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Interview with Sophie Rosenaur





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Old Lives, New Lives: Soviet Jewish Women in

Interview with Sophie Rosenaur
July 11, 1991

Linda Schloff, Interviewer

Q: We generally start out with sort of easy things. Why don't you
tell me your name, because I may be mispronouncing it.
Rosenaur: No, you pronounce correct. My name is Sophie Rosenaur.
I am originally from Leningrad in Russia, in the Soviet Union. So
I was born there and raised up there and went to the school,
survived the World War Second.

Q: We're going to go into all of this in detail. Where do you
live now? What's the address here?
Rosenaur: Now I live in St. Paul, 1995 Pryor Avenue, South.

Q: And what's the date of your birth?
Rosenaur: In fact, July ninth.
Q: And what year?
Rosenaur: 1938.
Q: Our birth dates are one month apart.
Rosenaur: Leningrad, U.S.S.R.
Q: Were your parents born there also? Tell me about them.
Rosenaur: My parents are not alive. Both of them were born in the
small villages. My father was born in the city called Zhlogin
[phonetic]. It's Byelorussia. And my mother was born in a city
called Bobya [phonetic]. I don't know. It doesn't mean anything
for you, but it's not far from Leningrad, about 200 miles away.

Q: Is that also Byelorssia?
Rosenaur: No, it's the Russian Republic.
Q: Now, are these both little towns that had been in the Pale of
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: What was your mother's name and her maiden name?
Rosenaur: I don't know, because she died thirty-one years ago, sol
don't. I remember her first name. Her first name is Nina. But
I really don't know. I never was interested in that time.

Q: Did she have brothers and sisters?
Rosenaur: She doesn't have a brother, but she does have a sister.
She came from a family of five children.

Q: Of five sisters?
Rosenaur: Yes, one of the five sisters. And no one is alive now.
Q: And your father's name?
Rosenaur: My father's name is Boris.
Q: And his last name?
Rosenaur: And the last name is Sheinkman. This I remember because
it's my maiden name.

Q: How old was he when he died?
Rosenaur: Eighty years. So he died in 1987. So he was almost
eighty years.

Q: And your mother, did she die during the war?
Rosenaur: No, no, no. She died thirty-one years ago. She was
forty-nine years old. No, she died after the war.


Q: Do you have brothers or sisters?
Rosenaur: Yes, I do have a brother and sister.
Q: And are they--
Rosenaur: They are here.
Q: What are their names?
Rosenaur: Brother's name is Leonid.
Q: Is he older or younger than you?
Rosenaur: He is older. He is older, eight years older.
Q: So he was born in 1930.
Rosenaur: 1930, that's right. And I have a sister named Irina.
She was born in 1947.

Q: So there are nice gaps between each one of the children, isn't
there? Is that a large family for that time?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. It was a large family. Three children was a
large family in the 1940s. My father was from a family of seven

Q: Did you see them frequently?
Rosenaur: Yes. Yes, I did see them, all of them, in fact. I did
know all my aunts and uncles.

Q: On both sides?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. In fact, I have a cousin here. Two cousins
live here, one from my aunt and my uncle. So I knew all of them,

Q: Did many of them live in Leningrad?
Rosenaur: Not all of them lived in Leningrad. From my mother's
side no one lived in Leningrad, from my mother's side. From my


father's side, I think six of them, the last time, lived in

Leningrad. Six.

Q: Where did your mother's family live? Did they continue to live
in the small village?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. They continued to live in the small village.

One sister lived in Moscow. One lived in another small village.

But I do not have them alive.

Q: Did you ever go to visit that village?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. In fact, we lived in my mother's birthplace

during World War Second. Through all the war we lived there.

Q: You mean that area wasn't overrun?
Rosenaur: No, the blockade was in between us, between Leningrad


this small city, exactly in the middle, about eighty miles away

from Leningrad, so 120 miles away from this small city.

Q: So you were safe there, but you were practically in the war
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: Sounds sort of scary.
Rosenaur: That's right. I was a little girl, and I remember some

life when I was maybe five years old, because I had cousins there

and my brother was there, and we were all together, and we went to

kindergarten. My mother worked. My father was in the service, and

my mother worked in telegraph. You know, like a telephonetelegraph,
that's where she worked. We spent our time with my
grandmother. I remember one time the German planes were above, in
our sky, and our grandmother just said, "Oh, children, go in some
ditches, cover into the ditches." I remember lots of wounded
soldiers went through our city. Our children from kindergarten
gave them the concert in the hospitals. So I was among them. We
were singing, dancing for them.

After the blockade was broken in Leningrad in 1944, we
returned to Leningrad with my mother and my brother, three of us.


We found an apartment. It was not really an apartment, it was only
one room. We found our room was already opened, and somebody
lived in
our room and our stuff were just stolen. So we went to live with
my uncle for a while before our father came back from the war.

Q: Before we go any further than that, you say you went home.
Now, was this the sort of village that would have been called a
shtetl, or was it not totally--
Rosenaur: No, no, no. It was out of everything, so it was like a
village. No. What do you mean by that?

Q: Well, in the Pale of Settlement there were a lot of villages that
Rosenaur: Like a shtetl?

Q: No, this is Yiddish. A shtetl is a Yiddish term for a little
town, and these towns before the revolution were places that were
primarily Jewish.
Rosenaur: No, I don't remember even one synagogue there.

Q: But in 1938 that may have been the case. What language did
your grandmother speak? What was her native tongue?
Rosenaur: Yiddish and Hebrew, of course.

Q: Did she know Hebrew, actually?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. And my father spoke Hebrew very well, both of
them. My father went to the school before the revolution, and his
father was a rabbi, so my father went and all his children, all his
brothers and sisters, went to the Hebrew school. So all of them
knew Hebrew. My mother, no. My mother didn't know Hebrew.

Q: Did your mother know Yiddish?
Rosenaur: Yes, a little bit. This village was close to the--and
they were like assimilated and they did not really. No, they kept
the traditions, but not really much.


Q: When you say "they" kept it, are you talking about your
mother's family or your father's family?
Rosenaur: My mother's family kept tradition, but not as my father's

0.: Did you learn anything about traditional Judaism when you were
living with your grandmother?

Rosenaur: Yes, yes. In fact, my grandmother lived with us. She
was an Orthodox Jew, and she was a very kosher person.

Q: You're talking about when you were living in the town?
Rosenaur: I'm talking about all the time. Because my grandfather
died in 1938. Since that time, my grandmother was alone, and she
moved from a small village where they lived before, to Leningrad,
closer to her children, because she did not want to stay alone.
Otherwise, she would be dead because this city was occupied by

Q: Then what town did you go back to?
Rosenaur: To my mother's side. I never went to my father's city.
I never was there.

Q: Because that was occupied and then you never went back?
Rosenaur: No. I don't know why. I was not so interested much to
go to that part of the U.S.S.R. I like better different parts than
this one. I don't know.

Q: So your grandmother lived with you the whole time you were
growing up?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: And when did she die?
Rosenaur: She died in 1957.
Q: Now, when you say she was Orthodox and kosher, how can one stay

kosher in the Soviet Union?

Rosenaur: Yes, she stayed. She did not eat any beef from '38 to

her death. For nineteen years she did not try any beef, because

beef was unkosher. So what she ate, just fish and chicken from

synagogue. Usually my father bought some chicken and brought it to

the synagogue and then the butcher cut it. That's how I know my-.
this I know. I learned from her. Even the gefilte fish, she

taught me how to do this. [Laughter]

Q: There's this myth, and I'm beginning to think it's a myth, and
the myth in America sort of goes, "Cut off from their roots for
seventy years, Soviet Jews find Jewish religion in America." But
what I'm finding is that there was always a baube (Yiddish for
grandmother) somewhere who, you know, you may have accepted
what she said and you may have just let it go right from one ear out
the other and said, "Well, that was okay for her generation, but it
has nothing to do with my generation." But everybody knew some
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. Something set into your-

Q: I'm just saying that something set in with you, too?
Rosenaur: In the inside, yes.

Q: So what did she teach you? My grandmother, for example, taught
me prayers, because· my grandmother lived with me. Did your
grandmother try that with you?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. In fact, she prayed. She'd light the candles
every Friday and she said prayer. She'd never switch on the light
during this time, during Sabbath. No way. She never washed the
dishes. I did for her. [Laughter] And when I ask her, "Grandma, are
you really believing in God?" She said, "I don't know. I don't know."
I said, "Is it really there or not there?" She said, "I cannot tell you.
If you trust, it's there. If you don't trust, it's not there." In fact, I
remember her Bibles and Talmud and all the Hebrew books for
praying for different holidays--old, old, the pages all yellow. It's
really like an antique.

