left]; it was 1986.

LS: And did they get computers in the high schools?

DM: Actually, yes. They forced big companies to organize computer

centers, and we began to go to this center ...

FW: To learn how to use computers?

OM: In summer we learned, and during the winter we taught. I had a
very good background. That's why my director asked me. I didn't
want. I knew math very well. Why should I go to this place? But
she asked me very much, and I began to teach children. And in Russia
it was different because we didn't have any software. That's why I
began to teach only languages. And we had computers with Fortran
which was built inside and I studied Fortran and began to teach it.

FW: And you had a computer in your class in school? Did they buy
one?

DM: We had a special center, and children go to that special center.

LS: Was the center in the school itself?

DM: No, but several schools sent their children for this.

FW: So, each district would have a larger [?] center.

LS: Did you learn any other computer languages, besides Fortran?

DM: Yes, but then it was very old computers; then they began to
produce much more sophisticated computers but with Basic inside,
and I had to study Basic and began to teach Basic. And I began to like
it, and they don't have enough teachers who knew computers, and I
was already ...

FW: Methodist? She was teaching the method? [Methodologist?]

47



DM: Yes, and I taught children, and I wrote a lot of programs because
we don't have them. For two years, all my free time I spent writing
and learning programs.

FW: Dina, did they pay you more money?
DM: Yes.
LS: What about your daughter? Did she go to any special school?


know there are special schools in Leningrad for bright children.
DM: It was very difficult to send children to this school.
FW: But she must have been reading ...
DM: Nobody was concerned about it. That's why I sent her, when she


was five years old, I understood that she needs to be among children.
LS: But she was among children. She had playmates, right?
DM: In Russia, we had very interesting, very nice groups, groups of


children for walking only.
FW: They had groups for walking, for doing certain things.
DM: Twelve children and one teacher ...
LS: What age children?
DM: From five years, from five till seven. Children came to this


place, and at first they had a walk, and then they go to a special
place and they had lunch, and then the teacher taught them English.
It was not many children, and it was very expensive.

LS: Why was it very expensive?
DM: I don't know.
FW: It wasn't government?


48



DM: No, it wasn't government.
FW: It was private?
DM: It wasn't private ...
FW: Semi-private. What about regular school? She needed to learn


more than English?
DM: In regular school, they should go from seven...
LS: Seven years of age?
FW: I see. So, when she was seven ...
LS: No, when she was five ...
DM: We went to this center, but when she was seven, I couldn't send


her to this special school. I wanted to send her to English school,
but I couldn't do it.
LS: Why not?
DM: It was very difficult.


FW: It's for really special people.
DM: And you see, only for people who worked in a hospital or in a
store, who can pay something, but not money.


LS: I've got it. You have to do a favor?
DM: Yes.

FW: It's what you can do for me.

DM: It's very popular in Russia, and when I told [them] that I am a

teacher ...

49



FW: There is an expression. They call it po blatu. That means the

pull, what you can do for me. I have shoes and I'll get the child into

a better school or I can get you into a better clinic or whatever.

Because money, even though you... [End Tape 2 Side 1]

[Tape 2 Side 2]

LS: We were talking about your daughter.

OM: She went to school near our house and fortunately s~e had a very
nice teacher, and this teacher told me, "Ah, don't send her very often
to school." Because she noticed that Lara can read and can write and
can calculate, and can do everything. But at this time I began to
teach her music, and I noticed that she had very good abilities. In
Russia it was very difficult to find a good teacher, and we should go
through all the city and to another area and in music school you
couldn't have only play, for example.

FW: You had to have subjects also?

OM: Yes, and theory of music and solfeggio and chorus.

LS: Even at the age of seven?

OM: Yes. It's very serious. And every day I sat near her and forced

her to study for two hours because our teacher asked me about it.

FW: Demanded it. And then how often did she go to her public
school, grammar school?

OM: She went to the school: two weeks she went, then she stopped
one week, then again. Sometimes, if she was sick a little bit, she
stayed home for a month, for example, and in first grade, the teacher
told me, "Ah, it's nice weather. Let her play outside." But for
examination she had to be there. And we went for examination. How
many words per minute you read. And she read maybe 120 words per
minute. Fifty-five was enough for an A, and it was excellent. For
three years it was very nice, a very nice teacher, and she never went
to this school. ..

50


LS: She went when she felt like it? And she was doing this music
two hours a day?

DM: Yes, she was. But I taught her a little bit at home because I
understood that [unclear]. She likes to read very much and all
knowledge ...

LS: Does she like math as much as you?

DM: No, but she is a very capable girl in math, but she doesn't like it
so much. I forced her a little bit.

LS: Did you realize that she was musical? Is that why you started
piano lessons?

DM: No, no. I thought that music is a whole world, and we need to

understand it ...

LS: And you played?

DM: I played a little bit, but we liked to go to the philharmonic for
concerts, and I noticed that Lara likes it very much, and then I
noticed that she has very good ear and very good memory. She heard
one time one piece of Tchaikovsky, and then when she heard another
one, she told me, "Oh, in my opinion, it's the same composer." I was
surprised.

LS: And she was how old?

