My father held a high position within the Communist Party – secretary of the regional party.  We moved to Moscow.  My father enrolled in the Bauman State Technical Institute, following a call for the “Party 1,000” – an initiative to prepare “Red Experts”.  Party members were directed to enter universities.  In 1933 he graduated from Bauman and we were sent to Kramatorsk, Ukraine, where there was a new factory.  Mother worked in the regional Party office, as an office manager…  All the horrible Soviet policies of the 20th century affected my family.  The first repressions surprised my father and mother. Naturally, my interpretation of the repressions was learned at school.  In 1937 my father was arrested.  In 1938 my mother was arrested.  I just recently learned that three months after his arrest, my father was shot.  My mother was sentenced to ten years in exile somewhere in Karaganda, for her relation to an “enemy of the people.”  I went to live with my mother’s relatives in Dneprodzerzhinsk.  I went to school, everything seemed ok.  I was little, I didn’t understand things. 


We were anticipating the Germans, the onset of fascist rule.  Instead, the Soviet army arrived; there was a Jew among the soldiers.  We became Soviet citizens.  There is a difference between being a citizen of Poland or a citizen of the Soviet Union.  Essentially, Poland was a weak country.  But the Soviet Union – that’s a world power.  From Brest to Vladivostok, you can keep going and going and you’ll never reach the end.  We became powerful.  Most important, mighty Soviet Union and Germany were friends.  There was a nonaggression agreement, a collaborative relationship.  Nothing could come up between them. Consequently, we were calm, figuring there would be no war.  [Hitler] turned to the West: Belgium, Holland, Finland, Denmark, Norway.  Refugees were, however, arriving, but the rumors about things happening to the Jews were not believable.  We read Izvestia, read Pravda, read Labor, a literary newspaper; we listened to the radio.  The media did not report on anything.  They were afraid because Nazi Germany, Hitler, was an ally of the Soviet Union.  To offend an ally was a criminal act.


Back then we had the most acute feelings of patriotism and love for our Motherland.  That’s why, when we were in Kharkov and the war started, we all ran to volunteer, to beat Hitler.  We had been preparing for war.  There were many songs about it: “We don’t want foreign land, but we will not surrender an inch of ours.”  I wrote an essay in 10th grade on the topic: “Our armored train is standing by.” It’s a name of another song.  We didn’t believe [war would start] but we were preparing anyways.  We loved our homeland: “my beloved country is wide, with many forests, fields and rivers; I do not know another land where a person can breathe so freely.” That was [a song] from the movie “Jolly Fellows” [1934].  “If an enemy attacks us,” [we sang], “like a bride we love our nation, will protect her like a tender mother.”  That is why we were eager to go to the front.  It’s no wonder that people were willing to die. 


In Odessa everyone thought that war was coming. That’s all that Odessa talked about, war. Some were saying that Jews needed to run.   My father and his friend, they studied in Germany.  I remember we were sitting on the balcony, we had a good apartment, a large balcony, and my father’s friend was saying: “what are you talking about Abram? We went to school in Germany. Don’t you remember the Germans? Don’t you remember their amicable attitude towards us? Don’t you remember we took the exams with almost no knowledge of the language? And how the professors helped us? [Don’t you remember] how they treated us with understanding and with respect. You saw how the Germans live. They live calm lives. No one is going to touch us Jews.” My father insisted, “these are not the same Germans, this is not the same time, this is not the same Germany where we went to school.” But my father could not convince him. [My father’s friend] stayed there with his wife and child, and they died together in the Jewish ghetto.