Q: She had been exceptionally well trained, because many women
couldn't really pray at all and didn't know how to read Hebrew.

Rosenaur: Oh, yes, she was. Her husband was a rabbi, and she was
a very grammered person, and she could read, she could write in
Yiddish and Hebrew. She wrote in both languages, the same as my
father. They were really intelligent persons, the family. And the
same, their children, too, from my father's side. They know and
they went to the synagogue. My father went to the synagogue and to
his brother's. They have in Leningrad just one synagogue for all
Leningraders. Our population in that time was about 4.5 million
people and one synagogue. My father and his brothers paid for the
place, for the seats.

Q: They did?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: Is that how it was done?
Rosenaur: Yes. They paid for the seats. By this they just helped
the synagogue to keep in better shape. Of course, every holiday
they went to the synagogue, and he has all schedules (calendars) in
his pocket,
by the heart. [Laughter]

Q: Your father did?
Rosenaur: Hebrew schedule (calendar).

Q: Did he really?
Rosenaur: Yes. Everybody was smiling at him, but he always kept
his Hebrew schedule of all holidays in his pocket, always. I knew
about all holidays, all traditions, from that point.

Q: So you celebrated--
Rosenaur: Passover. We celebrated Passover. I remember this.
And had Hanukkah and Purim. My grandmother--my mother helped
her, of
course, to bake things, goodies, for all those holidays.

Q: That's very interesting. What about teaching you and your
brother, for instance?

Rosenaur: Never tried. Never tried.

Q: They didn't try?
Rosenaur: No. We were not interested.

Q: Tell me why you weren't.
Rosenaur: Because it was so far away from me.

Q: Yes, it was too foreign.
Rosenaur: Even religion. You see, when I grew up, I really did
not understand the difference between Jews and Russian Orthodox,

Moslems. It did not mean anything for me, who was who. We were
friends in the school, and I really did not feel from the
beginning, when I was a child, of course, I did not feel anything
wrong with me and with my friends. I had a few students in my
class, Jewish children and Russian children, and we were friends.

We lived in a big apartment. Sometimes when the children
playing, fighting, and some Russian, maybe it was like anti-
Semites, they called like, "Kill Jews! Save Russia!" This I
remember. I know that the Jewish guys always fought for that when
they heard this, and they always fought. We were on the side, but
we really did not fight. The girls did not fight so much, but the
guys fought very much.

But, again, in that time, I did not understand until the end
why they did this, why they called like that, because it was so far
away, and I was thinking maybe it's a play or whatever. But then
later when I grew up and realized what was it, and it wasn't a play
at all. It was just from the parents of these children.

Q: I'm going to spend more time on that later, but I have to know
something about what your parents did after the war. I guess I
wanted to find out what happened when you moved back to Leningrad,
when your father came home, what he did, what your mother did, and
where you lived.

Rosenaur: My father was a contractor. He built houses. He was an
engineer. And my mother was a housewife. She was sewing a little
bit, but she did not work.

Q: Your father made enough money so that she could stay at home?
Rosenaur: We were not rich, not at all. It was enough money to

buy the food and simple clothes for us. But my mother wasn't so

healthy, and she was not really educated so she could work. She

worked during the war in telegraph, but she did not work after the

war, as I remember. And then my sister was born in 1947, so she

stayed home, and then she got sick, first stroke. She died from

stroke, high blood pressure. And since that time, she was a very

sick woman, and she did not work. In 1960 she died, forty-nine

years old.

But my father, of course, he was a manager of a big company,
contractoral company. It was not private, of course. All the
companies are government in Russia, so he worked for the
as a manager, and he built lots of buildings in Leningrad,
apartment buildings, factories, and so on, lots of them.

Q: Where did you live?
Rosenaur: We lived in Leningrad in the center, in the old part of

the city. I was born there in the same county. I was born in the

same county as my husband, and we lived there all our life in the

same county, in the center of Leningrad.

Q: What's that section called?
Rosenaur: Center? It's Nevsky Prospekt. That's where I walked.
When I was two years old, I went to Nevsky Prospekt for walking.

Q: And now you look out on South Prior. [Laughter]
Rosenaur: That's right. When I was born, we lived--it was like
here is Mississippi Boulevard, and we lived on Moyka [phonetic]
Boulevard. And across Moyka River was the Winter Palace. So we
lived really in the center.

Q: Yes, you did. And what was your apartment like?
1 0

Rosenaur: One room.

Q: When had the building been built? Had it been an prerevolutionary
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. It was nineteenth century, maybe early

nineteenth century. Because Pushkin, the poet, you've heard about

him, of course, Pushkin lived in the house three houses from ours.

So it was a really old part on the same Moyka Boulevard.

Q: What was your family's apartment like? Was it one of these
communal apartments?
Rosenaur: Of course. Before the war, we lived, the four of us, in

one room. As I remember, it was about like my living room now.

Q: But there weren't four of you before the war.
Rosenaur: Four of us. My brother.

Q: Your parents, your brother, you, and your grandmother.
Rosenaur: Yes, Grandmother did not live--but, anyhow, sometimes
she stayed with us, sometimes she stayed with a daughter or other
son. But she moved from family to fa.mily.

This building was complete destroyed after the war and he
rebuilt it. And they built for this company, people, to have the
company people live in this. That's how my father got another
place to live. That's how we moved from that place to Tchaikovsky
Street. That's an old street, too.

Q: But it was a new building?
Rosenaur: No, it was rebuilt.

Q: Was it rebuilt so that the facade looked the same?
Rosenaur: Yes. Yes, the facade looked the same, but the inside
was rebuilt.

Q: What sort of housing was that?
1 1

Rosenaur: We had three rooms. It was real good. We had three
rooms. But at the same time, at the same apartment, we had another
six or seven families in the same apartment. It was a huge
apartment with one kitchen, two rest rooms. It was not a bathroom.
We did not have a bathroom. So we had one kitchen for seven
families, and it had two toilets, a room, and that's it, for all
the people.

Q: Was there much fighting?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes.

Q: Was there?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. There was much fighting. One family who lived
with us in the apartment was a mother and three big, grown sons,
and they lived in the same apartment. Then one son got married,
and they picked their bathroom, took it to them, because it was by
their room. So they opened the door from the room, made a door,
and closed from their corridor, and made the one room for their new
bed. So they lived in that room. So they fought. Wow! They
fought bad. It was fights all over, all the time.

Q: Did all the people in this apartment work for the same company?
Rosenaur: No, no. Different. There were some teachers,
intelligent people, some intelligent, some not. Some did not have
any education. But sometimes it was okay. Sometimes they fought.
Q: Where did you take your baths?
Rosenaur: We went to the sauna. It was Tchaikovsky Street, was a
very big sauna, a very famous sauna, and we went to sauna every
week--not every day, every week. That's how we grew up.

Q: Sure. Well, you know, times were hard. After a war there's
never enough housing.
Rosenaur: Yes, but still the people live the same way. [Laughter]

Q: That's the Soviet system. I can't make any more excuses.
Rosenaur: Yes.

1 2

Q: How long did your parents live like that? Did living
conditions get better?
Rosenaur: When they were married, they lived in one room. That's
the room when we were born, and then they moved to these three
rooms in one big apartment. So we lived there, five of us, and
sometimes our grandmother lived with us, too. And that's it. Then
my mom died, and then my brother got married. No, my brother got
married before, and he went to live to his wife's place. Finally,
we were here around 1980 when this house went to the restoration,
so my father finally got his own apartment. He remarried after a
while, and he had another family.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

Rosenaur: He moved to the apartment and he lived there with his

wife, and I have not been there in this, because I got married in

1963, and I moved to my husband's place. After a while we had our

own apartment, a very nice apartment. It was two big rooms for

three of us, a big kitchen.

Q: Who's the third person?
Rosenaur: Our son was born after a while. In 1964 he was born.

Q: Now, you said when you were growing up, you just felt a sense
of belonging to the Soviet people. You didn't see any distinction.
Did your parents ever tell you that distinctions would arise at
some point?
Rosenaur: My parents tried not to tell us too much. They don't
want us to know much about some things or whatever. But I

just when Stalin died and everybody was crying, and my mother was
not crying, but she was sad. I remember this. And my grandmother
said, "Don't be sad. He's a murderer. It's nothing to be sad
about." This is the first time I heard that something was wrong in
the system. It was in 1953, so that's what I mean. I did not know
much about anything. Probably our parents knew more about it. My
brother had a friend whose father was killed by' Stalin. He was
very close. He was a revolutionary, and he was killed. That's how

1 3

I knew about that a little bit.

