Three Days. Time is Up

My Russian grandfather advised my American-born father against joining any political organizations. “You don’t know what is going to happen in the future in this world. You could belong to an organization and later end up getting arrested.”

Would these two men be upset with me or proud of me for joining an organization—Moms Demand Action—whose purpose is “to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms,” and who believes “common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day?”

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the South Carolina Judiciary Subcommittee with some of my fellow Moms Who Demand Action. The agenda was twofold:

1.  Discuss an amendment to a bill to increase penalties for threatening a person with a firearm in a public or private school or any public building.

2.  Close the “Charleston Loophole,” which would extend the waiting period to buy a gun.

This was a first for me. I would like to add my observations. In my ninety minute introduction to how to pass or amend a law, I learned why it takes so long to get anything done in Washington, DC. It is all about the wording and talking. It takes a lot of talking!

Much time was spent regarding the word “firearm,” because it was pointed out that other instruments, such as a knife or a car could cause injury, so the wording was altered to say something to the effect of “firearm or instrument.” The Senators were worried about a savvy lawyer getting a case thrown out of court if the weapon was other than a gun.

I learned that most background checks are completed within minutes of the desired purchase of a gun or after the passage of three business days. The sale can go through if the background check has not been completed within the three days. This is called the Charleston Loophole, because the killer at the Emanuel Church was able to purchase his gun once the three-day period had expired.

The bill proposed yesterday was to increase the time to five days, even though it was acknowledged that it should be “until the background check is complete.” The problem with increasing the time beyond five days is the concern that in this state, any more time would not garner enough votes—even though a beloved member of the state legislature was among the victims of the Charleston shooting.

That was abhorrent to me. More shocking to me was the added information that only 8% of all attempted purchases are not cleared immediately and need the extra three business days. No statistics were given regarding how many of those 8% do not pass after the three days, but I found some numbers on my own.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, during the period between February 28, 1994 and December 31, 2015, 3 million checks were denied out of 197 million performed during that time—1.5%.  I wonder how many purchases were allowed simply because the time expired.

Why not wait as long as it takes? If it takes longer than the three days, perhaps there is a problem. If a law-abiding person needs more time, than

What would Dad and Grandpa think?

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Happy Happy!

Every year, the stupid talk about the alleged “Merry Christmas” ban begins anew. When I heard that our president was promising to bring Merry Christmas back again, I was honestly taken aback. I never knew those words were gone. Where did they go? Who took them away?

I say it to who I want without fear of being arrested by the Christmas secret police, but at the same time, I also am a fan of “Happy Holidays.” December is filled with many holidays, so saying “happy holidays” covers them all. It’s more considerate.

Thinking about all the controversy over what to say makes me think of my grandma. Baba, who spoke little English, would say to us with her very heavy Russian accent, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Happy!”

She was way ahead of her time. In fact, while picking up our dozen icing-covered, cream-filled, glaze-encrusted box of Dunkin Donuts for our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, I told the cheery young lady behind the counter about Baba’s expression. She smiled and said she liked it.

So I am proposing that America adopt a new expression this holiday season: Happy Happy Everyone!

Personally, you can wish me whatever you want—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa. I am just happy for the smiles and the goodwill.

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A Win-Win for All!

I have thought about the purpose of publishing my book for the world to read—other than for a motion-picture deal. (Feel free to laugh!) My objective was twofold:

  • Enlighten readers about a little-known piece of American history.
  • Encourage families to learn their own family history before the information is lost with the death of a loved-one.

In order to provide greater access to my book, I have placed it in several libraries and made it available for purchase in a wide arena of booksellers. Do Svidanya Dad is available to read on Kindle, but what I did not understand when I first published it is that I was able to make it available to be read for free on Amazon for readers subscribing to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.

This weekend, I decided to test whether I could truly read a book for free using my Amazon Prime account. I have many books on my Amazon wish-list and my Goodreads shelves. I chose a book by a self-published writer like me whose previous novel I had read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Like my book, the Kindle version of the novel I chose—White Lies by Ellie Holmes—is shown to cost “$0.00 kindleunlimited.” That is the key phrase.

What I learned after careful research, having never read a book on Kindle for free, is that a book could only be accessed and uploaded to my Kindle from my Kindle, not via the Amazon website on my computer.

So I pulled out my Kindle, searched for the book, and then clicked on “Borrow for Free.” I was able to easily upload it, so now I am happily reading a new  romance suspense novel. The only restriction regarding read-for-free on Amazon Prime is that one can only read one free book/month. No problem for me!

As a writer, I was initially reluctant to read a fellow-author’s book for free, but once I saw the money being credited to my account by individuals reading my book in this manner, I relaxed.

Perhaps more people will read these books if they know the authors still get a royalty. This is a particularly good option for people who read less books because of the cost. It is like reading a book from the library, except that the writer gets paid.

It’s a win-win. So don’t feel guilty if you choose to read my book, or Ellie’s book, or any other writer’s book this way. Just read!

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Knoshing Around the World

My recent trip to Washington, DC was like attending an international food festival. My husband and I began in Korea, and by the end of the weekend, we had visited eateries representing Venezuela, China, the Middle East, and Russia. Looking back on our choices, those all represented hot spots in the news of late, but that was not intentional.

I was most excited to dine at the Russian restaurant—conveniently located less than a mile from the White House and one block from the famous Mayflower Hotel. (I encourage you to Google “Mayflower Hotel Russians” and you’ll see what I mean.)

