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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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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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American dreams and the state of statelessness

April 10, 2014 / Comments Off on American dreams and the state of statelessness
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Jasper Johns American flag painting at the MOMA

My review of Stateless documentary in Tablet When I was at Limmud last month, I had a chance to see a new documentary on the Soviet-Jewish immigration of the late ’80s, called Stateless. I also got to write a Stateless documentary review for Tablet Magazine and naturally, I think you should go read it. The…

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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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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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Tintin’s secret anti-Soviet propaganda roots

December 10, 2013 / Comments Off on Tintin’s secret anti-Soviet propaganda roots
Tintin anti-Soviet roots: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

The library of my elementary school had an extensive collection of Tintin books. I managed to read them all in the three years I spent there. I haven’t picked up a Tintin since, even when the movie came out a few years ago. But I recently found a copy of “Tintin in the Land of…

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Operatsiya Y: A Soviet movie flashback. With kompot!

November 21, 2013 / Comments Off on Operatsiya Y: A Soviet movie flashback. With kompot!
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Operatsiya Y Soviet movie - Operation Y with Shurik

Park yourself at a dinner table of Russians, and inevitably, as the eating part winds down and the drinks are doing their thing, someone says “And the kompot?” And everyone else laughs uproariously and the kompot rarely, rarely ever appears. It’s a line from an old Soviet movie. And, since it’s a line from every…

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