Q: Was he sent to the Gulag, or what?
Rosenaur: Yes, in Gulag. He was killed in Gulag. His older
brother was sent to Gulag because of that, and he was eighteen
years old by this time, and he was sent to the special camp for the
young children. And when he came back, he worked with my brother
together. One time he came to our apartment, and they were sitting
and talking about some systems after Stalin died already, and they
were talking. That was the second time I heard. He was a Jewish
person, too. Lots of Jewish persons were revolutionary there,
unfortunately. Maybe fortunately or unfortunately, I don't know.

Q: Did you have friends whose parents who had been sent to Gulag?
Rosenaur: No, I did not have. I did not. Like I said, my brother

had, but I did not have.

Q: So was your life pretty happy as a· child?
Rosenaur: Yes, I would say so. I would say so. I was staying

home. I was not sent to any scout camp. My mother was with us

during the summertime, and we were always together.

Q: Did you have a dacha in the summer?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. In fact, every summer we went to some places.
Then my father built a dacha for us, and we went to dacha every

Q: Now, was he able to build a dacha because he was in sort of the
constructing business, or was it within the realm of many people?
Rosenaur: I think so. I think so. Because he could get a nice
place, and it was maybe easier for him to buy the materials to
build a dacha.

Q: When you have a dacha of your own, do you own it? Do you own
the land under it? This is a concept I'm still rather vague about.
Who owns the building itself?
Rosenaur: The building was ours. The building, dacha, was ours.


But I think the land was like rented from a county. I don't
remember this exactly, but I think we had to pay for rent of the
area, but the building was our own.

Q: And what did you have in the garden besides gooseberries?
Rosenaur: Some vegetables and some other berries, not much. Most
important, it was on the lake.

Q: Oh, was it?
Rosenaur: Yes. So it was the nicest part.
Q: Did you want to go to scout camp?
Rosenaur: No, I did not. I did not like it.
Q: Why not?
Rosenaur: Because I did not like discipline. I remember this. I
did not like it at all.

Q: You were not interested?
Rosenaur: No. I was an anarchist.
Q: Did that get you into trouble in school or in Komsomol?
Rosenaur: Yes. I was not in Komsomol.
Q: Didn't you have to be?

Rosenaur: No. I did not have to be, no. You have to be a
[unclear] like a boy scout, you have to be. But you don't have to
be the Komsomol, no. I was a good student. I was A, B student,
but my discipline was not good. I was not in Komsomol at all.

Q: Did you like sports?
Rosenaur: Yes, I did. I did like sports and I was in sports all
the time.

What sort of sports did you enjoy?

Rosenaur: When I was in first grade, second grade, third grade,
took gymnastics. Then I was a sprinter and different kinds,
volleyball, basketball, skiing.

Q: You liked them all.
Rosenaur: Yes, and bicycled everywhere. Every sport I was
involved. I liked sports very much.

Q: When you went through grade school, your friends were Russian,
Jewish, whoever you liked, it didn't matter. When you got to high
school, did that change at all?
Rosenaur: That's what it was during the high school, too.
Q: It was also?
Rosenaur: Yes. It was not a big difference between us. Everything
started, I think, from the university years.

Q: Before we get to the university, did your parents have nonJewish
friends, when you think back?
Rosenaur: I think some neighbor was by our dacha. They were
Russian. Oh, yes, they had some Russian friends and Jewish

Q: So who did they spend time with, like if they went walking or
if they invited somebody for coffee and cake or whatever?
Rosenaur: Family.

Q: Family was the most important?
Rosenaur: Family, yes. We have a large family, lots of cousins,
sisters, my sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts. So usually

Q: Did the families ever get together for Passover?
Rosenaur: Yes.
Q: Did you go through the Hagadah (prayer book for Passover) then?
1 6

Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: And so what did you make of all of this?
Rosenaur: I just remember what we ate, but I don't remember

Hagada. I don't, because they read it in Hebrew. I was so far

away from Hebrew. I could understand Yiddish because I learned


Q: Did you pick up any Yiddish? Did your father and grandmother
converse in Yiddish?
Rosenaur: I could understand. I could understand them, but not


Q: I had one other small question. Were you named for anyone in
the family? Who are you named for? Who was your brother named
and your sister, do you know?
Rosenaur: No, I don't know. I think I was named because I was
born on the street of Sophie Peroska [phonetic], and the hospital
was named Sophie Peroska. That's what my mother told me. That's
how they named me. I think that's it.

Q: It wasn't for some other relative.
Rosenaur: No.

Q: And your brother, do you know?
Rosenaur: No, I don't think so. They were named by somebody else,
and the same my sisters. I don't remember. They just picked a
name. But we did not have alive relatives.

Q: What about 1948, when the state of Israel was announced? Did
that cause any stir in your family?
Rosenaur: I don't remember.

Q: Now, what happened when you got to university? Did you say
that a change occurred then? Was it a change in the system, or was
1 7

it a change in your perceptions, or both?

Rosenaur: I know that I went to a college that accepted me. I knew
that a certain percentage of Jewish students can be accepted by
each college.

Q: So you aware that there was a quota, in other words, a Jewish
Rosenaur: Yes. Yes, a Jewish quota. I was aware.

Q: Did you just accept that as a given, or did you feel that it
was unfair?
Rosenaur: It was unfair, but I decided, "So what? I'm a good
student. I can go through," I said. And that's how I went

Q: Did you have to change your field of study because of the
Rosenaur: No. There was specific colleges where the Jewish
students cannot go, cannot enter at all. That's it. But I went to
the college with some percentage, but I did not worry about it.

Q: Which college did you go to?
Rosenaur: It was--1 don't know how to translate. This was like
studying air conditioning and air conditioning system, cooling, air
conditioning systems, ventilation. This is a college.

Q: There's nothing as specialized as that here in America, is
there? Would it be part of some engineering course?
Rosenaur: Yes, it's like mechanical.

Q: Mechanical engineering?
Rosenaur: Mechanical engineering, yes. That's how I am called
now, because I'm working at my specialty.

Q: So you found that you could get into the college you wanted.
1 8

Rosenaur: Yes, I found that if I would go through tests, exams, I
will be accepted into this college. That's it. So I went, passed
all exams, and I was accepted into the college. [Tape Recorder
Turned Off]

So I went through the school for five years. Finally, I got
a master's degree, it's called here, in mechanical engineering. So
I started to work for one consulting firm in Leningrad.

Q: And this was in what?
Rosenaur: In 1961.

Q: Who were your friends in college?
Rosenaur: My friends were different, again, all different. I went
to work, and there I met my husband, future husband, and in 1963 we
got married. In one year our son was born. And we continued to
live in Leningrad, of course. I had a good job. I had a good job
and grew up (she means advanced). Finally, after about six years,
became a manager of
the group of people. There was mechanical engineers and draftsmen
and senior engineers in my group. They were good, but it's under
the pressure all the time. It was terrible.

Q: What sort of pressure?
Rosenaur: You know, it's a completely different relationship
between the people in consulting, the same consulting field as here
or in Russia. The relationship is different. In Russia everybody
likes to fight and to talk loud and to discuss. It's too much.

Q: Did you have men under you?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: Was that a problem?
Rosenaur: No, no. I did not have a problem. As a relationship
with my people in the group? No, I did not have a problem, never.
We were getting along very, very good. So, no, from highest
management, you know, some issue dates, how the project has to
issue and all this. But it was interesting work for me, very
interesting, and I had a good experience in Russia.

1 9

Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about before you met your
husband. Did you date in high school? Do people date in high
Rosenaur: Yes, I dated. I dated a few guys, and I liked them and

they liked me,
just friends.
but it was not really serious relationships. We were
Q: What did you do when you went out?
You mean where did we go and where we went? We went

the theater, museums, gardens, for a walk through Leningrad, to see
a movie, or sometimes we had parties in some houses, in my house
and in other houses, to celebrate some occasions like birthdays,
holidays, the same as here. The same game, dancing, talking,
that's what we did, drinking a little bit--a little bit or more.
[Laughter] Depends on the person. But, anyhow, we had a good
time. I cannot tell you that I was an unhappy person. I was a
happy person. I was unhappy because my mother died. It was a big
shock, big stress for me.

Q: How old was she when she had her strokes?
Rosenaur: She was forty-nine years old when she died.

Q: But she had a stroke before then?
Rosenaur: Before, yes. It was in 1957. I finished high school in
1956, and it happened to be 1957, her first stroke. And, of
course, after that, we lived under her condition all the time, her
sickness. And when she died, it was big stress.

Q: You had your son? Had he been born when she died?
Rosenaur: No, he was not born. I was not married yet.