DM: Maybe four years. I went to my acquaintances and asked,
"Should I teach her or not?" And they told me, "Yes."

BREAK, CONTINUED THE NEXT DAY, AUGUST 13

LS: We were talking yesterday about Lara's school. You told me that
she suffered unbearably from anti-semitic teachers and students at
her last school. You were saying that you had a lot of friends who
had emigrated by that time.

51



DM: Yes, and they told me that now it's time to give application to
come to America. I was afraid about Valery's security, but they told
me, "A lot of people now get a permission."

FW: Who sent you the vyzov, the invitation?

OM: I had relatives--you know, my aunt, now she is here and her

husband's brother was in Israel many, many years.

FW: And he sent the invitation?

DM: He sent an invitation.

FW: It was an invitation to go to Israel?

DM: To Israel. Valery changed his job, and he couldn't find a job.
Only in school he could find a job, and he worked as a teacher of
math because they didn't have enough teachers of math. They knew
that he is going to go away, but classes were without teachers, and
they hired him. We gave our application, and the first period in my
life that I couldn't sleep because I was worried very much. I wanted
to change, to go away very much. We decided with Valery that if
they didn't allow us, I will go with Larisa alone, and we will wait
for him here.

I couldn't see my daughter--she was so unhappy; she goes this
way, and after two weeks she began to ask me, "I want to be at
home." She didn't want to go to school at all. I understood that she
knows math very well, but she could never go to a good college. She
played not bad. Her teacher was Jewish in music school, and she
told me, "You have a Russian name--last name--write Larisa that
she is Russian, because I have several Jewish children and they can
tell me that too many Jewish children in my group.

FW: Because Migachov is a Russian name, but if she put in next to
nationality "Russian" it would be a lie?

DM: It was a lie.

FW: She did write "Russian?"

52



DM: Yes, she did.


FW: Dina, how long did it take you from the time you applied for
emigration until you received permission to leave?
DM: We were lucky because it was a very nice period. We waited a


little bit more than three months.


FW: You were very fortunate. And then you went from Leningrad to
Moscow?
DM: No.
FW: How did you go out?
DM: From Leningrad.
FW: To?
OM: To Vienna.
LS: Before this, were you at all interested in exploring what


Judaism was all about? Or did you not have time? Did you go to the


synagogue at all?
OM: We went two or .three times per year to the synagogue, only to
be together with Jewish people, and I noticed that a lot of very
young Jews began to go to the synagogue.


LS: When did that begin?


DM: Maybe when Gorbachov came to the power. We began to feel a
little bit more comfortable.
FW: Dina, did you mean the young people went inside or was it


mostly outside the synagogue?
DM: Inside and outside, because Leningrad is a very big city, and it's
impossible to be inside. Inside it was small and it was crowded.


53



LS: Which holidays did you go for?

OM: Simchat Torah and Passover. Two holidays we went. I met a lot

of friends, and we were surprised that a lot of people are here, and a

lot of them were with a permission or on the contrary they gave

their application. You see, Pamyat, this anti-Semitic society began
to work and maybe they helped Jewish people to understand that we
. should be together; that's why we began to go to the synagogue more


often.

FW: You mean, because of the rise of anti-Semitism, with Pamyat

and other organizations, Jewish people began to cling together more

and identify than before?

OM: Yes. A lot of children were educated that it makes no difference
what nationality you are.

LS: Did anybody actually believe in that at that point?

FW: Maybe, children did.

OM: Yes, but then they began to feel that they agree to be equal with

Russians, wit~ all the other, but they don't want to do it.

FW: They did not accept it.

OM: They did not accept it. That's why they began to move

to ... Jewish ...

LS: What about knowledge about Israel? A lot of people told us that
the '67 war was the turning point. Did you feel that at all or were
you too young?

OM: I wasn't young but I was maybe very stupid because I didn't

know anything about Israel and I didn't do everything to have

information. I wanted to read prohibited literature and I did, but if
spent a lot of energy to find out something about Israel, maybe I
could do it. I wasn't Jewish maybe--it was much more interesting
for me, new plays in the theatre and new literature and a lot of
acquaintances, a lot of friends, and we lived our own life.

54


When we heard the name Israel, we were very pleased, and I
liked this country, but I had no idea that I can go to Israel, and I only
found out about it maybe when I had Larisa because I got new friends
and they knew everything about it. I couldn't take any information
because all official information ...

LS: What you are saying is you simply weren't receptive at that

time?
DM: Maybe I didn't have close friends who could tell me about it, but
actually Nina was the first person--my friend ...


FW: You pushed the buggy together with the children.
DM: Yes, and her husband had a sister in Israel. She began to tell me
about it, and she had friends whose relatives were in Canada, in
America, and I began to understand that we could do it too. I asked


her to give me magazines Israel Today and I began to read it, and
only from this moment I began to think about it.
FW: She is a highly intelligent, exceptionally bright woman.
LS: Now, she lives in San Francisco, is that right?
DM: Yes.
LS: Who publishes Israel Today? Is that published in the Soviet


Union for Soviets?
DM: No, no, it's ...
LS: Oh, it's underground. I see.


