I did not know either my maternal great-grandfather Vulf Berkal or his
wife, whose name I don’t know. I only know that they were born
somewhere in the Pre-Baltic region, in what today is Latvia. I did not
know my great-grandparents on my father’s side, either. My grandfather
on my father’s side, Yankel Averbukh and his wife, my grandmother
Averbukh [name and dates of birth and death are unknown,] also lived in
the Pre-Baltic area, in Lithuania.
My maternal grandfather,
Leibe Vulfovich Berkal, lived in the Latvian city of Dvinsk, which now
is called Daugavpils. My grandmother Hana Berkal (I do not know her
maiden name), was born in the same Pre-Baltic area in the 1860s and
died before the war in 1930 – I don’t know the exact date. I remember
how both of them looked. They came one time to visit us in Pskov from
Latvia, to see their children and grandchildren, and I met both of them
then. My mother and aunts told me about them. My grandfather was
handsome, with a white beard. He was thin and of average height. He was
very kindly, gentle and quiet, and he was also very religious. He was a
shames in a synagogue. He and my grandmother were quite well off
financially. When he came for a visit, Grandfather Leibe prayed in our
house every morning, and put tfilin on his arms.
and Grandmother spoke to each other only in Yiddish. I understood
everything perfectly. Grandmother Hana was a housewife, a very
religious woman. They had a large family, six children. Among them was
my mother, Tsitsilia Leibovna Averbukh, nee Berkal. She was born in
1883 and died in 1968.
In addition to my mother, Leibe and
Hana had three daughters and two sons. All were born in Dvinsk in what
today is Latvia: I know very little about them, but what I know, I will
tell you. The eldest, Evsei, was born in 1884, lived in Pskov, and
taught drawing at a school. He was an artist, and his wife was the
director of a kindergarten. Evsei fought in the war [1941-1945] as a
soldier at the Leningrad front. He died in Pskov in 1970. His sister
Berta was born in 1885, lived in Pskov, was a housewife, later she was
exiled to the North with her husband for espousing Zionism , and died
in Karaganda in 1950. The next sister Ida was born in 1888, lived in
Pskov and worked as a teacher and interpreter for the deaf and dumb in
a Soviet school for disabled persons. During the war [1941-1945] she
was evacuated with her family to Saransk in Mordovia, where she died in
1960. Sister Polina [1890s-1960s, Moscow] was an economist. Brother
Efim [1894-1957, Leningrad], a trade dealer and salesman, went through
the blockade in Leningrad. I do not know which Jewish traditions they
followed in their families, but I don’t think they were especially
religious. You couldn’t be a religious Jew in the Soviet Union and have
Mother’s father Leibe Berkal went to synagogue
regularly, and one time he saw a young man there whom he thought looked
nice. He brought him home [to propose him as a husband for her]. Before
that, they proposed a rich manufacturer to Mom as a husband, but she
kept rejecting him. She was a virgin until she was 27. Mom and Dad
liked each other very much. But mother noticed that my father, Meer
Averbukh, was not pious. On Saturdays, for example, he walked with a
cane. [Using all sorts of devices and instruments – including a walking
stick - is prohibited during Sabbath]. So she sent her father to the
rabbi, to ask whether she could marry a man who did not observe
Sabbath. Rabbis were very clever people. This one said: Do what you
consider the right thing to do, and God will take care of the rest. And
this is how it all worked out. Mom and Dad got married in 1912, Mom was
27, father - 29.
In 1913 Mom gave birth to twin boys - but they
died before I was born. Since then it has been common for twins to be
born in our family. One of the twins died before he was one - he had a
congenital heart disease. The other - Iosenka, (Iosif), was poisoned by
fumes when he was 1 year and 10 months. The housemaid stoked the stove
with scraps of leather and left. There were wall stoves in each room.
Had anyone been at home, the boy could have been saved.
Rachel Meerovna Averbukh, was born in 1915 in Pskov. I was the sole and
favorite child in the family. From childhood I had a teacher from the
synagogue in Pskov, who came to our home and taught me to read and
write. But he was an elderly man, and I didn’t like those lessons – you
see, I was a small girl, 6-7 years old. I wanted to play, not study,
and I refused to take those lessons. I could read and write in Hebrew.
