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Interview with Anna Volovik with Comments by Vlad Volovik

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

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OLD LIVES, NEW LIVES: SOVIET JEWISH WOMEN IN
MINNESOTA


Interview with Anna Volovik
with comments by Vlad Vo-lovik


Interviewed by Linda Schlott and Felicia Weingarten


Interviewed on June 10 and 17, 1991
at the Eden Prairie home of Mrs. Volovik


LS: The first thing we are going to ask you are some very simple
questions, like, we've got your name, ·we've got your address, tell us
your telephone number.

AV: 934-7348.

LS: What is your birthdate?

AV: June 5, 1934.

LS: And where were you born?

AV: Moscow.

LS: What is your husband's name?

AV: Vlad--V-L-A-0. His proper name is Vladimir.
LS: When were you married?

AV: In Moscow, 1956. And we had chupa.

LS: We'll get to that later. What was your mother's first and last

name?

AV: First name is Esfir, Esther in English.

LS: What was her maiden name?


AV: Levitus.
LS: Do you know when she was born?
AV: Sure. 1901.
LS: And when did she die?
AV: She is still alive. She is coming.
LS: Where was she born?
AV: Kerch, Crimea.
LS: Was that an area where Jews were farmers?
AV: No, they had a candy shop. They made candy and sold [it].
LS: That's interesting. In this country Greeks do that. And your


father's name?


AV: David.


LS: And his last name?


AV: Radzinsky.
LS: And his birthdate?


AV: 1898.
LS: And death?


AV: 1942.


LS: And where was he born?


AV: Zolotonosha, Ukraine.


2


LS: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

AV: Yes, a a sister.

LS: One sister?

AV: Yes.

LS: Is she older or younger?

AV: Older.

LS: And what's her name?

AV: Frida.

LS: What's her married name now?

AV: No, she was never married. She was born in 1925, so boys ...
LS: All the boys were killed when they served in the army, right?
AV: From her class only two boys returned from the war.
LS: Is she still alive?

AV: Yes.

LS: Where does she live?

AV: In Moscow.

LS: How many children do you have?

AV: One.

LS: One child, whose name is?

AV: Dmitri.


LS: Born in Moscow?

AV: Yes.

LS: What year?

AV: 1958.

LS: Tell me a little bit about your education?

AV: A mechanical engineer, traditional Russian [occupation].

LS: It does seem traditional. Where did you train?
AV: Institute of Technology in the University of Moscow.
LS: Now we have some questions first about your parents. Your

mother was born in Kerch and your father was born in the Ukraine.
Where did they meet?
AV: I don't know, I never asked my mom about this.


LS: What sort of schooling did your parents have?
AV: About father I don't know, but my mom graduated from a
gymnasium.


LS: And then what did she do?


AV: Nothing before World War II. Only during the war she started to
work.
LS: And after the war?
AV: She continued to work.
LS: To work as what?
AV: At any kind of work.


4


LS: Like what did she do?
AV: For my mom it was a special situation. She couldn't have good
positions because my father was arrested and killed in a


concentration camp, in Stalin's camps. · So my mom never could fill
in application forms (explaining) where is her husband.
FW: Not only the spouses, but the children of the people who


disappeared into the Gulag could not get into better schools or get
any kind of a decent job.
LS: Tell me about your father. Was he in the army?
AV: No. He was arrested, I don't know exactly, 1938 maybe.
LS: He was arrested when everybody was being arrested?
AV: Yes, and he disappeared, and my mom got one letter from him.


FW: Approximately what year was it?
AV: It was during the war. It was the end of 1941, and they sent us
to Chelyabinsk in the Urals, and we got this letter.


FW: Is that where he was?
AV: Yes. And this is only one letter.
LS: Were you there or was he there? You were evacuated to


Chelyabinsk?


AV: Yes, women and children were evacuated to the Urals or to
Siberia, and we were in Chelyabinsk. And then we got this letter.
FW: When, when you were in Chelyabinsk you got this letter?
AV: No, the person who found this letter, he sent it to Moscow to our


relative, my mom's sister, and they got this letter and they sent it
to us.

5


FW: And where was your father? Did he say in the letter what
camp?

AV: Yes. This letter and this address helped me to find. Otherwise,
we couldn't leave Russia, because if my father [were] alive, I needed

permission to leave Russia.
FW: I understand. What I wish to ask is did he say in the letter
where he was?

AV: Yes.
FW: Where was he?
AV: Saratov, it's a big city on the Volga River. I was in this place


twelve years ago.
FW: To visit?
AV: I tried to find some papers.
FW: This was when you were applying for emigration?
AV: Before we applied, we needed to have papers, where is my


father.
LS: So you don't know what your father did?
AV: Oh, I know. He worked in the Food Administration. It's the


Ministry of Food Industry, Food Administration, and I saw his folder
[dossier] in Saratov. It was sixteen people arrested with him. They
wanted to poison Stalin.

FW: There were sixteen people arrested, I understand.
AV: Yes, and people in the Saratov camp asked me, "And nobody


returned? And nobody called your mom and said what happened?"
Never. I have a paper, his death certificate, we got after 37 years.
FW: Did it say he died of natural causes?

6


AV: In this folder it was very illiterate, very difficult to read, and


only one paper was in the right Russian language.
FW: You mean Russian was so poorly written by somebody rather
illiterate?


AV: Yes. Only one paper was in good Russian. It was a doctor's


[note]. He wrote that he died and signed "Prisoner Dr. Gurevich."
LS: So this was your background. Your background was of a marked
family.


FW: Were you able to find out whether he died of hunger, cold,


disease?
AV: In this letter he wrote that there was hunger, cold, disease-everything.
And he wrote--mom didn't give me this letter, and I was
two years ago in Moscow and I asked her to give me the letter and
she said no...


[tape stopped]
LS: You spent some time in the Urals and then, when you moved back


to Moscow, were you able to move back to the same apartment that
you had before the war?
AV: Yes. It was one room, 16 square meters.
LS: And how many people were living there?
AV: Four--mom, my sister, me, and my grandfather.
LS: Which grandfather, your mother's?
AV: Yes, my mom's father.
LS: The candy maker, right?


7



AV: Yes, he was blind. He died when he was 86, and he was 20 years
blind.

LS: It sounds like your mother had quite a hard time taking care of
[everybody].

AV: Oh sure.

FW: You shared the bathroom and the kitchen with other people?

AV: It was 14 rooms, it's around 20 people, and we had one kitchen
with three big stoves, we had a big boiler for boiling water and two
toilets and one bathtub, and if I wanted to take a shower, I needed to
write in the morning in a special paper that from 7:00 to 8:00 it's
Anna.

LS: It's sort of like living in a dormitory all of your life. Did you
make friends with people in your apartment, good friends, or was it
better not to make good friends with the people in the apartment?

AV: This was a three-story building with around 40 rooms, and we
were very friendly, and till now people from New York call me--my
neighbors are in New York--and my mom communicates till today
with old neighbors who are still alive because with very bad life
style, very difficult, people try to help each other, and they are
friendly.

LS: Were many of the people Jewish in your apartment?

AV: No, but some.

LS: Were they mainly Russian?

AV: Yes, Russian, Tatarian, Ukrainian, different people.

LS: It was a mix of people, and people did their best to get along.
Did you have other social problems? People who drank too much,
beat their wives?

AV: Oh yes. One of our neighbors beat his wife ...

8


FW: When he was drinking?

AV: Oh sure. And without drinking too.

FW: When he was sober also?

AV: Oh sure. And she died because of drinking. [?] He was a very
good man. He loved me very much and because I was hungry, he
always gave me food.

LS: What was the policy in Russia, if you are living in a communal
apartment and you have a neighbor who is beating his wife, do you
try to do something about it? Do you try to ignore the wife's
screaming?

AV: Next door building, it was a police office, and everybody knew
that he beat his wife, and so... If they paid attention to all these
situations, they couldn't work. They will only do this job.

LS: So you are saying that the policy was not to do anything?

AV: Right. And then he made it again, he remarried because he had
two daughters--one was my classmate and another was a little girl-
and another woman appeared and she was from a village and she
was very strong, and one day, when he tried to beat her too, she beat
him very good, and it was forever--never he hit her.

LS: He never touched her?

AV: No.

LS: Very interesting. You were saying before that your mother had
trouble getting jobs because her husband had disappeared into the
Gulag...

AV: Yes, and I had trouble all my life, with the university. This was
Institute of Technology which I graduated, it was only Jewish people
because the dean was a very nice person and he ...

9


FW: He pretended he didn't know of your father's past?

AV: Yes, because I never filled in my papers in this particular
Institute of Technology what happened to my father.

LS: So that continued to haunt you until the time you left? At some
point, didn't it clear off?

AV: All the time, till the last day in Russia. I was second class.

LS: Were you a second class citizen both because you were Jewish
and because your father had disappeared?

AV: Double.

FW: I was under the impression that after Stalin died that people
were no longer persecuted because their mother or father or brother
or sister were in the Gulag?

AV: Yes, Felicia, people change their policy on paper, but in my
neighbors' mind I was second class.

FW: I see. In the psychology and their thinking.

AV: Yes, and this is the reason why my mom never got some papers,
she never applied to try to find out what happened to father. She
never did. When I applied, rny mom didn't know. She was now 80
years old and she told me, I lived all my life, thirty years, without a
father, I don't want to know anything about people who did it. For
me it does not matter if I have this death certificate or not. For her
it didn't matter at that time too. But for me, I couldn't leave Russia.

LS: Coming back to your childhood, you had a shadow over you of a
father who had gone, did it matter in grade school for instance?

AV: It was impossible. I was a very good student, but for me it was
impossible, first of all for this reason, second reason, Jewish, and
third reason I hadn't health for this.

FW: What was wrong?

1 0


AV: I was hungry. I remember that year by year I never ate an apple
or some vegetable, good vegetables, good fruit; vitamins.

FW: Because, you see, they had no money. Mother wasn't working.

AV: Our relatives helped us very much. Without their help we
couldn't survive.

LS: How many relatives did you have that helped you?
AV: All my mom's, two brothers and a sister and their children.
LS: Did they all live in Moscow?
AV: Yes, all of them in Moscow.
LS: So they were all able to help you a little bit?
AV: Yes.

LS: Were you sick a lot as a child?


AV: Yes. had rheumatic fever, and this is my heart, this is why I
had surgery.
FW: She had surgery here. A valve was replaced.
LS: That can happen to middle class people too, rheumatic fever.
FW: And she needed this operation for many years before she came.
AV: But in Russia everybody refused to do it. No valves of good


design. When I came to the United States, I had surgery right away.


LS: Did your mother have any time to have any friends at all outside
of her family?
AV: Never.


1 1


FW: It's not only a question of time. The friends were afraid to
[unclear]

LS: It was my understanding again that that lessened with the years
and at the beginning people were afraid to touch you or even look at
you, but that later on it didn't matter so much.

AV: For people like my mom, it was a special situation. Her husband
was arrested, and this is a mark for her.

FW: But then that changed in the 1960's, 1970's?

AV: I think it was a closed society, it was our relatives and that's
all. My mom had one friend from her childhood, and they lived
together, but we met each other very rarely because my mom had no
time, two kids and work and stand in line, and for her father.

LS: So your mother's life was severely limited. You were saying
your grade school was difficult. Who were your friends at grade
school? Were they Russians, Tatarians, Jews?

AV: It was a class. It was forty girls--we were in a separate
school--and maybe four or five or us had fathers.

LS: Most of them had died in the war, right?

AV: Or were arrested. And the same situation was in the university.

