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Interview with Yaneta Solganik

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OLD LIVES, NEW LIVES: SOVIET JEWISH WOMEN IN
MINNESOTA
Interview with Yaneta Solganik

Interviewed by Linda Schloff and Dianne Siegel
Interviewed on June 6 and 18, 1991
at the Eagan home of Mrs. Solganik


LS: Today is June 6, 1991. We are about to interview Yana Solganik
for the project "Old Lives, New Lives: Soviet Jewish Women in
Minnesota." The interviewers are Linda Schloff and Dianne Siegel.

YS: My name is not Yana. My name is Yaneta. Yarra is some kind of
nickname.

LS: Tell me how it is spelled.
YS: Y-A-N-E-T-A. That's my full name as it was there; it's the same
here, and everybody's calling me by that name.


LS: So, we'll start out with the easy questions. I have your name, I
have your address, and why don't you give me your telephone
number too?

YS: 452-3830.
LS: When were you born?
YS: December 18, 1946.
LS: A postwar baby. Where were you born?
YS: Kiev, Ukraine.
LS: Did you live any place else, besides Kiev?
YS: No.
LS: Did you move from Kiev to Minnesota?



YS: Yes. That'sit. Two places for a home.
LS: Tell me just a tiny bit about your education.
YS: I graduated from high school and then I graduated--it's not

called university, but it's like a three-year college. It's a college.

LS: And what sort of work did you do then? What were you trained
to do there?

YS: I have a mechanical degree, in mechanics.

LS: When you say mechanics, did you design tools, for instance?

YS: No, it's not design; it's mostly on the repair and maintenance sort
of side, not design.

LS: OK, so it's repair and maintenance of what?

YS: It's mechanical type of welding machines and that type of
commerce technology.

LS: And when you graduated, were you able to find a job in this
field in Kiev.

YS: It was not like this. It was a little different. When I decided to
go to the high school, I had to do it while I was working. My parents
were divorced a long time ago, when I was a child, and I had to
support my mother; I felt like we needed more financial support, and
so I decided to go. I graduated from high school when I was working
in evening classes. At that time I was working at a plant which was
producing commercial equipment, that type of machinery. This
college was theirs. It belonged to this plant. I went there, got my
diploma, and continued to work at the plant. It does not matter what
you are doing there. You can work any place because this is the
education that's directly applied to this job, to any position there.
After that, I spent a couple of years working in the plant, and then I
found another job, which I kept until I moved out of there. This was
just my second job in my life after that. It was the Ministry of
Sports of the Ukraine. That job I consider to be my main one. I was
working there for ten years. You can compare it with, like
purchasing; it was pretty much like a purchasing job here. 2


LS: So it wasn't really what you had been trained for?

YS: It wasn't exactly what I was trained for; however, I was
purchasing mechanical devices, equipment, electrical devices-different
sort of things which require certain knowledge because you
are dealing with so many documents and specifications, which do
require that kind of knowledge. So, it's not exactly the same, but it's
a relative field, I would say. That's why I was hired there because I
had that kind of experience. That job I really liked. I really liked
what I was doing there. There was a lot of contact with people. It
was a respectful (respectable?responsible?) position; it was a really
respectful company that gives you a very broad knowledge of things
and a lot of things to know, a lot of people to know. I really liked the
job.

LS: Good. I think I'll go back now and ask you something about your
parents, and then we can sort of catch up. Why don't you give me
your father's name?

YS: My father's name is Yosif Polyak; his last name is Polyak: P-0-LY-
A-K.

LS: And when was he born, do you know?

YS: He was born in 1921.

LS: Was he born in the Ukraine also?

YS: Yes, he was born in a little village near Kiev, and he lived all his
life there.

LS: Was it a shtetl?

YS: It was a shtetl, but then he relocated to Kiev, and he was living
there all the time.

LS: What was the name of the shtetl, do you know?

YS: I don't remember now, but it was close to Kiev.

LS: And your mother's name?


YS: My mother's name is Khana, also Polyak ...

LS: And she was born?

YS: In 1927.

LS: Do you know where?

YS: Kiev.

LS: Did they meet in Kiev?

YS: Yes, they met in Kiev. My father was a soldier during World War
II, and he went through the whole war, and he has a lot of medals, a
lot of awards, and, thank God, he went through alive ...

LS: When did they marry?

YS: Let's see, '45, because I was born right after that.

LS: Did your mother have family in Kiev?

YS: Yes. She had a mother and a brother.

LS: Did your father have family in Kiev also?

YS: Yes, his parents and his two sisters.

LS: Where did your mother spend the war years?

YS: My mother was a child then, and she was with my grandma, and
they were having a very hard time during the war. They had to
leave Kiev because it was under occupation, and they went to
different cities--they didn't have where to stay--and my mother was
very sick, and when they came back, she had to get treatment. They
had it really bad. When they came back, the building where they
were living before, was destroyed. You know, all the buildings and
all the apartments are government there. It's not like you can go
back to your old place, and it's your own. They were given an
apartment, so to speak, and this apartment was like a basement here
to compare with, but that deep of a basement that you could not see
the lights of the street. I remember spending all my childhood there.
And it's not an apartment--it's one room in the community 4


apartments, where people are living in the same place, they have the
same kitchen. There were six of us. Six different families. We had
one room and a kitchen. Actually, before that, we didn't have a
kitchen at all. What happened was that you had a big hall, and all
the stoves and everything was all along there, without a kitchen.
Everything was there. Everybody had his own stove and a little
table, that was like a piece of a kitchen. Then, when one of the
families moved out, we reorganized and made a kitchen out of the
room where they lived. That was a big deal because all the five
other families who left now had that room.

LS: Did it have running water?

YS: Yes, we had running water, but not in the kitchen but outside in

the hall.

LS: This is the apartment where your mother and her family
relocated when they came back to Kiev?

YS: Right.

LS: How did your parents meet, where did they meet?

YS: Before they got married? My grandma knew somebody and
they were just introduced. They didn't meet somewhere on a really
happy occasion or something. They were introduced to each other
because after the war, it was a very difficult situation; there were
almost no men because a lot of people were killed, and young women
were not able to find any company. So, if somebody was introduced,
it was a big deal. They were introduced, and they probably liked
each other, and they got married, but they got a very fast divorce
too.

LS: What did your father do after the service? Tell me just a little
bit, after the war?

YS: He is a professional driver. That's what he did during the war-he
was a driver in the military--and then, when he came home--he
is very talented but it was too difficult of a time to try to put his
talents to something, he is a very good painter and he is a very good
musician--but at that time, right after war, everything was so bad,
destroyed, and you couldn't find a job, but drivers were in demand


at that time. So he went working as a driver for a company to make
some money.

LS: Was your mother working also?

YS: Oh yes. She was working all the time. My mother was working
all her life. She was working at a factory. I think they were sewing
clothes for military, that type of stuff.

DS: The apartment you described, was that the apartment that you
mother and father lived in together?

YS: They lived there together for a little while, but then they got
divorced, and we shared one room--my grandma, my mother, and
myself. I was raised in that apartment.

LS: That is really interesting. So, this was a community of females,
right?

YS: No, the other families had males in them, two of them had
husbands I remember.

LS: Did you spend a lot of time with the other families too?

YS: Not really. I was more involved in some other activities. I was
more with my school friends and out of the apartment, but it was
just in comparison with how people live here, it definitely is even
hard to imagine how people can live in one room, and we did.

DS: How big of a room?

YS: Let me give you a little comparison... Probably a little bigger
than this kitchen.

LS: Not very big?

YS: Not very big. We could put only one bed there.

LS: Did the three of you sleep in the same bed?

YS: No, I was sleeping with my mother, and my grandma ... we had a
little, like a close-up bed. I slept most of the time in the bed, and
then what happened is that the other family moved out--at a poitfi,


some families start moving out for some reason, if they receive a
better apartment or if they move... When the first family moved out,
we made a kitchen out of their room. When the second family
moved out, they awarded their room--it was a very small room but
still it's a room--they awarded it to us. So, my grandma moved to
this room. That was outrageously nice.

LS: Who awarded it to you? The government?

YS: It's all government. You don't have any say there. You are

asking, but whatever is given to you, it's all by them.

LS: What other furniture did you have there?

YS: Furniture? We had a ... like a closet, chiffoniere, and I had my

little, very tiny desk for studying, and we had a little tiny, like a

loveseat, sofa. Very tiny things. And a very tiny table.

LS: What sort of table, was it a square table, a round table?

YS: Little round table, I think.

LS: How many did it seat?

YS: It didn't seat any. It was only us.

LS: Did your mother's relatives ever come to visit, do you know, for
a cup of tea, for instance?

YS: Yes. They would come, and if you served, I remember at that
time, you can just use anything, any surface which is there--the desk
and the little table, and whatever it is--nobody is fussy there about
it. Or you can borrow from the neighbors a little table and add
because the people were coming. You just do they best you can.

LS: What language did your grandmother speak?

YS: With her neighbors she was talking in Yiddish--that's how I
understand Yiddish, because I do--I do understand Yiddish and I
love it a lot, I just adore it, it's a beautiful language. Sometimes, with
a second language it's very interesting, like in English, there are some
expressions, where now, when you know the language, it's much
more meaningful to say something in English for me, than to say iG in


Russia, because of the language specifics, you can find one word
which can describe a situation or a feeling, and in order to describe it
in another language you have to use a few words. It can be opposite.
Maybe in Russian you can find a word which would describe it
better; in English you have to express it in those sentences. But in
Yiddish, it's just beautiful. And because of her, I understand Yiddish.

LS: So, she spoke to her neighbors?

YS: She spoke Yiddish to her neighbors.

LS: Did she speak to you in Yiddish?

YS: Yes, sometimes, especially when she was upset with something.

You go into your own native language when you are upset or

thinking some good thoughts or something. I couldn't reply in

Yiddish but I understood, and she knew that I understand it.

LS: Just to give you an example, when my grandmother was with us
also and she spoke to me in Yiddish, but when my mother and my
grandmother wanted to talk and they didn't want me to understand,
then they would switch to Russian. Was there any language that
your mother and grandmother could switch to when they didn't want
you to understand what they were talking about?

YS: No. One of the specifics of the life when you are a very close
family and we were just three of us, I cannot remember any time
that anything, whatever it was, was discussed without me or being
said so I wouldn't understand. I was one of those children who
would never ever interfere--even if I heard something--! would
never interrupt and say, "What is it that you just said? Can you
explain it to me?" or something like that. I matured too fast. I was
like a little grandma, they were calling me, because I was very quiet
and mature and understanding. My mother never tried to lie to me-
it wouldn't work--1 understood just like any adult what's going on
and what's happening and what kind of behavior do they expect
from me, so they never had any problems. Nothing ever was hidden
from me. Sometimes I wish they would not say some things or I
would be maybe better off emotionally not to know or not to hear,
but it was never hidden from me, not at all. It was just the way our
family was.

DS: Did you have contact with your father all these years?


YS: Yes. After they divorced, my father was visiting me. He was
taking me sometimes the weekends, but we never had too much of a
close relationship, deep down inside, because it does influence, it
does make it different. Then he got married--he is married and has
another family--but he doesn't have any children, and he just had
his wife, and she doesn't have children either. So, I'm the only child
of his. I'm it, for my mother and my father. Yes, we were seeing
each other all the time, and before I left, we saw ·each other--we are
corresponding now, we are keeping in touch.

LS: He is still in Kiev?

YS: Yes, he is still in Kiev.

LS: Was everybody who lived in the apartment building Jewish?

YS: Yes, as a matter of fact, yes. We lived in the part of the town

where a lot of the people were Jewish, and it was just like a little

Jewish neighborhood. Even though it's in a big town, but there are

certain places mostly occupied by Jews. Yes, everybody was Jewish,

and everybody was speaking Yiddish.

LS: On the streets, were they speaking Yiddish?

YS: Yes, at that time, when I was a child, yes. If you go to the
market--we had a fres4 market really close to our place--and it was
like entertainment for us, you just go there, meet a lot of people, and
they were talking in between themselves in Yiddish. My grandma's
sister lived in a little shtetl outside of Kiev, and they had a very nice
lake there. So, every summer, I went there with my grandmother to
stay for the summer with my grandmother's sister. She had a son
and a husband killed during the war, both of them, and they were
killed right there, in the town where she lived--Korostyshev is the
name of the town--and they had graves there for those who died,
and her husband's and her son's names are there, on the stone, and
every time we went there, we would go there, on their graves and
put some flowers. The whole shtetl--most of it--is Jewish.

LS: Even after World War II?

YS: That's right. And it was nice. I just loved those summer
vacations because they were getting all together, all these old lad~s



-my grandma's sister and her neighbors, and they knew each other
their whole lives ...