And now I still know the letters, but I can only read the printed text,
not the written Hebrew. I can speak the language all right, though.
Pskov we lived in Arkhangelskaya Street, that was its name before the
Revolution of 1917. It later was called Lenin Street, because Lenin
lived there at one time. There is a Lenin museum there now. It was just
a common unpaved street, along which there were wooden and brick houses
where ordinary people lived. The population in Pskov was mixed – Jewish
families did not live separately from Russian families. The different
national groups co-existed quite peacefully.
Daddy had a
private workshop in the courtyard where he made leather upper parts for
footwear. The workshop was in the courtyard in an extension of the next
brick house, with windows facing Arkhangelskaya Street. We lived next
door, also in a brick house, in a three-room apartment on the first
floor. There was a bedroom, a dining room and a nursery. All the
tenants in our building were Jews. Even now I occasionally see a
90-year old woman here in St. Petersburg who lived in our house back
then. I helped my father. He had a very heavy machine attached to the
table that punched neat round holes in the leather and pressed iron
rivets in them, to make eyeholes for laces in women’s shoes. I loved to
use that machine. I also helped father cut the lining, watching that
everything was done as accurately as possible. Daddy only made the
uppers, only the top part of the shoes; all the rest of the footwear,
soles and heels, were made by the shoemaker. Mom and I both wore shoes
made by father. On Friday, he used to come home at twilight and did not
work until Sunday. Dad always knew that the dinner was exactly at 4
o’clock. No-one had to call him; he would stop working and come home
for dinner, because the workshop was very close, right in our courtyard.
the morning, Daddy used to pray in the dining room, putting on his
Tfilin. We would not go in, so as not to disturb him. He put leather
boxes on his arms. When he prayed at home, Daddy did not put on his
tales, a large white silk scarf with black strips on the sides and
fringes. He put it on only when he attended synagogue on the holidays.
for toys, I had one favorite knitted doll, and a wonderful porcelain
tea set for dolls. We had a grand piano at home, and I began to study
piano when I was just a little girl. My teacher had studied with the
great Russian composer Glazunov at one time. Our house had the usual
furnishing -- wooden tables, buffets. Mom had a sewing machine, too,
which she used often.
Mom gave me the job of setting the table
for dinner. Every day I would cover the dining room table with a
beautiful table cloth. Then I would ask Mom, what sort of dinner are we
going to have today - dairy or meat? According to her answer I put out
the right dishes. I remember very well that we had a buffet with two
large sections, both of which could be locked with a key. One whole
section was filled with utensils for use at Passover - there were
plates, spoons and forks. The other section held everyday dishes –
those not used for holiday dinners. The cooking utensils were in the
kitchen, but stored separately in different places. For meat dishes we
would use certain bowls and pots, for dairy dishes – other ones. We
certainly knew that for dairy dishes you were not supposed to use meat
utensils and vice versa.
Mother’s brothers and sisters - my uncles
and aunts – used to come and visit us. By then, Daddy had no relatives.
Some time earlier his elder brother Rafail lived in Vologda -- I can’t
remember what he was doing. But he died. In 1929 Daddy and I went to
visit his widow, Aunt Emma. I can’t remember anything Jewish about her
I remember that in 1918, during the Civil War, the
Balakhovich gang was active in Pskov. This leader of this group was as
well known as Denikin; he used to hang the Reds. The war went on
furiously. I was about three or four years old, and Mom and I and the
nurse would hide under the window sill so as not to get hit by a stray
bullet. I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember that my
nurse once took me out for a walk, and by chance we suddenly came into
a square where corpses were hanging on gallows. I remember that we were
very frightened. These were not pogroms, they did not touch Jews. It
was basically the communists who were executed.