VV: You see, it's not typical. Anna's case is not typical because she
lived in the very center of Moscow, downtown, where most of
distinguished peopled lived, that's why Anna's class was so unusual.
I cannot say the same about my class. I can say about my friends,
but about the whole class.

LS: How much of your class in the elementary school was Jewish?

AV: Maybe thirty percent, again because of this location, in
downtown Moscow, near Kremlin.

1 2



LS: So the teachers looked at you with a crooked eye too because you
were suspect. Did they treat you all equally?

AV: I was a very good student, and when I was in the tenth grade, my
class counselor, she was Jewish, came to my mom, it was in
September, and said to her, "I want you to tell Anna because I cannot
do it that Anna cannot get a medal because she is Jewish and
because of her father."

FW: In Russia there is a system of giving medals as we would give
distinctions.

AV: She is Jewish, and she said it openly.

FW: They called people like that "the people's enemies."

AV: So I stopped to study. For what? Nobody could understand what
happened. Anna, it's tenth grade!

FW: But during the ten years, before you finished, were the teachers
all right to you and the other girls whose fathers were in the Gulag
or did they treat those whose fathers were, let's say, killed in the
army or serving in the army, was there a difference in the attitude
towards you because your fathers were arrested?

AV: I can't say that I remember or I paid attention at that time
because the class was very friendly. Till today--two years ago I
was in Moscow and we met each other. It's difficult for me to say.
It's again because of the location of this school. Different people
lived there and different teachers. It was special. It was one of the
first special schools in Moscow for children with high IQ, and maybe
this is the reason.

LS: Did the children of different nationalities get along well?
AV: What is different nationalities? Only Russians or Jewish.
LS: I thought perhaps there were Ukrainians, Tatarians?

1 3



AV: In our class there was one Tatarian girl. She was the first in
th,e class and she was a very good girl, and we liked her and she liked
us very much.

LS: So you are saying that everybody got along pretty well? They

did not single out Jews?
AV: Yes. We were nice
anything, and we were friendly.
hungry. [End Tape 1 Side 1]
girls,
We
but
wewe
re
hadn't
young.
clothes,
And evewe hadn't
rybody was

[Tape 1 Side 2]

AV: Yes, sure, it was war and after war.
FW: She was born when?
AV: 1934.
FW: So that was war time already when she was in school.
AV: I returned to ·Moscow in 1943.
FW: That's why they were so hungry. There was nothing to eat.
AV: 1943 we returned to Moscow on my birthday, and from this it


was class and we graduated together.
LS: When did you say you graduated from school?
AV: 1952.
LS: And then what were your choices?
AV: My choice was only one. It's not my choice that I liked to be a


mechanical engineer, it's only one way. This place was for me, and I


had no choice. I knew that this particular Institute of Technology


was only one chance.


14


FW: Because of the fact that the person in charge was ...

AV: Yes. And we started to study, when I was a student, in several
months the dean died, and students in the third grade, fourth grade,
fifth grade cried. We didn't know him personally, but we knew about
him. "Why are you crying?" And they told us, "Because you don't
know which [what kind of] person we lost today."

FW: ·They said, "You don't realize what kind of a man, what a
wonderful person, we lost."

LS: Did it make a difference to you that he died?

AV: And then, next year, there was a new dean and no Jewish people.

It was only
everywhere.
us and the older [students]. It became the same as
LS: Were you active in any social groups, any clubs?
any camps when you were growing up?
Did you go to
AV: Yes, in summer time my mom sent me to a camp.
LS: Who ran the camps? The Komsomol?

AV: It's not Komsomol. Usually, this is the company that makes a
camp, and my aunt, my uncle...

FW: You mean the place of work, the company, and it was because
your aunt or uncle worked in the place that had a camp?

AV: Yes, they sent me.

FW: They don't have private camps. It's got to be through a factory
or a combine or whatever it is.

AV: My sister sometimes sent me. Who had a possibility to do it for
me, sent me because in Moscow, it's a city and summer time for
kids, it's not OK.

1 5


LS: Did you have a good time at camp? Did you enjoy camp?

AV: Children in Russia are not the same as American kids.

LS: How are they different?

AV: More cruel, more rude. They like fighting, and you can't be

relaxed all the time, you need to be alert all the time.
FW: On your guard. Was stealing going on?

AV: Oh sure. This is normal.

FW: How was the food in camp?

AV: It depends which company.
Food Administration, and it was
own camp they sent good food.
worse.

My sister worked many years in the
a good camp, good food, for their
If you are from another company, it's

LS: Were you able to take part in many camp activities because of
your heart problems?
AV: No.
LS: So you were very limited?


AV: Yes. I couldn't run, I couldn't jump, I couldn't swim.
FW: If you had any problems and you would go to a teacher in charge,
or a camp counselor or supervisor, were they of any help?


AV: Usually, in a camp [there] was a nurse.
FW: That's all?
AV: Yes.
FW: Nobody in charge of the kids? Just a nurse?


1 6


AV: No, no. A lot of teachers, boys and girls as boyscouts and
girlscouts--helpers, youngsters. Sometimes they were good,
sometimes not. It's the same as here.

LS: Tell me about your grandfather. Did you spend a lot of time with
him?

AV: Yes.
LS: And what did he tell you about, his childhood and his youth?
What was his background like?


AV: His family was a very respectable family in Kerch.
FW: Were they religious?
AV: Yes, as all Jewish. He remembered and mom remembered


pogroms in 1910. My grandfather had a brother, and this brother had
only one child, and he was killed during this pogrom in 1910. After
that, he emigrated to the United States in 1910 with his wife, to
Cleveland, and I can't find them. We tried but we couldn't find him.

FW: That's your mother's uncle? And the child was killed?
AV: Yes. The child was killed in Russia during the pogrom.
LS: What else did your grandfather tell you? Did he speak Yiddish to


you?
AV: With me, no, with mom, yes.
LS: Did you pick up some Yiddish?
AV: A little bit, yes. I picked up much more Yiddish in Vlad's family.
LS: What else did your grandfather tell you about his childhood?
AV: Not about his childhood. He told me that during the pogrom that


they lived in a several houses and one big yard with a fence, and here
lived a Russian ... gorodovoi ...

1 7


FW: The man who is charge of a little town, right? How would you
call it in English?

LS: It's not exactly like a mayor?

FW: No, not exactly.

AV: It was police. Chief of police?

FW: If there was an official police, then you could say it, and if
there was no official, he was in charge, like maybe militia.
[Gorodovoi means exactly policeman in pre-revolutionary Russia]

AV: He was Christian, and when the pogrom started, he put a sign
"There are no Jews here."

LS: You mean for everybody or just for him?

AV: Several houses, all Jewish and only one this Christian.

LS: So you are saying that he saved the Jews in the area?

AV: Yes. My mom remembers this and grandfather told me about it.
He was a Christian, a good person. I don't know how good he was for
these people, but for his little group he was.

LS: Did he talk about the revolution at all?

AV: It's a legend in our family. It was revolution in the Crimea, it
was in 1921, my mom was twenty years old at that time. She was
at home, with a kerosene lamp, and my mom was feeding her
youngest brother. And then somebody opened the door, went in, this
lamp was beautiful, took this lamp, and went out. . This was a soldier
from the Red Army. And mom told him, "What is this? Put it back."
He said, "Give me without conversation," and left. Next day my mom
[put on] a white hat and went to the revolutionary committee, and
started [going] from room to room. It was a big building, and in one
room, there was a big desk and a man with this sash in an armchair
and in another sat this soldier, and this lamp. My mom opened the

1 8


door, went to this room, took this lamp without one word, and
[unclear]. This man said, "What are you doing? Put the lamp back."
My mom said, "No. This is my lamp. Yesterday, in the evening, when
I was feeding my brother, this man came into my house and took this
lamp and said, 'Don't talk about this.' Bye-bye," and went home. My
grandfather, when my mom told him, he was absolutely destroyed. It
was a legend, everybody, our relatives, everybody knows.

LS: Your mother had a lot of spunk, didn't she?

FW: They could have shot her.

AV: Easily.

LS: So what happened to the candy store?

AV: The candy store was nationalized. No private business, but my
mom's family had a very big house, with six kids. In 1921, when the
revolution broke out, my grandfather started to get blind. His oldest
son was killed in World War I in Austria, and he was so upset about
this that he started to go blind, glaucoma. Because of his blindness,
the authorities left this house for the family.

LS: So the authorities left the house, so you didn't lose your house.

AV: Now in this house daycare, a kindergarten.

LS: Then you went to the university and you studied something you
were not terribly interested in because it was the only p0ssibility
for you, right?

AV: I was never interested very much. I was a good student again,
but...

LS: What did you do for fun at the university?

AV: For fun? I met Vlad, when I was eighteen, and that's all.

LS: Was he your first boyfriend?

1 9


AV: I had a lot in our class. We had a men's school near our school,


and we were very friendly.
LS: Did you boys and girls pair off, as we say? Did you have other
boyfriends or did you do things with big groups?


AV: Big groups and we met each other every evening. We never
called each other. We knew that in this place we could meet each
other.

LS: Where did you meet?

AV: In the boulevard or in Gorky Street, and with two bulldogs with
us.
FW: Who had those bulldogs?
AV: One boy, and everybody when they saw this big ...
LS: They moved out of your way?
AV: Oh sure.
LS: So you spent your time on the streets?
AV: Yes. What I want to tell you that everybody from my class and


everybody from the class of the
Everybody, and everybody graduated.
boys went to the university.
LS: So this was a bright group of kids?
AV: Yes. It's again because of location.
LS: You
Moscow?
met your husband at the university. Is he also from

AV: Yes.
LS: But he was not from that area?


20


AV: He is from downtown too, but from [on the other side of the
Kremlin]

LS: When did you decide to get married?
AV: He wanted right away, but his father asked me when he
graduated.


LS: How old was he?
AV: Twenty-one.
LS: So he was close to finishing?
AV: No, because he started to study in another school, and then he


transferred to another institute of technology and he lost a couple of


years, and he graduated a year before me.
LS: And he wanted to get married immediately, like a hot-blooded
Russian?


AV: Yes, but his father asked me when he graduated. The next day.
It was the same, it was exactly how he was. He graduated and
married right away.

FW: He asked that you wait till he graduates.

LS: So you got married as soon as he graduated? Before he found a.
job?
AV: In Russia, when you graduated, you had a job.
LS: And you were still going to school, right?
AV: I continued.
LS: And where did you live?
AV: This is a good question. I can't say. It is easier to say where


we didn't live.


21


FW: You mean you went from place to place? You didn't have an
apartment, a room, nothing? So you had a bed some place, in
mother's house, uncle's house, where?

AV: Any place.
FW: Could you rent, sublet?
AV: Somebody moved to vacation, we did, and it was till my aunt


from Israel was in Moscow in 1962. Four years.
LS: You move around for four years?
AV: Four years. And one friend of mine from men's school met me


twenty-two years later, and he said, "Anna, for this life you need to
get a gold monument, that you continue to be together."

FW: That they stuck it out.
LS: It must have been very difficult. There must have been a lot of
divorces under circumstances like that.


AV: Sure.
FW: Did you have your son after you had your own place or before?
AV: No, Dima lived most of the time with my mom or with Vlad's


mom because we had no place.


FW: So the baby was left with one or the other grandma, in their
crowded little room?
AV: Sure.
LS: Did Vlad's parents have more room than your mother did?
AV: The same, and they lived in a basement, and the Russian


basement is not the same as in America.


22


FW: It's a real basement where you would think you would store your

potatoes or have your laundry. It's a real dank, gray, musty

basement, not fit for people damp.