LS: What did they talk about?

YS: Oh, I adored it. I sat there like a mouse and listened to all those
stories. They talked Yiddish.

LS: What were they talking about?

YS: They were talking about their parents and how they were young
and where they--there were always memories of World War II, this
was a part . of the conversation which was naturally there, this was
such an important part of life which is never out; it's there, it's part
of their nature, it's part of their existence, it's there ...

LS: What about World War I, the aftermath of World War I,
especially for Jews, was so dreadful in the Ukraine. Did they not talk
about that?

YS: They were just remembering the time when they were young-my
grandma and her sister--they didn't get along very well. So, I
enjoyed that too and the way that they would start fighting. You
know, not bad fighting, but like sisters fight. "Do you know that my
father, he loved you better than he loved me?" "What are you
talking about?" And they were getting on and on. "Do you
remember him?" And then naming names when they were young,
and there were seven girls in the family--no boys, just seven girls-and
there were so many vivid memories about it; they were
remembering about their father and mother. On the Jewish holidays,
it was really interesting to hear that. They were honoring Jewish
holidays; they were keeping the tradition so much, and they were
poor, but every Sabbath was a Sabbath, and she was baking her own
bread, Challahs and all of this. My grandma's sister, the one who
lived in Korostyshev, she was an absolutely exceptional cook. She
baked bread--everybody knew that Nakhama is making bread. The
smell was all over the street. She did it the way her mother did it,
with an old Jewish recipe, and when I was going there, I was
smelling that bread on the way. There was something absolutely
very different and very specific about the place, which is my
memory for the rest of my life. Now I'm talking to you--I remember
that smell. The smell of the bread which my grandma--! called her

10


grandma also because her only son died, he was killed, and she loved
me a lot and she enjoyed that summer stay with me ...

DS: Do you bake the same bread?

YS: No, no, I don't, unfortunately.

LS: What else did she cook that you remember?

YS: Whatever she baked--baking especially. See, my grandma was a
very good cook, but she wasn't that good in baking. She could bake
very well--I would like to bake like she did--but Nakhama, her
sister, she was famous, and that's how she survived after World War

II. She baked bread and she used to carry it to the market for
people to buy it, and pirozhki, and all that stuff. Because she did it
extremely well, everyone was waiting at this place where she usually
came to, and I remember that she brought me with her, and I helped
her carry her case, because she was real sick ...
LS: What was her name?

YS: N akhama.

LS: It's a beautiful name. Did they talk about the revolution, about

the Ukrainian republic, the pogroms in the Ukraine?

YS: You mean, during the second war?

LS: No, I'm talking about after World War I, did they talk about that
much?

YS: No, they didn't talk about that very much. They just
remembered those times when they were all together with the
family and they were young and all that. No, they did not talk about
that a lot. You know, they lived in a little shtetl. It's also a different
type of life there--if they would live in Kiev at that time, it would be
different, it's more politics and more news. In a little shtetl, the way
of life is pretty much the same.

LS: How did Nakhama's husband and son die? Were they killed by
the Germans?

1 1


YS: Yes. They were partizans. They were hiding in the forest, and

they were fighting with Germans, and they were killed by Germans.

LS: And how did Nakhama escape? Did she go east also or did she

manage to stay in the shtetl?

YS: She did leave for a while, but then she came back. I don't know
exactly the details about her leaving, but they were on the front of
whatever happened between Korostyshev and Kiev, and that's where
they were killed. I don't remember the details about her leaving and
coming back. I don't even think she left--I don't know how she
survived. It was never discussed--she never talked about that.
Probably she would. I just have a feeling that probably she didn't
leave; it was just something like... she just survived where she was.

LS: Did she bake challah after the war?

YS: Yes. She baked challah, and she was brilliant at that.

LS: In this country, when you bake challah, you are supposed to put

aside a little piece and burn it to represent the burnt offering that
was made at the Temple in Jerusalem. Do you remember her doing

anything like that?

YS: I never watched her completely doing it. I was just around
when she was baking, but I didn't pay attention to those little things,

how she did it.

DS: When you were there, did you celebrate Sabbath?

YS: Yes, because she celebrated. We didn't know a lot of prayers and
that type of stuff, but Sabbath was always Sabbath, and they
celebrated the way their parents keeping tradition, and they had
[Yiddish] (photographs of her parents Sabbath). Her mother was a
real nice-looking lady, and something was on her head, it was
Sabbath, and their father looks very nice with that beard all gray, so
traditional and so beautiful, and they were talking about how strict
they were--they were all grandmas themselves and they were
thinking, they were telling me, "You can't even imagine how strict
she was." [End Tape 1 Side 1]

[Tape 1 Side 2]

12


YS: ... That's right. With seven daughters, she was really concerned

about them getting married, so she used to put little things for every

daughter.

LS: What do you mean little things?

YS: Like for a family.

LS: A dowry?

YS: Little dowry, but not in money because they didn't have any.
But in little things she made: like linens, like towels, like those
things she sewed herself. And seven girls--you have to dress them
and take care of them, and it was a really big deal. She was
interesting, described how she used to cook from nothing, you know,
how Jewish people do sometimes--from those little things you
wouldn't believe. An American would not even get close to it and
think about eating that. And they were making beautiful dinners out
of nothing, leftovers. It was so interesting to see. It was real Jewish
life. Typical European Jewish life in that little shtetl, and from what
I've heard from other people, they are pretty much the same, even
though they are in different countries--in Poland, in Czechoslovakia-Jews
are everywhere Jews. Even though not every tradition is kept
in a particular way that it should be according to Torah, Jews are
Jews. When you hear Jewish music, something is dropping inside
you. You just feel something that no one else can feel. It's really
wonderful.

LS: It's interesting to hear you--you are so young--to hear you
saying that. The perception is that you people--those people who
have been cut off from their roots--and we are finding that you are
more attached than many here.

YS: That's why I feel the way I feel, because I was brought on those
memories, between those old, real nice Jewish ladies who
remembered a lot of nice things, and that's why I understand
Yiddish, and that's why I feel the way I feel. Even though I don't
know prayers, it doesn't matter--I have a Jewish heart.

DS: What did your mother do about things Jewish? Did she celebrate
Sabbath and holidays?

13


YS: My mother was a really hard worker. Most of the time she spent
at work. My grandma didn't work. She kind of left work early. She
didn't stay working. She didn't feel well at the time. And then I was
little, and somebody had to take care of me too. So, there wasn't a
question who should work. My mother should work. So, my mother
was carrying two jobs a long time.


DS: Two jobs?


YS: Two jobs. My father didn't support me.


LS: Where was your mother's second job?


YS: It was sometimes in the same place. Sometimes she did
whatever she was supposed to do; if there was a little job elsewhere,
she would pick and she would do it. She would do anything to get
some more money.


LS: Then, your grandmother raised you?


YS: That's right. So, there was always something Jewish there,
because my grandmother was Jewish. She was talking that way; she
was behaving that way.


LS: Did she teach you any prayers?


YS: She herself doesn't know any.


LS: She didn't know Modeh Ani (a morning prayer)?


YS: No, she never got any education, not at all.


LS: Did she do anything special for holidays?


YS: Yes. On the Sabbath, we also celebrated, just a little, as much as
you can, without getting into deep stuff. We had challah and wine,
and we always celebrated Pesach, and we always had matza, and we
never ate bread. As long as I remember myself, never in our house
was bread during that time--only matza. We didn't say a proper
prayer, but we kept something we knew we can do, something we
understood, that it was in our power to do, we did it. We went to
shul, we never ate on Yom Kippur. We dressed in nice clothes and
went to the synagogue... 1 4



LS: And your mother too? Did she take off work?
YS: Yes, yes.
LS: She wasn't afraid?

YS: She usually worked out not to work on that day, to take a day off
or whatever, pretend that she was sick--1 don't know--whatever had
to be done, she would do it, and then we'll go to the synagogue. It
was a very tiny place.

LS: Was it very near you?

YS: It wasn't very near, but it wasn't a problem to get there. You

had to take a train to go to a little different part of the city. The

main attraction there was not the synagogue itself. It was so tiny,

people couldn't get there. Outside the synagogue: all Jews all over

the place used to meet there. People who did not see each other

whole year would meet there, and all the latest news and everybody

is nicely dressed, and most people speak Yiddish, and it was just a

very nice social occasion. Everybody was there all day because

nobody was eating and everybody prepared a nice dinner after they

came back, to have home with the family or with other families, but

they kept it that way.

LS: What about the other relatives? Did you get together for a Seder
on Pesach?

YS: With what relatives?

LS: Your mother had, you said ...

YS: A brother? Well, with my mother's brother it's another story.
He married a non-Jewish girl. He was all his life in the military. He
was a professional military [officer], and he was always out of the
house. So, he met a shiksa (non Jewish women), married her, and he
just didn't keep the traditions because his life was different. On the
Jewish holidays, we were on our own; we did not celebrate Jewish
holidays with them.

LS: Of the seven sisters, how many ended up in Kiev?
15


YS: My grandma's? They didn't end up in Kiev. Most of them lived

all their lives there and they died there.

LS: So, you really did not have many relatives in Kiev, did you?

YS: No, not at all. I saw my mother's brother very seldom, and I was
the only one in the family.

LS: Was your grandmother close to other people in Kiev? Who were

her friends?

YS: Mostly neighbors.

LS: Did your mother have time for any friendships?

YS: Not really. Very little. She had friends also from work or some

other places.

LS: Did she have time to go out with them at all?

YS: She did get out with them, especially when I grew up a little, but
I remember mostly after I grew up.

LS: What did she like to do when she went out with her friends?

YS: They mainly went to the movies, just like here, and sitting home
and talking, and going just for a walk. The style of life there, you can
meet someone in a nice place and you can walk around town. Here,
it's not that much of walking; you are driving in a car if you want to
go somewhere, and there a lot of time is spent by just walking
around the main street or the nice street, along the boulevard--it's a
typical European ...

LS: Right. You know when you are in the metropolis where you find
street life. There is very little street life here.

YS: If you've been to Europe any time, in any country, you would
understand, it's different.

LS: Even New York City has a lot of street life.

YS: Right. And so they socialize in this manner. They are not home
sitters, but they like to go out. It's one way of spending time--ju1t6to


walk around, and you meet people a lot--right in the street, and you

stand and you talk, and then you can go to the movies, and there

were a lot of places with ice-cream, you go eat some ice-cream, but

in an open territory, on a balcony or some kind of nice cafe. It's a

little different than here.

DS: We did it more here when the neighborhoods were small and

when we didn't own cars. Times were different, but we did it like

that too.

LS: We have abandoned it in 1950s.

YS: In Israel, they . do it. They live more in the streets.

LS: When you went to school, do you start in kindergarten there or
do you start ...

YS: In a regular school? No, it's the first grade.

LS: What percentage of the class was Jewish there?

YS: I had a lot of friends because that area where I lived, that

apartment I described, it was in a sort of like a Jewish neighborhood.
It does not mean that everybody was Jewish there--it's a big city-


but a lot of Jews, and the school was in the next building. I had a lot

of Jewish friends.

LS: Did you have Ukrainian friends also? Was there any tension
between the two groups?

YS: Between children? As children, you know about it. There wasn't
any true tension; however, you stick with your kind. I had only
Jewish friends. It is not because I didn't want to have Ukrainian
friends; it's just sometimes you can't describe it; it's just that social
thing. When you are little and you live in a community like I lived,
the parents communicate also. This is one of the factors. Parents of
those children knew each other. My mother knew their parents: this
guy's parents and girl's parents, and this boy's parents, and they
were Jewish, and sometimes they called each other and they met. So,
if you were in the same school with their child, you do socialize,
definitely. And that's is like a cycle, and it all comes together. And
yes, my friends were always Jewish. And we did understand that we

17


were Jewish. We didn't have fights with non-Jewish children, but we
did understand that we were Jewish.

LS: What about teachers? Were there any problems?
YS: No, in my school, there were never problems.
LS: The teachers were not partial?
YS: Yes, they were impartial. Normally, Jewish kids are very good

students. So, they could not possibly have anything against good

students because it's in their interests to have good students, with
good grades. Usually, it's good families, and what else can you want
as a teacher from your student?

LS: What did you do after school? Were there clubs after school for
you?

YS: At what time?

LS: Let's say, when you were ten-eleven-twelve.

YS: No, we were just with each other. It's not clubs, but you
compare it with clubs. There is like pioneer buildings, and what
happened at those particular places, they had a lot of activities going
on. You can sing there, you can dance there, you can sew there--you
can do anything you want. There were activities there, but I
personally didn't participate in this much. Mostly between me and
my friends, we were meeting together, to go to the movies, or to just
go around our block, just hanging out together, watching TV
together. ..

LS: Why didn't you like the pioneer clubs?