Mom and Dad
always and without fail prayed before meals. They would wash their
hands, wash them in a bowl, and then rinse them with water from a jug
three times on each side. They pronounced the blessing for the meal:
"Borukh ato adoinoi eloheinu…" After dinner the housemaid cleared the
table and washed the dishes. I remember that Mom wouldn’t leave the
kitchen -- she lost a part of her beauty in that kitchen! She did not
trust the Russian housemaid – she was constantly afraid that she would
break the rules of kashrut. The housemaid was young, younger then
mother. She was a good girl, but Mom wouldn’t let her enter the kitchen
when she cooked; she only let her in there to wash the dishes. There
were usually Russian housemaids in the house, but mother never let them
cook lest they make something treif (not kosher) and violate the kosher
requirements by mixing dairy products with meat and so on. Once I
started to cut butter with a knife for meat and spoiled the kosher
knife. Mom snatched it away from me, and thrust it in a slot in the
wooden floor. In such cases you have to stick the knife in the ground
and keep it there for some time. In this way the object regains the
property of being kosher, of being pure. We had a Russian stove in the
kitchen, in which Mom put meals prepared on Friday. On Saturday we did
not warm up the food, because you were prohibited to make fire, but the
Russian stove stayed warm all the following day until evening. Mum
didn’t even turn on the electric light on Saturdays. You were not
allowed to work, it was a complete Sabbath. But I don’t remember that
we had a mezuzah on our doors.
We didn’t hire Jewish housemaids,
only Russian ones. I remember that apart of them, a laundress came to
the house, and even a seamstress. The laundress would wash our linen in
our wash tub. Mom would tell me, "Rochole, take a tub and look how
Darya washes, and wash your dolls’ dresses and your kerchiefs." The
seamstress sewed all sorts of pants, shirts, underwear and linen for
On Friday, in the first half of the day before the
Sabbath began, Mom would go to the market. There she would buy a
chicken, which I then took to the synagogue, to the old shoikhet,
Gelikman, for him to slaughter it in accordance with all the rules. As
I recall, he would pronounced a prayer holding the chicken above his
head, making the sacrifice. I would give him some money for that
ceremony. He would give me back the chicken, and I would bring it home
to Mom. She then plucked the chicken, singed it, and salted it – it was
a very long procedure. Then she boiled or stewed it. Sometimes she
prepared tsimes. Tsimes is a sweet tasting dish of carrots and prunes
all stewed together with goose or duck fat. We always had compote and
fruit on the table, too. Chicken soup was served on the table in a
porcelain tureen. We lit two candles, and Mom baked challah. Everything
was covered with a napkin. Mum would pray, and Dad would pray. I didn’t
have to recite the prayers, I would simply sit and listen.
always wore elegant clothes. She never put on a wig; she had brown hair
and gray eyes. Daddy respected Mom very much. I remember that they
rarely quarreled; the only time was when Daddy would come back home
late on Fridays. For example, if father was expecting a customer to
arrive from the village, but the customer was late and therefore Dad
was late, too. Stars were already appearing in the sky, father should
have been home already, and Mom would be terribly angry. She wouldn’t
talk to father for a whole week, up to the following Sabbath.
were very many Jews in Pskov before the war. In Yedinstva Street there
was a synagogue, I remember it perfectly. It was wooden building on a
hill, not so large, approximately for 100 persons. I went to the
synagogue only on holidays. I remember what the rabbi looked like, and
I remember his daughters; we were friends with his girls, but I can’t
remember their names.
I have only very vague reminiscences of
Rosh Hashanah, but I remember Yom Kippur better. On Yom Kippur, the
Judgement Day, Daddy and Mom would fast; they wouldn’t eat anything for
24 hours. But I was given food. On that day I always went to the
synagogue with Mom. There was singing and praying and people cried. I
remember a beautiful prayer Kol Nidrei. It was forbidden to carrying
anything in your hands, and Mom even had to fasten her kerchief to her
wrist in order not to hold it in her hand. During Purim mother would
bake the triangle cakes with poppy-seed and with raisins, we call them
Hamantaschen, and she also made krebhen - small triangles of dough and
meat. These were boiled in meat broth to make in a dish similar to
pelmeny [pelmeny are a Russian variety of ravioli made of dough with
minced meat inside. You can boil them or you can fry them]. On Pesach
at one time, matzah was baked in the synagogue, and Mom and my aunts
would go there to help roll the dough. Before that we would all
together make a thorough cleaning up of the house, so that there
wouldn’t be a single crumb of bread anywhere. On this single occasion
each year, that treasured buffet was then opened, and Passover utensils
were taken out. Everything was done very solemnly. Sometimes the family
of Aunt Bertha, mother’s sister, would come for Passover. Mom made wine
in a linen bag similar in its form to a cow’s udder. There was always
stuffed fish on the table, with horseradish on a plate besides it.