AV: In 1962 we got our studio.

LS: That means one room?

AV: Its' one room and kitchen and bathroom.

LS: That sounds very luxurious.

AV: Yes, and it cost four thousand rubles.
FW: You had to buy it?


AV: Vlad's father helped us to buy it.


LS: Is that usual to buy apartments?


AV: No. It was very, very difficult to buy.


LS: I don't understand who is selling them. It doesn't make sense to


me.
FW: The government sells them.
AV: Condos.
LS: They use this condo approach in order to relieve some of the


overcrowding?
FW: Or do they do it in order to get a great deal of money?
AV: We were not eligible to get an apartment because in my mom's


sixteen square meters there was four of us--my grandfather died


but Dima was there--my mom, my sister, me, Vlad, and Dima--five


of us, and we had for one person more than three square meters, and


we were not eligible.

23


LS: So you would never, unless you had more children, you would
never be eligible for an apartment?

AV: First of all, I couldn't with my heart.
LS: Did you have problems with your heart when you were carrying
the baby? Did they tell you that this was very dangerous?


AV: Yes.
LS: Did they suggest that you have an abortion?
AV: Yes, but I knew everything and I went to the doctor when it was


too late to do anything.
LS: You did this deliberately?
AV: No, I went to the doctor first time, maybe, when I was four


months pregnant.
LS: I don't understand. You deliberately waited so that...
AV: No, he was born earlier and he was very small, but now he is big.
FW: In order to buy this apartment, it was necessary to have not


only money, but to be on the list, right?
AV: Yes, to be eligible.
FW: ' How did you manage that?
AV: I told you that we were very friendly with neighbors, and one of


our neighbors--her daughter is now in New York, we are very
friendly till today--she worked with the Moscow City Hall and she
helped us because officially we couldn't.

LS: But there is always an unofficial way, right?
AV: Sure.

24


[Tape stopped]

LS: We were talking about medical care in the Soviet Union. You had
a rheumatic heart and you always needed to go the doctor, did you
not? In this country people who have had rheumatic fever get
penicillin regularly so that they won't get infections. You got that
penicillin too? You got the basic care you needed. Did you go to a
regular clinic or did you again go through your friends?

AV: If I needed to get a special paper to be at home because every
month one week I was at home.

LS: You were sick frequently? Did you have to go to special
physicians? You used the system and the system was good enough to
take care of you, right? You know the problems with this country. If
you have no money, it's very difficult to get medical care too unless
you are really poor.

FW: There is no comparison. The poor here get a thousand times
better care than the rich there.

LS: What do you think of that?

AV: I think so.

LS: Would you say that your care was adequate or do you think they
should have given you an operation a lot earlier?

AV: Doctors never told me about surgery. My friend told me about
surgery. She has a Ph.D., she was a very famous surgeon in Russia,
lung surgeon, and she went to the Russian Heart Association and
talked as a doctor, not as a patient, and they said, her friend told
her, stay away from this surgery in Russia. And that's all, and I
never had. There was no possibility to have surgery, and only one
time I was in a hospital a month. I felt terrible in the street, and
instead of going to her clinic where she worked, I came home and
called her. I know what it is. It was arrhythmia, and I couldn't stop ..
She told me to call the ambulance and I'll go. And she was in the
subway, and she was earlier than the ambulance, and when the
ambulance came, she asked to transfer me to her clinic. They said,


"No way." We paid money this ambulance. And then I spent a month.
For me it was OK because she brought me food every day.
FW: There was no food in the hospital?
AV: Food in a hospital? Felicia, 50 kopecs for each patient.
LS: What do you mean, you had to pay that much?
AV: No, they spent 50 kopecs per day to feed you.


FW: Which is very little. What would 50 kopecs buy?
AV: Nothing. And [the people] who worked in the kitchen, they need
to steal too. How can you eat this food? And if a patient was lucky,


his relatives day and night.
FW: Anna, is this the reason when I came to visit you in
American hospital, your family was bringing you food? Were
afraid they won't feed you?
the
you
AV: Sure. They didn't know.
FW: I came in and they were bringing food. I said, "What for?"

AV: They didn't know. How can we know? I couldn't eat after
surgery, but a nurse [said], "Anna, what do you want? Chicken Kiev
or this or this or this or this? I'll order for you in any restaurant.
Tell me please what do you want?" Who can understand this?

LS: I wanted to get back to the time when you were pregnant, when
you had the baby and you actually didn't see the baby. You'd park the
baby one place, and you'd go sleep somewhere else. Wasn't that
making you crazy?

AV: What could we do? For several months we lived with my
neighbors. They gave us a room, and we lived several months, and
then we started from one place to another place.

LS: You and Vlad and the baby were moving?

26


AV: Yes, every day. In summer time we arranged at a dacha or we
went to Moldavia, Romania [?]

LS: Why did you go there?

AV: Because [of] very good climate and a lot of fruit and vegetables.
We are from north. We have friends in Israel now from Moldavia. A
couple days ago we called them. From Moldavia, from that time. And
you know what I want to tell you, this is our life and we couldn't say
that we were poor... [End Tape 1 Side 2]

[Tape 2 Side1]
AV: I work, I am working, full-time job.
FW: And two stores? Oh, my goodness!
AV: You know how busy I am.
LS: These Russians are twice as energetic as any of us. It's like all


of the energy you had in your lifetime ...
AV: You know why? Because I hadn't time. We need to think about
our pension. We don't want to be on Welfare. We never were and we


don't want to be. We appreciate very much what America gave us and
we don't want to be.
LS: Coming back to your baby, who was washing the diapers?


Whoever had the baby overnight?
AV: Me.
FW: When the baby was with a friend or mama, would you come in


and feed the baby and wash and ...
AV: Sure.
LS: How many hours were you working by then?


27


AV: Forty-one.
LS: And how many hours a week were you working?
AV: Forty-one.
LS: And you were still boiling the diapers and buying food?
AV: And staying on the line to buy food. And we were young and we


wanted to go to movies and to museums and to exhibitions and


entertainment, and we never skipped it.
LS: And you managed to do everything. Did you actually work fortyone
hours a week or were you able to take time off?


AV: Very often I was sick, I couldn't do it, but I got 100% disability.


I was lucky.
LS: We were told that in Russia it was easier to take time off from
work to stand on line and buy things.


AV: It's not a day off. We could say to our manager, "Night gowns,
very nice, from Hungary. Should I buy for your wife too?" "Yes. Go."
Couple hours to stay on the line to buy it.

FW: And you bought for his wife too and was OK.
AV: Sure.
FW: Where did you get baby clothes?
AV: Stay in the line. I had friends in Hungary. We were together in


the university, and sometimes they went to Moscow and brought me
nice clothes for Dima, but most of the time I knitted, my mom was
sewing some, we did something.

LS: You told me a great deal about the fact that you were doubly
penalized both by the fact that your father was in the Gulag and then
you were Jewish, but were there any positive things about being

28


Jewish. Was it a burden? Did you celebrate any holidays? Did you
enjoy being Jewish?

AV: Simchat Torah is the biggest holiday in Russia, I don't know
why.

LS: Was this when you were growing up or after you had already
grown up?

AV: Yes. On that day all students from Moscow ...
LS: Was that when you were in elementary school or in college?
AV: College. We went to the synagogue and dancing all night.
LS: Was it dangerous? Were there K.G.B. men around?
AV: Yes, but when Dima was grown, I didn't give him perm1ss1on to

be there because for a boy it's especially dangerous. He can be
kicked out of the university ...

LS: Couldn't you have been also?

AV: Me too, but I was not so afraid for myself as for Dima. And then
he can be taken to the army, and this is absolutely impossible.

LS: Now why is it? I know already, but tell me for the sake of the
people who will listen. Russians should go to the army. After all,
they are serving the state.

AV: Why [is] the army so dangerous? Because in the Russian army
they teach people how to be cruel, how to be rude, and people who
are in the army the second year, they use torture for boys who came.

FW: They are very cruel to the recruits.

LS: Did you celebrate any Jewish holidays when you were young, at
home?

29


AV: Yes. My mom tried not to do anything on Saturday. If it was
possible, but how, if she needs to stay on the line to buy food, she
did it. My grandfather prayed every day, and yes, my mom celebrated
Rosh Hashana always and Yom Kippur.

FW: Did you fast on Yom Kippur or because of your heart you didn't?
AV: No, I can't.
LS: And what about Passover?
AV: Passover it was more when I was married with Vlad because in


my family no men, and in Vlad's family his mom's uncle was an
underground rabbi. His son was a military man, he had Ph.D., and he
was a researcher, and it was not good for his career, and his father
was very quiet about it.

LS: Where had this underground rabbi been trained? Who trained
him?
AV: He was a very old man, it was before revolution.
FW: Was Vlad circumcised?
AV: Yes.
FW: And what about your son?
AV: No. Now, yes.


FW: Just recently?
LS: Was there any question when you started dating, thinking about
marriage, that you might marry anybody? Was there anything said to
you about you had to marry somebody Jewish?


AV: Only Jewish. I never had a question. never had boys in my
company, Russian boys.


30



LS: Was that something your mother talked about or was it just
something that she assumed, and if so, why?

AV: No, it was circumstance, because in my class it was 30% Jews-
that's a lot.

LS: Yes. Nevertheless, 70% non-Jewish.

AV: And so, who cares about them? We were together, and the boys'
school most of them [were] Jewish too, and in our company was, we
had only one close friend, her father was the rector of the University
of Moscow, and her mom had Ph.D. in Russian and she helped Stalin to
write a book, and she was extremely anti-Semitic. Girls not, but
mom, you can't imagine how big anti-Semite she was. They had a
huge flat, and that flat had two different [unclear], and we were
always in their house because only they had enough room to meet,
and, "It's dangerous. Mama's here." . And we wait here, and if mom
should[come] this way, we disappear the other way. Because no
Jewish girls and boys in her house.

FW: And how did the father feel?

AV: The father was a nice person and he was sick and he was quiet,
but mom! And if you talked to somebody who graduated from the
University of Moscow, the big building, the main building, Russian
Language Department, everybody knows her as a classic anti-Semite.

LS: I would like to ask you now a little bit more about when your son
was growing up. He did not have a problem, right? His parents were
OK. His parents were upstanding Soviet citizens. They had jobs. You
had a studio apartment. Or did you move into something larger?

AV: No, we stayed in the studio apartment. We moved when he was
in the fourth or fifth or sixth grade. We had two rooms, and you need
to go to this room through this.

FW: Railroad apartment.

LS: OK, it's two rooms, we call them railroad flats (apartments)
because they are like railroad cars.

31


FW: How were you able to manage that?
AV: We sold this and we bought this one.
LS: Did your son have any problems in school with anti-Semitism?
AV: Yes, because he was--not because he is my son--he was special,

and a teacher from his school asked me all the time that he needs to

leave this school. Usual public school.

LS: Leave it for where?

AV: For a special school.

LS: You mean a school for gifted children?

AV: Yes. And we did it.

LS: Was it a better school there?

AV: Yes.

LS: Was it a school for math and science?
AV: Math, but it was very difficult for me because he needed to go
to street car, to subway, and then.


LS: And how old was he when he did this?


AV: Twelve.


LS: It's possible.


AV: Oh, in Russia it's bad.


LS: Why is it bad?


AV: It's a big city, like New York.


32


LS: But people in New York do it. They go to the Bronx High School of
Science.

AV: And so, a train came, high speed, and a crowd, and everybody
pushed, and this boy, and his face--1 am Jewish-


LS: Oh, so that made more of a danger for him. That's something
that we don't think about in America. I mean you'd think that nobody
is going to push you because you look different.