YS: I just didn't have any particular interest of singing or doing one
of those things, and it was quite a long way from my house to get
there. I could go--I just didn't have any interest. You know,
everybody is different. Some of my friends did.

LS: Were these clubs sort of indoctrinating one into Soviet society,
making good young communists out of you or were they more
neutral?

1 8


YS: There is no difference. Whatever you describe now, this is all
together. You cannot tell apart. It's not like this is socialistic, or
government and this is for your own pleasure. There is no such
thing there. First of all, everything is free. Any child, no matter
what the financial status of the parents, can go there and can
participate. Children can be busy. If you are interested in
something, you can participate. But if you sing, a lot of songs were:
how well I live, how nice is the country, and my party is best, and
that kind of communist slogans. But they teach you nicely how to
sing. The songs they sing are different. The dances also, they had a
lot of dances which had some sort of political influences, but most of
them don't, just for your pleasure. And some other things that don't
apply, such as sewing or stamp ,collecting, checkers. You just
participate, and it's real nice. It's one of those nice things which
happened there that they were trying to do at that time. They try to
do a lot of things to keep children occupied, and if parents are willing
and they think that you should, there is no problem.

LS: Did you go to camps too through this pioneer youth movement?

YS: I went once. I didn't like it and I didn't go back. But a lot of
people, like my husband, for example, he spent all his childhood
years going and he liked it a lot. But for a boy maybe it was
different or maybe people are raised in different environments. For
him, it was nice. He remembers it very vividly. There were a lot of
activities, and instead of going in the streets, where you don't know
what you are doing, he would go there. If I didn't have a chance to
go with my grandma to Nakhama, I would probably go there too; I
would not be able to stay home day after day.

LS: How old were you the last time you went to the shtetl? Did you
go through high school?

YS: No, no. I got married when I was sixteen and a half-seventeen
years old. [All laugh] That's another story.

LS: Well, so how old were you when you stopped going?

YS: I don't remember exactly, but I guess some time about teneleven.
But before ten-eleven there were many years which I did
go, and I would probably, if not for her(the grandma), I would
definitely go to that camp.


LS: So, between the ages of eleven and sixteen, you were sort of

hanging around in the summer time, right?
YS: Yes, sort of, but I was always occupied with something.
reading... that was different years.
I was
DS: Could you work at that age?
YS: No. Nobody's working there. Children don't work there.
there is no such thing. They work only here.
No,

LS: When you are ready for high school, do you go into different

track high schools?

YS: No, this is one school. They don't have separate high schools, like
here. It's one school from the first to the tenth grade. They don't
have twelve though. They have ten grades of education.

LS: But are there separate tracks the way there are in Europe? For

example, those people who get sent into a track that leads to a

university, those people who get sent into a track that leads to a

trade school?

YS: No. It isn't that way, but in comparison with what I found here,

let's say, and I know about that, the elementary education is much

different, it's much better there, because even though people here

are going to high school for twelve years, children who graduate

from tenth [grade] there know much more.

LS: I am hoping that somebody like you or some other Russian
immigrant will get on the St. Paul School Board and make some
changes.

YS: Oh, they know about that.

LS: I know they know. I know that Soviet immigrants are very
unhappy with the school system here, but I am hoping that they will
get active in politics, so that they can start demanding some changes,
because they know things can be better.

YS: But you see, the changes, right now they are going to make
changes, there is so much talk about changing the education, but the
direction they are taking--! read about it in the newspapers and2 0


magazines--it's exactly opposite of what Russian people are thinking
it should be. The understanding of discipline is very different. We
were raised in very strong understanding that discipline is one of the
drives, and here it's everything opposite. They are agitating of
giving children even more freedom than they have now, and this is
exactly an opposite of what we think education should do. We think
that without certain discipline children are not able to absorb all the

. information, all the art, and they should.

LS: That has to lead to a lot of tension between people like you, who
have children who are growing up here, but we'll come to that later.
So, you went through your high school and... how did you meet your
husband?

YS: I was working at the plant, like I mentioned before ...
LS: When did you start working at the plant?
YS: When I was fourteen and a half...

LS: Oh really? That's very young.
YS: It is very young, but there was a rule at that time that I can
work four hours--not a full day but four hours. When I went to this
plant, I worked four hours only during the day. Then, when I was

sixteen, I started working six hours, and then when you are eighteen,
you work full day.
LS: Which is what? Is that regular hours?
YS: Which is forty hours, normal forty hours.
LS: But you say you got married at what age?
YS: At seventeen.
LS: Was that considered young?
YS: Oh yes. It is considered young, but in the Ukraine, there is a rule


that you can get married after sixteen. You cannot do it in the
Russian part of the country.
DS: How old was your husband when you married?


21


YS: He is ten years older.
LS: Now, tell us how you met him.
YS: I was working with one nice fellow at the plant. We were, you

know, seeing each other on breaks, and he is also Jewish, and we
talked a lot, and one time he suggested that we go to some movies, so
I will bring one of my friends and he will bring his friend. I said,
"OK, we can do that." But I always looked much older than I was. He
didn't know how old I was, nor this friend of mine who worked with
me, nor my husband. So, we went to the movies and he brought my
husband with him along--they were friends from childhood--and I
brought one of my friends, and that's how we met. But he didn't
know how old I was for a long time.

LS: How long did you go together?

YS: ~efore getting married? More than a year.

LS: What was he doing?

YS: Working. He had the same education. He was working as a

mechanic at the plant.

LS: But a separate plant?

YS: Yes, a separate plant.

LS: Was your grandmother still alive?

YS: Yes.

LS: How old were you when she died? Or is your grandmother still
alive?

YS: She just died in February this year.

LS: Did she come with you?

YS: My mother now lives in New York. She lived all these years in
New York with my grandma, and my grandma died in New York, and
I flew there for the funeral in February. 2 2


LS: Would you grandmother have been upset if you had not married
someone Jewish?

YS: That wasn't even discussed; that wasn't even considered; that

was an absolutely unacceptable thought. That wasn't a choice. I
don't know how else I should say that. There wasn't any possibility
of even thinking about it. For me, also. First of all, I wasn't thinking
of getting married at that age. I wasn't even thinking: should I

marry or shouldn't I marry. Would he be Jewish or non-Jewish?

Non-Jewish, there wasn't any possibility of discussing that stuff in

our family. That is out of the question. It was never said, "Don't do

it." It was understood in the air that it cannot be done.

Interestingly, in my husband's family it's the same thing. They were

upset, of course, that I wanted to get married that young. My

grandma and my mother, but sometimes, there is nothing you can do

about it. I decided that I wanted to get married and got married.

LS: Where did you get married? Describe your wedding.

YS: My wedding was very nice. We got married like everybody is
getting married there, in a government way. We were registered in
a very nice palace. There is a special palace for the registrations. We
got married there, and then we had a really nice reception in a very
nice cafeteria. We had about one hundred people there.

DS: What did you wear?

YS: I wore a dress ... at that time--it was in the sixties--! have a
couple pictures here... [shows photographs]

DS: When did you get married? In nineteen-sixty ...

YS: Sixty-three. This is to start with my photograph when I was a
child ...

LS: So, they had you in a Ukrainian blouse, with the typical
embroidery... Is that right?

YS: That was a photograph taken somewhere at school. I was a real
good dancer when I was a child, and I was participating in all that
folklore dancing. I would dance anything you want: Ukrainian, non-
Ukrainian. 2 3


LS: And is that what you would wear to dance?
YS: Yes. That's what you'd wear to a Ukrainian dance.
LS: You have a babushka on and a beautiful embroidered blouse.

YS: This is a really old one. Where is that other one where I stand in
with my violin... Here. Here I'm playing violin.

LS: You are playing the violin; you have this wonderful Russian bow
in your hair.

YS: Yes. And see the dress at the time. I was ... seven-eight years

old there.

LS: Did you take violin lessons?

YS: Yes, I did. My father plays violin very well, and that was his
dream that I would play violin as well as he. Well, I didn't, but I did
take lessons. I have a really good musical ear. Then I decided that it
was too hard for me, and my mother is very, very mild-hearted--if I
don't want to do something, she would never push me. Now, I am
telling her, "Why didn't you do this?" This is my daughter when she
was small. The reason I am showing it now is to see the uniform.
This is a typical Russian uniform.

LS: It looks like a little apron.

YS: It looks like a little apron. The white one is for special occasions,
and on everyday basis they wear black, and it looks very nice.

LS: It does look nice.

DS: This is what they would wear to school?

YS: To school. Everybody wears the same. This is the uniform. Like
here, in private schools sometimes, they do have some kind of
uniform. This is a dress; it's a dark-brown colored dress and a type
of an apron--black for every day and white for special occasion--and
a bow in the same style--either black or white.

LS: Where is your wedding picture? 24


YS: I don't have a lot of wedding pictures, but this is a very sort of

bad picture, but that's after we signed the papers, so you are getting

out and it's like long ...

LS: It looks like a chiffon dress. Does it have one shoulder bare?

YS: Yes, I had one shoulder, one shoulder bare, and it was very, very
light pink; it wasn't white. I didn't want white. You know, those
sixties, rebellion times, and I had it real, real light pink. And what I
did during the wedding, when they had the reception, I changed it. I
had another dress--very beautiful dress--and I changed to another
dress.

LS: You had two dresses? [All laugh]

YS: Yes. A friend of mine made it for me, that other dress. It was

black satin and chiffon with different type of flowers on it; so, the

black underneath was open and the other one, the chiffon part, was

right on top, up to the neck and long sleeves that were see-through.

LS: And did it have a full skirt?

DS: Those folds of skirts underneath.

LS: With your little waist, it must have been just beautiful.

YS: It was beautiful. And I sang... I would sing at work, when I
worked at that plant. We had a musical band, and the band was
performing once in a while for special occasions at work and some
outside [occasions]. I was singing with them. And on my wedding, it
was like their present--they were playing for me--and they were
playing, and I was singing, and we were all dancing, and it was a
really nice wedding. [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side 1]

LS: Tell me what you served at your wedding.

YS: I think the meals are pretty much the same. It's not like
standard, but in Russia when you have special occasions, you are
25


taking from the same source. You don't have that kind of variety of

food in the first place.

LS: Who makes the gefilte fish?

YS: My grandma. Sure, she made the gefilte fish, and we had all the
other different salads, and we I think we had chicken Kiev for the
hot dish, and different sweets, strudel was definite part of the sweet
table, and Jewish songs and dance were all night--almost nothing
else--Jewish songs, Jewish dance; Freilach (a typical Jewish wedding
dance) which everybody likes [unclear] Jews and non-Jews, and
especially, a Jewish wedding, this is the main attraction.

LS: Sounds pretty wonderful. We've been told that during Stalin's
time, at the end of his life, things got very difficult for Jews. Did you
notice anything as a child? Was Yiddish spoken less in the streets?
Were Jews a little more afraid?

YS: Jews were always afraid. In Stalin era and after Stalin too,
because non-Jews are very rude; they can tell you things upfront
which are very upsetting or sometimes when they see a typical
Jewish face, they just can look at you and· you can look at this face
and you know what he thinks. Or they can just push you aside and
there is nothing you can do about it. They can name you names, and
nothing you can do about that.

LS: Were there times when you could see that your mother and
grandmother were more upset or upset?

YS: Because of Jewishness, because of unacceptance? Yes. At a time
like if you want to find a job and you recognize that you are not
accepted because of being a Jew. Everybody, Jews stick with Jews ...

LS: It has to be done for economic reasons too because you know
you are not going to get a job ...

YS: It's for any reason. You cannot separate the reasons. If you are
in the community and you have that type of friends, and everybody
is helping each other to bring something in. Although difficulties

with food now, it's an extreme, but it was always the case. So, people
were helping each other, and especially Jews.
LS: How did they help each other? What did they do? 26


YS: You cannot find something in the store, but one of your

neighbors is, let's say, his wife works in a store which sells ... say,

materials or some kind of food, so you go there and you are saying,

"Can you help me with getting some of this and some of that."

Especially when holidays come, some kind of holidays or you have a

birthday and you want to invite a couple of people over, what are

you going to to? You have to somehow provide the food and you

want it to be a nice meal. So, you do go to whoever you think knows

anybody, and it's networking, it works like a network. People help

each other.

DS: Also, is it trading?

YS: It is sort of trading. It is trading too, if you can contribute
something. If it's a relative, they do it just because of relative
attachment, but if it's not a relative, I am not saying that they would
not do it--it depends on your relationship--but if they know that you
can contribute something for them, definitely they will ask you then
to do something for them. That's natural. He understands that he
cannot provide himself with whatever he needs if you will not help
him, and so the same thing with you asking, he understands that you
don't have a choice.