in the Russian school, we were taught atheism, against religion, that
there was no God. Once, when I probably was in the 7th form, on one
Passover evening I went to attend an anti-religious meeting instead of
taking part in the seder at home. We had a Jewish theater, and we held
meetings like this there. It was interesting. I had had a negative
reaction to religious fanaticism from childhood. I felt that Mom was
the biggest fanatic. But later, when I grew up, I changed my mind. I
understood that I committed a crime against my mother. Mom didn’t read
anything in Russian. She only read religious books in the Jewish
language. I didn’t read them myself, but I think it was Tanach. We had
a few books in the house, if only those by Sholom Aleichem. Later, we
had some books by Moliere. I loved Mom, but I loved my father much
more. He taught me to swim, to skate, to row! In summer we usually went
to our summer residence, we rented it from some Russians each summer.
It was on the Velikaya River.
Mom used to sing me this song:
“Iomim, Iomim, zingmir a libele?
Voz dei meidene vil, dei meidene vil,
A klendele von daf un shnaideren zoben
Nain, Mome, nain, du kensten nikht farshtein…"
" What does the girl want?
The girl wants a dress!
We need to go to the tailor.
No, Mama, no, you don’t understand me!
What does the girl want?
She wants beautiful boots!
We need to go to the shoemaker.
No, Mama, no, you don’t understand me!
What does the girl want?
She wants earrings!
We need to go to the jeweler.
No, Mama, no, you don’t understand me!
What does the girl want?
She wants a groom!
Yes, Mama, yes!
Now you understand what I want! “
She sang other songs too, but I can’ remember them anymore.
me tell you how I studied. The school was organized according to the
“Dalton’s method.” I don’t remember now what it was all about, I only
remember the name, and there was a special team method of teaching, by
which one team studied one particular topic and the other another
topic, and then they reported to each other. I left school in Pskov -
after finishing 9 grades - almost illiterate, I didn’t know arithmetic,
nothing! Such teachers we had, that’s how they taught us! The history
of the Communist Party - oh yes! – that we surely knew by heart! And
none of my classmates anything, either, except for the history of the
Communist Party! However, some of them managed to enter institutes
right after school. I wasn't so lucky, and let me tell you why.
1931 I finished school and came from Pskov to Leningrad, in
Tavricheskaya Street, to live with the family of Uncle Efim, mother’s
brother. They lived in a communal (shared) apartment. I had to stay
somewhere. The shared apartment was large, 5 rooms. All the neighbors
were Russians, except for two Jewish families - the Zarkhins and
Berkals. We lived very amicably. All of us helped each other. Neither
I, nor our neighbors the Zarkhins ever experienced anti-Semitism. The
biggest room was occupied by Uncle Efim, his wife and two daughters -
Anna and Raya. In the next room lived the Zarkhins with their son
Solomon. Father rented a room for me from Russian neighbors. When he
was there, he asked Solomon Zarkhin: "You are a student, please, look
after her, so that she behaves the right way". Solomon was 27 years old
then, and I was 17. We fell in love with each other. He took me to the
skating-rink, and once he exclaimed: "Why should I take care of her for
someone else? Why don’t I make her my own wife? " I married him in
The wedding was a civil one, not Jewish. We had the
usual party for friends. A friend of my husband was getting registered
in the ZAGS [Civil Registry Office] that day too. My husband was an
atheist. After were registered our marriage in the ZAGS, a group of
friends and my Dad gathered for a party. Mum didn’t come, because there
was no chupa.
My husband Solomon was categorically against
having a religious ceremony, and Mom was terribly upset that her
daughter’s wedding was not going to be celebrated in the religious way.