AV: If it's dark, Vlad always met him, Vlad met me. I never went
where is dark from a subway to our house--it's five minutes to walk.

LS: Do you say that you look Jewish? Here you are blond and blueeyed.
Did you feel that you were in danger?

AV: I always told when I was in a company and somebody didn't
know me, first of all I'd say. "I am Jewish," because people like to
tell anecdotes about Jews and so on, and I didn't like it.

LS: I was talking to you a little before about this background static.
You had anti-Semitism in the background all the time, and
sometimes it cropped up, your choices in life were limited. What
made you finally decide to leave?

AV: It's very easy. Dima was in a special school and the class was
134 boys and girls, and all of them special, and Dima was the second.
Dima was more in physics than mathematics. He was perfect in
mathematics too, but in physics he was absolutely better. I was
very friendly with his teachers because one of their counselors was
my class-mate. We talked a lot of his future, and before Dima
graduated, we took private lessons for math for him because if he is
Jewish, he needs to be five times better than non-Jewish people.
And we hadn't time and hadn't possibility to have risk of his not
passing.

LS: Because if he didn't pass, he would go into the service. But it
doesn't matter where he applied? He could have applied some place
less prestigious and he would have had a better chance?

33


AV: No, I'll tell you. Dima wanted to go to the university, Moscow
State University, and it was early spring and it was class reunion
time, and one of our class, from boy's school, he is a professor at the
university, mathematics, Dima has his books, and I asked him, we
met each other in a restaurant downtown Moscow, and I said, "You
know, I have a son, and he is a good boy. Don't think that everybody's
mother told he is a good boy." "In what school is he?" I told him
which school, it's the Math School in lzmailovo--it's a very famous
school in Moscow. And he said, "Does he take private lessons?" I
said, "Yes." "With whom?" I told him. This teacher, his friend. And
he told me, "Oh, this is different because I know that this man
teaches only wonderful students." And he said, "Now it's May. They
will graduate in June. Give me a call when he graduates." OK. In
June, when Dima graduated, so high distinguished, I called him and
said so, so and so. He said, "Yes, I talked with his teacher and I
know everything about him. I will give you a call in a couple of
days." He is Russian, he is Christian. He called me and said, "Anna,
forget about the university. I am sorry to tell you about this, but I
never knew about this, and when I asked directly about Jews, I was
told, "No way."

FW: You mean, he was not aware that a student would not be
accepted.

AV: Yes. He is a scientist and he is not personnel department. He is
not realistic. He is a wonderful man. He was a wonderful boy when
we were in high school. He gradua~ed very highly distinguished. His
name is Vladimir Mikhailovich Tikhomirov. And then he told me, "I'll
investigate which institute of technology will accept him, and some
of my former students will call you." And it's true. A couple days
passed, and a young man called me and said that Mr. Tikhomirov
asked me to call you and talk to you. We have a very good math
department and it's OK for him."

LS: And this is the institute of technology in Moscow?

AV: Yes, Railroad Institute of Technology.

FW: It's not the best.

34


AV: AV: It's good, but it's not the best. No, but when Dima started
to study--my goodness--only Jewish boys around because it was
open. And then Dima, because of his high distinguish [honors] he
needs to pass only two exams: math oral and written. Oral exam he
passed three hours alone, without anybody, because he had decision
[solution] for some questions very unusual, and the teacher paid
attention to this, "Why are you here? You are you not at the
university?" And they talked with him almost for three hours. And
he started to study.

LS: Where did he go then, to this railroad institute?

AV: Yes. He did not graduate four grades. He was kicked out from
Komsomol, from the university.

FW: Why?

AV: When we applied.

LS: Are you saying that you applied because his future was [unclear]

AV: Yes, and I decided that I had terrible life. All my life was
terrible. I have only one son, and I have possibility to leave Russia.
How can I stay in Russia if I have possibility to leave Russia?

LS: What about your job? Were you happy with your job?

AV: I was kicked out right away too.

LS: No, ho. Before. Did you enjoy your job? Did you enjoy the people
you worked with? Or were there frictions there?

AV: I lost my job when I worked ten years. In summer time, no air
conditioning.

LS: So you move because of Dima?

AV: I didn't want my son to have the same life than I did.

LS: But did you enjoy any of the time that you spent working?

35


AV: I worked ten years in one company. It was a building with five
stories, without elevators, and ceiling three and a half meters.
couldn't go to fifth floor. I worked on second floor, and if I need to
go to another department, I couldn't. In summer time hot, in winter,
all day long we sit in winter coats. And then, 40 degrees below, go
and wait for street car. Tomorrow everybody is sick.

LS: What about the people you worked with? Were they nice? Did
you form friends at work?

AV: A job place is a very dangerous place because in each
department somebody worked with K.G.B. and it's very difficult to
talk, because if you know that somebody will read what you write,
your personal [things], it's difficult to write. For me it's always
difficult to write letters to Moscow because I know that somebody
will read it. The same is at work. I know that from Vlad's work
nobody ever was in our apartment. Never, nobody.

LS: Why?

AV: Because Vlad said, "This is my private life. I don't want."

LS: From your work did you invite people to your apartment?

AV: No, very rarely.

LS: So who were your friends? People you went to high school and
college with?

AV: Yes. Vlad had company when he was sixteen and girls fourteen
years old, and from this age we are friendly till today.

LS: When you decided to go, did you think maybe I'll go to the United
States, maybe I'll go to Israel?

AV: Yes. Vlad started to talk about this when the Six Day War
started, and we wanted all the time to go to Israel, but I was afraid.
The main reason why we stopped it, it was my health one, and


another, my father's papers. I understood that I needed to do
something and I couldn't. I tried one time.

FW: But it didn't matter whether you would go to Israel or to
America. So what made you decide not to go to Israel? When I met
you years ago, I remember that you were saying that you were
thinking of going to Israel.

AV: Dima. If Dima goes to Israel, we will go too. When we get
pension.

FW: Before you made your decision in Moscow?

AV: We talked a lot about Israel and we have relatives--! have my
aunt in Israel, my cousin's there. America was very far. Israel was
close in that time. In the beginning we couldn't go to America. We
could go only to Israel. And then, when the possibility appeared to
go to America, in that time Lena (Dima's wife)was in our family, and
her parents pushed her to go to the United States. I don't know why
because they are in Moscow still, till today. I don't know why they
wanted this way. And then children and me decided to go. Vlad was
against, Vlad was all time for Israel.

LS: Then, why did you come to Minnesota?

AV: Climate.

FW: Relations, right? You had somebody here.

AV: And we had very, very distant Vlad's relatives--Perelman--and
they lived here, and we decided maybe we can.

LS: Were they related to Perelman?

AV: Yes, distant.

LS: So when did you come to Minnesota?

AV: May11,1981.

37


LS: And your son was already married, right?
AV: Yes, they married in Moscow, before applying. They married in


December, and they applied in June next year. She was eighteen, he
was twenty.
LS: So young.
AV: Yes, because he wanted to go only with Lena, and for her it was


only one way to leave without parents.


LS: When you first came here, who met you at the airport? Did
anyone?
AV: Shirley Rosenblum, Agnessa ...
FW: Agnes P[?], an emigre from Leningrad ...
AV: Yes, and Barker.
FW: [name unclear] Burke, a volunteer?
AV: Yes,, Nancy Burke. They moved. They live now in Wisconsin.
LS: And then, what happened next?
AV: Agnessa was a translator, but children and Vlad knew English a


little bit.
LS: Did they? Had they started studying before?
AV: Yes, children spent a year... [End Tape 2 Side 1]


[Tape 2 Side 2]


LS: Hello, this is Linda Schloff. We are back on the following
Monday, which is June 17, to finish our interview with Anna Volovik.
I wanted to go back just a little bit, something I have not asked you
before. You said that when you were married, you had a chupa

38


(wedding canopy) at your wedding, and that sounds pretty unusual in
1956. Tell me about that. Where was the chupa?
AV: At home. It was at a dacha, summer cottage.


LS: And whose dacha was it?
AV: We rented, and it was only for parents and my sister and his
brothers and a couple aunts, and that's all.


LS: Did Vlad's uncle, the underground rabbi perform the ceremony?

AV: Yes, and we have papers here. We have a certificate.

LS: Are you talking about a ketuba (Jewish marriage certificate)


when you say a certificate?
AV: Yes.
LS: Did he have a supply of ketubas? It seems so interesting.
AV: I'll show it to you.
LS: We are trying to figure out where the chupa came from. Where


was it stored? You said that you had a chupa, but a chupa is a canopy
that's held up on four poles. Did you also have that?


AV: Yes, it was something like this.
LS: And where was it stored when it wasn't used?


AV: They made from sticks.


FW: And what was the cloth?


AV: Something, I don't remember. It's a piece of fabric.


LS: Oh, I see. So you made it.


39



VV: No, it was not done by Anna or me. It was done by somebody
else--we don't know.

LS: So other people had used it also?

VV: No. We don't know where it came from.

LS: [Looking at the certificate] This is a photocopy?

AV: Yes, our original is in the synagogue. Dima took it to his
synagogue.

LS: It looks like a standard katuba.

FW: Have you ever heard the word katuba, or in Yiddish it's kstsiba.
Have you ever heard this name?

AV: Never, only in the United States.

FW: How was this document explained to you when the rabbi gave
you?

AV: It's marriage certificate.

LS: Was it his idea or was it your idea to have a Jewish wedding?

AV: It was Vlad's idea, his parents. [Looking at the paper] We have
the original, and the original has a number here. We could not take
this paper with us when we left Russia, and Vlad's brother made
several copies and sent us several letters, and we got all of them,
three or four--original and three copies.

LS: The next thing that I wanted to go back to was the 1967 War.
You said that was when you first started talking about leaving. How
did the 1967 War affect you and Vlad personally?

AV: I know that in that time in Israel I had two cousins. They were
born in Israel, and my understanding was that both of them were in
the army. One of them was very active in [unclear] and during the
war in 1948 he was wounded very hard, and he died three years ago,

40


not sixty years old yet, in London. He was married to an English
woman, Jewish English woman, and he has three kids--all of them in
Israel now--and our understanding was that they were in the army.
It's true. It's not only our expression because in that time a lot of
people were very excited about this, very enthusiastic. Something
[was] awaken inside in that time because it was the first time that
Jewish people showed the whole world that they can be safe and
they can protect themselves.

LS: Were there repercussions from the government because the Jews
were so successful at protecting themselves and Israel?

AV: Yes, after this war, it was a government campaign against
Israel, but not only among Jewish people, among Russian people, they
said, "Oh my Gosh, what happened? They can fight." During World
War II Russian people said that all Jewish people never were in the
war, everybody was in Tashkent.

LS: So the Russians were awaken too.

AV: I remember the reaction of my co-workers. Everybody was
excited. Not everybody. It's impossible in Russia, but some people
were very excited.

LS: So they were favorably impressed?

AV: Yes. And after this, especially people who had more Zionist
spirit, decided to go and they started to fight with the government
to change the emigration policy. It was a very difficult time.

FW: This is when the refusnik movement began, or did it begin
before?

AV: Refusnik was later, when people who worked in the military
field or something like this, when the first Jewish people applied
for a visa, the government gave everybody [permission], and then
they understood that it's scientists, engineers, and people who were
in the army, and people Vl{ho worked with secret codes, they leave
Russia, and they stopped. And then refusniks. They applied and got
refusal to leave Russia. Because it was absolutely unpredictable,

41


like everything in Russia, a lot of people were afraid to apply,
because if you apply and get refusal, you are without a job, without
anything. And this is for years.

