Sunday, August 30, 2015



     Mother worked in the laboratory of a big orthopedic clinic. She quickly advanced to the top position, which she then occupied with relish. She was in charge of a few women, lab technicians. Some doctors were working closely with her to do their theses. The more power she felt from her position, the more she felt free

Rimka is the second form the left in the front row
with Lera on her lap. Meyer is the third from
the left in the back. 

to verbally abuse her family. She ranted and raved for the smallest reason. Dad took to spending a lot of time playing chess at his brother's home. When questioned late in life, why he didn't leave her at that time, he said that, there was no-where to go. One had to have a permission to stay in Moscow, and apartments were worth killing over. It would also go against the very fiber of his being, to abandon the people for whom he was responsible. He made good money restoring historical buildings and painting murals in the public offices and institutions. Sometimes there was no work though, and his crew had to get by on any jobs they could find, like painting safety posters or doing apartments for the high and mighty. Meyer always was sure to give Rimka just a set amount every month and keep the rest, in case if there was no work later, and he had to endure her scolding about the lack of money.

     The family seemed to be well to do and keeping it together. I sometimes wondered, if anyone knew or cared about what went on in their apartment. Perhaps, Rimka was just a typical housewife and a mom, struggling with the finances and her teenagers? But there was a day, for instance, when I came to get my friend to go to school together in the morning, after going through a gauntlet of mom's scorn and accusations. The friend's family was running around, getting ready for the day: the girls were braiding each other's hair, parents were joking with children. I didn't have to think about it much: the contrast with her own family was too stark and painful. I just started to cry, standing in the middle of their living room. So, the situation in our home wasn't usual or acceptable: in an unending, hopeless pattern of our lives, her children and husband were being emotionally flayed. 

As the result of this abuse, the children stopped trusting their parents. One of them was the cause of pain and another was helpless to stop it. I don't know, what helped my sister to survive. We were six years apart and Lera became an adult and a stranger when I was just starting to form my real character and opinions. Ironically, it was my mother who gave me the beginnings of the idealism and a certain stubbornness, by providing the books with the role models in them whom I wanted to emulate.

Something was missing, though. The books spoke of and assigned enormous value to love and romance. But those things were terribly hard to come by! And,

even more importantly, where was the purpose that would be worthy of committing my whole life to it? I found friends who were like myself in trying to focus on their inner life and culture (maybe, because there was nothing happening in our lives otherwise?). We scoured Moscow for cultural events. We met a lot of odd people and heard many ideas about saving the world and oneself, that ranged from meditation to veganism, to walking on the snow barefoot.

Nothing appealed to me. I felt like I was in the fog, without a direction or aim. I began to drift, avoiding my studies in preparation for college exams. One after one I failed the exams.

Now what? I worked in the newspaper, sharing the duties of a delivery girl, proofreader and an on-the-spot journalist. My social life was erratic; I no longer listened to my parents' ideas about an appropriate behavior. Each relationship ended as soon as it begun, and brought me immeasurable heartbreak. Then came the last blow.
     I attempted to get into the Moscow University. As a Jewish person, I should've known better. Upon meeting the Dean of the Journalism Department to find out why I didn't get in, he bluntly declared: "We have enough of your kind of people!". For this reason or that, to me it seemed, nobody wanted me. My parents came to her then, with the proposition to emigrate to the U.S. This time I didn't refuse.

                I at 18.

     By then, Lera, who did everything with less drama and more elbow grease, finished college and found a stable job. Mother was desperately trying to marry her off, because, at twenty five, she was approaching the spinsterhood, wasn't she? The inevitable matchmakers showed up, sized her up and tried to ply her on every Jewish mother's son in Moscow. By extension, no self-respecting matchmaker would miss a chance to find a husband for a younger sister! And so, here they came, the strange and the stranger men and blind dates, but after meeting me, no one was interested to see me again. That only confirmed my conviction that nobody wanted me! Later on in life, when I looked at my pictures at that age, I saw a fresh-faced girl, attractive in a spiritual kind of way. I was neither fat nor frumpy at all, as I used to believe herself to be. I guess, those men were baffled, even intimidated to find somebody like myself, not a usual type of the girls desperate to get married. That wisdom couldn't help the younger Dina, though!

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