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Rita Kazhdan

St Petersburg
Interviewer: Anna Nerush
Date of interview: December 2001

Rita Abramovna is a well-wishing, enchanting, very frank and
surprisingly cheerful woman. Being womanly by nature, Rita carefully
looks after herself, dresses in a modest, but modern and tasteful way.
She is a leader in her family, a caring mum and granny. She was happy
when she was able to give presents to her daughter's family when she
received compensation for being in the ghetto during the Holocaust.
Rita leads an active public life. She is a frequent visitor at Hesed
and uses every chance to communicate with her friends and new

I am Rita Abramovna Kazhdan. My maiden name is Fridman. I want to tell
you a little about the family, in which I grew up, and of those
relatives I remember and who are no longer alive.

My maternal grandpa's name was Grigory Vselubsky, or, in Yiddish,
Gershen. I don't know, when he was born. I suppose that it was in
Minsk [Belarus]. I certainly don't remember grandpa Grigory, as he had
died before my birth in the 1920s on some Minsk street of cardiac
rupture, or as they used to say at the time – of 'angina pectoris'.
Stories and recollections of relatives – that's all I know of him. He
owned a plant that produced aerated water and a few shops in Minsk. He
was, if we shall speak in present-day language, a big businessman.
Grandfather Grigory was a well-known and esteemed person in the city.
He, a Jew, was even invited to the government's balls with his
beautiful daughter Rozalia, my mum. As they put it, she would be the
decoration of these balls. Grandfather Grigory had the financial means
to give all his children an education. But none of them, except my
mum, wanted to study. All of them longed for work and trade.

My maternal granny was Elena Vselubskaya. I don't know her maiden
name. Unfortunately, I am also in the dark about the place and date of
her birth. I remember her. She died in Minsk in 1931, when I was quite
a small girl, about two years old. I remember that after grandpa's
death she lived with us and she was ailing all the time.

In the family of Elena and Grigory Vselubsky there were four children:
Berta, Rozalia, Fanya and Yakov. The eldest was Berta who emigrated to
America with her daughter Rut in 1914. Fanya lived in Minsk. She was a
housewife and had three children. Her husband Mayer worked at a
printing house and was considered a guru in his business. At the very
beginning of the war Fanya and her family perished in the Minsk
ghetto. Yakov continued to do grandpa's business, but not in Minsk but
in Mohilev; by this time he didn't own the plant. He worked at the
state plant producing aerated water.

My paternal granny was Sarra Fridman. I didn't really know her as I
was too small when she died in 1933. They lived in Leningrad and we in
Minsk. According to the stories she was a kind, affectionate woman
devoted to her husband and children. She skillfully ran the house,
cooked well. As my parents told me she cooked for the most part
traditional Jewish dishes. Granny never punished her children or

When we visited Leningrad with my father on his business trips, I met
my paternal grandpa Semyon – or as we called him Shimon – Fridman and
I remember him very well. I recall us arriving in the morning, because
the train from Minsk used to arrive in Leningrad in the morning, and I
remember him praying. He was always sitting with his face turned to
the East, wearing his tallit. I don't know exactly the names for all
these gadgets, which one could put on his head and hands – bricks, as
I called them – and he prayed. [Editor's note: The interviewee is
referring to the tefillin.] There was one more detail: grandpa prayed
for a long time, not noticing anyone, and stayed in the corner, but he
allowed us to look at him. At that time I sometimes messed about, but
all this seemed very interesting to me. Grandpa didn't teach me to
pray at that time, I was quite small. Nobody approached him until he
stopped praying. The only person acquainted with all the traditions
was his younger son Grigory, who lived with grandpa and granny.

Grandfather Shimon was the owner of a dye-house in Minsk before the
Revolution of 1917 [1]. He often traveled on business to Poland and
Germany. The family was considered to be one of the most well-to-do
families in the city. All grandpa's property was nationalized after
the Revolution of 1917, and he escaped with a part of the family to
Petrograd. Grandpa died in 1936, when he was, in my opinion, 75-76
years old.