So Mom didn’t come to my wedding in Leningrad at all!
husband’s parents, Isaak Iosifovich Zarkhin and Lyubov Borisovna
Zarkhin, were also religious people. In my husband’s family, when he
was a boy, all the Jewish traditions and customs were observed. His
mother was a housewife who brought up many children - 4 sons and 2
daughters. They came from the small town of Krasnye Strugi, not far
from Pskov. In Soviet times, my husband’s father, Isaak, was considered
a lishenets , therefore my husband Solomon could not enter an institute
of higher education after finishing grammar school. Only much later,
when he was working as an ordinary machine operator and electrician,
was he able to enter the Polytechnical Institute when the so-called
“Workers’ call-up” was organized by the Bolsheviks. [“Workers’
call-up”– the draft of workers from factories to higher educational
institutions. One of the methods to create “people’s intellectuals” to
substitute for the bourgeois specialists, invented by Bolsheviks]. From
the fifth year of that institute he was taken into the Military
Artillery Academy as an excellent student. They admitted 5 men, and all
of them turned out to be Jewish.
When I got married I took the
my husband’s surname - Zarkhin. I gave birth to my elder daughter
Eugenia in 1933. Near my home in Leningrad they opened evening courses
to train teachers for elementary school. On my student’s grant we were
able to hire a Russian housemaid. I completed the courses, compensating
for the poor education I had received in grammar school. For one year I
worked as a teacher at a Russian elementary school. There were no
Jewish schools in Leningrad then! After I left my parents’ home 1931, I
no longer observed Jewish traditions!
In 1934, when we already
had a baby, I fell out with my husband because he was so jealous, and
we even got divorced. I took back my maiden name Averbukh. But after
that "divorce" we came home again together that very day, and never
parted again for a single day, living together again; it was all like a
game. I was young, only 19, and that divorce didn’t scare me in the
least. It is only now that divorces are serious, and back then – it was
not so. Solomon was very jealous by nature. When we walked along the
street I was supposed to look either at my feet, or at him. The
slightest glance aside was the cause for jealousy. Even if someone
would send me a letter congratulating me for something, he became
jealous. We officially registered our marriage for the second time only
in 1947, when I was to be assigned a job after graduation from the
Medical Institute. But I preferred to keep my maiden name Averbukh; I
didn’t change it anymore. Two of my kids [Larisa and Gennady] were
officially born outside wedlock.
When boys were born to my
relatives’ families, they were circumcised on the eighth day. But they
did not have a bar- mitzvah at 13, nor did I have a bat-mitzvah,
because it was the Soviet regime.
My husband’s sister Frida
Kotik suffered the arrest and execution of her husband, who was a
Bolshevik who was shot in 1938 in Leningrad. She was left with a
daughter, born in 1928, and a son, born in 1935. They were exiled to
Rybinsk, and she died there soon after. The kids were sent to an
I entered the workers' faculty in the First Medical
Institute, and then, in 1938,I was admitted without any problems to the
institute itself. Studies began on September 1, and on September 29 I
gave birth to my second daughter, Larisa! After that I took an academic
leave for one year, and in 1941, when I was taking examinations for the
second year, the war began. I left for Malmysh in Kirov region to stay
with my parents. They had already been evacuated from Pskov to Malmysh
in the beginning of July, 1941. It happened like this: It was a
Saturday, and they were standing in Yedinstva Street in Pskov, thinking
about what they should do now, with the war having broken out, when an
old Jew came by and addressed them in Yiddish, saying: "Iden, was
steiten?!", which means: "Jews, why are you standing here?! Do you
think they are the Germans of 1918?? There - the Russians are running,
and you must run away!!" And so they fled without anything, just small
suitcases, and escaped on the first freight train. They found
themselves in the Kirov region, in the town of Malmysh.
was at the front line near Leningrad, in Peterhof, as the commander of
an artillery unit in the national irregular army. He went to the front
as a volunteer, and I approved this choice. I told him: "If healthy
Jews like you don’t go and fight, who will?!" On September 31, 1941 a
shell exploded right at his feet. People around got killed, but he
miraculously remained alive. He didn’t lose his legs, but he could only
walk on crutches. There was a wound 13 by 12 centimeters on his right
hip. He survived only because a medic gave him blood on the spot, and
in the ambulance they gave him a direct transfusion of blood, otherwise
he would have bled to death. Everything turned out fine, but he was
very lucky. They began to treat him in Leningrad and then evacuated him
to a hospital in Chita.