DS: What if the person you know has some material and the person

who has the food wants the material. ..

YS: That's right. Then this material person will come to the person
who has the food and say, "I have a birthday coming [up] tomorrow.

Can you help me to get something?"

DS: But could you, if you wanted to have a birthday, could you then
go to the material person ...

YS: It all depends on the relationship. Not every relationship will
allow you to ask. Sometimes you are not that close to ask. You have
to be in a good relationship to ask a person to do you a favor;
otherwise, he won't. Why? Who are you?

DS: Are jobs gotten that way too, through favors, through friends,
through people?

27


YS: Yes, but the thing about jobs is that once you get a job, you can ·

keep it for the rest of your life. It's not like here. Somebody can tell

you that you're laid off. You can keep the job forever. If you want

an advancement, it's different. You are getting additional education,

and if there is some kind of promotional opportunity there, they can

consider you, but otherwise, if you're a decent worker, there is no

threat of losing your job. You can stay there as long as you want.

LS: Did you get your job through knowing somebody?

YS: It wasn't like somebody did me a favor, but my husband was
working also in a different kind of ministry and he heard from his
friend that somebody in the office where I worked later, that they
needed a person. So, he told me about that and he gave me a name
so that I can contact this person. And I did; I called this person and I
asked him if he would like to talk to me. He did want to talk to me;
he said, "OK." We met; we talked; and I was hired next day.. So, it
was not like "Do me a favor and I'll do in return," but it was just
because I heard that there was an opening on a decent job.

LS: Are they ever listed? They are never in the newspaper? Are

they ever listed on factory doors?

YS: Not in that type of a job I had. Only through networking people
will find out that there is an opening.

DS: If you didn't know very many people, you could have a lot of

trouble.

YS: That's right. The more people you knew, the more chances for

survival there. But you also have to have an opportunity to do

something for those people too.

LS: You have to do favors for people ...

YS: If you can. You have to have either a lot of relatives who would
just just help you out of relative connections or you have to have a
lot of friends and try to somehow help someone too.

LS: Did you have a lot of girlfriends that you kept up with?

28


YS: I had a couple of friends, but not a lot, because I got married so
early. Then, after that, we had more like family friends, mostly my
husband's friends, their families.

LS: I guess I am a little curious about, you had such a short teenage
life, what girls are like as teenagers in the Soviet Union. Do they talk
about guys, do they talk about sex, do they talk about birth control?

YS: They don't talk about birth control, they don't talk about sex.
They do talk about guys in general, but now they talk much more
openly. Now, I don't know. Maybe teenage girls do talk about sex
and all this.

LS: Was it assumed that you would not have sex before marriage?

YS: Definitely. It's like marrying non-Jews. It wasn't discussed.
Nobody ever talked to me about sex in my family. It's just, I don't
know how I am supposed to know how children are born.

LS: Did you have any sex education in school?

YS: No.

LS: Did you have any information about menstruation in school?

YS: No, they did not provide that kind of like official information.
No, I didn't. You just go with the flow, as they say.

LS: Go with the flow! [All laugh]

YS: When I had my menstruation, by the way, I was real frightened,

I

because I didn't know a .lot about it, and because of my physical
development too early, I had it when I was ten. It's kind of very
early, and nobody explained to you at that age what it is. It is really
a very unpleasant experience. And in my family, sex--that word was

not in the vocabulary. And it's not only in my family. In my time,
nobody talked about those things; it was not discussed. Parents with
children about sex--no.

LS: And what about birth control?
YS: No, that was something absolutely unacceptable for talking.


29


LS: Did you mother say, "It'll be better if you don't get pregnant real
soon?" Did she give you any advice at all?

YS: No, no. She didn't give me any advice. I think she assumed that
maybe it won't happen right away. It happened right away.

LS: Were abortions common in the Soviet Union?

YS: Oh, very common, very common. Because the birth control

system is absolutely unacceptable. They don't have anything.

DS: So, that left only abortions.

YS: Right. They don't have anything. At my time, when I was there,
they did have something, but a lot of people just don't know if it's OK
to use it and nobody is recommending it.

LS: What do they have? Do they have diaphragms, do they have

intrauterine devices? Do you know what they have?

YS: I don't think they had intrauterine devices. They had some kind
of pills, different pills, but somewhere saying that those pills are not
good for you. You know how people talk about them, "Don't take
them--they are not good for you." Or ask your doctor, and the doctor
is saying, "Oh, you can take them, but they help one person, they
don't help somebody else." There were condoms there but not of
very good quality. So, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
And this is the only thing. Abortions--a lot, a lot. It's so common
there, so common. There were women there who had fifteen and
more in their lives. I don't know how the body can take it. I just
can't figure it out. But this is the way of life. It is just accepted, and
that's it.

LS: Where did you two live after you were married?

YS: After we were married, we lived in my husband's parents'
apartment.

LS: Is that pretty common to have to live with parents?

YS: Absolutely. That is the only way. The government is not
providing you with an apartment when you are getting married.
What happened before, I knew my husband already, and at this lime


my mother was given a new apartment. Finally, we got out of the
basement when I was sixteen, and we got a really nice apartment-


one bedroom.

LS: Same area?

YS: No, different area--a new area--and a one bedroom apartment
with own kitchen and a bathroom. In comparison with what we had,
it was a palace for us. And again, the three of us--my grandma, my
mother and myself--we lived there. My husband's brother also was
killed during World War II, and his father was waiting for an
apartment as the family of someone who died in the war. They had
that type of like a separate line--they had preference--and we were
thinking that at that time, that if I would live there, they would giye
us a bigger apartment because there would be more people. So, I
went to live there. In his apartment, we had a little room of ours,
very tiny, but we were young ...

LS: So, you could sleep together ...

YS: Absolutely. We were both skinny, so we could sleep together on
any couch. [unclear]; they were really nice years, and we were
happy there.

DS: How long did you live with them?

YS: Quite a few years, let me think, my daughter was born there-my
oldest one--and we lived there. We lived for a little short time
with my grandma when she was born, for a year or something, and
then we moved to this apartment and we stayed there for ... five
years.

LS: With your husband's family?

YS: Yes, but then, when we got a new apartment with his family, we
got it with his family, not separately.

LS: Was it a larger apartment then?

YS: Two-bedroom. Then we got a two-bedroom apartment with his

family. That means that his parents got one room, we got our
bedroom, but again, my children had to stay with me again.
3 1


LS: And you have two children?
YS: I have two children--two daughters.
DS: Did they four of you share the bedroom or did the two of the


children sleep in the living-room?
YS: We had to make arrangements. My older daughter then slept in
the living room and my little one slept with us. So, it seems that you
got a better place to live, but it's still not what you want. Still, you
don't have any privacy. Until we moved here, we never had our own
room, never.

..
LS: How was it, living with your in-laws?
YS: It was OK. They were nice people; we got along well. He had a
really nice father. It wasn't his mother; that was his second wife; his

mother died when she was young, she was fifty-four and she got an
accident, she was burned.
LS: You were working as the children were growing up?
YS: Actually, yes.
LS: Tell me the children's names and when they were born.
YS: My oldest daughter Milana was born in 1964.
DS: She was born in 1964? A year after you were married?
YS: Yes.
DS: Then you were eighteen?
YS: Right. I was such a young mother. We always looked like


sisters, even now. You would never tell.
DS: And then you other daughter?
YS: My little one was born in 1977.
DS: What's her name?


32


YS: Sasha--Aleksandra--Sasha is her name.

[All look at photographs]

LS: Your husband looks very young too. He does not look like he is

ten years older than you.
YS: He always looked young. We had opposite: I looked older and


he looked younger. That's why probably we get along. Ten years is
a big difference.
LS: She is what now, twenty-seven?
YS: She is twenty-seven now.
LS: I have a child that age.
YS: That's us again, in the sixties.


LS: You look very American. Your husband is wearing bell-bottoms,
and you've got a denim skirt. And he's got sideburns. That's the
sixties look.

YS: It was sixties.


LS: And you can't tell where in the world it was taken. Where is
Milana now?
YS: In California. She lives there.
LS: Is she married?
YS: No. She is one of those, you know, work oriented women, career


oriented.
LS: So, you said that you worked when Milana was born, right?
YS: . Yes, I worked all the time, and my grandma helped in the


beginning to take care of Milana.
LS: How did she help, because you were living with your in-laws?



YS: When she was born, we lived for a short time, for a year or
something, with my mother and my grandmother, and then when we
moved, she went to a pre-school, just like the Jewish Community
Center, and every day, before going to work, you bring her there and
after work you pick her up. That's how she was raised there.

LS: Who picked her up? Did your grandmother pick her up there?

YS: After school? After school I did or my husband or his father,
whoever was free at that time. It was very close to where we lived,
it was just a few buildings.

LS: So, that was something very nice that the Soviet Union did also?

YS: Right.

LS: Was pre-school available for everyone or [unclear]?

YS: For everyone. Absolutely. It's available for everybody,
absolutely. [??!! -comment of Russian transcriber) and absolutely
free. And they provide the meals and everything during the day for
children.

LS: So, the only thing you had to provide was the grandmother,
right?

YS: That's true.

LS: You might say that's what she missed out on, having the
grandmother to be with all day like you had.

YS: Yes. She had a nice grandfather--my husband's father. He loved
her to death. He was trembling when he was looking at her, and my
husband was so strict with her, sometimes he would run to me and
say, "Stop him, stop him. Tell him not to shrei [yell]." He was talking
Yiddish too.

LS: Oh, he was talking Yiddish too. Did your in-laws emigrate with
you?
YS: No, they died before we left.
34


LS: Did you feel that you would rather have an apartment of your

own?

YS: What kind of question is that? It's a dream of every family to
have their own apartment, but it's very uncommon that you can do it
because they have shortage; they cannot provide enough living space
for everybody.

DS: Were you on the list to wait?

YS: We were on the list for ten years, even longer. And my

husband's father was also on the list for much more than ten years.

Right after World War II he was on the list ...

LS: I assume there were tensions then, you know, when you have

two families living together and you have a little baby too. Just give

me a general idea of the sorts of problems that might have arisen.

YS: With his father, there was not any problems. With his wife, also,

we had a very good relationship. We didn't have any problems.

LS: You didn't have problems about cooking, about child rearing, for
instance?

YS: They did not interfere--period. They knew that it's our
responsibility and they didn't interfere.

DS: Did you still celebrate Jewish holidays throughout all that period,
when you were married and had your child?

YS: Oh yes, because of parents mostly. Especially his father, he had a
Torah, and he knew all the prayers. Oh yes, we did celebrate, with
all the proper food--maybe not completely everything that was ever
supposed to be done--but that was a real celebration with them
because he was really following traditions. An interesting thing
about him is that when he was younger, he wanted to go to America
and he had even tickets to go and something happened. I think it
was before World War II started, and something happened--! don't
know exactly even what--that prevented him from going. And my
husband was saying, "It's some sort of a destiny probably." And my
husband's father's sister went to America, but they got only one or
two letters from her and they don't know anything. After that she
didn't write, and up to today they don't know what happened to Jmr.


DS: Really? They can't find out?

YS: They tried, even back there. They tried to write to people who

lived here so they could make a connection. They couldn't, they

couldn't find her.

LS: Did they try the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society?

YS: I think so, but it was something... Maybe she changed her name-
probably she did because probably she got married or something. I
don't know the details, but they tried and they couldn't.

DS: How did he come to have a Torah?

YS: I don't know. I was just knowing him always and he had a talit,
he had everything. He was praying. He had his place in shul. On
holidays he used to go there and he was sitting there. He went there
to pray and he had a place, and it was a big deal, because the shul is
so small, and very restricted amount of people, it was like had some
sort of privilege. Yes, he did, and it was very nice; he was an
extremely nice person.

DS: A very religious man.

LS: How did you juggle being a full-time worker and a mother, and

you got to see your mother, and you had your grandmother?

YS: I don't know how to answer this question. In the Soviet Union,

women... juggle is not the word ...

LS: What is the word?

YS: I don't know. You have to have an enormous strength to pull all
this, but a lot of things make you so unhappy. That's why people
who are coming here first, they are pretty much uptight. Uptight in
the meaning of inside--it takes a long time to unwind, to understand
the feeling that you don't have to worry about certain things. There,
you have to worry about everything.

LS: Tell me everything you have to worry about.

/


YS: Everyday life. Something getting you upset maybe because of an
anti-Semitic kind of replica or somebody said something or
something you've heard; it can be that shortage of things; you always
have to think where do I have to buy what I have to buy to feed my
children. You cannot even imagine how upsetting it is to carry this
out from one day to the next. You bring something home to feed the
family, the next day you need it again. You have to eat a few times a
day. I think I had a very lucky part of my life that I was real happy
with my job. . A lot of people are not. So, you carry everyday
dissatisfaction of it. There, people have a car very seldom--we were
not that financially well off to have a car, we never had a car--so,
when you go to work and if it's an overwhelming crowd in the
subway, sometimes you can lose a button or something is done to
your new shoes that you were searching for a few months before
buying, you are coming to work, and you are about to scream. I
seems to be little things--big deal, what does it matter--if all those
things come together, it matters, it makes a difference.