Grandpa Fridman's family lived in Petrograd in a big communal
apartment [2]. In the spacious hall, if one can say so, or anteroom,
there was a huge chest which belonged to my grandpa; at that time
forged chests were in fashion. What was inside it, I don't know. I
also recall how he washed potatoes, as he was keen on hot jacket
potatoes with butter. And we liked them, too. I also recall a big room
of approximately 35 square meters, partitioned off, in which uncle
Grigory later lived with his family. The walls were covered with
wallpaper, and beautiful photo-portraits of grandpa and grandma were
hanging on them. Then the youngest daughter Fanya Fridman, my father's
sister, took the portraits to Moscow. Aunt Fanya, father's sister,
died in 1986, she was 83. After her death her children threw these
photo-portraits in the garbage can, though they knew beyond doubt that
their ancestors were on them. These grandchildren do not need even
those relatives who are alive. Now they live in America, but they have
not sent us any letters, or any news. Especially my cousin Lara, she
was a very selfish woman and remained such. She is 9 months older than
me - she doesn't need anybody or anything.

Grandpa Shimon and granny Sarra Fridman had six children: the girls
were Sonya (she was the oldest), Tsilya and Fanya and the boys
Veniamin, Abram and Grisha. Abram was my father. Grisha and Abram were
born one after the other with a year's difference between them. All of
them were very decent people, very honest. Only one of them was a
university graduate – the oldest Veniamin, because before the
Revolution he had left for Kiev and graduated from the Academy of
Commercial (at that time it was the same as a university). Uncle
Grisha was a builder. He had completed courses for draftsmen and
foremen (already in the Soviet period) and worked in the building
industry. The women, for the most part, were housewives.

My father, Abram Semyonovich Fridman, was born in 1896 in Minsk into
the rich family of his father, the manufacturer and dye-house owner. I
don't know if father had even studied anywhere, but he worked as an
engineer and director of studios at the State Film Company of Belarus.
He was a kind, fascinating person, a man of fashion; the center of all
social gatherings in our house. When all grandpa Fridman's property
was nationalized and he escaped from Minsk to Petrograd with a part of
the family, my father remained in Minsk. He got married to mum in
1918. The wedding was in Petrograd. Both families were present at the

My mother Rozalia Fridman [nee Vselubskaya] was born in Minsk in 1898.
Her childhood and young years were spent in luxury and insouciance.
Her family was a very well-to-do family. Before the Revolution she
finished a Russian secondary school. One can say that my grandparents
were rich, because secondary education was rather expensive. When my
mum got married, they had no children for 10 years and she was engaged
in self-education. Mum knew English, French, German, Yiddish, Hebrew,
and Polish. For example, when she studied English, for some period she
spent all her time with an English governess who walked with her even
to the lavatory's door. They used only English both in writing and
talking. When she began to study German, she had already had some
basic knowledge of it, because Belarus was occupied by Germans in
1914-1917, during World War I, plus she had a private tutor. With the
French language it was the same story. There was a hired teacher
because they could afford having one.

My parents loved each other very much, and the fact that they had no
children for a long time didn't affect their relationship. They were
very progressive people. Mother was always in the first ranks. At that
time such organizations as GTO [Ready for Work and Defense], PVHO
[Anti-Air-Raid Chemical Defense], Osoaviachim [Society of Assistance
to Aviation and Chemical Defense] were fashionable. She participated
in all these arrangements, right up to flying in an airplane – she
took an airplane when there were excursions over the city. She, as a
progressive woman, was always rewarded with first prizes.

I was born in 1929. My brother Georgy Fridman was born in 1932. We
grew up in Minsk. Minsk was a semi-provincial, semi-European city,
because Belarus was within the Jewish Pale of Settlement [3] up to
1917 when Jews were not permitted to live where they liked. So there
were a lot of Jews in Minsk. For example, according to my
recollections and people's stories, before the war the total
population of Minsk was 250,000, out of which 80,000–100,000 Jews were
confined to the Minsk ghetto – in spite of the fact that some Jews
were able to leave the city before the war.