You would think the fact that my father had lived in Russia for ten years would have made me familiar with the cuisine of his people, but that was not the case at all. The only time I ever went to a Russian restaurant was when we accompanied Dad and his cousin, Misha, to a restaurant in New York City, where I believe I feasted on Chicken Kiev and mashed potatoes.  I ordered the same for old times’ sake.

I always have a glass of wine with dinner, but it I felt it would be wrong not to order some sort of vodka-based drink in a Russian restaurant. I ordered a strawberry-infused vodka cocktail. Delicious!

Within seconds of opening my menu, a wave of emotion swept over me and I began to cry. I don’t know why, but after spending so much time writing my book about my father’s years living in the USSR, being in a place I knew he would have loved just caused those tear ducts to open and begin to flow.

There were plenty of Russian-speaking patrons slurping their borscht and sipping vodka, and the bar was showing Russian cartoons. It was cozy, and the bathroom was decorated with Russian newspapers, which added to the ambience.

While my meal was not my favorite on our food tour around the world, the atmosphere affected my soul the most.


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An Unexpected Contact

For those of you who have read this blog and possibly my book, you know that I spent a lot of time researching the story of my family’s years in Russia beginning in 1931. I did my best to be accurate, but have always known there may be mistakes, and there are still many missing pieces to this tragic tale.

I was recently surprised to be contacted by a woman who was a cousin of the man my aunt Nancy married while in Russia. She stumbled upon this blog while researching her family. This woman filled in a few pieces of the story as told by my aunt’s mother-in-law, Susanna.

I do not recall many details of her story about the war.  Only that they ran from city to city.  Aunt Susanna said that she was with her daughter Vera and son Walter trying to escape the coming Nazi’s bombing.  During the bombing she and Walter were separated from Vera. Vera had gone on before them in a vehicle if I recall correctly. 

So this may have solved a mystery in the family diary.

When my father’s family hurriedly evacuated the city of Novgorod the day before German forces attacked the city, the diary said “Family stayed in a barn- 7 in number.” That number seven never made sense because I could only account for five people: my grandparents and three aunts. Several letters from the State Department indicated that my uncle Pete had taken the family belongings and left by boat. One letter in particular was addressed to Uncle Pete and my aunt’s husband, which is what led me to believe they had left together.

However, a month after leaving Novgorod, there was a mysterious paragraph written in Russian:

September 19- They bombed Kiev and announced to us that the war had begun. Peacetime has come to any end. It is time for us to part. I promise to be faithful to you to the end. But be careful with my feelings.

The wheels of the rail cars clack as the train speeds on like an arrow. I am in the rail car. You are waving to me from the platform. One year will go by. I will meet you again. We will be together and will be happy then.

My new theory, based upon this very sorrowful note, along with the information from Susanna, is that the seven people staying in the barn may have included Susanna and her son, Waldemar—my aunt’s husband. Perhaps he stayed with her until the train came and then joined his sister Vera, my Uncle Pete, and Pete’s wife, Nona.

I do not know if my aunt ever saw her husband again.

Boarding Train

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Home at Last

My family recently had our old 8mm home movies digitized, so I have been spending the weekend traveling down memory lane. Among the hours of films were many I had seen, some I had forgotten, and many I never knew existed, such as the hard-to-see movies of my wedding. The interior shots were primarily a blur of back except when someone kindly lit up the scene with a flash of a camera. Most of the exterior films were the opposite—so bright that most of the movie was as white as the driven snow.

It was therefore with great apprehension that I played the video of the homecoming of my father’s mother—Baba as she was known to all of her grandchildren. I am happy to report that the film of Baba’s arrival at the airport that January day in 1957 was extraordinarily clear considering the age of the film.

After a quick view of an airplane, the focus was on her smiling face, which was heavily worn by her very painful and heartbreaking life. She was greeted by my father and, well, I just won’t provide any names lest I spoil the story for anyone who has not yet read it!

Knowing what I learned while researching and writing this story, I can’t imagine the relief and joy she must have felt after having been gone from America for so long (26 years) interspersed by the sadness regarding the loved ones she left behind. Thus the tears, smiles, and laughter all wound into 39 brief seconds.

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Please Let Freedom Ring for All

I grew up in a very apolitical home. My mother was too busy raising five children as well as having a job outside the home, and my father was advised by his father to never join any political organizations. Living in the Soviet Union, Dad was aware of the dangers of speaking negatively about anyone in power, so we never had lively political conversations at dinner time. It was more like, “He hit me,” or “Whatever you do, don’t spill the wine!”

Most of my siblings are definitely more vocal politically than either of our parents, but I am careful about voicing my opinions about what is happening in our country because I generally avoid confrontations.

However, the pardon of the racist sheriff from Arizona has made my blood boil. I read about the targeted immigration raids and traffic stops, and the harsh treatment of prisoners under his watch. The inmates were given moldy bread and rotten fruit to eat, forced to sleep outside in tents with oppressive summertime temperatures, and in the winter, heat was used sparingly. Warm clothing was not an option.

This reminded me of the arrest of my father’s sister as she was headed to the American Embassy in the Soviet Union. The charge was “violation of passport regulations.” She was sentenced to imprisonment for one year. The conditions in those prisons was abysmal.

Our family always knew this story, but I always thought, “But that happened in Russia in 1942. It would never happen here, and surely it would not be condoned.”

My daughter told me that she threw her phone across the couch when she heard the news of the pardon—by the President of the United States—of the man responsible for the terror in Arizona targeted toward the Latino community. I felt sick to my stomach.

Each day, I watch the news and wonder how much worse can it get? What is happening to our “Sweet Land of Liberty?” What would Dad think?

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