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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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First Limmud FSU Canada is coming in October

March 19, 2014 / 4 Comments
First ever Limmud FSU Canada organizing committee 2013

I’ve mentioned this before, but now there’s a website, so it’s real – the first Limmud FSU Canada is coming in October. Of course you’ll be there, right? The organizing committee went on a planning retreat in January (that’d be the one where I yakked about my bukvar and other awkward childhood moments), and I…

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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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Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style

February 25, 2014 / Comments Off on Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style
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A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks whether I have any national pride for Russia during these Sochi Olympics. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before about cheering on another country. It’s never even occurred to…

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Growing up Refusenik: A Q&A with Maxim Shrayer on his new memoir

December 12, 2013 / 1 Comment
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Maxim Shrayer memoir - Leaving Russia Interview

[Update – Want to read this in Russian? Click here to read a translation of my Q+A on Booknik.ru] Memoirs about Soviet-Jewish life during the immigration period of the 1970s and 1980s have not yet saturated the memoir genre, so I’m excited to tell you about a new book that’s just come out this month. Leaving…

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Share your story! Looking for Soviet-Jewish immigration stories from the 1970s

December 11, 2013 / 1 Comment
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Early 1960s Soviet schoolchildren for Soviet-Jewish immigration stories

Hi guys, I’m really excited to tell you about funding I’ve received to do an oral history project on the 1970s immigration period!! I’ll be interviewing people and posting it as part of an online exhibit on Soviet-Jewish immigration stories. Here’s where you can help – I’m looking for Soviet-Jewish immigrants to interview who left…

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Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet

June 13, 2013 / Comments Off on Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet
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Soviet Holocaust films - Olga Gershenson's Phantom Holocaust Review

I’m very excited about my latest article for Tablet on a new book about Soviet Holocaust films. The book is called The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe, by Olga Gershenson. (Yes, that’s the book I was reading while waiting to pick up my visa application.) I’m not sure I did justice to the…

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