Many Jews stayed in Pskov during the
war. All of them died. All of them were taken to the Vauliny hills in
the suburbs of Pskov, forced to dig trenches and were buried in those
same trenches alive. And then the Germans drove over those trenches in
their tanks. Only one little girl named Galperina survived, she was
sheltered by a Russian teacher in her cellar. I learned this from
people whose relatives died there.
All 4 daughters and 2 sons of
my grandparents Leibe and Hana Berkal were evacuated to the East of
Russia during the war [1941-1945]. Grandfather was left alone with his
neighbors [grandmother Hana had died much earlier]. They looked after
him. But that family and my grandfather were all executed during the
war. Grandfather was more than 70 years old then, and the Germans hung
him. I learned this from Uncle Evsei, who at the front met a member of
the family with which grandfather stayed.
Solomon was treated in
a hospital in Chita and recovered. He then joined us, his evacuated
family, in Malmysh, and worked as a mechanic at an alcohol producing
plant there in the beginning of 1943. Our son Gennady was born in 1942.
In 1944 Solomon, as an invalid of war, received a call either from the
military committee or from his factory to return to Leningrad. It was
only possible to return there on the basis of such a summons, because
the war was still going on. So we packed our things. We had no money
for the trip. Solomon was given a large flask of spirit at his factory
instead of money. He paid for everything with that spirit. Solomon also
received winter felt boots from his military committee. But he could
not put them on because of his wounded legs. He sent me to sell them in
the market. But I am not a skilful saleswoman, so one guy took one boot
from me as if to look at it, and another seized the second boot, and
they were gone. I had no time even to scream … Then Solomon was given a
warrant for fire wood. Goods were exchanged for warrants then,
free-of-charge, and the warrants were distributed by military
committees. Solomon was an invalid of war of the second group and could
obtain warrants for free. So we sold our warrant to someone else, and
on that money we returned to Leningrad: I with three children, my
husband and my parents. It was 1944, and the war was not over yet.
my return from evacuation, I enrolled in the Medical Institute and
graduated from it in 1948. That year there was an oversupply of medical
graduates, and all of us were queuing in the city department of public
health to get an assignment for a job. I was temporarily employed for
2-3 months in Polyclinic 33 to substitute a surgeon on a leave. Later,
there was a vacancy for the post of regional doctor in Polyclinic 32 in
the Petrogradsky district. I worked there for 26 years, eventually
becoming head of the department.
My daughter Eugenia did not
encounter any anti-Semitism at school. But when she finished school
with a gold medal and wanted to enter the biology department of
Leningrad State University in 1951, she found that article 5 was a
problem. [article 5 was “nationality” in all Soviet questionnaires]. So
she didn’t even attempt to enter that University, she was simply
frightened. She knew the situation perfectly and went to study in the
Forestry Academy instead, which it was not so difficult to enter.
That’s how she became a forestry officer.
In 1953, when the
well-known "Doctors’ plot" broke, I had an incident at work. A woman
from a Russian family from my area of service came to the chief doctor
of our polyclinic, and started to tell him that I was trying to poison
her family with medicines. By chance, this conversation was overheard
by an ordinary Russian man, who was also my patient. He was outraged,
and shouted: "I’ll tear your head off for Averbukh!". In 1953 two
Jewish doctors in my district were fired. One of them died from a heart
attack soon thereafter, and the other soon died from a stroke. That’s
how upset they were. Our polyclinic was not touched by anti-Semitism
because of our chief doctor. He didn’t dismissed any Jewish
specialists. But I know that Jewish doctors were expelled from other
In my polyclinic I used to receive tickets to go
to health resorts in the Pre-Baltic area, in Sochi. There I swam, lay
in the sun, talked to people, went to the spa, made excursions. While I
had a rest, my husband stayed at home with the children. He was also
given tickets to sanatoriums, where he underwent medical treatment for
his injured legs.
In 1963, I, as a doctor, received a
three-room apartment in Sailor Zheleznyak Street. We still live there.