· DM: It was very dangerous to give these magazines.
FW:: It was Samyzdat?
DM: No, it was from Israel, but it was dangerous to deliver it and

this was only for people whom you trust.

55



LS: Your decision was because Larisa was suffering so greatly and

because it was easier to go. You went through Vienna, you went

through Rome. You said that you had brought necklaces to help

support you in Rome. Was this because there was a flow of letters

back telling you what is best?

DM: Yes, in this time, all my relatives went.

LS: Tell me, how many of your relatives went, again?

DM: The first in our family, Lev Stysis, my cousin ...

LS: His wife and son?

DM: His wife and son. They gave an application and after him we

began to [unclear]

FW.: Stysis in turn came to Meerovich family?

DM: Yes.

LS: What's the first family?

FW: In this clan, the first one to come--and that's about ten years
ago--was Gedaly Meerovich, his wife Alexandra, whom we call
Shura, and two boys, and Shura's mother and father. The mother died
a short time after of cancer, and a third child, a little girl, was born
to Gedaly. Gedaly had a hard time finding work but eventually he did.
The next one who came to Gedaly was his mother from Israel, who
emigrated with a brother to Israel. He brought her over here, and she
stayed. Then they brought over Stysis, his wife Nona, and a boy
Julian, and then came... Excuse me, beforeStysis came, his mother
and father came.

DM: No, they came later.

FW: Later? OK. After Lev came, his mother and father and Nona's
sister, a divorcee with a boy and her elderly mother. And then
came...

56



OM: We came before.

FW: You came before the sister? OK. But it all happened within the
last two years.

OM: But they left Russia before us.

LS: When they wrote you, did they tell you that things were going to
be hard here?

OM: Lev wrote a lot of letters and he called his parents--because

his parents applied too--and we applied and my sister applied and

from another sister, her son applied, and all our mishpukha (family)

decided to go.

FW: The original family was Gedaly and Alexandra and her parents.

LS: Did they tell you that things were really going to be difficult

here, that streets were not paved with gold?

DM: Yes.. They were in the winter in Italy, and it was difficult to
find an apartment and pay for it, but we should be in summer and
they told us that we should be prepared to take even food with us.

But we are not so... We can think about it very seriously.

LS: You were thinking seriously about food?

DM: We decided it's OK. We are very modest people. It was very
difficult to buy something. Even Lev, when he ...

FW: Frivolous. They weren't frivolous.

DM: He went maybe for five months before us and he could find
something in the store, but when we decided to go away, we couldn't
find anything.

LS: To barter in Italy?

57



FW: Little spoons, little boxes, all the Russian souvenirs, you didn't
have that? People sold that in Italy.

OM: Yes. Or we should pay a lot of money for this, but a lot of
Jewish people had money in Russia and they didn't know how to
spend it. We didn't have this problem ...

FW: What did you know about life in America from Gedaly? And then
after Gedaly, who was here already a long time, what did Lev Stysis
[tell you]?

OM: You see, I had other information. I had information from Nina in
San Francisco. We sent letters. She told me that it's not so easy,
that it's not a resort, and I should be prepared to meet a lot of
difficulties. If I can be in my country, if I am not so unhappy, I
shouldn't go (leave) because it's very, very difficult to be an
immigrant, especially at our age.

FW: Did she say that in spite of the difficulties she was happy she
came?

OM: She wasn't happy, actually.
FW: Was she glad that they left?
OM: She never wrote me about it; she never wrote to her relatives

because she told me that it's very difficult for different people, and
when I came here and at first I was happy completely and actually I
am happy now too because I see that my daughter changed a lot.
Maybe you noticed it too.

FW: Of course.

OM: Actually I had the same life as in Russia with my job, and I like
to teach Jewish children much more than the Russian children. Only
Valery is not happy now but he will.

· FW: I know you quite well and I know that in spite of the

difficulties you are glad you are here. This was unmistakeable from

the begining of our friendship.

58


OM: I am happy that I am here from the first moment and till this

moment and I hope that with every year it will be easier for us, and

we will be happier, because maybe our English will be better.

LS: You think the l'anguage is the main stumbling block to feeling

comfortable?

OM: It's very important. You don't understand anybody and you feel

like an idiot.

FW: And you also feel that age is very important?

OM: And I began to feel my age--that I am not a young woman--only
here. In Russia, I didn't notice it. My friends had the same problems.
We were the same age, and in school I saw only children, the same
age every year.

LS: Why is it more important here, your age?

OM: I can tell you, at first I understood, I've studied all my life, it
was very easy for me to study. Even I was twenty-seven years, and
began to study at a teacher's institute, and it was very strong
material, very high level, and I studied perfectly well. When we
came here, I was surprised that my daughter studied very fast, and
she began to help me, and I noticed that she taught me and taught me
and taught me...

LS: Teach you what, English?

OM: English. And the same word, I had to spend a lot of time to
remember, and I noticed that sometimes I look through a dictionary
several times--1 knew that looked up this word several times--and
now I began to hear accent and so on, and when I recorded my voice,
it spoiled my mood.

FW: It ruined your moment. You realized that...