LS: You were saying that Vlad was thinking of applying in 1967?

AV: Yes, but his father was against,
relatives, and cousins. He has a lot
relatives were killed during World War II.
people, 28 very close relatives.
absolutely,
of relatives.
My mom lost in
his father
Most of
one day 28
and
my
LS: In the Crimea region?
AV: Yes.

LS: But Vlad had a lot of relatives?

AV: Yes.

LS: And all of Vlad's relatives [unclear] apply?

AV: Yes, and only now, about two years ago, Vlad's first cousin
came, and they started to move. And now his brother and everything.
But then we were alone, nobody supported us.

LS: So that's why you didn't do anything for so many years, between
1967 and about 1980?

AV: Yes. Then was Yom Kippur War, and it stopped. For me nobody
ever told me that I need to go because I need surgery. Nobody ever
told me about this. When I came to the United States, in three weeks
I had papers for surgery. And I am always, what will .1 do in Israel?
In that time nobody thought about United States. It was Israel. How
can I emigrate? I can't walk, I can't do anything. And that's stopped.
But Vlad, and then Dima grows.

LS: What happened to Dima as he was growing up to make him decide
that he did not want [stay]?

AV: First of all, the university.

42


LS: Was that it, that he got into a railroad institute?
AV: Yes. Dima is not a very easy boy for me, and he is very strong
minded, and if Dima decides something, it's absolutely impossible to

change his mind, and when he decided to leave--it was when he
married--he met Lena, they married, and they decided to leave.
LS: I was going to ask you about his marriage too because he got

married even younger than you got married. He was a year younger
than his father when he got married? He got married at age twenty?
AV: Dima? Yes. I was twenty-two and Vlad was twenty-five. And
, Dima twenty and Lena eighteen.
LS: Is that young?

AV: Yes, for Russia, absolutely, especially now.
FW: Not so much for a girl, but for a young man that's very young,
right?


AV: Yes, yes.
LS: Did you try to do what Vlad's father did and say, "Wait, wait?"
AV: I did know that this is absolutely without success.
LS: You mean you tried it?
AV: I tried, but Dima told me that he loved her and they wanted to


emigrate and they need to do it together. And Lena had a separate
invitation from Israel. We had for three for us, and Lena had several,
because they wanted to leave Russia many, many years before us.

LS: Who wanted, her parents?
AV: Her parents--they are still in Moscow.
LS: So why are they still in Moscow?


43


AV: Nobody can give you an answer for sure.

LS: What happened when they got married? Did they have a place to
live? Here they got married and they applied within a month. Is that
correct?

AV: No. They married in December, and we couldn't apply because I
needed papers for my father, and I asked my manager to give me
several days without pay.

FW: She means she needed perm1ss1on from her father. Since her
father was dead, she had to prove that he was dead. She had no
proof.

LS: What was the name of the town? Saratov?

AV: Saratov.

FW: When we first talked, you told me how you managed to get the
information that he died in the camp, which they didn't want to give
you.

LS: How did you get this information?

AV: First of all, I started to investigate in Moscow. I was [went to]
in the prison when I knew that he was there. They told me that all
papers [were] destroyed when German troops were near Moscow, they
burned all papers. It was true. Then I was in K.G.B. in Moscow, and
they told me that why I know that he died. f\{1aybe he is living in the
next street.

FW: That he died you mean? They asked you how do you know he
died?

AV: No, no. I couldn't ask them that. I wanted only to know where is
he. And then when I asked them about this paper, what is the
reason? You live without this paper for twenty years, or thirty at
that time. Without papers about where is my father.

44


LS: So they were asking you, why do you have to know now, after all
these years?

AV: Yes. Why you need this paper? We want to go to Israel. Then
they became quite... Otherwise, how can I, without reason, I couldn't.
I was in court. It's so long.

FW: Who told you finally which camp he was in?
AV: [shows a document] This is the Court of USSR in Moscow. It's


1969. This is to certify that according to our archives, your father,
Radzinsky, David Moiseevich, was neither arrested nor stood trial.
LS: How could they say that he was not arrested?
AV: I got this. This is an official paper.
LS: That's a total lie, isn't it?
FW: Of course. Right? They were lying to you?
AV: "Moved out. Arrested by the N.K.V.D." [Reads the document in


Russian]
FW: Who said that, who admitted that? N.K.V.D. said they arrested


him? You have a document? Another organ of the government?
AV: The same organ.
FW: But the same organ said he was not arrested?


AV: Yes.
FW: What is the date on this?
AV: I got it in 1979.
FW: Same organ said one thing in 1969 and another thing, they


admitted the truth finally. How did you manage that?


45


AV: This is nothing. If you have an apartment building and you have
these big books ... [explains how people are registered at their place
of residence]

FW: Each building had such a book. In Europe it is customary--you
were registered--and when you moved, they recorded the move, and
there was a central office where your new address was recorded as
well.

AV: But our building, where my father was arrested, it's no building.
In this building is a representative of one of the Russian republics.
Office building. Next door it was police station. This building was
destroyed, and I went to the nearest police station and asked them,
"Where are old papers from this house?" They said, "Oh, this was a
wonderful house and all papers you can find ... " and they gave me an
address. I went to this address and asked them about this book. And
they opened and found right away.

LS: That he had been arrested?

AV: Yes.

LS: But now you had to prove that he was dead?

AV: I asked them to give me a copy. I had in my purse several blocks
of chocolate. "Please ... " And right away I got this paper.

LS: And then you went to Saratov also?

AV: Then, when I got this paper, I went to court because in Russia
the rule is if somebody did not live in this place more than half a
year and nobody knows where he is, you can apply to court and then
you get a certificate. But I know Russian courts, I know much better
than somebody else, and I decided ... [A confusing discussion follows
of the kind of certificate involved.]

[Ms. Volovik describes her trip to Saratov and how it came about.]

AV: I asked him [judge] what I need to do. I need a paper. Can I get a
death certificate? "But we haven't papers that he died. He was

46


arrested, but where is he?" And he told me that I did not use all
ways to try to find this. He gave me several [pieces of] advice and
then he told me that if it's not of help, go back and for you court
[hearing] would be right away, because in Russia it's years. And he
gave me an address. I lived in this area all my life. It's a library,
near our friends, and he told me that it will be a small door and
nothing written there, between this door and this door. Knock on
this door. I knocked on the door, and a K.G.B. man opened. What are
you doing here? I need to talk with somebody else. It's a yard,
fenced, and several buildings--! never knew about it--1 lived all my
life near this place--this is Gulag, their headquarters. And he told
me in this room, small door, a desk, a man around sixty, white hair, a
big one, and one chair, nothing else. "Sit down. What do you want?"
I showed him. this and this and this. "I want to know where is my
father." He was the only one person who did not ask me why I need
this paper. He told me, "If I give you advice, do you want to follow
this advice?" I said, "Yes." "Go to Saratov."

LS: Was it a prison in Saratov or was it exile?

AV: A camp.

FW: Not right in Saratov, right? Outside of Saratov?

AV: Outside of Saratov. And I needed to go to Saratov. I asked
several days without payment, and my boss said no. I said, "OK, "
and I write that I quit my job. He tore it up and put in in a basket. I
said that I needed a couple days. "We have a lot of work. Go work."
OK, in two days somebody told me that he went to Czechoslovakia. I
wrote a new note that I quit my job and go to his assistant.

LS: So you quit your job?

AV: Next day I didn't work. I stopped my work.

LS: This was 1979? So people were getting fairly bold at that
time?

AV: It was 1979, it was April. And now I needed to go to Saratov
right away.

47


FW: Where in Saratov? How would you know to which camp to go?

AV: This man from Gulag told me that you need to go to one place, if
not, to another place, and if not, to a third place.

[End Tape 2 Side 2]

[Tape 3 Side 1]

AV: I'll tell you what is the place.

FW: You took the train?

AV: How? Felicia, no tickets.

FW: You need permission to go to Saratov?

AV: No. I need to buy tickets, but no tickets, and I had not anybody
in Saratov to stay because hotel is impossible in Russia. If I am on a
business trip, it's one way, another way if I am...

FW: If you are on a business trip, there comes lodgings or hotel or
hostel, on your own, unless there are hotels, there is no place to
stay. And the hotels also, even if there is one, sometimes there is
no room, right?

AV: Several days I couldn't buy a ticket for Saratov, then I bought it
and the whole night I sit in the train. I sit in the warm and hot and
smells--not because I wanted this, but I couldn't buy another ticket.
In the morning, I am in Saratov. I go to this place in the City Hall,
and I am only with a small purse with documents and money, and a
small purse, overnight bag, and that's all. And chocolates, a lot. I go
to the City Hall, and because in this area there was a lot camps, they
have a special [department? office?] "You know, I am from Moscow,
I need this." This man didn't have what I needed. He disappeared and
started to put these big books, seven or eight, and each book has a
piece of paper, and each line is a name.

48


LS: So you had a possibility of going through millions of names?
AV: Yes.
FW: And who looked at the names, you or he?
AV: Me. He gave me and disappeared. And I started, my goodness,


Radzinsky, I started to see this and this.
FW: Was it alphabetical?
AV: Some, but the,n I found that this book consisted of small books,


and it's alphabetical from this, then again, then again, from
'different places. I got nervous.
'FW: How many hours did you spend?
AV: Maybe three.
FW: And you didn't find the name?
AV: No.

LS: Did you give him chocolates then?
AV: Oh sure. And then I went to another place. A woman said, "Oh,
no, no, no. Here, nothing. We send all our papers to City Hall or last
place."


FW: The last of the three which were recommended?
AV: Yes. I went to another place. I don't know what is the place.
knew about it when I left. I had only the address, I found, and
asked--it's not English, it's Russian, it's much easier to ask--and


this room, knocked on the door, nobody answered. Lunch time. I
waited.
FW: And what did you eat?


49


AV: No. Who can eat? I couldn't. And then a young lady came. I said
that's what I need. "Oh, wait a second. Now there will be another
lady, she is older than I am and she is working here a long time, and
she will help you." And it's true. Maybe 20 minutes passed, and she
appeared, and I said to her, "I have my father's letter, the address of
a camp." When I went to this room, she said, "This is our files."
"This is your camp." "Yes, it's our camp. Papers need to be here if
he was here." Again, she tried to help me, and another, and another,
and she had computers. First time in my life... She told me, "Wait a
second, I'll call now the computer station." She called, and they .
called back and said no.

FW: Did you give her the chocolates already or not?

AV: Not yet, but I saw that she wanted to help me, but no. In my
condition, it's very difficult to explain, I understood that I am in
Russia forever, I can't leave. And then I said, "It's a very difficult
name, Radzinsky, and always when I said my name, it was written
with mistakes.

LS: How was it spelled? Instead of Radzinsky?

AV: I took a piece of paper and I wrote all names with mistakes.

FW: Several different versions of that name. How would you write
it in Russian in different ways? [discuss different ways of spelling
the name in Russian]

AV: And I found it.

FW: How was he registered?

AV: R-0-D-Z-1-N-S-K-Y. And I found in the file.

FW: First name the same?

AV: Yes, everything the same, birthday. And then she told me, "Wait
a second, please." She disappeared. Five minutes [later]-Rodzinsky,
his file.

50


LS: His whole file she brought up to you?


AV: All his file. When I was in K.G.B. in 1969, they told me that all
papers which they keep was 25 years.
FW: But they said it was destroyed in the Moscow prison?
AV: In the prison was destroyed. This is another paper, but 25


years.