LS: Did you feel responsible for your mother and your grandmother?

YS: That's why I started working that early, that's why I did. My

mother didn't want me to--what mother would like to want a

fourteen-year-old daughter to go to work--but I insisted. I didn't

want to tell her that you cannot do very well for me, but I insisted,

because I understood that she needed help. [End Tape 2 Side 1]

[Tape 2 Side 2]

[June 18]

LS: You were talking about how difficult life was before you left, but
it sounded like you were a very organized person and you had your
life in order--you liked your job and your child was taken care of,
and you had a fine relationship with your in-laws, even though it
had to be difficult living with so many people in a small space. What
did you do for fun, you and your husband?

YS: We had friends. We lived in the center of the city. The living
arrangements were very bad, but location-wise, we lived in the
center of the city. And this is a big city European style; it's not like
America. It's like all city is sort of like a downtown. We lived so
comfortably that we used to walk to the theatre, we used to walk3 flo


the concert halls or if we had to take transportation, it was real close.
For that pa:rt, when we lived with his parents, that period of time, we
enjoyed life real well in that we went to the movies a lot, we went to
the concerts a lot, to the opera, different things--in comparison with
the United States, the price for these cultural events is really low,
you can afford it. Here, it's very expensive, even in the middle class,
to go out to the theatre with the family, even you have even one
child or two children, you have to spend at least a hundred dollars.
There, it's much, much cheaper, and you can afford to go, and so we
did. We used to go out a lot. And we had friends. We used to meet
each other and then just walk, go to the park, or go together to the
movies--just like here, people are doing the same things here.

LS: Were those friends you met at work or friends of your

husband's?

YS: Most of them were my husband's friends; some of them, my

friends from school and his friends--mostly like neighbors, you

know, they grew up together and then kept in touch.

LS: What were your favorite sorts of movies? Did you have a

favorite sort of movie?

YS: I remember seeing American movies. They had huge success.
There were long, long lines to see the movies with Gregory Peck and
the other stars in the sixties and seventies. We learned a lot.

LS: What was he in?

YS: The Snow of Kilimanjaro, those movies, trophy movies there

were a lot. Trophy, you know, after the war, when they were
leaving--Americans--at that time when they were in contact with
the Russian army, they used to give it to them. So, they kept it.

LS: I see. Someone has mentioned that she had seen Kramer vs.
Kramer in the Soviet Union.

YS: I didn't. Maybe somebody else did.

LS: What you thought of America, did you think of gangsters,
repression of blacks, did you think of the Golden Land, did you have
any notions?

38


YS: Everything you said all together. First of all, it depends on the
person. I have that kind of personality--! am a very down-to-earth
person. I am not seeing things in a pink cloud, and I am trying not to
see things in a black-and-white type of thing. I am trying to make
certain of reality. We used to get a lot of information from different
sources. We used to listen to the radio a lot: The Voice of America,
also BBC, that kind of stuff. Then we read a lot of whatever it is in
the newspaper, magazines and so forth. Of course, in Russian ones,
they would most of the time print something which they want you to
see. But if you ~do not make a lot of assumptions yourself and try to
take the facts out of it, it depends on your personality how you get it
out, what kind of result does it have on your image of America.
Probably, whatever you. mentioned, everything all together: blacks
and black problems here--we knew that there is anti-Semitism here
too--we knew about good part of life and the bad part of life; we got
a lot of information and we understood that there is no such Golden
Land in the world, including America, but in comparison with
Russian life, everything you think is good or bad, you compare it
with something. One person thinks it's good and another it's not so
good and so forth, it's just like clothes--somebody likes it and
somebody doesn't. It depends on what you compare it with. In
comparison with our future that we saw in the Soviet Union, America
was definitely a land where you can build it in a much better way
than there.

LS: Did you listen to the Voice of Israel?

YS: Yes.

LS: Did your family listen to that around 1967, during the Six Day
War?

YS: Yes, we did follow that. I don't remember that many things
about it, but yes, definitely. The Soviet radio and television and
newspapers, there were a lot of things about the war there. The way
they presented it, maybe sometimes there· were typical politics of the
way to present it, but the facts were there, and yes, we did follow
and we did struggle emotionally, like everybody else, wishing they
would win. People were talking to each other and were following it.

LS: So, you had a decent life. Was your husband as happy with his
job as you with yours?
39


YS: Yes. At the time we left, yes, he was.
LS: What made you decide to emigrate?
YS: This is a very complicated question. There is all sorts of reasons,

and for us, for example, the main reason was the future of your
children. This is the main thing. I am trying to sort of prioritize.
When you start talking about different reasons, they influence so
much your life and your decision and the everyday activities and
everyday happiness that sometimes you don't know which is the
most important. They are all important when you live your life.
Analyzing, I think that the most important factor is your children's
future. We were happy with our jobs, and at the time we left, we
had a decent place to live, although we were living with his parents.
Aaron's father died while we were in a more decent place before we
left, and with his stepmother we had a really good relationship, so at
that time, the main concern was about our children's future. AntiSemitism
in the Soviet Union is more than great.

LS: Did it change dramatically from when you were a child or? ..

YS: No, I don't think so. It just depends on how it influences you
personally and how you feel it. But it's like constitutionalized, so to
speak. It's not officially constitutionalized, of course, but everybody
knows the fact that, let's say, to get a higher education, to go to
universities, colleges--everybody knows it--in colleges half of a
percent or none should be Jewish nationality. So, you know what
kind of chances your children have to go to the university. Next to
nothing--I mean, nothing. There is no chance to get a good
education, and for us understanding of education is number one
priority in life. If you don't have--and it's there and here, the same
thing--here I had the same outlook on life for my children--if you
don't have a good education, you don't have a good life. So, there we
had the same thing. I was raised that way, even though my mother
was always saying, "See, how I'm working. See how hard I'm
working. Do you want to work the same way? I don't want you to.
Then, not to do that, get a good education." I was telling the same
thing to my children, "You want to do better than I do? Only one
way. Get a good education." And there is no future without good
education there. There is no future for them then to get a good job
and be promoted and have a professional future, go through the
territory. If you don't have education, there is no chance that you
have a good career in your life. Those things, plus anti-Semitism4Ka>r


their future. I am not even talking about us. For their future. Anti


Semitism for their future is an absolutely unbearable thing to think.

What do they do? How can they live the way it is there? They

almost can't. It's like a snowball: it grows. Your decision and your

outlook. Your patience is running out. You grow; your emotional

preparation, that stage, it's going to move and move, until the point

that you decided, "Yes. Let's go and let's do it."

LS: Can you remember at some point when you and your husband

actually started discussing this seriously? What year was that?

YS: Sure. We left in '81; we decided probably two and a half-three
years before we left, including one year we were refused. I'll
mention this later. It's a lot of factors. Let's say, some of the people
we knew, our neighbors or people we were acquainted with, had
relatives here. To make a decision to go if you have relatives here, is
a little bit easier. I am not saying that they calculated those relatives
to give them too much of support or give them money for a living, or
something like that--I am not talking about that part--but still you
have some kind of a support when you come in from your relatives.
It's different. It's not that scary. We didn't have anybody here. We
don't have anybody now. As I mentioned, I am the only one in the
family.

LS: I thought you were related in some way to Dora Hack?

YS: No.

LS: So, you have no relatives at all here?

YS: No. We have no relatives at all. The only relative is my
husband's cousin, but he came just one year before us, and the only
thing is that we read his letters to the close relatives of his about
how they liked it here ...

LS: Did he write that?

YS: He wrote that. They came one year before us, but at that time
anyway we decided. But we just knew a little more about this
particular [place], St. Paul/Minneapolis from that. It was no
difference for us where to go--we didn't have anybody anywhere-so,
it would be up to us to decide where to.

41


LS: Did he talk about the troubles he had in settling in?
YS: He talked a lot about how he liked it. They were so impressed.
LS: What were they impressed with, do you recall?
YS: Well, again, there is a difference between our personalities and

the way of life we left. When they left, we had better living
conditions than they did; I presume we liked our jobs better than
they did. The feeling you have when you are coming over is a little
different. We were not as excited as they were--not because there
was something wrong with the place we came--but we were just
differently prepared for it. We knew so much. After we decided
that Minneapolis, we started to learn about it. I went to the library,
I went to some other sources, I asked people, and I got so much
information about St. Paul/Minneapolis that I don't think that a lot of
people who live here know what we knew when we were coming
over.

LS: And was it all accurate information?

YS: Yes. The information was pretty accurate. Of course, when you
see it with your eyes, it's different, but we were prepared for a lot of
things here of what we were going to see. So, we were not so excited
as they were, and we came, we first had an apartment on Sibley

·Manor, you know, like most Russian people who came here, and the
apartment we had (in Russia) was a little bit better than this one. So,
you are changing your living conditions--nothing to the worse--but
not to the better than we lived before. For those relatives, it was
opposite: their living conditions were worse, and so they were
changing their living conditions to the better. So, it's different.

LS: Did they talk about what seemed bizarre to them here, in
America?

YS: Bizarre? Yes, they mentioned the things, but I knew it not from
their letters, but from whatever literature I read about it. Actually, I
can't remember anything from them saying that this is bizarre. Most
things they saw they liked.

LS: I am just curious if you remember any parts of a letter because I
know that letters from immigrants had been very important in
having people decide. 4 2


YS: They were describing the apartment; they were describing how
people are going shopping to the markets and buying food for certain
period of time--you don't have to go every day--you know, lots are
buying for a week, and other for two weeks, you can do whatever
you want. And they were describing how children go to school, the
difference between school systems for what they knew. They didn't
have any small children, but from observing some other children to
go. . They were writing about the Jewish Community Center. They
were so impressed with it that they were like there were no words
to describe it, how nice it is and they were very impressed seeing all
these Jewish people together. After the Soviet Union it's really
impressive to see that, there are almost tears, to hear Yiddish from
people and how people are not hiding, that you can go in the street
and not be ashamed to speak Yiddish--you don't do it in the Soviet
Union. Because you are ashamed, because they would start looking
at you and they will name you mimes. It does not happen in the
Soviet Union, and you are raised that way, and you kind of get used
to it that you don't do those things. Here, it's the opposite. You do
that. You feel free. Children are proud of it. They wear Mage n
David (star of David). The child would wear a Magen David? Are you
kidding? It would be just a revolution in the Soviet Union at that
time. Right now, they do it, but not at the time when we left. So, it
was really interesting. And then, they described that the climate
here is exactly like in Kiev. All those four seasons, and even
temperature during the winter time is exactly the same. They liked
it a lot because it's green, and Kiev is also a very green city, a lot of
green there. A lot of things they described. But they were not still
that deep into the life to describe all the other things.

LS: But it's interesting to get those first impressions.

YS: That's right, and they were more than great.

LS: When you decided to leave, how old was Milana?.

YS: At the moment we left, she was sixteen and Sasha was three and
a half.

LS: So, you were worried about her future?
YS: Both of them--two children--definitely.
43


LS: But I mean Milana was getting close to ...

YS: Yes. We didn't see any future for Milana and then, of course, for

Sasha, same thing. And that was the only way to keep it going. And

since we didn't have any relatives, it was really scary for us.

Because nobody guarantees you how you will take the language

here...

LS: Did you start learning English there?

YS: I learned a little bit in school, but in comparison with how you

come here ...

LS: I was wondering if you took some classes before you left.

YS: No, we didn't take any classes, but I learned some in school, and

we were working a little bit with books on our own before we came,

but when we came, we understood that we didn't know anything.

LS: Had Milana taken English in school?

YS: She was learning English in school. She didn't take any

additional lessons.

LS: Was she less prepared, you think, when she came?

YS: Yes, I would think so.

LS: Did you know any other people besides this relative who had
come earlier?

YS: No.

LS: No one from your immediate circle? Had you thought about
going to Israel rather than the United States?

YS: Going to Israel, we had heard so many things about it that we
didn't think that, without having anybody in Israel, it would be much
harder for us to make a good living for us and our children in Israel
than here. We were thinking about a lot of things and decided that
we would probably be better off to come here.