OM: I hate my pronounciation, my very strong Russian accent and so
on. And that's the first, and the second, I see that it's very difficult

59



to find a job. I found my job very easily. I am happy. But I see what
about my husband. Everybody is asking his age, not so openly, but we
understand it's very difficult only because of his age.

FW: How old is he?

DM: Fifty-two. He looks maybe older than he is, and it's very
difficult to find a job.
LS: So, you came here because you had relatives here, and what time

of year did you come?
OM: In July 1989.
LS: Were you met by your relatives at the airport?
DM: Yes.
LS: And who else?
OM: I had another cousin here, Sofa Golovei. Maybe you remember?
FW: Tell me the last name.
DM: Golovei. Vitaly...
FW: You are not telling me the name I know. That's probably her


maiden name you're telling me.


_
DM: Yes.
FW: Her husband's last name?
LS: In any case, were there anybody from the Jewish Family

Service?
OM: No. Lev with his family, Sofa with her family ...
FW: I know, the people who left for Lincoln.


60


OM: Yes.

FW: Zlatnik.

OM: Zlatnik. And Natasha and Edik Zelkin.

FW: They are also your relatives?

OM: No, I knew them from Russia. They lived in Minsk, and I had a lot
of relatives in Minsk, and they were friendly with my sisters, my
cousins. That's why I knew them and they met us at the airport.

'

LS: They met you at the airport, and then did they take you to the

apartment you are living in now?

OM: Lev rented an apartment for us, and we were happy because in

one yard I had my cousin Lev, my cousin Sofa ...

LS: Was that the apartment I was at yesterday?

OM: Yes. Now, I don't like this apartment, but at first...

LS: It was furnished, and was it roughly the same size as the
apartment you had before, in Leningrad.

OM: In Leningrad I had more.

FW: It was not completely furnished. There were the bare
necessities.

OM: A lot of things we took from garage sales and Felicia helped us
with dishes and with furniture too. You gave us the address of the
people who made donation and some furniture.

FW: I heard from somebody that was giving away something and I let
them know and they made the connection and picked it up. One piece
of furniture they picked up somebody threw it out, but they cleaned
it up.

61



DM: What about the piano. One woman gave donation to JCC, but my

daughter went to practice to JCC, and they knew that she needs the

piano, and they gave us.

FW: And her daughter got a scholarship to SPA.

LS: How did you know SPA, St. Paul Academy?

DM: I didn't know anything about it. In Russia I was interested in
schools and Nina wrote me letters, my friend in San Francisco--she
had two daughters. She wrote me about the education. She wasn't
happy with education at all.

FW: Very few Soviet emigrees are happy with American elementary
and high school education, low level.

DM: She wrote me about these problems.

FW: Didn't I tell you about SPA?

DM: No.

FW: Who told you?

DM: Nobody. When we came to the Jewish Family Service, Zhenya
only began to work, and she didn't have a car, and compared with the
previous person who worked with Soviet immigrants--she went to
another city--she had a car and she went to any place with Soviet
immigrants, to welfare, to medical care and so on. But Zhenya was
only in her office and she told us that she can't...

LS: ...Can't take you anywhere.

DM: And let Lev do it because he is a relative. We told her, "Zhenya,
don't worry about us. We will find everything, but we want
somebody to show Larisa a good school." We didn't know about
anything. Maybe because we had a lot of awards from Russia and
maybe they can check you and so on, one day Zhenya called us and
told us that we can go to SPA and somebody will see Larisa.

62



FW: An appointment?

LS: I am just going to recap what you said because I can see that the
tape is running out. They tested her and she was so superb. [unclear,
all talk at one]

FW: And they heard her play during the recess, right? How did they

find out that she is so musically talented?

DM: At first, we showed all papers to Shultz...

FW: Who is Shultz?

LS: Wesley Shultz is one of the admission directors.

DM: And I took a paper from the music school, and it was only A's,
and he knows a little bit Russian and he read about solfeggio, about
theory of music and so on, and we were told that it's OK, but then he
began to show up the school, and when he showed us a piano, a very
nice piano, and he asked Larisa to play. She began to play Chopin's
Nocturnes and when she began to play, he said, "Oh, it's Chopin." And
then I understood from this moment he wanted her to be a student.
He told us that she will have an exam in math and we will see. And
she had an exam in math...

LS: And she did very well. What about the problem with English?

She knew no English at that point, did she?

DM: I was worrying about it very much, but at first she went to
Camp Butwin ...

LS: Which is a Jewish Community Center camp ...

DM: And I told her, "Larisa, you should speak only with American
children because you need to take a little bit English." And at home,
you see Larisa began to read very early and she can't be without a
book. We saved all our Russian books and gave her English books.

FW: I loaned her a simple book. I gave away children's books, but I
had something. She read it OK.

63


LS: So, she started reading and understanding.

DM: And she went to this Camp Butwin, and she wasn't good in

English, but when she went to school, I went with her and asked,

maybe they will give her several additional lessons in English. They
told me, "Don't worry. Children are children. If we see that she

needs it, we will do it. But in October we went to school; it was a

meeting for parents, and the teacher of math told us, "I never saw a
student who took a new language so fast. Don't worry." And all
other teachers told me that she understands them. In December they

had a test for spelling, and her humanities teacher called me. She
told me that she was surprised and impressed because she didn't

make any mistakes.