LS: Then they destroy them. But obviously they didn't destroy them
after 25 years.
AV: No, in a perfect shape.
FW: When you went to the K.G.B. in 1969 and 1979, was he spelled


differently?
LS: She didn't ask.
FW: You asked for the proper way?
AV: Yes. And I said, "I want to take this." She said, "Oh no. Don't


touch. I can't give it to you." She sat down, put it and showed me,
because another girl was there.
FW: She pointed to that girl, that the girl was watching?
AV: Yes, and I stayed here, and she started to [unclear]


LS: What do you mean? So that you could take things out?
AV: No, look. What can I read, only this way. And then she saw that
this is sixteen people together, and she said, "Nobody called your
mom and said about him?"


FW: Of the sixteen people that were arrested with him?
AV: Yes. She said, "Maybe they died all together. Who knows?" I
said, "No." And then in the end, his death paper.


51


FW: Signed by a physician?

AV: Yes.

LS: Did she allow you to take that or copy it?

AV: No.

FW: Did you read that death certificate?

AV: Yes.

FW: What did it say?
AV:
nobody knows.
That he died, it was November 9, 1942, from pneumonia. But
FW: Of course, not. Most of the death certificates were false.

AV: And then, on the last page, she said, "Anna, you know that you
can get his death certificate in Moscow in the City Hall special
office. We sent this information in 1942. And nobody sent you this
paper?" First of all, we were not in Moscow, but our neighbor cared
for our unit, and ...

LS: If papers had come, they would have notified you?

AV: Yes. But she told me, "Wait a second, Anna, don't do it. I'll send
a new one because it's Rodzinsky, it's not your father. You're
Radzinsky, and you will spend years to change these papers.

FW: Because you spelled it one way and they had it spelled
differently.

LS: She was very wonderful to you.

AV: Yes.

52



FW: When she sent it in, she spelled it which way? When she sent
the new certificate to Moscow, how did she spell it?

AV: Radzinsky.

FW: So that they would see that you are the daughter?

AV: Yes, and when she closed [it], she started to cry. You know why?
She told me, "You found something about him, Anna. I am not."

LS: Did her father go to the camps too?

AV: No, her father was killed June 22 [1941] on the border of Poland.

FW: In 1941, when the Nazis invaded? And she never knew exactly?

AV: No. And then I gave her all these chocolates, and she said to me,
"Go to Moscow and in a couple days you will get it. And just in case,
this is our phone number."

FW: Wonderful woman.

AV: Yes. And we came, in two days we came to this office and I
asked, "Did you get something from Saratov for me?" "Yes." Again,
these chocolates. "Yes, we got it, but we didn't write yet in the
book." I asked, "Can I read this paper because I want to know how
it's spelled? Is it right?" And it was a mistake in his name.
Radzinsky was right, David [was mispelled]. I said, "Please stop it.
Don't write it. Because this is a mistake. I'll go home now and I'll
call Saratov and they'll send another one." We took a taxi, and I
called right away. A couple days passed, and we got this paper. And
this is not the whole story about this certificate.

FW: You mean that's not the end of it?

AV: No, we applied, everything was OK, and we had a visa, and we
need this paper we could officially take with ourselves.

FW: By the way, did she give you finally this when corrected?

53


AV: Yes, in a couple days. [Explains exactly how it was done]

[Gives the details of how all documents needed to be notarized in
order to take them out of the country]

AV: We went to this special office with a whole bunch of our
papers, we came, we stood in the line, and then we gave them all
these papers. Opened the window, "What are these? What does it
mean? He died in 1942 and this is 1981, and this is the first time
death certificate? What is this?" "This is the reason why I am
leaving." I thought that he would kill me, but I was out of control.
He shut the window, take it. But he called somebody. [A discussion
follows of why]

LS: So someone else came to the window and you finally got your
things stamped and approved?

AV: Yes, and then we applied on June 6, 1979, and we got permission
in February 1981.

LS: How did you live between now and then? Did all of you lose your
jobs?

AV: We lived wonderfully. We sold my diamond ring, we sold all our
crystal and dishes, furniture, library.

FW: You lived from whatever you could sell?

AV: Sure.

FW: In your apartment?

AV: Sure. We lived in our place.

LS: Did you work?
AV: No. We couldn't. I lost my job, and Vlad lost [his] right away.
LS: And Dima was?

54



AV: Dima was expelled from the university and from the railroad.

FW: And what about Lena?

AV: The same.

FW: She lived with you together in your apartment?

AV: It was a very bad time for all of us because everybody was not
kind. We were very nervous, because the situation was terrible. We
couldn't work, I am knitting for somebody a shawl, people ordered,
what Vlad did I don't know. He built a house, painting ...

LS: He is a very resourceful person, isn't he? He can do a lot of
things?

AV: It was a wonderful life. All day long conversations, phone,
everybody afraid to talk, but...

FW: That's what I wanted to ask you. Did your friends avoid you or
· did they come talk to you? Were they afraid to be heard or seen with

you?

AV: By phone, no. When they came, we put pillows to our telephone
because in Russia you can't disconnect the phone.

FW: But on the phone you did not?

AV: No. Are you at home? Yes. We'll be there. And that's all. When
we got permission and we opened our house and more than 300
people came. They were all my friends from school, from university,
from work, from neighbors, and family, and Vlad's. We have a lot of
friends all around United States, and we travel a lot because we
have so many friends here.

LS: Tell me again about what happened after Dima got married. As
soon as he got married, he applied to leave, right?

AV: Yes, we applied together.


LS: There was no possibility for him to live anywhere. Tell me
about his living arrangements.

AV: When he [was] kicked out of the university, his teachers
understood that he needs money, and teachers separately from each
other gave him a job. Because this job was sometimes in the
computers and he needed to be in the computers. Nobody in Russia
had personal computers, and he worked in his railroad university.
And then his professor told him, he was one of the best as usual,
that he [unclear] and he was [unclear]

LS: You said that Dima and Vlad took English lessons. Is that right?

AV: No, Dima and Lena. Dima worked as a tutor.

LS: Who gave the English lessons?

AV: Teacher. They had a very good teacher. She was pregnant and
she needed to be in bed all time, and she was so happy that Dima and
Lena were with her and they paid money.

FW: She was lying and teaching?

AV: She is a very good teacher, and Dima and Lena had very good
English when they came. Vlad knew English. Vlad graduated from an
English language college for people with higher education. It was 25
years ago maybe, 20 year ago, and he was a professional translator
because his salary as an engineer was not enough to live. We had
two engineer salaries. It's not enough. He always had additional
work as a translator.

LS: Tell me again where Dima and Lena lived?
AV:
with
Sometimes with us, sometimes with Lena's parents,
Lena's grandmother--she died two weeks ago.
sometimes
LS: So they lived sort of the way you did?
AV: The same way.

56



FW: But they didn't have children? They had their first child here?

AV: Yes. Because they understood that they need to be in school and
to graduate.

LS: Now we'll go on to America. You said that when you came here,
the Jewish Family Service people met you at the airport, and then,
did they have an apartment waiting for you?

AV: Yes.

LS: Did you expect that? What did you expect? What did you think
you would find here?

AV: It was a very difficult way for me, personally. for me. First of
all, I was in a very bad shape in Italy. I felt very bad. And it was a
very difficult way from Italy. It's a [unclear] maybe 40 hours
without sleeping, it's very, very difficult. We woke up at five in the
morning and the next day only.

FW: You had to wait for connections. Rome to New York, and New
York here.

LS: After you had applied to come to America, what did you think
America would be like?

AV: Because Vlad knew English, Vlad for maybe ten years didn't read
books in the the Russian language, only in English, and we knew a lot
about America, but it's not enough. For me, we are more European
people.

LS: What do you mean by that?

AV: Life style. Why we bought a condominium, because I am afraid
to live in a house. I always liked them -have neighbors.

LS: That's why I can't understand why you are out in the middle of
what was a corn field last year. If you talk about being European and
you grew up in the heart of Moscow, how is it that you can live out
here?

57


AV: Now I like it.


LS: When you first came, were you surprised at how few people
were out in the streets?
AV: Yes, then how people dress, how people eat. I can't eat


American food till today. I can't. I cook only by myself.


LS: What American food can't you understand or is distasteful to
you?
AV: I am a sausage person. like any kind of sausage. I can't eat,


only salt. [Sausage here is too salty compared to what she is used to]
LS: You like salt?
AV: No, I don't like it.
FW: But sausage has a lot of fat and salt?
AV: It's not delicious for me.
FW: What is good for you? Home-made soup, pirozhki, kielbasa?
AV: Yes.
FW: You know how bad that is for your health, the sausage?
AV: I never eat it.
FW: What do you eat?
AV: Chicken, beef... [End Tape 3 Side 1]


[Tape 3 Side 2]


FW: Chicken is chicken and beef is beef. You mean maybe the way
we prepare food?

58


AV: I don't know. Maybe because I always take my medicine. Maybe
this changed my taste. I don't know, but...

LS: So you don't like American food?

AV: No, which we buy in the store, we are fighting with Vlad
because he likes everything, and I don't like.

LS: You don't like anything? You don't like pizza?

AV: I like pizza, but OK, a piece of pizza and so?

FW: What else, when you came here and you were at the airport, and
Shirley Rosenblum came to greet you, they took you to the
apartment, and if I remember, the apartment was filled with food
for one whole week. Did this surprise you?

AV: Oh yes.

LS: Where was the apartment? Was it in Sibley Manor?

AV: No, it was in Lynhurst, it's University Avenue.

FW: A block from University and Fairview. It's a nice residential
[neighborhood]. There is a little pond and a park.

AV: Cars, first of all, it's a lot of cars, then quiet streets, then air
conditioning. We didn't know how to use a shower. We couldn't
switch the oven because we hadn't matches and we didn't know that
we don't need this. What is for· me very difficult and what I don't
like is our job security.

FW: Is there job security in Russia?

AV: Yes. It's another conversation about what does it mean a job in
Russia, but if you work and if I work in this place and in this
position and I like it and I want to be here, I can do it all my life.

59


FW: And if you don't do the work can you fired in the Soviet Union?
Can you be fired if you are absent a lot or if they find out that you
drink on the job or that you really are lazy and don't do a good job?
Do they fire you?

AV: It's very, very seldom, extremely seldom.

FW: That means that if you do a fairly reasonable job that you will
stay in that position as long as you live and get your pension?
AV: Yes.
LS: Before you even started to get a job here, you needed to learn


some English, didn't you?
AV: Yes, but my English is enough because I am a draftsman,


designer/draftsman. It's the same language in the whole world,
drawings.
LS: And you didn't have to use a computer?
AV: No, not in Russia.
LS: It wasn't necessary here either?
AV: No, I graduated.
LS: Talking about here, it seems to me that even draftsmen do a lot


of drafting on a computer these days?


AV: Today, but when I started, it's not too many. Now, yes, but now
I know how to work with a computer.
LS: Did you say that three weeks after you arrived here, you had


surgery?


AV: No, three weeks I had papers for surgery. July I had one surgery,
test, and then I had big surgery August 1.
FW: When you recovered, did you go for English classes?


60


AV: No, because in that time it was done. We were in the last car in


1981. After us nobody came, only a few people.
FW: That's true, but what I am asking is, when you got well after the
surgery, if I recall, your English was not good, did you go to classes?


AV: No.
FW: You began to look for work?
AV: Yes. And it was a bad time, and I went to a Vo-Tech because


when I tried to find a job, everybody asked me, "How can you use
inch system?" And I went, this is two years college, and I graduated
in nine months, and that's all.

LS: Did you try to find a job by yourself or did you use the Jewish
Family Service or the Jewish Vocational Service?
AV: I tried, but they helped not very much.
FW: And you found it yourself?
AV: Yes.