Then my husband, as an invalid of war, received an apartment in the
Rustaveli Street, so we have no problems with accommodation.
died in Leningrad in 1963, and Mom also died here in 1968, in the age
of 85. Both of them are buried in the Jewish cemetery in
Alexandrovskaya Farm. Dad underwent an operation for chronic
inflammation and then died at home. He was buried the next day, not
taken to morgue. I bought 10 meters of white fabric. The entire funeral
ceremony was carried out by specialists. We prayed in the synagogue at
the cemetery. Each year after their death, kaddish was recited. I used
to have kaddish recited annually, but I don’t do it any more. During
the years following the war, in 1946-1950, mother didn’t observe the
Jewish holidays, because there were serious problems with food supplies
all over the country. Later, in 1960s, she was too old and sick to
regularly do so. However, on the rare occasions when she felt like
cooking, she would prepare Jewish food. As she grew older, she spent
more time sitting on the bench near her house in the company of her
As soon as my elder daughter Eugenia
graduated from the Forestry Academy, she volunteered to work in the Far
East; they were offering interesting work there, and she went there
with her friends. She didn’t go for the money, but to work in an
interesting position. We never attributed too much importance to money:
interesting work, not money, was a priority. [You] don’t need both!! At
first she worked as a forest warden, then she left for Khabarovsk.
Eugenia came back to Leningrad in 1964, defended her candidate’s thesis
and became a senior scientific researcher. She worked until she died in
1988. She died of an incurable disease at a rather young age.
my younger son, who was born in evacuation, also died very young of
cancer in Leningrad in 1983. He had graduated from the Military
Mechanical Institute and become a mechanical engineer. He had three
children from three marriages. His younger son died of a congenital
disease, and his elder children are in Israel now. They regularly sends
us e-mail messages through the Intrenet -- my grandchildren have
My daughter Eugenia (1933-1988) had
one son, Alexei , who was born in 1964. He is a doctor and has a
daughter, Elena, born in 1990. She is a schoolgirl, and they live in
Krasnoyarsk. My daughter Larisa (born in 1938) has three children: twin
boys Eugeny and Valery (born in 1961) and a daughter Olya (born in
1967), who is a medical nurse and lives in Germany with her two
children: Pavel (born in 1986) and Natasha (born in 1987). My grandson
Eugeny lives in St. Petersburg; he is an engineer and has 3 children.
My grandson Valery lives in Israel; he is also an engineer but doesn’t
have any kids. He was already an engineer when hewent to Israel to
study in the end of 1990s. He tried to enter the University in
Jerusalem, but failed to pass the examinations. Still, he stayed there
I am an internationalist. I was on friendly terms
both with Tartars and Russians, and I never judged people by their
national origin. I had friends of various nationalities both at school
and in the institute. I sang in the academic chorus of veterans of war
and labor in the Kalininsky district, where there were two Jews besides
me. We sang only Russian songs. But my granddaughter told me about the
Hesed on Shpalernaya Street and since then I come here often. Now I, as
my mother in her time, teach my daughter Larisa and my granddaughters
to cook Jewish meals. It’s a custom with us to celebrate Jewish
holidays at home, but we do not observe Sabbath. We do not attend to
the synagogue, because we are not so religious. In Hesed I receive
monthly humanitarian aid, medical help if necessary, and I visit the
Club in Hesed for lectures on Judaism. [after this interview in Hesed
Rachel Meerovna hurried to one of such lectures]. I attend concerts of
Jewish music at the philarmonic society. I have never been abroad,
because we could never really afford it.
Meerovna is a cheerful and active person. She started our acquaintance
with jokes and treated us to sugar candies, and when we were about to
say goodbye after our second meeting, she told us around fifteen
"salty" anecdotes. Her laughter is very musical and cheerful, and her
voice has a very unusual and pleasant tone. She possesses a pair of
lively, clever and attentive eyes and a lucid mind: she remembers
everything, recounts everything perfectly, she is a woman whom you
don’t need to extract words from – she is a wonderful storyteller. She
walks with a stick and a rucksack behind her shoulders. We were happy
that we gave Rachel Meerovna pleasure by making this interview with
her. She had very kind words for our work.]