We lived in a good two-room deluxe flat, which was bought for my
parents by grandpa Grigory Vselubsky after their marriage. The flat
was heated with firewood. After the reduction of living space per
person by the Soviet authorities, before my birth, a Latvian lady was
accommodated in my parents' flat. She was a government official and
was given one of our rooms. Before this reform, our flat was
considered a luxury one because everyone around lived in communal
apartments. We had a dining room of 30 square meters and our bedroom
was 18 square meters plus a small corridor and a kitchen. We had meals
only in the dining room.

Amongst the furniture we had a walnut couch – a small sofa made of
walnut padded with green velvet. We had a dark oak sideboard with nice
wood engraving, and on it there was a pink tea set, a 'Kuznetzovsky'.
[Kuznetzov was a famous pre-revolutionary owner of porcelain works.]
It was of magnificent beauty, a superfine one.

I remember going to a private kindergarten, where there was the
so-called frebelichka, that is, a governess, who went for a walk with
us, played various games in German. Her name was Margarita Robertovna.
We spent a lot of time doing needlework. I was taught to embroider and
to knit by the housemaid. I embroidered excellently, knitted
excellently, and I can still do all these things now. I was dressed
very well, in a modern, beautiful fashion.

I was the pet of the family. Granny Sarra always wore decorations,
rings and earrings. I played with the jewelry. Whenever grandfather
went abroad on business, he always brought something for my mum. She
was a very attractive young woman (of course, before I was born).
Grandfather brought all sorts of trinkets for her. And I was keen on
her trappings. I was simply keen on them. She had a sack made of the
black playing glass beads, and there was a yellow rose or lily on it,
or something of this kind, made of beads. And the sack was half-full
of that jewelry. Daddy saved them, but when we found ourselves in the
ghetto, mum left all these things in the housemaid's charge. We didn't
see them again.

Father treated us children dearly and lavishly. He saved my dowry,
which they began to collect straight after my birth. There were two
blankets: the first one I used to cover myself with. The second was a
rose-colored, silk quilt, and with it came a full set of 6 quilt
slips; moreover, everything was decorated with French lace.

Mum's elder sister Berta emigrated to America in 1914. And we received
books from there for some time, I don't know exactly for how long. I
just remember these books in English – very beautiful books with
pretty pictures. I liked these books very much.

Up to the mid-1930s, mum didn't work. She was a woman of the high
life. In 1936, when I began to go to school, and my brother Grigory
grew up a bit, mum became proficient in accountancy and went to work
in the State Railway Administration. Though we were well-to-do people,
it was impossible not to work in those years, as it was condemned by
the public morality.

Mum never cooked common dishes – soups and so on – but she knew how to
bake in a very delicious way. In the kitchen there was a Russian stove
[4], and on holidays she baked very tasty, fancy cakes with the

In those years there were special shops in the USSR, the so-called
Torgsin stores [5]. And there, in Minsk – I recall it as if it
happened yesterday – there was a huge shop on Lenin Street, where
everything was sold for special bonds or currency. One could obtain
these bonds in exchange for gold or silver, mostly silver. We had a
lot of silver things in our family. Maybe father's salary was
insufficient because, you see, mum didn't work, and the best goods
were sold in Torgsin stores. So mum made use of our valuables
exchanging expensive stuff - spoons, silver forks, heavy silver things
- for currency from time to time. This way she was able to buy
everything we needed. We were well-provided for, we lived comfortably.
Mum didn't wear the jewelry she had, because it was considered
indulgent. One should go through all of it and see it with one's own
eyes, because however hard I'm trying to explain this to you, if you
hadn't experienced all that, your idea of that period will certainly
be incomplete.

Unfortunately we didn't observe Rosh Hashanah or Sabbath. People used
to gather at our home on Saturday or Friday, it was a 'visiting day',
one might say. The parents had polite conversations. Mother always
played the piano very well, sang well; so we always had good company.
There was never any vodka on the table, only at the New Year Party. We
just had tea parties. Tea, cakes. I don't remember going to the
synagogue. Only after the war did I learn where it was situated. By
the way, the Germans didn't blow it up but our people pulled it down.
It was intact after the war. I saw it. Well, then they modernized
Minsk architecture, and they thought the synagogue spoilt the city's
outward appearance. Now there is another building in its place.