LS: So, you applied and... Was your mother still alive? 44


YS: It happened that we applied together--my mother, myself, our
family, and my husband's sister with her family. And it happened
that they let my mother go, but they refused my family and my
husband's sister's family. When those things happened there, there
is no explanation why. You don't ask questions, and they don't give
you an answer. It's just the way it is. You are not going--period. We

. were struggling for a year after my mother left. My mother left. She
thought that we were coming right after her--she didn't know how
long it would take us to get out--and she left and she came here
because we told her--for her there was not any difference either, but
she would go where children go. So, she came here because we
decided to come here, and then she found out that we are not
coming, and then she started struggling here. She went to Rabbi
Raskas and all this community, and everybody knew that we were
refused and she was asking for help to get us out. She did a lot of
things, and the community helped her in the way that they contacted
people in Washington and different places to see if they can help
somehow. The final thing is that there were Olympic Games in 1980
in Moscow, and we told the Russian government that if they will not
let us go, we will try to contact foreign representatives, officials, and
reporters ...

LS: Were you thrown out of work by the way?

YS: I was not thrown out of work. I left work myself, but I didn't
not do it because I wanted to leave. Under the circumstances I knew
they would ask me to leave. I just did what they would have asked
me to do anyway.

LS: Did your husband also?

YS: No, he was staying until the last day. He didn't quit. They
wanted him to quit, but he didn't.


LS: Oh really, you have that option?

YS: Well, he just took his chances. We had to live, we had to eat.

LS: I was going to ask you how you were eating.

45


YS: That's exactly what I am saying. He didn't have any options. He
was just taking a chance, and they didn't throw him out, and he was
working until the last day.

LS: And did Milana have trouble in her school?

YS: Yes. Milana had big trouble in her school. They were making big
scenes out of her applying for going.

LS: Were there any other children in her class whose parents
applied?

YS: She .had to quit school. She did not finish the year at school. She
quit but it was OK with us.

LS: Was it OK with her? Was she angry with you for putting her in
that position?

YS: No, she wasn't. She didn't like the system, and she was looking
forward to leaving for something better. She felt pretty much antiSemitism
in school and in the surroundings she was growing, and she
was really looking forward to leaving.

LS: So you said that you threatened the government with
demonstrations?

YS: You cannot threaten the Russian government...

LS: That's why I am laughing, but you and who else?

YS: Just the two of us.

LS: Just the two of you, you didn't have a group to support you?

YS: No, we did not have a group, but the two of us, when we were
contacted and talking to people who had our personal portfolio, that's
what we were saying.

LS: Who had your personal portfolio? You mean Americans?

YS: No, no. I mean the Russian government, [people] who are in
charge, who have your dossier, and who are keeping in touch with
you, sending you letters. They were saying that if we would be edj_6iet


during the Olympic Games, they would let us go after that. And you
don't play much with the Russian government. So, we decided that if
they are saying it that there is no reason not to believe them.
Otherwise, nobody is asking them to say it. They say whatever they
want and do whatever they want. So, we were quietly waiting until
the Olympic Games finished, and yes, after that, they let us go. They
finally gave us permission to go, and by the time we came here, it
was already one year later, after we originally planned.

LS: Did your mother meet you at the airport then?

YS: Yes.

LS: Who else was at the airport?

YS: Sue and Chuck Lapinski. You probably know them.

LS: Oh yes. They work at the JCC?

YS: They don't work, but they volunteer for eleven years, they

volunteer with Russian families. They were volunteers for my

mother, and they there, and my mother and my grandma. And Sue

and Chuck Lapinski were a very nice couple, very, very nice. And
my husband's cousin with his wife.

LS: Then you came to this apartment?

YS: We came to this apartment...

LS: And you thought, "Oh! GK ... "

YS: No. I should tell you frankly, because of how I explained a
nature of mine, for example, I didn't expect anything better than this
apartment. I was really, really appreciative for what we were
getting. I thought that what the Jewish community did for us is
more than great. This is unbelievable, and for the rest of my life I
will really appreciate what they have done for us. All the support,
from the beginning, putting us through Italy, all the steps that
immigrants are supposed to go through, support us there, then when
we came in, we had an apartment--it's not the best apartment, but
you have a decent place to live right away--then after we came in,
we had an opportunity to go to school for a couple of months, and

47


then we immediately went to work--we didn't sit on welfare. For all
things they have done for us, we are greatly appreciative.

LS: Did you find your jobs yourself?

YS: Yes. Aaron started working first, and then I found a job after

him.

LS: How did you know how to find a job? I mean, it was so different
from the Soviet Union where you did it through network?

YS: We were educated people. If somebody is coming who is not

intelligent, not educated, it makes a very big difference.

LS: I know, but still it's scary.

YS: It is scary, but if you emigrated already, what else is scary? You
just go for it, that's all. You are going through so many scary stages
that by the time you are looking for a job, you are so aggressive. We
wanted to find jobs so badly. We didn't want to be one of those who
sits and asks for charity. We were very ambitious. We didn't want
to do that. So, we started looking around. We had even a few
session--I think it's Jewish Family Service--at tha~ time they had a
little group of Russian immigrants and they were taught how to find
a job, how to conduct an interview, how to look up in the paper, to go
to agencies, how to write a resume and so forth. So, we had a couple
of those sessions of how to do that, and we learned rather quickly.

LS: When you say you are aggressive, I have to agree with you
because I've spoken to other immigrants who have had more years
of education than you who feel as though the Jewish community
ought to have found them the job. They felt that perhaps the Jewish
Family Service--maybe this was the Jewish Vocational Service--had
not done enough. They showed them how, but they didn't actually
take them and find it for them.

YS: This is the difference between people.

LS: You are absolutely right--people are different.

YS: I didn't expect anything like it, and I appreciate everything they
have done. We were really aggressive. We did not expect anybody
to find . anything for us. As I said, we did not have anybody to c4dht


on support. So, you can imagine that we had to be aggressive in

order to count on ourselves, to come in without having anybody's

support, without knowing the language. I even know that some

people who had the language as the main education--English

language as the main education--they came here and they had to

have thirteen months of learning and adjusting in order to speak

fluently. So what about those who did not know the language at all.

LS: Were you willing to take something outside your field? [End

Tape 2 Side 2]

[Tape 3 Side 1]

YS: That we didn't expect...

LS: A job in the field in which you had worked in the Soviet Union?

YS: No, absolutely not. I didn't have any foolish ideas. I was
thinking about finding a job in the field I am specialized, but I didn't
have any ideas that if not in this field, I wouldn't like to go to any
place else. I had a real picture in my mind that I will do whatever is
necessary to be done, whatever I can possibly do to maintain as good
a living as I possibly can. But I didn't have any ideas about being
upset not to do what I wanted to do. Of course, it is upsetting if you
can do that, but if you think that way, it's even more upsetting when
you cannot do it right away. You should be realistic, and that's what
I have to give credit to myself. I was absolutely realistic and down
to earth. If I will not be able to do what I want to do, I will do what
I have to do. So, that's how it turned out to be.

LS: I've heard that some of the Soviets are not used to getting fired
or laid off...

YS: This is one of the drawbacks which I consider to be a negative
side of a society, that you don't have any job guarantee, because you
can be laid off, but this is an economic system, and we knew about it
before. It wasn't a cause for us not to come in. No. But I think even
now, of course, that this is a drawback of this society, but it's just an
economic system set up this way. When you have freedom, you have
a lot of good things along with the bad ones. You are taking both.

49


LS: Did you have a family assigned to you, like the Lapin skis were
assigned to your mother?

YS: We had Yasha Rabinovich, if you know him--Jack Rabinowitz-you
know Jack ...

LS: Yes. We used to work on the Soviet Jewry Committee together.

YS: So, Jack was our volunteer, but we did not need a volunteer for
such a long time, but he was really nice, and his family, when we
came over, they invited us for first Pesach. It was really nice,
because we just came in, and it was a very nice experience. They
were really friendly, and I really appreciate their friendship.

LS: When did you start making friends? You left a circle of friends
behind and you had to start making a new circle of friends?

YS: When we came over, we started getting acquainted with the
people our age and our interests. You know Inna Braginsky?
Actually, Inna is my best friend. I don't have that many friends.
know quite a lot of people but. ..

LS: Now, Isya I know. Isya is the mother-in-law?

YS: Right, but I am talking about Inna--her son and his wife.

LS: Did it turn out that there were other people from Kiev?

YS: There are quite a lot of other people from Kiev, but the thing is
that all of those people have a lot of relative between themselves.
So, they have a mishpukha (family).

LS: They have an enormous mishpukha.

YS: Right. They have a mishpukha between them--we don't. We are
just keeping relationship as friends, not as immediate family,
because they do have an immediate family--pretty big one--so if you
have any free time, the immediate family comes first, and then,
friends are friends. Since we don't have an immediate family as big
as theirs, we are not that much involved with other people.

LS: Have you made other friends or has that been a problem since
you came? 50


YS: It's not a problem. I am not looking for any close friends to take

them as close friends and they are not there.

LS: You are not looking for that? Don't you miss that, close

friendships that you had?

YS: I have a different lifestyle here, and I enjoy what I have. I read

a lot; I go with my family most of the time, and I enjoy very much

what I do now at work. Now I do what I wanted to do originally.

LS: What do you do now?

YS: I work as a purchasing specialist, but it didn't come right away.

I worked in a different job for the same company, but in a different

job, and I got a promotion. And I do very much like what I do now.

LS: Do you ever spend time with people at work? I mean, spend

time outside of work, go do anything?

YS: Not really, not very much. They do not have that many activities
for all them spending together. We had some things--like last
Saturday we had a picnic from work. So, I met a lot of people I am
working with there. They had a lot of vacations [?] from companies
like a little bit after work or even end of the day or some kind of
activities where people meet, and outside the work not many people
in my work environment are close after work. And it does not
matter that it's immigrant or native Americans, native meaning who
was born here.

LS: Do you socialize much with the other Soviet immigrants?

YS: Not too much, not too much. I just know people and I am real
polite with them. I can call sometimes or they can call, and we can
meet if we go some places, but I am not too much involved in that.

LS: Have you used the Jewish Community Center very much for
yourself and your family?

YS: My oldest daughter Milana, she was the first Russian child who
graduated from Sunday School in Temple of Aaron. It was a really
pleasant experience. We had so many nice experiences here, which
is really so memorable. Like that one, and then we had the Templli


of Aaron celebration of graduation, and they were announcing that

she is the first Russian child who graduated. We were enormously

pleased. It was to the point of crying of how we finally lived to the

moment to enjoy our Jewishness, and all these relations with the

Jewish community--this is the first outcome of it, something which

you are really proud of. Then, we had a special celebration for

Russian Jewish couples. You remember? Were you there?

LS: No, I don't think I was, but Felicia(Weingarten) was telling me
about it.
(Weingarten organized a Jewish wedding for Russian couples who
wanted to experience a Jewish ceremony. This was held at Temple of
Aaron.

YS: Right, Felicia was the main organizer. It was so beautiful, it was

nice, it was a big celebration, with music afterwards.

LS: But of course, you had a Jewish wedding?

YS: Well, but it wasn't religious. I didn't have a chupa (wedding

canopy). It's not the same. And here, we had that chupa for--I don't

remember--it was twelve or thirteen couples, and the rabbi, almost

like a real wedding.

LS: But you didn't have two dresses this time?

YS: No, I had only one, but it was really beautiful. So, we really

enjoyed it a lot. It was a very interesting experience in our lives.

And I really appreciate that they have done it. It was so thoughtful
, doing that. I just want to emphasize that I understand and don't

take it for granted. Whatever they did, whatever they do now, I

think should be greatly appreciated.

LS: Were you interested in joining the synagogue? I know a lot of

Russians are really happy with what the JCC offers and feel that

religion really does not play an important part in their lives.

YS: See, everybody is taking religion as far as they are comfortable.
If you want to go every Friday to the synagogue, it's fine. If you
want to go once in a few months, it's fine. It does not mean that you
are not Jewish. You taking life in the perspective of whatever you
feel comfortable. We are very comfortable the way we are. We go to
the synagogue--not every Friday, but as often as we can--and mfr2


oldest daughter, as I said, she graduated from the Sunday School.

Our little one, she has completely had a very great American

experience of being raised as a Jewish child, and we are very

extremely pleased with that.

LS: Did she have the Jewish grade school?

YS: No. First she went to Lubavich School for a few years--she went
there for three years, I guess.

LS: Why did you do that?

YS: The first reason was not Jewish, so to speak. Sasha, my little
daughter, she is a very smart girl, and we didn't want her to go to
the kindergarten. We wanted her to go straight to the first grade.
And the school did not want to accept her. They were saying that it
was the age, because she was small and so forth, and then she did
not know Hebrew. And we wanted her to learn Hebrew. So, under
the circumstances, we decided that it would be nice if she would go
to that school, to Lubavich. So, she went to Lubavich, and they were
very nice, very friendly. The rabbi himself was teaching her Hebrew
so that she could keep up with some children, and in a few months
she was just as good as all the other children that speak Hebrew
from the day they are born. She was staying there until the point
that our lifestyle was extremely different, and we decided that it was
time for her to go the regular school. So, we transferred her. But we
don't have any regrets or anything to that point because what she
gained from there, some Hebrew basics and some knowledge of the .
Jewish life, will always be with her. I think it was a really good
experience.