FW: Through the paper?
AV: No. Vlad helped me. He met one man--he was from an
employment office from the St. Paul headquarters unemployment
office, and he helped me to find this job.


LS: Do you think that the Jewish services ought to have tried a little


harder to help you? Were you disappointed?
AV: It's not only me. Maybe they helped everybody to explain how to
look for a job, how to do it. For Russian mentality it's very difficult
to understand why we need this.


FW: They helped you translate your documents? They sent your
documents to be evaluated?


61


AV: Yes, and how to talk ...


FW: How to prepare for an interview? They went with you to some
interviews?
AV: Yes. But for Russian people it's better to help get this job


because for Russian people it's very difficult to understand that this


is a whole science.
FW: What you are trying to say is that you were not prepared
enough? Is that what you are saying?


AV: Yes.


FW: That they should have spent more time doing this? I don't know
what you are trying to say.
AV: Yes.
LS: Would you have rather that they found you the job?
AV: For me, after my first job, when I started to work, I never had a


problem to find a job. And now when I was unemployed and I wanted
to stay home a little bit, they called me right away, because I am a
contractor now.

FW: Tell me, what is it that you felt that the Vocational Service
could have done that they didn't do? They have transferred your
documents, they have evaluated knowledge, they sent you the
application.

AV: This is a very good job. This is not for me.
FW: How did you feel about it?
LS: Or how other people felt about it?
AV: Russian people spent a lot of time to talk with them, with


Vocational Service. They helped some people to find a job, but most


62


of these positions it's not... I thought that the Jewish organizations
in the Twin Cities, we have a lot of Jewish people who own their
companies.

LS: So are you saying that you thought that with Jewish companies
it would help hire Jewish people?

FW: This I've heard many times from many, many places.

AV: And for me it's not understandable. I had one conversation with
a man who needs ... Mr. Lieberman, I can't find him. I tried, because I
wanted to talk with him not by phone. He didn't want to talk with
me. Somebody gave me his address and phone number and that he
needs a draftsman with the knowledge of physics. I said OK. I called
him and said my name and I am from Russia, and I have experience.
"Tell me please, did you take physics classes in high school?" "Oh
yes. Not only in high school, I graduated from a university, and in
Russia it's impossible to be a mechanical engineer without deep
knowledge of physics." He said, "I am not asking if you are
knowledgeable. Did you take physics?" In Russia, it's impossible to
take physics or chemistry. All students have the same, take the
same classes. And physics, yes, two years. "OK, send me your
resume." I sent my resume, and in a couple days I called him back.
"Mr. Lieberman, my name is so and so. Did you get my resume
please?" "Oh yes. Impressed, impressed. You are from Russia, hum,
my father came from Russia in 1910. OK, you need to find another
place." And put the receiver.

FW: Why?

AV: I know why. know why--because in his head Jewish people
who came now from Russia, the same as his father [who] came in
1910.

FW: But his father did not go to school or college?

AV: Oh sure, and he knows what it means Jewish people in Russia
who lived in mestechko [shtetn.

LS: So he couldn't get over that?

63


AV: No.

FW: But he had your resume with your high education?

AV: It doesn't matter.

LS: What about the Jewish Family Service as opposed to the Jewish
Vocational Service?

AV: We contacted with the Jewish Family Service for so short time
that I have not experienced absolutely. In three months we started
to work, we never got welfare. Children started to work in a month,
and we never contacted Jewish Family Service.

FW: You did have contact because they brought you, they settled you,
Shirley was working for Jewish Family Service?

AV: Yes, in the beginning. They helped us three months and that's
all.

LS: Did you think that it was enough? For you it sounds like it was
enough. But did you think it was enough for your family?

AV: For our family it was enough.

FW: I recall that you joined the JCC, you used to come to many of the
events?

AV: Jewish Community Center is another story.

LS: Tell us.

AV: I like it very much because this institute never was in our head
in Russia. I understood that some Jewish organizations, as Jewish
Vocational Service or Jewish Family Service, but I never thought of
Jewish Community Center. It's a wonderful place and I enjoy very
much, especially when we lived near. Very interesting lectures and
parties.

64


FW: Remember the Russian exhibit?
AV: Yes.

FW: And your husband came quite a bit to use the sports?
AV:
it was
two
Yes, and he tried to teach children to play games, and
in this JCC and it's died again, nobody wants to do
children and that's all.
the
it.
same
One


LS: What sort of games?
AV: Chess, backgammon.
LS: So you like the idea of Jews getting to.gether because they just


want to see one another and they want to do Jewish activities?
AV: Yes.
LS: What about your introduction to Jewish religion? What did you


think of that?
AV: For me it's very painful. It's very difficult for us to be


religious. It's understandable. All my life I was a pioneer, and then
I was a member of Komsomol. It was very difficult.
FW: But you did come occasionally to the synagogue?
AV: Sometimes.
FW: Which temple?
AV: Mount Zion. We were very often, but now, no, especially when


my son became Orthodox, and I don't agree and I don't like it.


LS: And what about Vlad? He came from a religious family, did he
not?
AV: No, not from religious. Our grandparents, my and Vlad's were

Orthodox. I remember that my grandfather prayed every day in the

65


morning. In Russia all Jewish people only Orthodox because it was
only one synagogue, but we are another generation.


LS: You always felt that it was for them but not for you?
AV: Yes. We are another generation, and life is so difficult in
Russia that I can't afford to have more difficult life, to have Kosher,
Saturday, it's impossible for me. And I can't do it today.


FW: If your son was not so Orthodox, because he is ultra-Orthodox,
right?


AV: He is not ultra. Lena...
FW: If he were a little bit less Orthodox and you wouldn't have all
these feelings, do you think that you and Vlad would continue to
belong to a reform synagogue?


AV: No, we would with them.
FW: With the children?
AV: Yes.
FW: In the Orthodox synagogue?
AV: Yes, if it's not very strong.
FW: If they would be conservative Jews or reform Jews?
AV: No, it's Orthodox but not ultra.
FW: What I am asking, does the fact that your son is so Orthodox and


you object to it, does that make you feel you don't want anything to
do with the synagogue? If Lena and your son were to join together
with you a reform or conservative synagogue, would that be more
comfortable for you? Would you then?

AV: No. I think that Reform and Conservative it's not religion.

66


FW: So you would like Orthodox?

AV: I like Orthodox.

FW: So what don't you like about your son's?

AV: Because I don't like this Lubavich Chassids, I don't understand.

FW: You approve of Orthodoxy but not of Chassids?

AV: You want to have [unclear], go have your own Kosher, go ahead
you want Sabbath, go ahead, it's not bad, but not, for me it's
stupidity. Before I started to work as a mechanical, I worked with
the synagogue, I cleaned the synagogue, and I know them. Felicia, I
don't believe them, most of them. Dima doesn't like when I say this,
but this is my opinion--! don't believe them.

LS: What was your reaction, you met a lot of people at the Jewish
Community Center who were not Russian, who were Americans. Did
you feel that they were sort of condescending to you too, that they
thought that you should be like your grandparents in 191 0?

AV: This is one of a lot of things. I thought that American Jewish
people need to be more accepting. You know, it's very easy to give
your old gloves and old furniture ...

LS: Even money...

AV: Yes, because now I am in a position· when I give too, and it's
very, easy.

LS: What didn't they give that you needed?

AV: More attention.

FW: More friendliness?

AV: Yes. You know, my children were a young couple, came to the
university, a Jewish couple; they know that they are--Lena without
parents, Dima's parents here, but OK, they started to study, they are

67


brilliant students, they were, both of them, and a Jewish boy asked
Lena, "Who are your parents and what is their business?" Lena said,
"I am alone here, only with my husband, and my parents in Moscow."
And they never invited Dima and Lena to their company, to their
parties or so on. And when Dima and Lena came to the university the
first time, you know who helped? A black boy, but he belongs to a
synagogue, he converted, and he helped them.

FW: Because he too was a stranger, he understood.

AV: Yes. And this is painful for me because America is an extremely
kind country for everybody, but for Jewish people especially, and
nobody has this history, especially bad history.

LS: I am interested in how you felt. So you felt on the outside. Even
though you were in the land of the free, you were still sort of
outside the Jewish circle?

AV: I know that when I worked here, I worked much harder than
people who worked with me. I am a very hard worker, and not only
me, all of them, and Vlad, and all people who came from Russia, and
Lena and so on. I know a lot of very good people. Felicia, you know
this.

FW: But I also knew some people that you didn't know who didn't
want to work. So let's not generalize. Your family is a very
exceptional family, highly ambitious, energetic, hard-working
people, and many, many Soviet Jews are like that, but to say that
everyone is like that, there were some people who did not want to
work, who left here, so it's normal. It can't say everybody.

AV: No, but some people from Russia need work, help a little bit to
start. Nobody, very, very rare.

LS: So you felt that Jews should have been more helpful in work and
in friendships, both?

AV: Yes. I understand that it's very difficult to contact with us, but
we have American friends, they are Lutherans.

68


FW: Did Shirley try to send you a Jewish family to befriend you, like
a volunteer family?
AV: No.
FW: Many people from the Soviet Union were given ...
AV: OK, we had the family, Burke ...


FW: So you were given a family? Shirley found you this family?
AV: Yes, yes. We've been one time in their home, then we invited
them, then we contacted [one more time, and then no more. That's
all. And then they moved.


LS: So that was a strained relationship?


AV: Yes.


LS: It's difficult. Is there anything more you want to say about your

disappointments in America? The lack of job security?

AV: No, it's enough. I like America. I came to Moscow two and a
half years ago, the next day I said, "VIad, I want to go home."
LS: You wanted to go home? You are the second person I've heard say

that, and it seems very unusual to me.
AV: Vlad is here and he can tell you.
FW: Does Vladimir feel the same way?
AV: Oh yes.
FW: He had a hard time here finding work and he worked at a job that


was way below him?


AV: Felicia, he is sixty this year.


LS: He doesn't look sixty, he doesn't act sixty. He acts about fifty.


69


AV: Fifty, and me as thirty.

FW: It is wonderful to hear that in spite of the difficulties you both
feel this· is home.

AV: I cried every day, when I was in a grocery store, I started to
cry, I couldn't stop.

FW: Cry where, in Russia, when you visited, and you saw the empty
shelves?

AV: ; Not only empty shelves, everything so sad, everything, in the
downtown Moscow winter time, this [much] ice, nobody cleaned.

LS: So things are falling apart?

AV: We are so happy here, we are so lucky, we have wonderful
grandchildren.

LS: Speaking about grandchildren, you had a grandfather and you had
a mother who helped when Dima was little and you were moving
around, but how is a grandmother different in America than a
grandmother in Russia?

AV: About me, Lena told, "Our grandmother has a full-time job."
can't lift Mocha, it's impossible. He is so heavy, so big.

LS: Are you unhappy that they don't have to rely on you as much as
you had to rely on your mother? Or are you pleased that they don't
have to rely on you so much?

AV: It's different. My mom, she raised Dima, but I am working.

FW: Tell us the truth, if you were not working, if you had a year's
vacation, would you like to babysit the kids a lot?

AV: No.

FW: I know her. She is a woman who needs to do things of her own.

70


AV: I help them. When Sonya was little, I didn't work and I helped
very much, but not every day, I can't.

FW: And you wouldn't if you could because I think you are a modern
woman. You need your own interests, you need to do your own thing
too.

AV: It's not exactly true, but I physically can't, I am very tired when
I am all day long with the children. And by the way, I only now
started to live.