Before the war nearly every summer we rented a summer cottage in the
village, where our housemaid came from, and my parents let out a room
for actors from Moscow and Leningrad on tour in Minsk. Many of them
became friends of the family, for example, the famous hypnotist, a
Polish Jew, Wolfgang Messing, the famous Jewish poet Moisey Teiv, and
some Germans as well, who got married in Minsk. For instance, father
had a close friend named Rudolf, who had retained his German
citizenship and was not shot like other people of German origin during
the Stalinist repression [the so-called Great Terror] [6], but was
given the option of leaving Russia within twenty-four hours. And
shortly after they left, father was summoned to the GPU [7], because
they had been great friends with Rudolf. Everybody was suspected of
espionage. But that was only one reason. The other was that they were
looking for gold in our house.

I have terrible recollections. Daddy was repeatedly taken to the GPU.
Once he was under arrest for six months, around 1936-1937. Mum once
interrupted my summer vacation and took me to the city. She took me
with her, as if we were shopping, to the center of the city along a
street where the prison was situated, as I learnt later. Mum said:
'Stand still here and look that way.' I was uncertain about why. And
then, when they let daddy out, I found out that mum had taken me with
her so that he could look at me from his cell. After this, they rather
often conducted a search in our flat. It happened mainly in the summer
when we were in the country. They were not interested in mum's
jewelry, because they were looking for money and gold coins. We
certainly had them, but safely hidden.

On 22nd June 1941 the Great Patriotic War [8] broke out. My parents
were working on the 22nd, when the war was announced. It was a Sunday.
Everybody was shocked and panic-stricken, but no one believed it was
true. On 24th June they [the Germans] began bombing Minsk from early
morning. My parents didn't believe that they were bombing Minsk. They
decided it was an alarm practice. My parents left for work. I remained
at home with the housemaid. At 12 o'clock mother came running from
work. When the massive bombardment of Minsk city was launched we went
downstairs with the housemaid and my brother into the air-raid
shelter. Air supply ceased, and in order not to suffocate we went out
into the street and saw these bombs falling on the city with a
terrible shriek.

By the evening, strings of people with small perambulators and babies,
goods and chattels were walking along the Mogilevskoye highway – the
way to Moscow to the East. Daddy was at work, and wasn't back yet and
mum couldn't go anywhere without him. By 10 o'clock in the evening
Minsk was completely bombed-out. Houses were on fire, I begged mum to
leave. I was very afraid. We took some cereals, some bread with us,
and walked to the village, in which our housemaid's relatives lived.
And mum left a note for daddy about where we had gone.

By that time our house didn't exist anymore; everything was burned. We
got settled in the yard of our acquaintances. On 28th June the Germans
marched through the city without a single shot. After some time,
Mayer, the husband of mum's sister, who worked at the printing house
on a rotary stencil duplicator was forced by the Germans to print
leaflets: 'Beat the kikes! Save Russia!'.

On 25th July we were herded into a ghetto. They sealed the territory
off with wire. There we settled together with the family of mum's
friend. Father got fixed up as an electrician in the printing house
where Mayer worked and maintained the family. At that time we had
nothing – everything burned with the house. According to the order of
the authorities we had to hand in the list of all lodgers of our
house. My father, a very respectable person, was elected a house
senior man, and he was to carry our lodger's lists to the Judenrat
[9]. It was 31st August 1941. Suddenly Gestapo men appeared in
helmets, with chains on their chests, with number plates, with
sub-machine-guns. They cordoned the district off and began to search
everybody, including our house lodgers. This is what a raid is: the
Germans cordon some district off and start to catch people. The
Gestapo did this, but with the assistance of our policemen. My father
wasn't back by the evening. It turned out that when he was going to
take the documents to the Judenrat mum asked him to drop in on her
sister Fanya, who lived in the next street. But there was also a raid
there. Everybody was captured. Only a four-year boy, my cousin Boris,
whom they kicked under the bed, was left. Thus he survived, but later
perished all the same.