Q: Didn't she die--
Rosenaur: '61. And I was married in '63.

Q:, Excuse me. Oh, yes, you're right.


Rosenaur: My son did not know any grandmothers.

Q: What a shame. And there was no grandmother on the other side
Rosenaur: No, my mother-in-law died in the same year when we got
married, just three weeks later. Probably she was waiting.

Q: What?
Rosenaur: She was waiting until her son got married.

Q: When you were going out and when you started going to college,
did your parents ever express any interest in your marrying
someone who was Jewish, or did they give you any clues as to what
they would like?
Rosenaur: They really did not tell me much about this. But when I
dated some Russian person and one time I said, "I'm about to
marry him," my mother said, "You are too young. You don't need to
do this. Wait until the right person will be for you."

Q: So was that sort of a code?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. And every time when I did that, tell her like
that about my Russian friend, she'd always tell me, "Wait until the
right person will be for you." Now I can realize that by this she
wanted to tell me wait until the right person will be for you.

Q: But she never really sat down and said you should do this or
you should do that.
Rosenaur: No, no. She didn't. And the same my father did not.
But when I met Sasha, my husband, and I introduced him to my
father--my mother was not alive already by this time--my father
liked him very much from the beginning.

Q: Is Sasha Jewish?
Rosenaur: Yes. That time he said, "Yes, this is the right person
for you." [Laughter] That's how I understood.


Q: That's rather interesting. What was your wedding like?
Rosenaur: Our wedding was very quick. We went to the City Hall to
get married, because we did not want to wait for a long time to go
to the special place. We were not interested really in that, in
all the ceremonies. I don't know why Father did not offer us chupa
[Jewish bridal canopy) or whatever. Probably he did not think about
this. But
we did not have chupa. We did not have any ceremony. We just went
to the City Hall and got married and that's it.

Q: Did you have some sort of dinner afterwards?
Rosenaur: Yes, we had a dinner. Our friends came to our house,
relatives, friends, and they celebrated. It was about fifty,
fifty-five persons.

Q: Is your husband an engineer, also?
Rosenaur: Yes, he's an electrical engineer.

Q: Did you say you lived with his family?
Rosenaur: He lived with his mother, the two of them, in a big room
in the communal apartment, too. When we got married, she lived
after that for about three weeks and she died. So we stayed in
this apartment in this room. And then this house was
restored(renovated) and after restoration we had a separate
apartment for our family. By
this time there was three of us already, our son was born. So we
lived in our own apartment. We did not have neighbors. We were
lucky. We were lucky. We were lucky.

Q: Now, when you say you did not have neighbors--
Rosenaur: I mean, in the same apartment. Nobody lived in our
apartment besides us.

Q: Yes, that sounds pretty unusual.
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. In fact, we were, I think, the first of our
big family who had our own apartment.


Q: Did you go very long with your husband before you got married?
Rosenaur: Yes. In fact, we knew each other for about one and a

half years.

Q: Is it pretty common to have children within the first year
after you are married?
Rosenaur: One, two years, three years. It depends on the age, I
would say. I was twenty-four and my husband was thirty years old
when we got married. We were pretty mature persons to have a, first
child, first and the only one.

Q: Were you interested in using birth control at that point?
Rosenaur: Yes. We were using the birth control, yes.

Q: What was available to you?
Rosenaur: Different kinds.

Q: Well, there are condoms, you know, for men. There are
diaphragms for women.
Rosenaur: That's what I used, yes, diaphragms sometimes. Like I
said, different types, too.

Q: But that was pretty common, was it?
Rosenaur: Yes, it's pretty common. But not all the women like it
or the men like it, so abortion is very common. This one is very
common, really.

Q: That's what we've been told. So you've told us about the work
and the pressures that you were under. You had a pretty good life.
You felt pretty comfortable living in the Soviet Union. You felt
you were a Soviet citizen of Jewish background, which didn't matter
too much to you, is that correct?
Rosenaur: Yes. It did not matter so much to me. Maybe I was in
such a circumstance among the people who really did not care. I
tell you, we had a big organization, corporation, and the president
of the corporation was a Jewish person.


Q: So are you saying that to tell me that it was a comfortable
place for you to work?
Rosenaur: Yes, it was very a comfortable, for me, place. It was

close to my house.

Q: How did you get the job?
Rosenaur: In fact, how did I get the job? I think I went to this

organization because it was close to my house. And when my son

just was--oh, from the beginning, after the university?

Q: Yes.
Rosenaur: After the university, I stayed in Leningrad and my

father helped to find a job for me, because he was involved in this

area, in design and structural design. So he had friends who
worked in this consulting firm.

Q: If you don't have a father who could help you out and you had
no relatives who can help you out, how do you find a niche for
Rosenaur: You should go to the personnel department and ask, or

maybe you have a friend who worked there and ask. But very often
first graph [phonetic] is like a nationality does not help at all.

Q: Say that again.
Rosenaur: Fifth line in the passbook never helped you. [Laughter]

Q: You mean, because it said Jewish?
Rosenaur: Yes. And sometimes very often you have good
opportunities to get a job, and they need a person to work, really
need the person to work, and everything is okay, the manager said,
"Okay," the president said, "Okay," and it happened to me one time.
That's how I went to my father and asked him to help, because one
time I wanted to do myself, and everything was okay except when it
finished in the personnel, they called me and said, "No, we are not
going to take you." So that's why I went to my father and said,
"Please help me with work."


Q: Was this before you were married, then?
Rosenaur: Before. It was before. It was before I was married.

I did not have experience, of course, to work.

Q: And you knew immediately why it was that they didn't take you?
Rosenaur: Of course. Of course, because I had an interview with

managers and president, everything was okay. It was like a


Q: Did you ever talk about this with your Jewish friends about
whether it was unjust, or was it just something you accepted as the
course of events, that things were just not easy in the Soviet
Union and maybe other nationalities had other problems? How did
you justify this sort of behavior in your own mind?
Rosenaur: I was not really a fighter in my mind.

Q: But, I mean, you still had to justify it somehow.
Rosenaur: Yes, right. We knew this. We knew this. But what

could we do? We could not do anything. Be just quiet and that's

it. Otherwise, you will be beaten by the government or put into

the jail if you will fight. Who needs it? We did not need this.

So we were quiet.

[Begin Tape 2, Side 1]

Q: I guess what I hear you saying is that it was something that
you might have felt was unjust but it was something you had to work
around, and other people who were Jewish worked around it. And
what I've heard from other people I've interviewed is that you set
up your own network, helping networks, of friends and relatives who
could find you jobs to get around the system.
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. That's what usually happens. That's what
usually happens. You have to find some people who know you. There
was no advertising in the newspaper. You cannot read in the
newspaper about any job. So just even go door to door or through
the friends, through the relatives, and that's how it works.


Q: So you need to have friends in the Soviet Union, don't you?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. Yes, the friends help lots.
Q: Friendships seem to be so much more important there. Do you
feel that way?
Rosenaur: Yes, I do feel that way, that in Russia the friendship
means more than here. Because with friends you can--like even this
work,, if you have a friend who works already in the company, this
friend can help you to get in, too. That's how it works. Here you
can read advertisements and usually it does not help, any friendship.

Q: That's true.
Rosenaur: Here, no. They don't need friendship, because you need
just--1 don't know. You have to believe in yourself. Even when
you go to the interview, you have to believe in yourself, and you
have to wish very much to get the job.

Q: You have to sell yourself, I guess is what you're saying.
Rosenaur: Yes, that's right. You have to show that you can work.
Q: What about the quality of friendships in the Soviet Union that
aren't tied to work? You know, friendships among women, do you
think they're deeper in the Soviet Union?
Rosenaur: Than here?

Q: Yes.
Rosenaur: I don't know. I don't have a real deep friend among
Americans here.

Q: Do you have deep friends among other Soviet women? .
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. I have a friend, real deep friend. There is
my friend, she lives in Edina. So we are real close friends, and, yes.

Q: Were you friends as children?
Rosenaur: No, we were not. No, this friend, no, we were not. We

did not know each other.

Q: Did you meet each other here?
Rosenaur: Here, yes. We met here and we became friends here.

Q: I guess it's hard for me to ask this question, because the
difference in the quality of friendships between people in the
Soviet Union and people here, it seems to me as though as friends
you sort of relied on friends to give you tips about what was
available as far as clothing and just to help you get through life.
Rosenaur: Yes. But I understand this friendship about to go
through life with you, help you. That's what the friendship is
about. So here it's different. · In Russia you need a friend to get
something, to go through something, to get the tickets, to get the
clothes. You need a friend, otherwise you won't have nothing.
That's the problem. No, I'm kidding. But real good friends, I had
a good friend from my high school time. This friendship was based
not on get something to somebody. It was true friendship. So I
don't mean that all is like that.