FW: Enjoy life?
AV: Yes.
LS: So how do you enjoy life here? What do you like to do here?
AV: We travel a lot. We visited, by car we travel very much.
FW: Were you in Canada?
AV: Yes, I've been in Canada, I've been two times in Black Hills, one


time from North Dakota, another time from South Dakota. We've been
in Texas by car...
LS: California? Have you gotten to L.A.?
AV: No, not yet. We've been on this side--Baltimore, Washington ...
LS: New York?
AV: No, we've never been in New York.


FW: Go to New York, it's fun.
AV: Now I can go to New York because I have a friend of mine, my
former neighbor from Moscow. Niagara Falls, Manchester, Boston.


LS: So you like to travel. Do you go to the theater here?


71


AV: Yes.
FW: American theater, the Guthrie?
AV: The Guthrie.
FW: And you go to concerts I am sure?
AV: Sometimes, not very often.
FW: Why? You like music, don't you?
AV: I like music, but I am so tired.
FW: You stay home a lot?
AV: I haven't time, business.
LS: You have two businesses, did you say? You are an engineer, and


also you buy and sell antiques?
[End Tape 3 Side 2]


[Tape 4 Side 1]
LS: You are in the business with three other women, is that right?
AV: Not three, a group. One is a shop where there is eight people,


eight dealers, and another twenty.


LS: How did you get into this business? American antiques. It


blows my mind, as we say.


FW: All kinds of antiques, I guess. European antiques too, right?
AV: Oh yes. This is American.
LS: A very nice piece of glass. Beautiful.

72



AV: This is real Carnival [?] glass.
FW: Is this French, the vase there?
AV: This is from [unclear], Bohemia.
LS: How did you get into the business?
AV: It was very accidental. When I didn't work and [unclear], I was


in the library, and I walked through shelves trying to find something
interesting. Antique, antique, antique, antique... And I took one book,
and it was all. I lost my mind.

LS: You mean, you really found it fascinating?

AV: Yes. And I started to read and read and read. I have my own
library, more than i 00 books about antiques.
FW: So you have some knowledge about it?
AV: Oh sure. And I studied and studied.
LS: And how did you find these other women?
AV: I never found a person. I found a shop in which I wanted to be,


and that's all.
LS: And do you own part of the shop?
AV: No, I rent it. I rented space.
LS: Yes, I know what they are. They are sort of like antique malls.


That is really fascinating. Who are your best friends here?


AV: My children, my husband.


LS: Girlfriends, for instance?


AV: It's Russian drunker. [apparently, showing something]


73


FW: The question is, friends outside of the family? Have you made
friends among the American born?
AV: Yes, we have.
FW: Who are they, Jewish, non-Jewish?
AV: We have very close friends, not Jews.


FW: Are they born here or from another city?
AV: They are born here. Their predecessors were 14 presidents of
America. 14th or 15th. [?] When Vlad started to work, on the first
day he came...


FW: He worked in a foundry, right?
AV: Yes, Twin Cities [unclear] Company. This man said, "VIad, if you
need something, I'll help you." Do you remember, Felicia, when 5:00
in the morning and he gave Vlad a bicycle because we hadn't a car,
and one day, it was raining, it was 5:00 in the morning, and


somebody light car in the window. He came. What happened? Rain.
How will you go to work with a bicycle?
FW: He came to pick him up.
AV: Yes. And we are friendly very much.
FW: They have children?
AV: Yes. Big children, both of them in college. One will graduate


very soon in St. Cloud.
FW: Do you go to their house for dinner occasionally?
AV: Oh yes.
FW: And they come here?


74


AV: Yes. Very often. Not very often, but very often they have
parties, it's only very close relatives, and we are. And we visit
their church when they have something in church because their

pastor knows us and asks about
church. They have a terrible
Hodgkin's disease.
us
thing
always.
now.
They
Their
are very active in
son was with
LS: Sometimes that can be cured.

FW: Many times. How old is he?
AV: Nineteen.
LS: I hope he is one of the ones who will be cured.
AV: It happened several months ago.
FW: Did you tell them you have a friend ...
AV: Sure.
FW: Don't tell them.
AV: They know.
FW: Don't tell them too often because today many, many people with


Hodgkin's live. My son was unlucky in many ways.


AV: They have a cabin in the north. Their parents live in the north,
and we always...
FW: Go fishing?
AV: Not fishing. Vlad always helps them to put docks, and we are


very, very friendly.


FW: Have you become friendly with a Jewish American family?


AV: We were very friendly with Henrich Abramovich.


75


FW: His daughter is just getting married, Sunday, the 23rd. Second
daughter.
AV: Both of them are married. Third one?


FW: Second or third.
AV: We lost our relationship, and I think that he could help us and he
didn't, and I lost interest. Not because we need this help, no, but I
thought that if Henrich was in the same situation that we are when
he emigrated and he has a business ...


FW: He is a veterinarian. How could he help you? You are not a


veterinarian, your husband is not a veterinarian?
AV: No, his daughter bought a house, and he called Vlad and said,
"Help please."


FW: To find a house?
AV: Yes.
FW: Was it a long time ago?
AV: It was a couple year ago, but it was the only call and that's all.


And we were very friendly.
FW: You feel that he should buy the house through your husband?
AV: I think. If friends do not help, who will?
FW: Not everybody looks at it this way.
AV: I don't understand this relationship.
FW: Everybody looks at it differently, but in this respect a lot of


things in this country differ. In the Soviet Union, to the best of my
knowledge, it is [Russian] There is one hand washes the other. Not in
this country. It's a different system, Anya. I'm not defending him or
anybody like it, I am just saying that it does not always work this

76


way. Just because you have a friend, it doesn't mean this friend will
do business with you or will buy a house from you or will do
something that he maybe cannot do.

AV: I know that if I need something to do and I know that people
from the Russian community do it, I'll always do through them. I try

to help.
FW: Which is very lovely and the way it should be.
feels that way, and he is not from the Soviet Union.
forgot he is here forty some years.
Not everybody
Henry probably
AV: But he called.

FW: I am not defending him.

AV: And Vlad talked with them, and then they disappeared right
away in one moment. What is this? We were very friendly. We
invited them to us and we visited them, and we were together in the
Jewish Community Center and a lot of different places. I don't
understand this relationship.

LS: Tell us how friendships in the Soviet Union and friends here [are
different]?

AV: I have a lot of very good friends in Russia, but it seems to me
that we had a lot of common things in Russia. We were raised
together. It was a difficult life in Russia, and we were together, we
helped each other, and this is the main thing, because we helped each
other. Without this help, we could not live in Russia. Here, we can,
and it seems to me that in my age it's very difficult to find [friends].
It's another treasure, Felicia, again, treasure, what is [unclear], and
I can't find. We are very friendly. I am very lucky because I have a
wonderful daughter-in-law, and she is very smart and a very good
girl, and we are very, very friendly. We can talk hours by hours.

· LS: But you need other women friends too?

AV: Sometimes. I know that when I was in Moscow, my phone would
'ring and again and again ring, and when I came to the United States

77


and my telephone was quiet, I waited. Now I don't need it. Maybe
because I am busy. And you know, I don't need to open one more
business now because for me it's enough, but I do it because I want
to be busy. I feel more comfortable. I am always busy, and this helps
me not to think all the time about my mom, how they are, because I
can't help them. I can now only wait.

FW: Are they coming?
AV: I sent all papers.
FW: How old is she?
AV: Ninety.
LS: When do you think they will come?
AV: I don't know. We will try now, Dima promised me to write a


letter to [U.S. Representative Gerry] Sikorski.


FW: Do you think she will be able to take the trip at the age of
ninety?
AV: She is very smart and very clear. I talk with her by phone.
FW: But I mean physically?
AV: Physically she is not bad. My sister is in a worse situation than


she is.
LS: Do your son and daughter now have American friends?
AV: Not very many.
FW: Not even in their synagogue? They spend half of their lives in


that synagogue.
AV: No.


78


FW: I am not talking about your son. The people who are members,

see them coming and going, and coming and going.
AV: No, no. They are very friendly with Marina Shor, Marina and
Gregory. Now Lena's sister is here. They have one couple from
Israel, Spector Tanya. She is a musician and he is a student in the
university, and they are very friendly.

FW: The whole family came from the Soviet Union--Margoly, Senia,
Julia [not sure about names]
AV: They are very good people.
FW: That's a sister, right?


AV: Lena's sister's husband's family.
LS: So your family has not come over, but you don't have a lot of
family to come to America, right?


FW: Just your mother and sister, right?
LS: Has Vlad's family?
AV: His mom died three years ago. His brother applied, he sent the


papers now, and that's all. Vlad's cousin is here. They came one and
a half years ago.
LS: And Lena's sister is here? And Lena's parents are not coming?


AV: Not yet.
LS: Are there any other of Lena's relatives who are coming? Maybe
cousins, other relatives?


AV: No.
FW: The cousins can't come now. First degree relatives only.


79


LS: That's true. Do you speak Russian to the grandchildren so that
they won't forget?
AV: Sure. Sonya uses two languages very easily.
FW: And Mocha?
AV: Mocha doesn't understand anything.


FW: He is the younger one?
AV: Yes. Mocha is seven months. He stood yesterday for the first
time.


LS: So you are interested in making sure that they know Russian


well?
FW: What language is spoken in Lena's house? Dima and Lena's
house?


AV: Only Russian. Good Russian language. And Sonya speaks only
Russian. Sometimes she told me, "Prochitai mne pro Cinderella."
["Cinderella" in the midst of a Russian phrase -the child is probably
not familiar with the Russian name for Cinderella.]

LS: Do you have Russian books to to read to her?
AV: We have several books we brought and we bought here some, but
Dima and Lena have a very big library, very big library, all Russian.


LS: And they were able to bring this with them?
AV: No, Lena's mom sent them. We came with two suitcases.
LS: Do you celebrate any of Russian holidays? Do you celebrate

Russian New. Year or anything like that? Women's Day?
AV: No, no. We celebrate Jewish holidays and American.
LS: Who has the Seder these days?

80


AV: Passover, we've been in Orthodox.
FW: With your children?
AV: Yes.
FW: Not in their house? Seder is not in synagogue.
AV: We've been in J.C.C.
FW: To the model Seder that I conduct every year. But what about


real Seder, the exact day, evening?
VV: The exact day it was in J.C.C. This year it was in J.C.C.
FW: Oh, Lubavich had a real Kosher Seder, and this is where you


went?
AV: Yes.
LS: Do you go to the Lubavich synagogue?
AV: Sometimes, when there is some reason, and when I know that


children, when we came to children in their house [and they are not
there], we'll go, maybe they are in the synagogue.

LS: Do you have any more questions, Felicia?
FW: The only question is, looking back at everything that you went
through, the difficulties of finding proper work for your husband, and
I recall that it was disappointing and very difficult, I get the feeling
that in spite of everything you are very happy to be here. Am I
correct?

AV: Yes. And only one thing of what is always with me, why I did it
so late. Vlad wanted and Dima, and I was against, because I
understood that at our age it was very bad. Fifty is not a good age
for emigration. It's very difficult.

81


LS: That's right, but you seem to be doing a very good job of making
it. You know your house looks nice.
AV: Thank you. For me it's enough. I never was very ...


LS: You didn't come here to make a million?
AV: Oh no. Now only one thing which we try to do. We want to have
enough money to live to retire.


FW: Not to live on Social Security but have a little nest egg.


AV: Yes. This is only one thing that we want to do because we never
got welfare and we don't want to do it.
LS: I applaud you in your efforts and I wish you good luck, and I


thank you very much for your contribution to all of this history.
Thank you very much.

82