We didn't see father again. The three of us remained with my mother.
After the massacre our street became a Russian district and we were
resettled in Stolpetsky Lane. Mum went to work at the Judenrat as an
accountant. The authorities ordered the handing over of all furs, fur
collars, fur coats – everything expensive that people had – to the
storehouse in the Judenrat so that the Germans could choose everything
they needed for their army, for their wives and for themselves. In
brief, we suffered from deprivation and hunger. We had nothing to
barter with. It was a very hard time. Once a week mother got a loaf of
bread and that was all we had. But we lived somehow because mother was
with us.

To find out about father's fate Mum had hidden her laty [number
identification plates of Jews in ghettos] and went to see Rudolf's
friend, also a German, who, after having married a local girl, had
been living in Minsk since before the war. This friend found out what
happened to my father and informed mum that they were all caught
during the August raid. They were urged along the street, forced to
raise hands and sing songs. They were herded into the prison where dad
had already served a term earlier, and there they were shot.

On 2nd March 1942 another pogrom took place. The massacre lasted for
three or four days, I don't remember now. We were hiding in a room
separated from the next room with literally a plywood wall. Each word
in the next room was audible. In the room that was fifteen meters big
we herded together 12 to 15 of us plus a nursling and a woman ill with
cancer. When the massacre was over, we were found in this room. But,
luckily, the mobile gas chambers and the policemen who guarded Jews
were already gone, so we were simply kicked out.

Abram Aronovich Levin, the husband of mum's friend – a wonderful man,
very decent, in advanced years – was a pharmacist. We moved to his
place. In this drugstore there was a so-called malina, a place where
one could hide from the fascists. Abram Aronovich himself stayed in
the drugstore as the manager, and we edged ourselves into the
pharmaceutical cupboard in the next room, where drugs and measuring
glasses were kept, through the lower shelf, which could be pulled out;
then Levin put the shelf back. This is how we concealed ourselves.

Mother got into the habit of smoking. 15 to 20 people were hiding in
the room. We were told the massacre was over and it was possible to
come out, but Abram Aronovich nevertheless made sure that we didn't
leave. But mum came out and Abram's wife asked her to go home and pick
up certain things. As mum was a working person, she had special
documents with her. Everybody knew the Germans were catching (and
shooting) only unemployed people. We never saw mum again. Then we were
informed that she had been taken away with other Jews, and there was a
baby in her arms. Mum had a perfect command of German, but apparently
there were not only Germans but policemen as well – the traitors, who
served for the Germans – so she didn't manage to leave the column. So
my brother and I were left without any means of subsistence.

I was like a skeleton covered with skin. But I always had a ruddy and
round face. So they didn't pay special attention to me. That's why I
could walk away from the crowd that convoyed to work and beg in the
streets and in the Russian district. And from time to time I succeeded
in taking something into the ghetto for my brother. Once as I was
walking out of the ghetto, I came across my classmate who helped get
me fixed up in the plant where one could do hard unskilled work. 75
Russian Jews were working at the plant. They were roofers, cleaners,
carpenters, and laundrymen. Before the war it had been the
machine-tool plant named after Voroshylov [10], and during the
occupation German tanks were repaired here. I was a pin-up, very
beautiful girl, especially as I did not have a pronounced Jewish
appearance, with long light brown braids; by and large, they accepted
me for employment. I got a ladle of soup every day. It was nearly a
liter, with rotten meat, and a small slice of bread. I ate some of it
and the rest I carried to the ghetto for my brother. Around the time
that mum died typhus raged throughout the ghetto. Georgy fell sick.
But our savior Abram Aronovich procured Sulfidine for a lot of money.
This at least saved the child.