Q: No, but there is that extra dimension, I think, of friendship
in the Soviet Union.
Once you had the baby, how much time did you take off from

Rosenaur: I had eight weeks paid before my son was born, and eight
weeks paid after.

Q: Well, that seems very nice in comparison to here.
Rosenaur: Yes, right. So four months I had paid. Then I took my
vacation time, and then I took a few months without payment. So
stayed with my son until he was six months old, and then I took a
Q: You took him to a babysitter?
Rosenaur: No, I found a babysitter who came every morning to us.

Q: Is that pretty unusual?
Rosenaur: Yes, it's unusual, because not every family can handle



Q: When you say "handle," do you mean afford?
Rosenaur: Afford. I mean, afford, yes. From one side. From the

other side, not usually your living condition lets you do this. If

you live in the same room with relatives, parents, you cannot have

a babysitter all the time.


Q: But you don't need a babysitter, because your parents are
there, right?
Rosenaur: Right. · But if the parents work. Oh, it doesn't matter.

So we had a babysitter for our son up to three years old. When he

was three years old, he went to the kindergarten.

Q: Could he have gone to a child-care center at the age of six
months, also? ·
Rosenaur: No, no. I was staying with him before six months old,

then I took a babysitter.

Q: But if you couldn't have afforded it that.
Rosenaur: Oh, yes, here I could have, yes. There is a special
child care. But, again, it's very hard to find, to get this childcare
place, because it was under the government, of course, and you
had to stay in the line.

Q: Don't people figure out ways to get ahead of someone else in
the line?
Rosenaur: Yes, could be. You see, sometimes you need to stay in
the line for months to get a place. And then they see what your
salary is. If you are high paid, your line can be longer. So
they give a place to the lowest, preference to low salary.

Q: They figure that you can make other arrangements.
Rosenaur: Yes. And really we did not want him to go to the day

Q: Why not?

Rosenaur: Because we did not want him to be sick, and usually the
children who go to the care center got sick every week, every other

Q: That's true here.
Rosenaur: Yes. And we did not want him to be like that, and we
decided, "Okay, let him stay home." And he was with the babysitter
all day up to three years old. We had a good babysitter. She
lives very close to our house, two apartment buildings away from

Q: Oh, that sounds just wonderful.
Rosenaur: Yes, and she came to us every morning and spent all day,
and we just were very grateful to this. My son called her like a

Q: What's your son's name?
Rosenaur: His name is Savely.
Q: Now, how did you pick this name?
Rosenaur: From his grandfather.
Q: What was his grandfather's name?
Rosenaur: Savely. This is from my husband's father's side.
Q: So did you find it difficult to juggle being a mother and a
worker and stander in line?
Rosenaur: Yes, it was difficult. But the only one point was it
was easy for me that I worked very close to my house. It was,
maybe, maximum a five minutes' walk.

Q: What about your husband? Did help out with chores around the
Rosenaur: Yes, that's what was the problem. He had a special bag
to carry to work, and when he saw something special, sometimes he
carried eggs and sausages, just name it.


Q: Do most husbands do that?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: What about helping you at home?
Rosenaur: Oh, he helped me a lot. He cleaned the house, and he

always helped me.

Q: Is that a problem or a point of contention in the Soviet Union?
Rosenaur: I think it's a point of the relationship between husband

and wife. It always has been.

Q: Are you saying that could happen anywhere, in America and the
Soviet Union?
Rosenaur: Yes, the same as here. Like what is the relationship

between wife and the husband? That's it. So we help each other.

We used to help each other through all our life.

Q: Now, who were your friends after you were married?
Rosenaur: We had Russian and mixed-Russian and Jewish pairs,
different--from my husband's side, friends who are called Jewish,
from my side it was different, most Jewish, I'll tell you. I think
we had just one or two pairs of Russians. All others were Jewish.
That's how it changed. Your mind changed.

Q: After what?
Rosenaur: After education.

Q: When you say your mind changed after the education, can you
make that clearer?
Rosenaur: After you knew more about traditions, about people and
relationships in between people, you knew more. You started to
select your friends after that. And finally we stand with Jewish
friends, all Jewish friends to the end of our life in Russia.


Q: Were there certain events that happened that made it obvious to
you that you had more in common with Jews? It certainly was
Rosenaur: That's right. It was more obvious for me that I'm
closer to the Jewish people.

Q: But how? Was it because of a shared oppression or a shared
Rosenaur: No. I don't know why. But just like our interest was
closer and we went to the synagogue on the holidays together.

Q: Did you?
Rosenaur: Yes.
Q: Now, you had said that you weren't at all interested in that
Rosenaur: No, that's what I mean, when I grew up. When I was a
child, I was not interested. Then I became older and in the
university, after the university, we started to go to the synagogue
for holidays.

Q: Which holidays did you go?
Rosenaur: Usually we'd go to SimchasTorah.
Q: Now, that seems to be the Russian Jewish holiday. Why was
Simchas Torah so--
Rosenaur: Because it was a very, very festive holiday.

Q: It is a festive, joyous holiday.
Rosenaur: Yes. And Sukkot, because I remember this Sukkah (booth
or open air temporary dwelling) was built around the synagogue and
all Jews were sitting there, all the patriarchs, and they were sitting
there and drinking, talking, and young people were dancing aro·und.
So that's how we became closer to Jewish tradition.

Q: Now, was this after the '67 War? Did events in Israel have any

bearing on this?

Rosenaur: I think it doesn't. I would not make this something to do
Israel. No, it's nothing. It's just inside of us. We did not
know much about Israel. We did not know much about Israel, because
the government relationship was broken. I'll tell you, I knew more
about Israel when I went to Egypt as a tourist. That's how I knew
about Israel and all this war.

Q: What year did you go to Egypt?
Rosenaur: It was in 1970. It was in September 1970. That's how

I knew about war in Israel, and I met Russian fighters there in

Egypt who told us about war.

Q: And you didn't know about that in Russia?
Rosenaur: In Russia, no.

Q: Because a lot of other people have told us that, first of all,
they knew a lot of people had been listening to the Voice of Israel
and knew about the war and knew about Israel's victory, which
seemed so miraculous at the time. And they also were aware of the
fact that there was more anti-Semitic behavior from the
after '67. So that was the negative side of it. But you've had no
experience of either.
Rosenaur: I did not have so much. Maybe I was so busy with my son
and my family, so-

Q: You were very young.
Rosenaur: Yes, and I was young and my son was little. I did not think
much about that. I had a good job. I had to work because of my son,
my babysitter, and family. I did not pay so much attention. We were
very busy.

Q: So when did you start going to the synagogue? Was this after
you were married or during college?
Rosenaur: During the college, before. And then met lots of Jewish


young people there, and it was very nice, and I felt like a family.

That's how I came back to the Jewish roots.

Q: I feel as though there are other questions I ought to be asking
about that, because it seems like there was something in the air,
some longing inside of you.
Rosenaur: No, it was something inside me, just deep, very deep.
But then suddenly, I don't know why--but it was before the war in
1967, because in 1961 I finished the university. So I knew more
about the United States of America than about Israel, because
that's what we heard, the Voice of America. We heard about Voice
of America, and then I remember when Kennedy was shot. This I

Q: It was a terrible shock.
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: But you were done with college by then, weren't you?
Rosenaur: Yes, we were married already. In 1963 it happened.

Q: So why did you decide to emigrate?
Rosenaur: Lots of our friends emigrated, and my husband was
thinking about this for a long time, but he did not tell me,
because I had relatives, lots of relatives.

Q: You certainly did.
Rosenaur: Yes. But not my husband. He had only me and our son.
That's it. That was his family. He has a couple of cousins, but
it doesn't matter so much, but not close relatives. And he was
thinking about this for a long time, but he did not tell me before
I decided myself that we had to go.

Q: What triggered the thing?
Rosenaur: We were thinking. Our closest friend left a few months
before, and I was like under distress and I missed the friend, and
I started to think about this. But Sasha, my husband, did not say
many words, because he was already ready to leave.


Q: Was he happy in his job or did he have the same stress?
Rosenaur: Yes, he had a very good job. He had stresses before
during his university years, but not during his working time, no.
So I don't know. Well, the last drop was when the government did
not let us go as a tourist to the other countries together. We
decided to go together, the two of us. Sasha and me and baby
decided to go together as a tourist, and the government did not let
us go. And it was the last drop. I came home and said, "That's
enough. We are leaving. If they don't want us to go free as a
tourist, let's leave." And that's how it happened. So we asked
for the invitation and our friends did it, and we decided about
this in January.
Q: Of what year?
Rosenaur: 1977. And we left in October 1977.

