I went to the huge square in front of the railway station, and it was very crowded—people went this way, that way. I remembered the crowd in the Soviet Union. How I was immediately detected in the crowd as something foreign, something not ours. I was stared at. And here [in Rome]… suddenly I looked around and I realized that nobody is interested in me. And it was such a happy feeling. -Sasha T. (immigrated from Moscow in 1974)
Between 1967 and 1981, about 250,000 people crossed the east-west divide, trading in Soviet grey for a candy-coloured West. My family was among them; we came to Canada in 1980, just as the new decade was beginning. We were the lucky ones—no one was arrested, interrogated or generally harassed for the crime of asking to leave the country in which they were born. Lots of people were not so fortunate.
I’m now researching this period, interviewing people who came to North America long before the Berlin Wall came down, back when communism still ranked among the world’s top concerns and you couldn’t Skype your way back across the Iron Curtain. I plan to eventually turn those stories into a book.
What to know more about why I’m doing this? Read my “Soviet and Jewish and Stateless“ post on my blog. It explains all.
Keep up-to-date with my latest writing about the Soviet Jewish immigration on my blog.
Share Your Story
Do you have a story to share? If you, or someone you know, emigrated from the USSR between 1967 and 1981, I want to hear from you!