Nearly all the people in the ghetto were annihilated. One of those
Germans working at the plant, Willy Shott, spoke excellent Russian. It
turned out that until 1928 he lived in Moscow with his family. His
father had been shot and his mother and children had been expelled to
Germany. Naturally, he hated Russians. I remember him saying: 'If
Stalin and Hitler would be hung with one rope, it would be good for
everybody'. Once I brought myself to ask him to take care of my
brother Georgy as well. Shott took him as a courier to the
Daimler-Benz firm. Soon I was transferred to it, too. One of the army
prisoners working there made a false bottom in my pot, in which I
piled up cartridges stolen from an ammunition dump. I passed them on
to a guy named Yuzik. I knew he was in connection with the Suvorovsky
partisan group, and he promised to take my brother and me out into the
forest. In the summer of 1943 Yuzik vanished. I felt very sorry for
him, and with his disappearance my hopes collapsed, too.

Then we began to prepare strenuously to become partisans. My brother
went to make a reconnaissance. Having accomplished a dangerous 18-km
march from the city to the East, he came to the village where we had
rented a summer cottage before the war. The locals confirmed that the
partisans were in the vicinity, but every night the Germans came to
the village and conducted a search of each house, each corner of the
cellars and lofts. My brother came back with no result. But such
obstacles only intensified our desire to join the partisans.

Once, having covered over 30 km, we met partisans from the Semyonovsky
regiment. But they were on their way to a military mission and weren't
able to take us with them. They explained which village we had to go
to, which hut to enter and where we should wait for their return. They
kept their word: on the way back they took us along to the partisan
district. Thus, we found ourselves in the Zorinskiy partisan group, as
we got to know later, in the 106th regiment. They constructed shelters
from fir boughs, gave us boots and two sheepskin coats. In the winter
we moved to the central camp. We dug up potatoes, our principal food,
in the burnt villages. Our regiment fought the last battle with the
Germans in June 1944, when the Soviet army liberated Belarus. The
Germans fell back. So for us the war was over on exactly this day. In
our regiment we each were issued a certificate, straight on the cart,
stating that from 12th September 1943 until 6th June 1944 we were in
the 106th partisan regiment.

Before her death mum and I had been in a bath-house. As we were
walking along the road, she said to me: 'Well, if I should die
tomorrow, at least I will have washed myself today. Remember the
address in Moscow just in case'. It was like a kind of foreboding for
her. Mum died. And when our partisan group joined units of the Red
Army, I wrote a letter-triangle to Moscow to inform our relatives that
we were alive but without parents. [During the war one could send a
letter from the front only in the form of an envelope-triangle, easy
for the censors to open.] It caused a real shock in Moscow.

The house in Minsk, in which our family had lived before the war, had
burned down. For days on end my brother and I strolled about the
ruined city. Fortunately, my uncle Leonid Rubo, the husband of dad's
sister Fanya, arrived from Moscow within a week. He was deputy
people's commissar [deputy minister] of the electrical industry of the
USSR and was able to fly to Minsk to get us. He took us with him to
Moscow. And we flew in a warplane. In Moscow we began a difficult, but
normal life.

We went to school in Moscow as if for the first time. I always
remember Moscow teachers thankfully – those half-starved, threadbare
ones, who had neither textbooks nor writing materials for us. They
were devoted to us with all their hearts. Thanks to these teachers I
understood all the richness of the Russian language, and still
recollect this when I hear my granddaughter talking to her coevals in
an incomprehensible Russian slang.

As there was a system of ration cards for foodstuffs in 1944 and 1945,
my brother and I couldn't stay in the same family because it was very
difficult for the family to keep two orphaned children. My aunt Fanya
had two kids of her own: Lara, who was nine months older than me, and
Georgy, born in 1936. Then my brother Georgy I and joined the family.
Uncle Leonid was the only person in the family who worked. How could
he keep such a horde? The ration cards were given according to the
registered number of people in the family only. So, according to the
registration there were two grown-ups and two children in the family,
and the ration cards were only for them. But they had to feed us,
another two mouths, too, although they didn't have ration cards for
us. To get the cards they would have had to register us in Moscow, and
for that they would have had to adopt us. It was too complicated, so
they brought us up and shared food with us. They decided to dispatch
me to Leningrad in agreement with dad's sister Tsilya, and Georgy
remained in Moscow.