Q: So it took a while, didn't it?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: And did they make you jump through a lot of hoops, filling out
lots of forms?
Rosenaur: Yes, it was lots of forms and nerves, stresses, of

course. But it went through, as we decided.

Q: Did you lose your job?
Rosenaur: We had to leave our jobs in that year, in 1977, it was

too early. Later, the people did not need to leave their job, but
we had to. We must leave the job.

Q: What did you live on, then?
Rosenaur: We had something to sell, because we could not take this
with us either anyhow. So we had a car. We sold the car. So we
sold lots of stuff, furniture. We did not take anything with us,
just a few things like memory, memorials.

Q: Did anyone in your father's family, any of your cousins, leave?
Had they left?

Rosenaur: Later. We were the first. Later my cousin left.
Another of my cousins left. Then my niece came, my brother's older
daughter. She came in 1981 to the United States. And finally, one
year and a half ago all my family came.

Q: When you say all of your family--
Rosenaur: Who left. I mean, my brother with the rest of the
family, and my sister with the family. So eight together left.

Q: What did your father say? I understand you needed his
permission. Is that correct?
Rosenaur: Yes. And he did not want to give me the permission,
because he was very sad, and he said, "Oh, you have everything.
You have a good job, you have a car, you can spend your vacation on
the Black Sea."

Q: That's true. You had a very good life there.
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. He said, "You have more than anybody here
I said, "So what? I need more than that. What about the
future of our son? You should think about the future of our son."

Q: Now, how old was he at this time?
Rosenaur: He was thirteen years old. He was thirteen years old,
and we said, "Fine, we have to think about our son. We have to
think about ourself. So what can we do? Fine, we have everything.
But if they do not let us go where we want to, why should we stay
here? Why?"

Q: It sounds like your expectations had changed, because, you
know, to leave because you couldn't take a vacation together seems
somehow, to me, less severe than having to worry about jobs, etc.,
and that's a subtle or not so subtle form of anti-Semitism that was
Rosenaur: I did not feel so much anti--l'm honest. I did not
feel. I could not make this tradition work better for our family
in Russia. Here we can do this, and we follow traditions and all


holidays. There I could not. But I did not know about this. As
soon as Jeff's [phonetic] father left, he did not tell me anything
about this, and I did not know about it. I was not educated at
all. And we wanted this.

Q: Now, did you and your friends try to make a Passover Seder, for
Rosenaur: No, no. Because as soon as my grandmother died, my aunt
still did it, but the young generation did not know how to do this.
From all experience, I knew how to do the gefilte fish because I
did it for my grandmother for so many years and later for my
mother, but the only one experience I had. I did not know anything
about that. Maybe with the age the people started to think about
their roots, about their tradition to follow. It comes probably
with the age, maybe. If it's not from the birth out here that the
children go to the Talmud Torah, they studied. It's a different

Q: They think so little of it as they study it. I mean, they
don't really come to think about it as being important until
they're in their twenties, also, and married. And so I don't see
that there's that much difference. At least then you have somebody
to ask, and there are books.
Rosenaur: That's right. And here, too. Now we follow traditions
and we celebrate all holidays and we have books, or we can go to
the synagogue whenever we belong to the Temple of Aaron and (we
whenever we want to go.
Q: When you left, did you go through Austria and then to Italy?
Rosenaur: Yes. To Italy, yes.

Q: You knew you were coming to America, right?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. We decided to go to America because we had
friends here.

Q: When you say "here" do you mean right here?
Rosenaur: No, not in Twin Cities. We did not have anybody in Twin
Cities. We wanted to go to Seattle first.


Q: Because of the aerospace industry?
Rosenaur: No. We had friends there, and they told us that it's a

nice city and so on. But Seattle was closed in that time for

immigrants. So it did not matter for us what city to go, just

where we could find a job for our specialties. And they said,

"Okay, we will send you to St. Paul, Minnesota." [Laughter]

So we said, "Fine, let's go to St. Paul, Minnesota."

Q: Did you start trying to find out what there was in the city?
Rosenaur: Of course, because we did not know about Minnesota.

From the beginning we heard like of St. Paul, and St. Paul is by

Los Angeles. It was funny. Then finally we found this was St.

Paul, Minnesota, and we came to St. Paul March 1, 1978.

Q: And there was a lot of snow and mush on the ground?
Rosenaur: Yes. But this was nice. Of course, we did not feel

very comfortable in St. Paul, because after the big cities and the

different lifestyle, we did not feel very comfortable for a while.

The people were yery nice and very friendly and they met us.

Q: Who met you?
Rosenaur: Two families--Nate and Beverly Simon family and
Stan and-

Q: Donsker.
Rosenaur: Yes. Two host families. Two host families. They were
very nice to us.

Q: Did you know any English at this point?
Rosenaur: We started to learn English in Italy. We knew German
Q: So that helped you learn English?
Rosenaur: Not at all. Not at all.


Q: I'm surprised.
Rosenaur: No, it's a different language, different pronunciations.
Q: Well, that's true, but, I mean, it's closer to English.
Rosenaur: You mean the letters?
Q: German is closer to English than Russian is.
Rosenaur: Yes, the letters.
Q: Except you put the verbs at the end of sentences.
Rosenaur: Yes, the letters are the same, Latin letters. Russian
has Greek letters. And both these languages come from Latin. It's
much easier.

Q: There are many cognates.
Rosenaur: I'll tell you what. It was not so difficult for us to
read and understand, especially technical literature, because the
technical language is very close and lots of words are the same and
the same meaning, just the pronunciation is different in English.

[Begin Tape 2, Side 2]

Q: Where was your first apartment?
Rosenaur: It was on St. Paul Avenue. And then we moved to Davern
(avenue), took an apartment there. And after one year we, bought
the house, because it was very hard to rent an apartment with a
teenager. Our son was a teenager and our friends, American friends
like the Donsker family and the Simon family, said, "You better
look for buying a house. That's it. It would be a better way to
go, the American way to go."

Q: Did you take English lessons here?
Rosenaur: Yes, a lot.

Q: Where?
Rosenaur: We started from International Institute. Then after we
went to work, we took classes. My husband took classes in the
university. My English was a little bit better. Then we went to
Technical Vocational Institute.

Q: While you were working?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: How did you find time to do that?
Rosenaur: At night.

Q: Did you have trouble finding jobs?
Rosenaur: Here? No, in 1978 it was not very hard to find a job,
but Jewish Vocational Service helped with the first job. They
helped us, and then the second job was easier. We found ourself.
In fact, I worked for one consulting firm not a long time, because
they did not need a mechanical engineer. So then I found a job in
a contractor company, Strom Engineering, contractor
company, and they sent me to 3M Company. So I worked for 3M
Company for almost three years as a draftsman, designer. So my
manager positions--so I went down to the bottom again because of

Q: How did you feel about that?
Rosenaur: I felt good. I felt real good, because I realized my
language is very poor, very poor, that I cannot communicate with
the people, I cannot do the job right, and I am not very familiar
with documentations and manufacturing and equipment. So I had to
start from the bottom again. That was our decision. And we were
lucky to have a job, even from the bottom, but according to our
specialty. That's what is part of this. So we did not have big
salaries, but we do not go out to eat too much. We have suppers
and lunch at home, so we could save some money and bought the
after one year, this house.


Q: What sort of capacity do you work? Where do you work now?
Rosenaur: I worked for Control Data for seven years, and then I
was laid off after Control Data business went down. So I was laid
off in January 1990, and in May 1990 I started to work for a
consulting firm in downtown Minneapolis.

Q: Is that a good job?
Rosenaur: Yes, it's a good job. I really like it. And this is
exactly the same what I did in Russia.

Q: Is it?
Rosenaur: Exactly the same.
Q: So what are the differences that you were talking about between
the way it was there and the way it is here?
Rosenaur: The atmosphere is quieter, and the people respect each
other more than there. The people do not speak loud. Even if they
are nervous, they don't argue with each other. Sometimes the
people I know, and I mention some people said, he wouldn't talk too
much or loud or argue or fight, never. In Russia, it's different.


Q: That may be just because this is the Midwest.
Rosenaur: Could be.
Q: You know, there are so many Scandinavians and Germans in this
area that people don't shout. I mean, it's considered very bad
form. In New York you might hear what you are used to in Russia.
Rosenaur: Yes, in fact, I travel a lot for business. I went
through all America.