FW: You came in July, and this was of December of the same year?

DM: Yes. But I noticed, I began to study in Brown's Institute ...

LS: Who paid for that?

FW: It was a loan.

LS: You've got a loan. You're paying it back.

DM: I began to read all textbooks, but I didn't know how to pronounce
these words, and at first I understood text and I understood what the
teacher wrote on the blackboard becaus~ I knew Basic a little bit
and at first language was Basic, and when I began to ask him, I
noticed that he is very scared. He didn't understand me, and I had to
ask him to look at my screen, and I understood that my
pronounciation is terrible, and I began to ask Larisa to read, and I
began to read to her aloud, and she began to correct me, and I asked
her, "Why do you know?"

FW: "How do you know?"

DM: "How do you know?" And she told me, "I know." From this
moment, she began to teach me, and if I began to work in this school,
only because of her help.

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LS: Did you go to an English... [End Tape 2 Side 2]

[Tape 3 Side1]

LS: You were saying that when you came here you had relatives to
help you. Nobody had come from the Jewish Family Service. When
did you go to the Jewish Family Service and how did you know about
the Jewish Family Service, for instance?

DM: My brother Lev told me about it--cousin.

LS: Oh, your cousin told you about it. So, he made an appointment

for you to go?

DM: Yes. And Zhenya (the Russian-speaking social worker) met us.

LS: Met you there, and what did she tell you?

DM: She told me that they will pay for our apartment, they will give
us money for two months, before we will get welfare. They met us
so nicely that we were surprised and very pleased. That's why we
told Zhenya that if we can make something without her help, we will
do it. And she gave us addresses where we should go, where we
should apply, and we went to with medicine and with welfare.

LS: Did you have problems that you feel you hadn't enough

information? Did you think they should have done more for you?

DM: No, no.

LS: Did you rely mainly on your relatives here?

DM: Yes. The second day when we were here, we began to study in
the International Institute. My cousin Lev and cousin Sofa studied
there already, and actually they helped us with advice, they told us

· what we should do and Jewish Family Service made everything for
us, and we had an apartment, we had income--not so much but-maybe
in two months we began to get money from the government,

65



welfare, and we didn't need a lot of help from the Jewish Family
Service. But we asked about school, and they made it for us.

LS: Are you talking about school for Larisa? And what about
schooling for you? How about getting jobs for you?

OL: You see, with me it wasn't a big problem because at first I
decided that I could never return to school with my English, and
went to study at Brown's Institute to be a programmer. But I read in
the newspaper that more than fifteen children went to school to
Talmud Torah--Soviet children--and I understand completely that
the first year they can't study math seriously, because the children
begin to speak very easily but they can't know all math terminology
and it would be very difficult for them to study, and I went to the
school and suggested [offered] my help.

FW: As a volunteer?

OM: As a volunteer. I began to teach Soviet kids math in Russian. It
wasn't very often, but they were very happy and grateful. ..

LS: Meanwhile you were going to the Brown Institute also?

OM: Yes, yes. I began to study from 12:30, but in the morning I had
possibility to go to this school. It was not so often, but during this
year. And when finished Brown Institute, Susan Kobrin suggested me
if I want to work part-time job at the school as a teacher of
computers. I was happy.

FW: Susan is the director, the principal of the school.

LS: But didn't you want full-time work?

OM: I would, but you see, ·I was afraid. I came less than a year ago
to this country, and I wasn't sure that children will understand my
English. And I didn't study English at all. I studied English only one
month--maybe one and a half--at the International Institute. Then,
from October, I began to study at Brown Institute.

LS: But didn't you want a job in industry as a computer programmer?

66



OM: If somebody asked me what I prefer, I am a teacher, and I
wanted to be a teacher, but I decided that I couldn't find a job. And I
noticed that my husband and my cousin, they were looking for jobs,
and it was very difficult. And you see, in my opinion, Brown
Institute didn't give us very good education. It's only so-so. And you
see, it's difficult to explain, but [there is] something humiliating
about looking for a job in America. I don't like it. I can't say, "I'm
the best teacher in the state or in the city. I am the best
programmer. I know everything." I'm a little bit like my husband.
can say that he is a very smart guy.

FW: But it comes to yourself, it's difficult for you?

OM: Yes. That's why when she invited me for a part-time job, I was
happy and Valery had already found a job at this time. That's why I
didn't need money so much. I decided, "OK, I will try. If children
understand me perfectly well, if everything is OK, I will continue to
work at school." And I asked Susan Kobrin to give me American
students. I wanted to see if they will understand me or not. And I
was surprised that they understood me. And this I told you that I
asked her small groups for free and I decided to look how it will be
with math. I noticed that math is a language and they didn't need my
perfect English.

LS: That's right. And you said that several of you children who went
to SPA were able to skip two full math grades?

OM: Yes. We went very fast, and I had results. I had tests and I saw
that they do very well.

FW: [unclear] Is it full-time?

OM: No. It's not a big school, and they had a teacher of math already,
and she is a nice woman. I don't want to substitute her because she
is a good teacher. They gave me only half-time. And additionally,
they will have classes after school, and if parents want their
children to be in school and to take something, they will pay for it.

