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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Josef Stalin Trivia

As I was flipping through the pages of my baby book in search of an idea for my other blog, Mommymeanderings, I found a copy of Stars and Stripes, which is a newspaper focused on the U.S. Armed Forces. I then decided that it’s time for Do Svidanya Dad to make a brief reappearance.

On the back page, just below the fold, I found a fascinating story titled “Sons of Stalin, Blum Shared German Cell.” It turned out that the son of the infamous leader of the Soviet Union and the son of the Prime Minister of France were cellmates during World War II.

Stalin’s son had joined the Soviet Army after the invasion of his country by Germany—the invasion which my father learned about when he arrived in Honolulu en route back to America. Stalin’s son was taken prisoner just one month later, which Stalin considered to be a traitorous act. “There are no prisoners of war, only traitors.” (Nice guy!)

In researching this incident, I learned that the families of such prisoners of war were treated quite harshly. After her husband’s arrest, Stalin’s daughter-in-law was arrested and sent off to a Soviet gulag, where she remained until Stalin finally secured her arrest.

What I found most interesting about the article in Stars and Stripes was that the son’s name was Jakob Dzhugashvili, not Jakob Stalin. Apparently, Dzhugashvili was Stalin’s birth name. Stalin was his revolutionary name, which means “man of steel.” Maybe everyone else knew that fact, but it was news to me.

As far as I am concerned, the only “man of steel” to ever live was Superman. I would never consider that to be an appropriate name for Josef Stalin!


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Timeout/Scale Back

I need to slow down and stop trying to continue down so many different paths before I crash and burn. Although it is technically springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, here in the Southeastern United States, it is definitely summertime. The kids are out of school, the temperatures are in the nineties, the days are long, and the grass and plants are begging for more water as they all wilt in the afternoon sun.

Since I was a kid, this has always been the time of year to relax and smell the roses. That is not what I have been doing, and I don’t like it. I have been trying to keep up with my two blogs, plan my summer vacation, play with the grandkids, finish redoing my mother’s photo albums, assemble a family cookbook, and write another book. Oh yes, then there is my book club. I am behind on that. (And there is always the laundry to do and toilets to clean.)

So I am cutting back on my blogs, particularly Do Svidanya Dad, since I have been tossing around the idea of turning Mommymeanderings into a book—something along the lines of Mommymeanderings: Where the Hell Did the Years Go? For anyone not familiar with my second blog, it the rambling memories and observations of a Baby boomer—me—as told to my three grown children.

After struggling to write my father’s story, I decided that perhaps my own children and grandchildren would someday be interested in learning what it was like growing up in a smalltown in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. I wrote the kind of stories I wish my own parents and grandparents had written about or told to me.

I began the blog shortly after hitting a very difficult-to-accept milestone birthday: #60!   I sprinkled in stories of my own parents and grandparents, and I am hoping that these tales will give my daughters and their children a personal history of how much the world has changed, as well as how much it is still the same.

Enough stories are written for a book, but I am still continuing that blog. It is now a matter of choosing which ones to include and how to organize it in a cohesive format. Then I will decide whether to publish it just for them or to allow for the possibility that others outside my family may be interested. I am uncertain at this time.

Do Svidanya Dad will still drop by on occasion, but for now, I need to work on these other projects and also have a little summer fun.

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International Giveaway Mailing Shocker

I have never mailed any international packages, so today’s trip to the UPS store was a real eye-opener. This mailing was related to my recent Goodreads Giveaway.

The winners of my first Giveaway were both U.S. citizens. This time, I learned that one book would be off to neighboring Georgia, while the second was going to Canada. I liked both locales, since my father had spent time in Georgia during the war, and Canada was a country he had never visited. So symbolically, Dad was off to our Northern neighbor.

I carefully composed a short message to each winner, and wrapped and addressed the two packages. Having mailed my book before, I knew the cost to mail within the states was minimal, but I had no idea what the cost to Canada would be.

The first surprise was that for International mailings, UPS required the recipient’s telephone number. “Okay,” I told my friendly store manager. “I’ll be back.”

Before leaving the store, I asked him to find out the price to mail my book to Canada. We were both shocked to learn that it would be over twenty dollars! Wow! “Perhaps you should research the cost to mail it direct from the publisher,” he advised.