Q: Oh, have you?
Rosenaur: Yes.
Q: And do you find that in general it's calmer here?
Yes, I found that this place is better to live than

anyplace else.

Q: Oh, have you really, even though there's no Nevsky Prospekt?
Rosenaur: No, I don't want to go back to Nevsky Prospekt, even
though Leningrad is a beautiful--was a beautiful city. But I don't
want to live there. That's for sure.

Q: When you came here, were there many other Russian families who
had come, Soviet families?
Rosenaur: No, it was not. It was about thirty people all
together, all from Russia.

Q: Did you make friends? I mean, did you sort of clump together?
Rosenaur: Yes. When we came, we met here people who were from
Leningrad, too, in St. Paul. We were not very close, but we met
each other once in a while. But then came other people later, and

we had a group of people, real close friends. They were a little
bit older than we are, but we were friendly for a long time. So
that's about it.

Q: So would you say your adjustment was fairly rapid?
Rosenaur: Yes, adjustment here was not so bad for us. We did not
feel any nostalgia.

Q: There's supposed to be a whole loss, a whole feeling of anguish
about a loss of culture. [Laughter]
Rosenaur: So what? For best. You know, the people accept best
better, quicker, than the wars.

Q: They accept what?
Rosenaur: The best. The best life. The people accept the best
life quicker than go back to the wars.

Q: I'm constantly amazed, because, as I said, my background is
history, and there used to be a lot written about the anguish of
losing a culture. But you don't feel that anguish about, well, you
know, you can't expect too many Americans to know Gogol and

Rosenaur: So what? What makes a difference?

Q: And the Russian language, you know.
Rosenaur: It doesn't matter.
Q: It doesn't matter?
Rosenaur: It doesn't matter.
Q: And to find yourself?
Hosenaur: We have like a vault in our brains. When we are in the
office, we speak English and we understand English. Even with
ourself we speak English. But when we come back home, it's just
like turn it off and we speak Russian. That's why our son speaks
both languages very good, and we speak Russian, and we can read in

Q: And did you not feel terrible at the beginning when you were
sort of reduced to the level of a child, you know, as far as what
you could express? I mean, didn't you have a few months of
wondering whether you had made the right choice or not?
Rosenaur: To come to here?

Q: Yes.
Rosenaur: We never thought that we didn't do the right choice.
Q: You always felt that this--
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. From the beginning of our life here, we felt
like we'd found a very good place to live. And we are happy here,
very happy here, and really after a year we had a house. Of
course, it was the bank's house, still belonged to the bank, but we
lived in our own house.

Q: That is pretty remarkable, isn't it?
Rosenaur: Yes, that's right. We had a car, one car, then another
car for our son, and we did not live worse than in Russia. Our


life is much better. And then we have more freedom here. We are

free to go anyplace, and we never thought to go back to Russia. We

never visited. Even when my relatives were still alive, my father

was still alive, I never thought about to go back. No, we accept

this life.

Q: What about the help that you got from Jewish agencies? Did you
feel it was adequate? Did you feel they could have done a better
job at the time? Did you think it was remarkable?
Rosenaur: No, I don't think it was very remarkable.' No.

Q: Is this what you expected they ought to do?
Rosenaur: I did not expect anything. I was very grateful to what

they gave to us, what they did to us. Yes, it was not very good

with job hunting. They did not help much. This is the only

problem. Because really we came here not to--we did not know


welfare at that time at all. The Jewish Family Service kept us for

four months and then we should go to work. And it was good. And

the same, other people's feelings. That's what I understand. They

want to go to work, but it's very hard to find the first job,

because everybody asks about American experience. Nobody asked


the diploma or whatever. Nobody is interested in that. They're

interested in your experience, American experience.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for how the Jewish community could
make things easier for Soviet immigrants?
Rosenaur: I think the Jewish community does a big and good job to
make life easier, like from· the beginning, yes. In Jewish Family
Service, I know this, because it was my family who came one and a
half years ago, and I know what they meant, and we had a person--it
was two persons, special persons, to work with the people and help
to find a job for them. And they don't help. Really, they don't
help. That's what we realize. In our time, they were helping much
more than now. This is the problem.

There was a special program, and now they can find some
special program. Some companies agree to pay like half for a
training period, half a price, and· then half Jewish Family or city
can pay. But, really, the people now do not feel that Jewish


Family Service is very interested to find a job for them, and they
should know how hard it is to find a job, a first job, any job. They
to take any job, but it's very hard, because nobody knows you, and the
Jewish organization should stand behind your shoulder at least for
the first job. This is very important.

Of course, everybody's grateful to Jewish Family Service for
everything they have done for them. There's no doubt about this.
They've done a good job, lots of work, and a very good job. But
they care about the people. The only one is help to find a job,the
first job.

Q: It's got to be more difficult now, too, with the job market.
Rosenaur: I agree. That's right. That's right. It's much harder
than when we came.

Q: What about the Jewish Community Center? Did you ever go to
programs there? Were they of interest to you?
Rosenaur: Yes, I did go some, not special education, of course,
because we did not have time from the beginning to learn something
special. But we went to a special program that was for the new
Russian immigrants about life in America, tradition, and insurance,
and we met lawyers and professors, and they told us about history
and traditions and life in America and Jewish tradition. It helped
a lot, and it was interesting. We attended every meeting after
work, of course at evening time. We attended every evening, and it
was interesting. And Felicia Weingarten, she has done
a very good job to organize all meetings, and she knew what we
needed to know. She's a very nice person.

Q: Do you feel that it's as necessary now when so many of the
people who are coming have relatives here who can do this for them,
who can impart this information for them?
Rosenaur: You know, right now I think it's not so necessary for
the newcomers, because they have so many relatives, so many
around. They can tell and explain. The same with my relatives,
they go. If they have meetings, they go to the meetings. But it's
not as necessary for them as it was for us, because it was only
twenty, thirty people, and almost all of us came the same time, two


or three months' difference. Nobody knew about life.

Q: When your relatives came, did they stay with you, or did they
find places of their own to live in?
Rosenaur: Yes, my sister stayed with us for a week, I think,
before their apartment will be cleaned. But, again, Jewish Family
Service paid for the apartment, and we needed to give some money,
of course, but they needed help then, too.

Q: Well, the money has to come from the Jewish community, and
you're part of the Jewish community now.
Rosenaur: That's right. No doubt.

Q: Did any of your relatives go to Israel?
Rosenaur: Not before, but now, yes, we have some relatives who
went to Israel last month and this month went to Israel from

Q: Has it been a disappointment to you that you haven't made
American friends, or do you feel that's a lack in your life?
Rosenaur: No, not really.

Q: Do you feel the American Jewish community has been standoffish
or expected that you would be what used to be called "greenhorns?"
Rosenaur: Yes, I feel like this. I feel like this. They're not
interested in us. Even our host family, who met us, it was
interesting for them when we did not know any life, any stuff in
America, and they liked to show us. And when we bought a house and
bought the car, when we went to work, they just lost interest in
us. So they stopped meeting us. But that's life. They have their
families and friends. It's understandable. Yes, and we are from
a different country and probably different-but-! would say the
and traditions are very similar.

Q: I would, too. That's what I'm beginning to see. Our
backgrounds have not been all that different.

Rosenaur: No. That's why the adjustment wasn't so bad. Our

teacher in Rome was preparing us for some culture shock, and we

were waiting, waiting for this culture shock, when it will happen.

It did not happen. [Laughter] No culture shock for our family.

Q: What about your son? Did he have a tough time in high school?
Rosenaur: Yes, he had-

Q: It's a hard time to be coming to another place.
Rosenaur: It was a very hard time for him. I think for him it was

the hardest than for us. For us it was hard to find a job and work

and so on and learn English. For him it wasn't so bad for this

one. But to find the friends, and the friends, Americans, they did

not want to accept him at all. He was like goy (gentile).

Q: Like what?
Rosenaur: A goy . You know, like out of community. That's how he

felt the first year. He did not miss any grade. He went to the

eighth grade when we came on March first. He went to the eighth

grade, and he finished the eighth grade with all the students. He

did not miss any grade, and he finished the school according to his

age, because he learned English in Russia.

Q: Oh, he did. Well, then he must have found the eighth grade
fairly easy.
Rosenaur: Yes, that's right. That's why he could not understand,

because he spoke English very good when he came to the United


Q: And he still was not accepted.
Rosenaur: And still was not accepted. He went to the Herzl camp.
The Jewish Family Service gave him a scholarship to go to the Herzl
camp, because he was at fourteen already by this time in August, and
that was 1978. He went to the Herzl camp, and he liked this very
much. That's where he knew about Jewish tradition, Jewish prayers
and Jewish holidays, you know, there. He was with the children of
his age in August and he liked


it. He was the only boy who knew English pretty good by this time,

and his age was good for Herzl camp.