By March 1945, I had already moved to Leningrad and went to school. My
aunt persuaded the school to accept me into seventh grade, as I was
grown-up enough. Having lived for many years in a Belarus environment,
I made an incredible number of mistakes in Russian at first. But after
a month of study I wrote quite correctly. I was on friendly terms with
everybody in the school. I didn't experience any anti-Semitism. All
children had gone through the blockade. I liked sketching and
chemistry very much. I didn't get on very well. I tried, but it was
very hard for me. Because, in spite of the fact that I had been an
excellent pupil before the war, I had forgotten everything under the
terrible war conditions. There were neither newspapers nor books.

I completed school more or less well. Then I entered the Food Industry
Technical School. It was the only place where they accepted my
documents. I don't know why I applied to this place. Firstly, there
wasn't a person to ask for advice. In 1946 there weren't so many
educational institutions. They hadn't been reorganized yet. Secondly,
the technical school was situated in a beautiful place on Palace
Square. I studied for three years and after one of the incidents at
practical work I decided such a study was not for me. We did practical
work at the distillery. Our task was to determine the type and the
age, and other characteristics of wines by smell and by taste. But the
wines were very delicious. The women who worked there, always carried
a noggin and herring or vobla [salted stockfish] in their pockets. For
the most part, they drank spirits. But we drank wine as it was our
duty. And drank as much as we liked – we were young. And at the
distillery, there was the following order: if you managed to walk out
through the checkpoint on your own feet, then OK, good luck, go home.
But if you fell down at the checkpoint, well, then they left you to
spend the night at the factory. Once we were all drunk but managed to
leave on foot. Three of us – all girls – went home to together. In the
morning, I woke up on a chest and said to myself: 'This isn't for me!'
And shortly after, I left work and found another job.

I was to get a job at the Vavilov State Optical Research Institute, as
I knew that a relative of my friend Papshtein worked there. He was a
candidate of science and needed a laboratory assistant. We arranged
that I should go to see him, and he arranged it with the chief of the
laboratory, as it was a secret laboratory. But when it came to the
personnel department, I wasn't hired and they said that there were no
vacancies. An official of the regional committee was courting me. I
told him what happened, and he rang the secretary of the party
organization of the Vavilov Institute straight away. A day later when
I arrived, I was accepted as a laboratory assistant.

I lived with aunt Tsilya. She was working as a simple manicurist and
shared her income with me. Once in the summer my acquaintance Frida,
who was already married, invited me to visit her at the summer cottage
in Pargolovo. Her baby, husband and mother were there. I was playing
with her son on the beach, when her husband's friend arrived. They
were close friends. It was love at first sight on his part. I was
attracted to the fact that he was from a good family, and he had a
separate flat. And love came to me some time later, and we have been
together for 48 years. We got married in the summer of 1953.

As for all Soviet people, 5th March 1953, the day of Stalin's death,
has remained in my memory. At that time I was studying at a
dress-making course. Suddenly they declared Stalin's death. I heard
exclamations from everywhere 'Oh! Ah!' and I calmly said: 'Well, thank
God!' in some mechanical way. I remember one more incident from this
year. I was at my friends' place, at the house of an elderly architect
Galkevich. I was on friendly terms with his wife Lyuda. She sewed for
me. During a conversation I said of Stalin: 'It serves him right!'
Something of that kind. Alexey, Lyuda's brother was there when I said
this. As Lyuda told me later, he said: 'I shall imprison her for such
words!' And then Galkevich, a Russian, reacted very sharply: 'If you
dare do so, if a single hair falls from her head because of you, you
will never set foot in my house, even though you are my wife's

My husband, Edgard Grigorievich Kazhdan, was born in Leningrad in
1926. He graduated from the Institute of Motion Picture Engineers
there and after that worked at the Institute of Cinematographic
Equipment. He's now retired. We buried my husband's father in 1957,
and his mother, in 1988....For the rest go to;