Being Born In The Soviet Union.

I was born in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, the second largest republic in population in the Soviet Union at that time. When I was born my parents gave me a beautiful name which in Hebrew means Life. Both of my parents were Jewish, so I was born into a Jewish family. In my birth certificate and later in my internal passport my nationality as it was called, and I will say ethnicity was printed Jewish. An internal passport in the Soviet Union was the only valid document, and it was issued when a person turned 16 years of age. A regular passport had three pages. There was a big picture in the left corner and several lines. On the first line was printed last name, on the second line – first name, on the third line – patronymic or father’s name, on the fourth line – day, month and year of birth, and on the fifth line the nationality. The other pages were to stamp the place when the person lived. It was called propiska or the place of residence. My Dad was drafted to the Soviet Army in 1939 and he served until 1946, which included the five years of the Second World War which was called the Great Patriotic war in the Soviet Union. During one of the battles on the territory of Germany my Dad was severely wounded. He sustained multiple brain surgeries, was told by the German doctors who treated him that he would lose his vision and become blind. In spite of these bad predictions maybe because of my Dad’s will power, my Dad survived, and ended the war in Germany, celebrating with his comrades the Victory Day on May 8 there. A year later after the end of the war Dad returned to Kiev where he finished his military service in the rank of a captain in spite of waiting four more months to become a major. Dad retired as a wounded warrior with a military pension and became a civilian. With his skills, knowledge and vast experience he had achieved before he was drafted, my Dad started looking for work where he could be employed. There were only government owned enterprises. Dad was hired as Director of aa very popular cafe called “Ukrainian Dumplings”. My Mom worked as an assistant editor at a large publishing house in Kiev. After I was born my Mom decided to leave work behind and stay home. She raised me and my sister Larissa who was born three and a half years after me. The Soviet Union was rebuilding after the war. There were food shortages as well as clothes shortages. But in spite of all hardships and difficulties life to us was good and full of joy and happiness. Or maybe it seemed so, and it was an illusion. I was not yet seven years old, and it was an exception because at that time in the Soviet Union first-graders should have been at least seven years old, when I went to school number 106, which was elementary, middle and high school in the same four-story building. It was a Ukrainian-Russian school where the majority of my classmates were native speakers of the Ukrainian language. There were only several Jewish students. I already could count to one hundred and had basic reading and writing skills which my Mom taught me. I was born left-handed. In the Soviet Union nobody was allowed to write with the left hand. I had to re-learn how to write with my right hand. It was a very difficult and painful process both psychologically and emotionally. I had to practice writing four, five and sometimes even much more pages every day. Three months later I was able to write only with my right hand. I loved school and the learning process, and I liked my first teacher Olga Potapovna Popsuyeva who taught us from the first through the fourth grade what was the elementary school years at that time. I loved to study and learn new things and I was very interested in every school subject. In the fifth grade I began to study many mandatory school subjects as it was required by law in the Soviet Union. Now I had not one but many teachers who were teaching each of these mandatory subjects – Ukrainian language and literature, Russian language and literature, History, Geography, Botany, Crafting with Metal, Crafting with Wood, Physical Education and other subjects. One of the subjects was a foreign language. We had to choose between English, French, German and Spanish. I chose English and became very much interested in learning the language. At home I regularly worked on my pronunciation, learned new vocabulary, diligently studied the English grammar. I had three English classes per week, but I made a habit of studying English every day. I was asking my parents if there had been any special program, I could enroll to study English at a higher level than that I had been taught at school. Three years later my Mom found out that there were special foreign language programs for adults only, and my Dad through his connections (and unfortunately everything was done through connections), and his very good and reliable friends helped him get me into one of these great foreign language programs. It was a three-year English Language program with classes scheduled and conducted twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, or on Tuesdays and Fridays, each of these days the classes continued for four and a half hours from five in late afternoon till ten in the evening. Total nine hours per week, plus two hours of mandatory homework every day. It was the only foreign language program where foreign language learners had to pay tuition for the classes twice a year, in September and in January. My parents agreed to pay. I studied at school, participated in sports which was track-and-field athletics, and I also studied at this special English language program. Soon I had to give up sports because it was consuming too much of my time and overwhelming. I was very good in track-and-field athletics as my coach, Victor Sergeyevich Tsybulenko himself the 1960 Olympic gold medalist told my parents. I decided to focus entirely on studying at school and at the English language program. I was still studying at high school when I graduated from the English language program with honors getting the highest scores. I started looking for some kind of work where I could apply my knowledge and skills of the English language after I graduated from this phenomenal foreign language learning program, but work opportunities were very limited, and to any work was impossible.

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