Q: Then did he make American friends later on?
Rosenaur: Yes, yes. Later on. Just name it. I think all school.

Q: So was this high school?
Rosenaur: Yes.

Q: Did he go to Highland?
Rosenaur: Yes, he did go to Highland Junior, and Highland Junior

was not good. But the next year, ninth grade, he went to the high

school, senior high, and there he found lots of friends in senior

high. He had a more real American friend than Russian. He had

only two Russian friends. All others were American friends.

Q: Very good. So that's excellent. Did he go to the University
of Minnesota?
Rosenaur: Yes, he went to the University of Minnesota. Then he
changed his mind. He went to the Minneapolis College of Art and
Design, almost finished this--he is a fine artist--and almost
finished and realized that then what can he do. And he moved back
to the University of Minnesota after three years in college, to
study economics. One year he went to the university, for one year,
and then he moved to Seattle. He found an economics school in
University of Washington is better than here. He learned this and so
he moved to there, and in one year he had finished the university.
Now he works in Chicago in a very good company, a consulting

Q: Does he like Chicago?
Rosenaur: He used to like it. You know, from the beginning he did

not like it. Now he likes it.

Q: How did you get introduced to the synagogue here?
Rosenaur: When we just came to St. Paul, our host family belonged
to Temple Mount Zion So from the beginning we went to Temple


Temple Mount Zion . But most Russian people went to Temple of


So after a while we changed our mind and went to the Temple of


Q: Was this because the Russian families went there, or because
you liked the service?
Rosenaur: First of all, I like the service better in a Conservative


Q: Why is that?
Rosenaur: Because, you see, my relatives used to go to the Orthodox
synagogue, and Reform synagogue-

Q: Did you go to the synagogue with your relatives?.
Rosenaur: I was in synagogue a couple of times. But my father was
like a cantor. He sang all his prayers. So I knew this. The last
drop, what I did not like, when the cantor became Catholic. It was
a woman cantor there.

Q: Holly Callen?
Rosenaur: Yes. And then she quit and one woman Catholic became a
cantor, and she never appeared on the stage. She was behind the
stage. So I did not like it, really, and we decided to go, and we
went to the Temple of Aaron a few times and we liked that and we
liked Rabbi Raskas, how he made the service and how he relates to
the people and how he talked to the people and really liked it.

Q: Again, when you go there, do you feel comfortable coming into
the place, or do you just feel that people are looking at you and
saying, "Oh, there's some of these Russians"? I mean, do you feel
that there's a distinction between the Americans and the Russians,
or do you feel that this is a place for everybody?
Rosenaur: Where?

Q: Temple of Aaron.
Rosenaur: At the Temple of Aaron. No, I like the services.


feel differently there.

Q: But what about the people? Are the Americans friendly?
Rosenaur: The people, they are all friendly. And one time Rabbi
asked to raise the hands whose relatives are from Russia, and
everyone raised their hands. So it was so nice to see this.

Q: So that's true at Mt. Zion and also--
Rosenaur: Yes, in Mt. Zion, too. Yes, even our host family's relatives,
parents, came from Russia. They knew Russian.

Q: Oh, do they? That's nice. But I'm just talking about afterwards,
after the service on Friday night at the Oneg Shabbat (social hour)
did you feel comfortable? Did the Americans accept you?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. If I know the people, who to talk to, yes,
they accept very nicely, and the rabbi accepted very nice and told
us hello and talked a little bit.

Q: Do you have a Passover service now, for instance?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes.
Q: At your house with your family?
Rosenaur: Yes.
Q: How did you learn how to conduct the service?
Rosenaur: We had a few services in Jewish Community Center when
came to the United States. They showed us how to do this. They
gave us the special books in Russian and which had English
language, and they gave us a few recipes, what to prepare for

Q: Did you ever feel that they were like trying to make you into
the sort of Jew that they felt you ought to be, that they were
making you over? ·

Rosenaur: No, they just were trying to help us to understand and
to be proud of who we are.

Q: You didn't feel that this was something the people made--
Rosenaur: No, no. I did not feel proud to be Jewish in Russia.
Now I feel proud. Even our son feels proud. He's a young person,
and he feels proud to be Jewish now. That's how our mind and our
attitude and how everything changed after we came to the United

Q: Was he hassled for being Jewish? Was it a problem for him?
Rosenaur: Oh, yes. In Russia, yes.

Q: Was it more of a problem for him than for you?
Rosenaur: Correct. It was more problem for our son, because
anybody, any drunkard, can tell him, "You Jew," and so on. It was
terrible, and it was getting worse. That's what I mean. For us it
wasn't so bad, but for the younger generation getting worse and
worse and worse. When we came to the United States and this
war started in Afghanistan, I thought to myself, "Oh, how we were
right to leave Russia." Otherwise, our son would be in
A.fghanistan, because it was his age children.

Q: Did he have any other Jewish education beside what he had at
Herzl camp?
Rosenaur: He did not. But he goes to the synagogue sometimes.

[Begin Tape 3, Side 1]

Q: You said that you felt so comfortable in America. Are there
cultural differences that you really find bewildering or things
that you really find annoying?
Rosenaur: No, it's no different.

Q: You just feel totally comfortable?
Rosenaur: You could walk to the same theaters, to listen to the


same music, to see the same ballets.

Q: So when you watch MTV, do you know what--there's a cultural
background for that. Do you see what I mean? There are certain
areas of culture that might be called popular culture that you did
not grow up in, clues that you'll always been missing.
Rosenaur: It's different, yes. Pop culture is different, yes.

It's a different music, different--! don't know what to say.

Q: You did not grow up watching the same TV programs.
Rosenaur: I don't watch this program. I don't care. I don't

watch. I watch what I care.

Q: So you feel totally comfortable here in America?
Rosenaur: Yes. I feel totally comfortable after thirteen and a

half years.

Q: Are you a citizen now?
Rosenaur: Yes, for eight years.

Q: There must be things that you dislike about American culture.
Let's talk about education, your child's education, for instance.
Rosenaur: I think finally he had a very good education, very good

education, because he studied a lot, he studied what he liked

before, and he learned a lot, and he's a very educated person, very
educated. He knew art and he knew history. He knows
everything--politics, economy. He's a very educated person,
finally. After high school he was not. He knew what he learned in
Russia about everything, about history, geography, other subjects.
But in the university and College of Art and Design, of course, he
picked up a lot. This education is on a very high level. But some
schools are very good education, too. Maybe it depends from the
person, from the student. I don't know. I don't know what to
tell. I don't have so much experience with that.

Q: What about health issues? You know, how expensive.
Rosenaur: Yes, but we have insurance at work, so we don't feel


like it's very expensive.

Rosenaur: Yes, it's expensive, but if you have insurance, you work,
you have insurance.

Q: What about the quality of health care here versus the Soviet
Rosenaur: You cannot compare. It's not comparable at all.

Q: Do you feel that you'll want to go back and visit the Soviet
Union at some point?
Rosenaur: Maybe. Maybe we will. If we will go and be close to
the Soviet Union, I mean in Europe, maybe we will visit Leningrad
for a few days to go to the graves of our relatives, to meet some
friends. That's about it.

Q: Do you have any close friends still in the Soviet Union?
Rosenaur: Yes.
Q: Have they decided to stay, or haven't they been able to leave?
Rosenaur: They decided to stay when we left. Now they wanted to
leave, but they don't know how it will happen again. They were
very close friends, and they are very sorry, and we tried to push
them to leave Russia. And now with the new law of this military
service age from eighteen to twenty-five-

Q: Oh, you couldn't leave?
Rosenaur: Yes. I don't think they will leave, because the
youngest son of theirs is about twenty years old, I think--about
twenty, twenty-one. I don't know. Yes, we do have close friends.
In fact, I have very close Russian friends. They were very nice to
us. They were very nice to us all the time.

Q: They are still in Russia, right?
Rosenaur: Yes, of course. They are Russians. They are real
Russians. But we were real close. She was my best friend.



Q: Would they leave if they could?
Rosenaur: No. They could not.
Q: I mean if there was a possibility for anybody to leave, would
they leave if the possibility were open?
Rosenaur: Maybe they don't. But really it's been a long time.
don't know what they think now.

Q: Well, I think I've covered this. I may have to come back and
ask you one or two questions to fill things in, but I've gottenmost of
the information I wanted, and I thank you very much,
because you've spent a lot of time with me this evening, almost two
and half hours. So this will be the end of our interview.
[End of Interview]