The difference was huge: $6.99 direct from Amazon versus $20 if shipped by me. Lesson learned. (The price via US Mail was still pricey, albeit cheaper than UPS.)

So now I have a book with a message to a person in Canada which will stay in my house here, while that Canadian reader will receive the book without my little words of wisdom to her.

Oh well. I tried, but I had to be practical, and I never promised an autographed copy. It’s a good thing nobody in Australia won!

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Has He Broken Too Much?

I thought my first memory was of my grandfather who died when I was just 3½. Then I read a Facebook post written by my husband, and his words returned me to a moment in time a year earlier.

It was the autumn of 1957, and I was not quite 2 ½. I have a vague memory of my dad holding me in his arms on our driveway and pointing skyward as the Soviet satellite Sputnik passed over our house. This was the beginning of the space race.

According to a statement made after the launch by The Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory, “It’s a great triumph for science. It’s the opening of a new era.”

The post my husband wrote was provoked by our current president pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord this past week, followed by French President Emmanuel Macron inviting our scientists and citizens to relocate to France.

“To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them, come and work here with us to work together on concrete solutions for our planet, our environment. I can assure you France will not give up the fight.”

My husband was both furious and worried that many of the world’s great minds will no longer come to America, but instead, will decide to bring their talents to other, more welcoming, nations. He wrote:

Mr. President, our Germans are better than their Germans”.

In the movie “The Right Stuff” this was a line that was said by Werner von Braun to the President. This was a time in the world when the two super powers were advancing technology at a competitive pace. Both the United States and the USSR were in a race to space—first to launch a man to orbit the earth and then the race to the moon. Neither country did this alone.

 At the end of the Second World War, a group of German scientists working on rocket system technology ended up working on the US space program, while another group of Germans ended up working for the Soviet Union. Werner von Braun was the leader of the group that came to the United States and was instrumental in helping us win the race to the moon.

The computers that were invented for the space program have been advanced by people in this country, with the help of the smartest minds in the world. Both the United States and Russia had the potential to be the leaders of the technical evolution of the last 75 years. Why has the US advanced while Russia has not?

No country can advance science alone. We need to collaborate with the great minds of the world. The United States has continued to be the epicenter for scientific and technological advances because the great minds of the world have come to this country to be part of these advances.

We have always welcomed these people, and we have always embraced science and development. On June 1, 2017, the United States told the world that we will go it alone. All you great minds of the world go someplace else.

That was the day the President of the United States turned off the flow of information with the world. This is exactly what Russia did and why Russia has developed no products, and why Russia doesn’t even own the technology to drill for all of its oil.

This is our future if we don’t wake up and say no to ignorance.

I truly believe that the words and action of one man and his followers do not reflect the beliefs of the majority of Americans, and I do not understand why science and the health of our planet should be political. Does the world know this?

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Dad Called it Decoration Day

Since yesterday was Memorial Day, we saw scenes from several services around the country commemorating our fallen soldiers. This set off a conversation with my husband.

I asked him if he had ever heard of the day being referred to as “Decoration Day.” He did not, but I told him that I recall my father calling it by that name, and a tweet by the National Archives confirmed what I had remembered (Aha!):

#MemorialDay began as “Decoration Day” because of the tradition of decorating #CivilWar soldiers’ graves.

Apparently, Decoration Day was the original name of this day, which was originally created to honor our Civil War dead of the Union Army and eventually expanded to include fallen soldiers of all wars. (It should be noted that Confederate Memorial Day is currently celebrated as a state holiday in five Southern states.)

Sometime during the mid-twentieth century, the name officially was changed to Memorial Day, and it became a national holiday in 1971—celebrated on the last Monday in May. But to Dad it was Decoration Day.

I was curious to see if Russia celebrates a day in remembrance of their war dead, but all I could find was their equivalent of Veteran’s Day—Defender of the Fatherland Day—and Victory Day, which celebrates the victory of the Soviet Union over Hitler’s Germany.

My father’s Uncle Mark had come to America with my grandmother but returned with the family during the Great Depression. He ultimately died during the Siege of Leningrad. If my three Russian first cousins are still alive, then Defender of the Fatherland Day would be the day that they should be celebrating each year.


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