LS: And now does she go to the school in Eagan?

YS: She goes to the Sunday School. Yes, she goes to the public school,
and she is now going to the Sibley High School next year to the ninth
grade, and she had her Bat Mitzvah, and it was a really pleasant
experience. The first time in our family, we were so excited, we
were absolutely thrilled.

LS: Did you ever think of sending her to Talmud Torah, the afterschool
Hebrew school?

53


YS: No, no. We thought about it some time ago, but the
arrangements with Talmud Torah are unacceptable for us. This is
one of the things that because there are just two of us, we could not
drive her to that school at the certain times when they are working.
Their hours contradict our hours. Aaron is always working until,
most of the days, until nine in the evening. I had for a few years a
schedule when I was working from six in the morning till six at
night. Very, very irregular schedule for both of us. So, we did not
have any opportunity to drive her back and forth to school and after.

LS: There was no bus at Talmud Torah?

YS: No, there isn't. So, first we thought about it, but when we found
out that nothing we could do about it to accommodate the schedule,
we just quit the idea. And it's all right. Most of her friends are
Jewish. They go with her to school because a lot of children from
Mendota Heights go to the same school. So, most of her friends live
in Mendota Heights. They also go to that school, and they are from
real Jewish families, native Americans, with big, big mishpukhas and
everything. And she is very happy.

LS: Does she feel as an outsider?

YS: Sasha? No! Sasha is a very, every friendly girl, and she is
welcome in every family. She is very, very communicable.

LS: And of course, she came here at a young age.

YS: Yes. She was raised just like any other child.

LS: When did you move to Eagan?

YS: I think, after two and a half years.

LS: Did you live in Sibley Manor before that?

YS: Yes.

LS: You moved to Eagan from Sibley Manor?

YS: Yes.

LS: Why did you choose Eagan?

54


YS: It's close enough. We just found a really nice apartment there

that we liked, and it was a good location. We liked it, and we still

like it.

LS: It was a good value too, wasn't it?

YS: Yes, at that time, yes.

LS: And what about Milana? Did she have trouble coming here and

adjusting to the high school?

YS: Milana had a little more trouble. In a way that because she was

not raised here, she did not have those friends--you know, you are

making friends ...

LS: When you come as a teenager, even if you are an American and

move from school to school...

YS: You are right. She had it really complicated in the high school
because she could not make as many friends as she would like to,
because they were already friends with somebody else and so forth,
and it's really hard to find somebody. She had some friends, she met
a couple of children, but she did not make big friends with them.
When we left, she did not even graduate from the eighth grade
because of all the circumstances at school and we decided that she
has to quit. When we came over, we came in April. So, it was only
like one a half months before the school year ends. So, she went
straight to the eleventh grade. They gave her a test, they took her
in, and she graduated the eleventh grade with one month being in
school.

LS: That tells you about how retarded the American school system

. . h?

IS, ng t.

YS: Exactly, exactly. I mentioned before in the very beginning, in
our previous interview, how disappointing it is, especially
elementary school, and this is one of those things. So, she graduated
from the eleventh grade after a month of being there and then she
went to the twelfth grade, and this is like the final school year.

LS: Was she still having any problems with English?
55


YS: She did not have any problems. She was studying hard. She
had to work a lot, and it didn't come out as a problem. She worked it
out, and she speaks beautifully. She graduated from high school at
the top of the class and she went straight to the university, U of M,
she was accepted right away. Then, at the University, she made
friends, because at the University, a lot of people are coming from
different schools; they don't know each other. That's where her
social life practically began, not in school, but there. And she did
really well. She graduated from U of M, then she got her master's
degree there right after, and then she found a job in California.

LS: Were you depressed or amazed that one had to pay for

university education here? Did you know that?

YS: Sure. We knew that. We knew that you have to pay, we knew

that you can take loans. We knew all those things, and we thought

that whatever it has to be.

LS: What was your best source of information? You said you knew

all this stuff, but you must have made a lot of mistakes along the

way in assuming one thing.

YS: A lot of information we got about the University, the details, of
course, when we were here, where Milana was in the twelfth grade.
We talked to a lot of people. Some of our other friends, their
children already went to a university. So, they had the information
of how to adjust there and what you have to do, how you pay, these
details. But general information about American education we got in
the Soviet Union.

LS: General information about getting a car, filing an income tax,
going to the doctor, all of this stuff?

YS: What's the big deal about going to the doctor?

LS: OK, buying a car.

YS: What the big deal about buying a car?

LS: You know, you have to figure out how you are going to pay and
where you register ...

56


YS: They tell you where to register, and how you pay always

depends on how much money you have. It's not complicated, that

wasn't a problem.

LS: Probably income tax was a problem?

YS: Income tax--yes--income tax was a problem. You don't do it

yourself. You give this problem to somebody else to do and you pay

for it.

LS: You gave the problem to somebody else immediately?

YS: Yes. Now my husband does it himself. It's not a problem now.

And everybody does the same thing. Do Americans do income taxes

themselves? They also pay.

LS: I mean, there are differences in [unclear] a lot of people paying

income tax they don't try to cheat the government because they

know that it is probably not worth it.

YS: Yes, I know. It's a lot of information. Even after all these years
living here, you constantly learn things. There is so much
information here. This is one of the things when Russian families are
coming--there is one couple here, it's really interesting about them-a
year and a half ago we went to the temple and a man is coming to
my husband, he stops right in front of his face and says, "Are you
Aaron Solganik?" Aaron looked at him and said, "Yes." And he
looked at him and in a few seconds he recognized him. They knew
each other back twenty-five -thirty years ago; they learned
together, they were working together, they were acquaintances, and
then they didn't see each for a long time. And he recognized him,
and right now we keep in touch and we try to help them as much as
we can.

LS: So, they came over more recently?

YS: Yes, like a year and a half. The point I remember about it is that
on their example we just realized now of how much knowledge you
are gaining over the years. Of course, they didn't know what we
knew when we were coming over, but you cannot know a lot of
things. You live here and you don't know a lot of things, but
especially when you are coming over. And we are trying now to get
as much information to them and as much information to help tlfum


out with, to call different people and organizations for them and fill

out different applications and all of that. Yes, for the people who are

coming over--especially not very young and aggressive people who

are taking a lot of information right into their head--it's a very

complicated life, extremely complicated, but you just do the best you

can.

LS: Well, you two, as you say, are aggressive and determined. Was

there some help that you thought the JeWish community would give

you and didn't?

YS: Like I said, if they would give me more, it would be appreciated

just as much as they gave me.

LS: But you did fine yourself.

YS: I did not use the Jewish community to the extent of--I didn't ask
for anything. I appreciated whatever they gave me at the moment
and I didn't ask for anything else. And I never accused them for not
giving me anything else.


LS: I know, you didn't accuse them, but you might have felt, "Well, it
would have been nice if they had done this or that. It would have
made my life a little easier."


YS: You wish all the time. I would wish I would win ten million


dollars and my life would be even more easier. I did not have that


approach of waiting for somebody to do more than they did.


LS: Did you feel, for example, when you went to the Temple of
Aaron, did you feel that American Jews might have been friendlier
or they felt that you were going to be like their grandparents were?
That they had an idea of what Russian immigrants were going to be
like?


YS: There are presumptions. But it's in every society, it's not only in
America--a stereotype. And Americans have the same way.
Russians also have the stereotype about Americans, by the way, and
it's not the best one.


LS: What is the Russian stereotype about Americans, that they are
rich and they throw their money around?


58


YS: It's not like they throw their money around, but they definitely
think that Americans do not appreciate what they have, which is the
truth.

LS: Americans do not appreciate what they have?

YS: That's right, that's right. Because you did not have all those
hardships which Soviet people did. So, you think whatever you have,
you are taking it for granted. It is not your fault.

LS: That's valid.

YS: Yes, it's not their fault. It's not their fault that they just were
born in these surroundings and they are taking whatever is good for
granted here, but it's very appreciated, at least on my side, when I
can compare it with the Soviet Union--the lifestyle, what's going on
here--but I am also very critical and I understand the bad side of
what's going on here, so, I just take those things as they are and try
to make the best out of it.

LS: So, anyhow, the American stereotype of the Russian immigrants,
did it sort of make you chuckle or did it make you annoyed or both?

YS: First of all, they didn't make me chuckle, but sometimes it's a
little irritating.

LS: What is the stereotype, what did you think the stereotype was?

YS: The stereotype is, first of all, they think of Russian people as a
little primitive; they do not understand that they are quite
intelligent, educated and know much more than the things they do.
Sometimes you get a question or you get an impression that really
insults your intelligence. Some people, later on, when you find out
talking to them, definitely are not worth your time and your
intelligence. And they are looking at you like it's something like, if
somebody would ask, "Do bears go in Moscow or in Kiev across the
street?" What would you answer to that question? Sometimes
people are asking questions which you just cannot believe that they
ask. It's so primitive. They think that you have never seen a good
meal, that you don't know how to cook it, or you've never been to a
nice house, or you've never seen such nice clothes and that type of
stuff. Kind of really primitive understanding of the Soviet people.
think now they are a little bit different--they can see more of 5 9


intellectuals coming over and they can see how they live and how

they are taking life and what's become of them later on--they are

really amazed now how Russian people are achieving quickly what

some Americans would not achieve even in their lifetime.

LS: Let's talk about achieving. Do you feel that this is your home

now?

YS: Absolutely. I just want to make a little point. After so many

years living here, there are certain types of Russian people who

adjusted to life in America differently. There are people who live, I

should say, good Russian style in America.

LS: What sort of Russian style?

YS: They mainly think and do and try to keep in touch and stay

within Russian criteria of a good living.

LS: But what is the Russian criteria of a good living. Tell me, I am

totally ignorant.

YS: They mostly have friends in the Russian community; the typical
American [ways of] spending time, American pleasures, they don't
even want to try. They just stick to whatever they know, whatever
they are comfortable, just the way they experienced before; they are
very Russionile (it's not the word, it should be something differenttranscriber),
but they are trying to live like they would live in Russia
but America, but still keeping Russian way of life--Russian cooking
and Russian speaking and having only Russian friends, and that type
of style, and go to the Russian stores. There are some others who are
more Americanized. I, for example, am very Americanized. Not to
say that I do not do things that they do. I do go to Russian stores if it
pleases me; I do talk to Russian people in Russian, but for example, I
read only English literature in English, I read only newspapers and
magazines. I am not saying that it is very good, but I don't
remember when I read any Russian book or anything. I don't read
even Russian newspapers. If I talk to somebody who I know has the
paper, they can tell me something that they read there in a
conversation, but I personally do not do it. My family does not
receive that kind of literature. We like the way it is here.

LS: What do you speak at home?'
60


YS: We do speak Russian, we do, but we read only English, and all
day long I am talking only in English, and I have a job which
requires a lot talking during the day, extreme communication skills,
because I meet a lot of people during the day. And I deal with
different kinds of problem solving. I am constantly on the telephone
and helping people, and I have [unclear] and I have a computer, and
I have that kind of a job--they call me ambulance.

LS: They call you what?

YS: Ambulance--because I am. solving problems a lot during the day,
and I really like it. And also you think in English, you speak English.
A lot of Russian people are working on jobs which do not require a
lot of communication. Usually, there is certain work, you can do it
very well, you can be very educated, and even working as an
engineer--! know let's say two Russian people who are in really good

positions, they are big specialists and they have good salaries--but
their jobs do not require a lot of communication skills. So, most of
the day, they just sit... [End Tape 3 Side 1]

[Tape 3 Side 2]

YS: ... with what they have, and then after that kind of a day, they
are coming home and they speak Russian and they do all those things
with their families, because again, they have relatives and children,
grandchildren or whatever, and they talk to all of them in Russian,
and they talk to all of them a lot because they have a lot of those
people. On the contrary, my family does not. My daughter talks to
her friends always in English, and when we talk to her, I ask her to
speak Russian, but she starts talking in Russian, then she wants to
explain something, express herself, and she cannot do it in Russian.
So, she speaks English. And without knowing it, I start keeping
conversation with her in English too, because it's easier for me to talk
in English.

LS: Don't you miss the wonderful parts of Russian culture?

YS: Like what?

LS: I don't know. I am not speaking about what's Soviet; I am
talking about mother-Russia.
61


YS: No, I don't. I don't miss that.

LS: If there were wonderful parts [?] of Russian literature, would

you go out of your way to ...