FW: Tell me, do you have benefits, hospitalization, or not?

67


OM: Now, only three sick days. Susan told me that if I work for two
years ...

FW: That's not what I am asking--sick days--1 am asking
hospitalization?

OM: No, no. Now all our family without any medicine.

FW: No medical assistance if you need it?

OM: No, no.

LS: That isn't good. We have a lot of questions about agencies and
whether you felt that the help was beneficial, but you are saying
that you didn't use Jewish Family Service very much. How about,
have you used the Jewish Community Center very much? What have
you particularly enjoyed there?

OM: You see, first, I feel very comfortable in this place as a native
home. All people are very friendly with us, and at first we came to
ask permission for Larisa to practice. And if they had any free room
with a piano, all the time they told us, "Yes, OK, you are welcome."
Then, we liked the swimming pool very much. I like this place.
There are very often very interesting lectures for us. And I know I
didn't use it because I decided to stop reading Russian because I
want to study English as fast as possible. But I know that Russian
people went to the library, and actually we are very often at JCC.

LS: You use it frequently?

FW: I know you come to programs which are open for the
community--concerts, [unclear] ...

LS: Were you hooked up with an American host family?

FW: Did you get American volunteers?

OM: We have volunteers. It's Lou and Muriel Lachter. They are very
nice people. They came to us to teach us English, but they are very

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busy and actually we were very busy. I studied in Brown Institute-Muriel
couldn't teach me this terminology.

FW: They were actually sent to the Migachovs not as tutors but as a

host family.

OM: And actually, I think, I don't know exactly, but I feel they are

friends. And sometimes we go together to fairs; several times we

were in museums; they invited us to their holidays.

LS: So, they invited you for holidays, which comes right into the

next question about synagogues. Here, you had grown up and you

hadn't been in synagogues very much. Have you gone to synagogues

here and what have your feelings about Jewish life in American

been?

FW: I see Dina on Fridays. She goes more than I do.

OM: When we came here and we came to the synagogue, at first they
met us so nicely, so politely, they were so happy that we were here-
1 couldn't understand what I did for them good that they are so kind
to us. I liked Jewish music all my life, but now I could listen to
Jewish music, Jewish prayers, and I liked this place. And you see, I
am not able to study Hebrew--it's too late--it will be very nice to
study but in English, but I want to be a Jewish person. That's why I
decided I want on Friday evening to forget about all my daily life,
take a shower, dress up, and to go and rest a little bit. At first, I
didn't understand our rabbi when he spoke, and now I began to
understand it--sometimes it's very interesting. And very nice
music, and I see a lot of Jewish people who are happy that they are
Jewish. It makes me [unclear], and I decided that it's normal for
Jewish people and I can do it. We, with my husband, decided to do it.

If I am at home on Friday, I will continue to work with my
programs, with my tests for children, and I can't notice that it's
Friday, that I should rest. In my opinion, it's a very wise habit. We
need to rest, relax, and think a little bit about ourselves. And we
decided to go, if we can, every Friday. And in summer we go every
Friday, and sometimes if I am busy or [unclear] or we are invited any
other place, OK, but if we can do it, we'll do it every Friday and we
like this very much. It's only two hours, but at the synagogue I won't

69



go to the kitchen and wash dishes because I understand that it is

time for rest, and we think about how we can rest, sometimes we

can't afford it to be free on all Saturdays too, but this evening we

relax. I like the choir in the synagogue, and I like the cantor, and I

like people, and we are very friendly with Meeroviches, and they go

every ...

LS: And the Americans don't say, "Oh, here are the Russians."

mean, everybody mixes?

FW: Did you find the community, generally speaking, friendly and

polite?

OM: More than I expected--very nice, very polite, and very friendly,

and well-wishing.

LS: Did you have any understanding that the Jewish community as a

community was trying to help? Did you expect the Jewish

community to help place you once you got here?

OM: Yes.

FW: Nina wrote that the Jewish community helps, right? Because
the same thing is done in San Francisco?

OM: But this community does much more for us than any in any other
community becaus-e I had a lot of acquaintances from Russia and they
live in different places, and nobody can show that they have much
more help than we.

LS: Do you get together with your family to celebrate holidays too?

OM: Yes. We continue to celebrate our holidays, our birthday parties
and so on with relatives, but now we began to celebrate--we
celebrate New Year as New Year ...

FW: You mean Rosh Hashanah?

OM: No.

70



LS: You mean the Russian New Year?

DM: Not Russian, common New Year. Jewish New Year and this New

Year, and very often we celebrate with our relatives.

LS: And Thanksgiving also?

OM: Yes. [unclear] we had other friends, from Poland, Catholics but a
very nice family. We met them accidentally. They were looking for
a job, and we began very friendly. And now they invited us very
often, but we can't afford to go very often, we had no time--they are
busy too, they have three children... They are here maybe twelve
years. We like this family very much. At the beginning we
celebrated with them. They know much more about American
holidays than we do.

LS: That's interesting. Do you have other American friends besides

Lachters?

