I was born in late 1925 in Pryluky, Ukraine. When I was two or three, we moved to Moscow. I lived on Novinsky Boulevard, which was later renamed Tchaikovskaya Street. Our house was demolished as part of the city’s reconstruction and now the U.S. Embassy is in its place. Then I moved to Mayakovskaya Square and lived there for a long time -- maybe 30 years. The first house was an old one, with 30 single-family apartments. It was once a mansion. We had these large columns in the corridor.
I remember my childhood years, the yards, the friends I had until age 14 --then we moved to Mayakovskaya Square. I went to kindergarten. My nanny would come to pick me up, and she always had to bring something, like a toy or a story; I really did not want to leave the kindergarten.
We had a Jewish family, a very large one. My father had eight brothers and sisters. We met every two weeks and spoke only Yiddish, but I still don’t know that language. We celebrated holidays. More faithfully when my grandmother was alive, my mother wasn't as strict. For example, during Passover there could be matzo and bread on one plate. When my mother would make stuffed fish with matzo, because you weren't supposed to use bread, my dad would eat this matzo fish with bread. My mom was a little religious. My father was a quiet, reserved man.
My uncle left for America in 1913 and my parents also planned to go, and even had all of the documents and tickets, but just on the eve of their departure America restricted immigration. This was 1924, before I was born. My parents were very worried. When I was six or seven my uncle came to Moscow, expecting to stay there. He even brought over some furniture. All of his relatives were in Moscow and he wanted to move there. But he couldn’t. He had some friend who was very highly placed, and this friend told him to go back to America. So he went. This was 1931. He wrote letters to his mother, my grandmother. He wrote letters all the time. He lived in New York. He died long before we arrived. My grandmother could not write, so her granddaughter wrote on her behalf. Until his very death he wrote letters and did not lose touch. My grandmother died in January of 1949 and by then his wife was writing the letters. She was a Polish Jew and she wrote in Yiddish.
We were a family of five: me, my two older brothers, and my parents. My father was a hatter. He worked for a military organization, in a military academy. He had his own shop there and sewed military caps. During the war he made good money. Thanks to his profession we did not suffer.
During the war we were not evacuated. My father made us bags and we had them with us; I’m not sure whether they were packed or not. We had bags, but we did not go anywhere.
At the beginning of the war our house came under bombardment. A bomb fell right into our apartment. It was destroyed. We were relocated. We were among the first. It was literally during the second round of bombing that our wall was blown away. There was a long corridor – it was a multi-family apartment. We lived by the front door, and that wall was shattered. The room was more or less wrecked, but we had a clock on the wall and it kept ticking. My mom said that the top of the cupboard fell upside down. Because this was the first house to come under attack, it was rebuilt after a couple of years, I think. For the time being we were very lucky -- we were moved very close, to Gorkaya Street, on Pushkinskaya Square. We had our own room, and the conditions were decent. We spent two years living there. Then the house was restored and we came back to our apartment.
Translation from Russian by Luba S. Chaffee