YS: If would like to have any kind of Russian literature here, I can

do that. I can go to the library and order any kind of book I want

and read it. I don't miss it.

LS: You don't feel cut off from your culture?

YS: No, I don't feel cut off. That's what I am saying. I am very much
Americanized, and I like it that way. I like English. I like talking in
English, I like the language, and I just feel very comfortable.

LS: How long did it take before you felt comfortable?

YS: I felt comfortable right away. Not saying that I started speaking
like I speak now right away, but since I liked it, it makes a
difference. If you don't like it and you do it out of necessity, you will
not be able to ever do it very well or having pleasure. Some people
are just talking in English out of necessity. They have to, they cannot
survive without it, but they would prefer to forget about it after they
leave work or go to a different place, and they would prefer to have
everything else. What I do miss is that easy opportunity to go to
places, like to go to the theatre and concerts and opera. There are so
many things here to see and to go to, that is unbelievable. It 's very
mce. It's great opportunities, but it's very expensive, very
expensive. And to go as often as I would like to, I can't, I can't afford
to do that. That's probably ...

LS: What about your mother? Did you ever think that she should
live with you ~ather than by herself? Does she live by herself?

YS: Yes, now she lives by herself in New York.

LS: Why did she move to New York?

YS: My mother was feeling lonely here. She is a very dynamic and
young woman. And here she did not have anybody. She had me, her
daughter, but she had a lot of friends in New York and she kind of
felt lonely here, she could not go places where she wanted. She felt
too isolated here, and myself, my family has its own life--we had5 2


that crazy schedule and children and so forth--so she felt that maybe
she would live there for a couple of years and have maybe a more
active life.

LS: That seems very unusual for a Russian grandmother to leave

children.

YS: It is. That's right, but she knew that her children would be OK.
This is the thing. In Russia, you always have to support your
children until they retire. They have a joke about it. "What kind of
parents are you if you cannot support your children till they retire?"
Here, you don't have to do that. Here, you are on your own. Children
are on their own, and they take care of themselves. So, she does not
have to think of supporting me from some sort of financial point or
something like that, and I wasn't against it. I said, "If you decided
you want to go, go."

LS: Didn't you feel, though, sort of reproach that you were not

spending enough time with her?

YS: She had such a bad life. She did not have any good time in her
life. She never felt free. She never had a lot of opportunities, even
those I did. I think of myself as not having a lot of opportunities, but
she had a very, very hard life. As a child during World War II, then
after that, things did not go well my father, she had to get a divorce;
then she worked two jobs, she worked long hours; she didn't have a
very good personal life, and my grandma, had to help her. She was
not a very easy woman to live with; she was a very difficult person.
My mother all her life lived with her and supported her. I feel so
sorry for her that I was very understanding of what she is doing. I
thought, "If you want to do anything with your life now and if you
have a chance to do it, do it."

LS: How old is she now?

YS: She will be sixty-four in July.

LS: Is she enjoying New York?

YS: Well, she misses us very much, but she likes that type of life,
that hassle and [unclear].

LS: Where is she living in New York?


YS: In Brooklyn, where everybody lives.
LS: You mean Brighton Beach, in that area?
YS: No, in Brighton Beach. In Brooklyn, they have a place called

Little Italy. She lives there.

LS: Does it have a lot of Soviet people?

YS: Yes, in the building where she has an apartment, there are quite
a lot. And she knows a lot of people there, and she has good
neighbors, and, definitely, she will come back. But while she can
maintain living alone, she can support herself, she will stay there.
When she won't be able to, she will come back.

LS: You didn't feel as though there was a reproach to you that she
moved away?

YS: No, I am very understanding.

LS: No, no, she did not reproach you that you did not have more time
to spend with her?

YS: No, I don't think she felt that way.

LS: She didn't use Jewish guilt? You know what I mean by that?

YS: I know what you mean by that. I don't think she had much of
the Jewish guilt.

LS: Because her role as a grandmother changed tremendously. She
wasn't needed here is what you are saying.

YS: I am not saying she wasn't needed here. She was there. She
would be there. At Sibley Manor we lived right across from each
other, and she was spending all the time in our apartment, helping us
or whatever it is, just sitting and watching TV with us. It was like in
any other family, but once she decided to go, I never had [unclear].

LS: So, you moved out to Eagan before she left. Is that correct?

YS: No. 64


LS: She left while you were still living across the hall from each

other?

YS: Yes.

LS: OK. That puts a different light on in. She just wanted to live a

little, from what you are saying.

YS: Yes, that's what I am saying. I am saying that I understand how
she felt at that time. She felt that she wanted to do that change and
she found that it was something she can do. I wasn't opposed to that.
A lot of people around us were saying, "How could she possibly do
that?" Like you are saying, "How is her guilt?" My husband was
really shocked.

LS: That's sort of American too, isn't it? Trying to see some life for
yourself?

YS: No, this is something special about her life and her feelings at
that moment that she needed that type of a change, and I understood
that, and it was OK with me.

LS: Do you see any major differences between American women who
work and Soviet women who work as far as their attitudes toward
work are concerned?

YS: I know that, let's say in my place, I know two other Russian
women who work there and I know that they are considered to be
very good workers. Russian people, I think, they do appreciate a
good job. They do understand, although both of those women came
with real high education and they work as computer programmers
and they were hired right away on a real good position, and they
work well there for quite a lot of years now, and they got promoted
and they have a very good career.

LS: So, are you saying that Soviet women take their careers more
seriously than Americans?

YS: Yes. Well, Americans are also different. You cannot say about
the whole society. It's not the right way to put it. Between
Americans, there are very hard workers and there are people who
are not working that hard, and it's the same thing. This is not 6 5


because Americans or Soviets. It's in any society. You have hard
workers and not that hard of workers. But I think, yes, they
appreciate, they understand, and it's more scary for Soviet people to
lose a job than for Americans. They are sort of raised in these
surroundings. They are used to the idea that they can lose a job.
am not saying that that is easy, but what I am saying is that on the
moral part of it, for Russian people to lose a job is even more
complicated and more terrible thing to go through than for the
Americans. They are not used to it. They live all their life--you may
not be promoted, but you never think of losing a job. If you have it
and you normally work, you can work until you retire if you are not
finding something better. So, it's a very scary thing, and I don't
think you can even get used to it. It's just somewhere in the back of
your mind that it's always uncertain, and this is one of those
negative sides of life which you have to get used to, but you never
can.

LS: You were talking about this whole system of networking that's
all important in the Soviet Union. Do you think that it's as important
here?

YS: Not to the point, of course, as there, because the networking
there is for getting some necessities for yourself and your family.
You don't have to do those things here. But the network for getting
more bigger things, like a job or some other maybe arrangements,
big ones in life, yes, you do have to have a network. You do have to
have some friends or relatives or somebody influential who can say a
word. You don't feel it right away when you start working from the
entry level position. But the farther you grow and you go more into
the working network, then you understand the cycle, then you
understand how important that is. Because if· you want to get
promoted at work, you also have to have already a network who
would say how good a worker you are and have good relations and
so forth. That's how I got promoted. ·

LS: So, you figured out the importance of that.

YS: Oh yes.

LS: What about how you cook? You were talking about the way
Russians cook. What do you cook?


YS: I am not a big cook. I wasn't, big in Russia, and here the same
thing. I am not one of those women who like to cook, but I like
different kinds of food. I like Russian style food, but also like a lot of
American, so my cooking is not completely Russian cooking. As a
matter of fact, I have probably very little of Russian cooking. It's
only if I am inviting some people to dinner and I know those people
and I know that in their homes some of them have typical Russian
dishes, so I am trying to make something which they would be
comfortable with. Otherwise, I cook everything that any American
family cooks. I love Chinese food, and all this stuff, and we go to fast
food places sometimes, just like a typical American family.

LS: Did you buy an American cookbook when you came?

YS: I have the Temple of Aaron cookbook, which is excellent. I like

Jewish cooking a lot. I don't spend much time doing that because

first of all, I don't have much time to do it, but if I have any time to

do that, I sometimes open it. This is a great book. You know,

sisterhood book?

LS: Yes, I've got it too.

YS: Yes. Pretty much every family has it. They have really good
recipes there, and I cook quite a lot of recipes out of this book. I had
some other cookbooks. But I just do like easy dishes. I just put
chicken in the oven, do mashed potatoes, that kind of stuff, or baked
potatoes.

LS: Do you go to the farmer's market at all?

YS: Oh, I love it. Definitely, I go there all the time, and I love it
during the summer time. It's great.

LS: Do they bargain?

YS: I don't bargain. I know Russian people like to bargain, but this is
something from their past. You should understand they did it all
their lives, and it's something like their nature, but I don't bargain.

LS: I am not so sure the farmers want to do it either. I had a few
questions. Did anyone else in your family come over? What about
your husband's sister?

67



YS: She didn't come. They refused her at that time, and even when
we left, she couldn't come. She wants to come now, but I don't know.
Right now, it's a big mess there. We just talked to them and we
receive letters from them, and everything. Right now, they are
making so many changes--almost every day and every week--that
the rules are changing constantly, and they are trying to get out.
They had almost all the papers ready and everything, but they are
afraid of so many changes, and they would have to know day after
day what is going to be fine now, if anything, or what is going to be
valid at the time they have to buy the tickets, that I don't know what
is going to happen. It's a big bazaar there now, very, verr big
bazaar.

LS: The other thing that I was curious about is that you had such a

big space between your two girls. Did you have any abortions in


between?

YS: No, I didn't, but I did not want to have any children. After my
first daughter I didn't want to have any other child, and most
Russian families have only one child, and I was the same way, I
didn't want to do it. Then I accidently got pregnant; actually it's my

husband. He insisted, he started asking me and whining all the time,

"Let's have another one, let's have another one .... "

LS: So, you were just careful in-between for all those years?

YS: Yes, right, right. It's very hard to be careful because they don't
have much choice for birth control.

LS: So, you were just careful and lucky. I mean, did you use pills, did
you use a diaphragm?

YS: Yes, I did use pills, whatever was available there.

LS: And I was curious about what happened to the Torah that your
father-in-law had?

YS: I know that Aaron has some things from his father. I don't know
if he has that Torah. I should have asked him. But I know he
brought a couple things. He brought his talis; I think he has his
Torah.

68


LS: Did his father try to teach him anything about Jewish religion or
was praying something that was part of the older generation?

YS: Right. He didn't teach him any prayers, but he was brought up
so much Jewish in his blood that, let's say, when he is hearing a
Jewish song, he would always have tears in his eyes, to that extent.
This is one of the things that Americans sometimes think pretty


. much primitive about. If you don't know Hebrew and you didn't go
to a Jewish school, you are not Jewish. This is nonsence. It's a very
primitive understanding of Jewishness. You cannot know Hebrew,
you cannot go to school--we didn't have any chance of going; there
weren't any schools--and we were just brought up that way. But
when you are together and listening to a Jewish song, whenever we
were listening to this record with all Jewish songs in Yiddish, and
when my grandma was singing and my mother was singing, and I
was singing Jewish songs too when I was little, and it brings tears to
your eyes, and if you hear any [unclear] that music of Jewish
heritage and you want to dance right away, this is what it is to be
Jewish. It's not necessarily knowing Hebrew. Some people who
know Hebrew are not very much, they don't know a lot... If you
would know how Russian people know all that happened during the
Holocaust and World War II and how they talk to each other, how
they communicate about it, how they even now--even though I don't
know personally anybody who died there--but I know so many
things about it that when you start talking about it, my heart is going
down into my stomach because I feel it so much.

LS: You have a Yiddishe Neshamah (Jewish soul).

YS: Absolutely, I have a Yiddish Neshama h. I have a very Jewish
soul, and my children are the same way. It's just something you feel,
it's something in your blood, not necessarily in your tongue.

LS: Are you at all interested in learning Hebrew or do you feel
comfortable with the Jewish level that you have?

YS: Yes. That's exactly what I am saying. I feel very comfortable
with the way it is, and if I want to do something, I know I can, and
it's really for me to see that my children will grow up that way, that
my grandchildren. And they will know Hebrew and they will know
some other things, and Sasha's doing so well. She received Felicia's
son award. [?] Do you know? Weingarten Award from the Temple.
She received that award from the Temple of Aaron. She is doing6 9


really well. This is our J ewishness, most of if now, because this is
now through our children. It's not necessary for me to learn Hebrew.
I don't have any certain goal in my life so I would have to learn
Hebrew to achieve it, but one of my achievements as a Jewish
mother and of the whole Jewish family is to bring our children that
way, so they would feel it, so their hearts will drop when they hear
the [unclear] music and all of this stuff. And I think that's what I
want, that's why I came, and that's what I am getting.

LS: Great. Well, I think it's a wonderful place to stop. Thank you.