DM: We began to be friendly with one family--Shapiro--maybe you

know, he...

FW: He plays guitar? Leonard Shapiro?

DM: Yes. Larisa started studying in St. Joseph music school, and it
was a concert for all children, and I noticed that one boy was
Abraham Shapiro--! noticed that it was a Jewish boy. He played
very nicely and I told his parents that he is a very bright boy. And
Americans like to make compliments too, and that's all. Then Larisa
brought a message that they invited us for Sabbath. In my opinion,
they are religious people.

FW: They belong to Beth Jacob, and they are familiar already with
people from the Soviet Union because they are a host family to the
Treskolov [?] family.

DM: They invited us very often [unclear] to Sabbath and we continued
to see them on all these concerts because Lara and Abraham studied
in one class.

71



LS: Very good. I imagine that you have, do you ever see any of the

school teachers after work?

OM: No. And we became very friendly with two families from

Russia. You know Govsa[?]?

FW: Yes, Nina [?] and Jacob Govsa. They are people from Kiev. And

the other family?

OM: Braginsky. lnna, and Gregory also. You see, we are teachers of

math and we are tutors, and all people who have children and who

think about education very seriously, they found us.

LS: What would you like to be doing five years from now?

OM: I want to continue to work, to teach.

LS: What cultural differences do you find most frustrating here?

Someone mentioned that she couldn't understand why Americans
smile so frequently. Was that just a facade? Are there same things
that frustrate you about American culture?

OM: I stopped to believe them because, you see, when Russian people
told me, "Oh, you speak very nice English," for example, I can believe

it. But I cannot believe Americans because they like to say
something pleasant for you.

FW: But it's not the only reason. The other reason is that Americans
are impressed when someone else speaks their language even a little
bit because most Americans know nothing else--like Russians who
know only Russian--and they are appreciative when someone does
speak their language, and they feel that it's a wonderful
achievement. So, it's not only just a compliment. They really feel
it's a wonderful thing that you are beginning to speak.

OM: You see, it's very nice that someone likes to smile. I like it very
much. But in Russia I knew if my director smiled, it meant that she
liked me very much. If she doesn't like me, I can see it too. Now I
can't understand.

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LS: You can't understand the signals.

FW: What else is difficult?

DM: You see, maybe I can't understand it because now I don't know

English perfectly, that's why I can't understand jokes. When I see

TV, for example, I can't understand jokes. At first, it was very

unpleasant for me, I can tell you, that all serious movies or all

serious programs on TV can be interrupted with commercials. It

was terrible. ' We came here and we saw Amadeus, a very nice, very

serious movie. And they began to interrupt with stupid

advertisements. I was outraged. And now we bought a VCR, and I

decided that very interesting and very nice movie I will see only
with VCR. My friend Nina told me, "Oh, you will get used to it and
you will eat during the advertisement or call somebody." Maybe it's

not a long time, but for two years I couldn't do that.

I can't say something about theater because I wasn't, but I can
say that I didn't expect that the musical culture would be so high in
this country, because in Russia we were very often in philharmonic,
and when we decided to leave Russia, we went to say good-bye to
good music and so on, because I decided that St. Paul is not so
cosmopolitan city, but we went to one concert--they performed
Shostakovich--and I liked it very much, it's a composer who lived in
Leningrad, and I was surprised that they played it much better than
in Russia. It was a very nice conductor from Poland ...

FW: Stanislaw Skrovachevski.

DM: And I was surprised, because his own mus1c 1s very interesting,
and only a very good orchestra can do it perfectly well, and with
Shostakovich I can compare.

LS: So, there are all sorts of levels of culture here? The crass, the
advertisement sort of culture, and there is a higher culture too.

DM: Yes. In museums, it's only my impression, but it's a little bit
modest compared with Leningrad.

LS: Well, Leningrad has one of the greatest museums in the world.

73



FW: Perhaps, some day you'll go to Chicago, New York, and that will
be something to compare.

LS: So, do you feel you are fitting into American life now? Do you
feel that you are sort of finding a little space for yourself in
America?

OM: Yes, as I told Felicia already, I began to return to my usual life.
When I began to read--1 can't show that. I read fluently but I began to
read books that I liked in Russia.

FW: If you were to sum up, on the whole, generally speaking, you are
glad that you came?

OM: Yes, actually I am happy that we are here.
FW: Do you feel that things will become better for you?
OM: Yes. In my particular case, I need only English, and actually I

try to do my best but it's not so fast. After this year, if they invite
me to continue and give me a little bit more hours, it means that the
first year was OK too. I will continue to study English, I will
continue to work in this area, but I understand that I can do my job
that I like very much.

With my husband, I see that his English becomes better and
better and I can see that he can work as a tutor too, and he began to
do it and do it well, and he found his place too, his favorite job. His
works with computers and he is happy with computers. We decided
that we didn't expect that we will be very rich here, we didn't
expect it, we never were rich in Russia, but now this level is enough
for us. If I see that my daughter can be happy here, and now it
depends on her desire, will she work hard or not, and I feel that it's
enough, and I hope that with every year, we'll be better and better.

FW: We certainly wish you well.

