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On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience

January 27, 2019 / Comments Off on On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience
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Walking to the site of a Holocaust mass grave in Romanow, Ukraine

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day—sharing some thoughts on the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience. There’s a thread making its way around Twitter about #FirstSurvivors, asking people about the first survivor they ever met. This was my response, which I’m posting here too, with some tweaks, before it disappears into the abyss of updates. Like many #SovietJews there’s…

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Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

January 15, 2019 / Comments Off on Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov
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Operation Wedding escape plan graphic, designed by Armands Blumbergs.

A while ago I interviewed Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov for an article about her award-winning documentary, Operation Wedding, still one of just a tiny handful of docs on the Soviet-Jewish immigration. It’s the story of her parents’ attempt to escape the USSR in 1970, by hijacking an empty plane and flying it across the border to Sweden.…

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Lost in Immigration: People I Will Never Know

December 31, 2018 / 2 Comments
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This photo was taken a few nights before we left the Soviet Union forever. To my knowledge, it is the only photo that exists of me with all my (at that time living) grandparents. That’s them, in the front row. My paternal grandmother, then my maternal grandfather (holding me), and my maternal grandmother next to…

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Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day

November 12, 2017 / Comments Off on Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day
My grandfather and his siblings as a Red Army soldier at the outset of WWII, in approximately 1941.

I properly met my maternal grandparents for the first time shortly before my 10th birthday. Until then, they had been photographs and letters I couldn’t read and Russian storybooks that arrived periodically in the mail. They were the sound of my parents shouting down the telephone line, because in the long ago 1980s people sounded…

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Stumbling into Syrian cuisine while searching for a Soviet-Russian seder tradition

April 7, 2017 / Comments Off on Stumbling into Syrian cuisine while searching for a Soviet-Russian seder tradition
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Soviet-Russian seder traditions - Syrian Roasted Lamb Shanks recipe

It starts, as these things so often do, with food. My (non-Jewish) partner and I, recently reunited after a short separation, in the sad bachelor apartment where he had temporarily landed. Where familiar, lonely kitchen things still glared at me woefully, bereft of their mates that had landed up in my kitchen. Where we bumped into each…

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A Soviet-Jewish nightmare comes true on The Americans

March 27, 2014 / 2 Comments
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Russian-Jews on The Americans: Promo still for the Cold War spy show on FX

Well. That was gut-wrenching. I’m a little speechless. Our anti-hero protagonists just reached into my own personal life and gave it a shake. Or, more to the point, it’s like the KGB reached out and tapped my parents on the shoulders — really, every Russian that I knew as a child — and said “Here…

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Why I can’t stop watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew

March 26, 2014 / Comments Off on Why I can’t stop watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew
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Poster for watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew

Can we talk about The Americans? Let’s talk about The Americans. Because I can’t stop watching The Americans as a Russian-Jew, but meanwhile no one in my Russian-Jewish circles is talking about this show. Now they’ve got a storyline about Soviet-Jews and you should all start watching it. Even Gary Shteyngart is watching – it’s…

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12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

March 13, 2014 / 3 Comments
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Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - showing Kremlin

After my last post, one of my cousins got nostalgic for her old Bukvar and thought she’d try to buy one online. She found one on Amazon, to the tune of $2,450. My heart is breaking that I didn’t have the fortitude to do anything more useful with mine than mark it all up for…

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Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian

March 5, 2014 / Comments Off on Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian
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Russian bukvhar from 1970s

I wrote a bit last time about one of my ‘immigrant identity crisis’ vignettes that I shared at the Limmud retreat. But it started with an assignment, to bring an artifact, or object, from home about our Russian-Jewish heritage. When you and your childhood home are separated by over 3,000km, digging up an acceptable artifact…

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The Russian make-up brigade

February 27, 2014 / 3 Comments
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Early in January, I spent a weekend at a planning retreat for Limmud FSU Canada (it’s the first ever Limmud FSU in Canada, and yes, expect to hear more from me about it soon). We were all asked to bring an artifact that spoke to our Russian selves, and as part of the identity-digging activity…

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