LS: Yes, we wish you the best. You were talking about your husband
who works at the Red School House, which is a native American
grade school. Is that correct? Is is a grade school, elementary
school? Is it a high school also?

74


DM: Yes.

LS: And you understood that racism is a real problem in America.

This was something that you were well aware in the Soviet Union,

were you not?

DM: The government makes a lot maybe for this school. I didn't

expect that they would have such a wonderful computer lab. They

have a very nice teachers' staff.

FW: School building is nice?

DM: No, the school building is very old. But it's very difficult to
teach these children, this problem, because a teacher told me that
they can't even give them homework, because they don't have any
conditions at home to prepare their homework. And when we were at
graduation, I could compare. At Talmud Torah, when the sixth grade '
graduated, maybe fifteen or sixteen children, they were so smart, so
nice, they were dressed up, and they were so smart, and they
performed so nicely, they could dance and sing. I knew them as a
teacher of math--they are bright, most of them. They could continue
their education at any school, a very nice school, private school or
public school. But they are reqdy to get very nice education in
college and so on. But in this school, only one boy graduated from .
school.

LS: Which level, high school?

FW: Only one, out of how many?

DM: I don't know, it's a school for maybe 130 children. And only one
graduated. And then two children graduated from sixth grade. And
the graduation was from kindergarten to first grade--it was a lot of
children. And they wore.;.

FW: They wore caps and gowns ...

DM: And I noticed that they spent a lot of money for this graduation,
and they gave a very expensive gift for this one boy who graduated.

75



FW: Who did, the school or the parents?

DM: The school. The school gave them a lot, much more, in my

opinion, than... [End Tape 3 Side 1]

[Tape 3 Side 2]

DM: It's very difficult to teach them, and their behavior is different.

FW: In what way?

DM: Nobody says "Hello" and nobody says "Good-bye." We were

surprised. It's in America. At first I laughed at home that children

in the Jewish school, how many times they see me, so many times

they say "Hi, Dina." And I laughed. But then I began to feel that it's

very pleasant for me. And if I ask something from the children, if
they don't want to do it, they won't.

FW: Which children, Dina?

DM: In Indian school.

FW: If they don't want to do something that you asked, no matter
what it is?

DM: For example, give this program to another boy. In my opinion,
they get used to take a lot. They understand that somebody must do
good things for them. It's a very difficult regime. They can't afford
a lot at home; they live in very poor conditions. But in school all
teachers try to do their best for them. I noticed that one teacher
when she went [home] from school, she kissed everybody. At first,
didn't understand why. She works in kindergarten, and before she
goes away, she kisses every student. They pay a lot of attention to
them.

FW: The children are, would you say, passive?

76



DM: They maybe be passive in order to have good education ...

FW: But not passive in behavior, in the playground?

DM: No.

LS: OK, I think that's it. When did you start applying for

citizenship?

DM: We have a green card now, but only in three years we will have a
right to apply for citizenship.

LS: When you came to this county, you sort of knew what you were

getting into, and you knew that life would be difficult?

DM: Yes, we were prepared.

LS: Do you think that as far as working, are you working harder here
than you worked in the Soviet Union or the same?

DM: I work harder than in the Soviet Union now because of my

English, but actually, in school, in Russia I worked much harder

because I had a class with more than AO children, and it was very

difficult because a lot of people checked my job.

FW: You had a lot of supervisors looking over your shoulder.

DM: Yes. They didn't check me because I was prepared. But they
checked my students, and it was very difficult to teach everybody,
and I was nervous every time because ...

FW: They were checking your performance, they were checking the
students, their knowledge?

DM: Yes. And in this case I closed my eyes at cheating. Here I was
happy when they sent us to this school, to Talmud Torah, when they
sent us tests, I sat and watched and actually did nothing. Children
don't have this habit to cheat. It's very easy to work with them. In
Russia, I had to make a lot of different kinds of jobs for everybody,
but here I don't have this problem.

77


LS: What about the health problem? You never had this problem of

not being able to afford health care before. In the Soviet Union you

had health care, right?

OM: Yes.

LS: What do you think of the system here?

OM: I think that is is a very bad system, very bad. I have no good
words for it, unfortunately. It's terrible. In my opinion, it's mafia,

all medicine, because they dictate us, because medical care is so

expensive, a lot of insurance companies, we should do nothing, but
they live perfectly well. That's why it's so expensive.

FW: But the Soviet Union and socialist countries have their own

problems.

OM: Now I can compare, and with medical care in Russia it's better.
In general, and I can tell you that the level of doctors is very high in
Russia. I had two surgeries, and both times it was very nice, very
good doctors. But then I didn't see any nurse, and my husband had to
come every day, three times per day, if he wanted me to be clean and
fed.

FW: I don't know if you know that, Linda, people bring in food to

hospitals every single day.

LS: I understand, I remember that.

OM: It's impossible to eat what they give us, especially after an
operation.

LS: How often do they change your bed, clean it?

OM: Only one time ...

FW: When you come?

OM: When you come.

78


FW: And if you stay a month?
DM: No, maybe they will, in ten days maybe.
LS: I think we'll stop now. I want to thank you very much. This has


been a very interesting interview. Thank you very much.


79