El-Notan and Tatyana Abramov


Interviewed by Vida Baron
January 10, 2000

This is Monday, January 10, 2000. This is Vida Baron meeting with El-Notan and Tatyana in their home. We're going to do an oral history for the new Southwest Jewish Archives. We're sitting in their living room sipping our tea.

VB  First, if you would, tell me about your immediate family. You, yourself, your ages, where you came from, how you got here. Tatyana, do you want to start?

T  Yes. Our families is of 4. We have two children, two sons. The eldest one is Roman, he is 17 years old and the youngest is Misha. He is 13 years old. I am their mother, my name is Tatyana and I am 44 years old. My husband is 51 years old. So we came here in 1997 from Tashkent, this is Uzbekistan from Soviet Union Republic. Now it's an independent state. We came here Jewish Family Services. HIAS invited us to come here to Tucson.

VB   Do you have family here? El-Notan did you have family in the states When you came.

EN   You mean relatives? Yes, I have many relatives but they live in New York. I have a sister and many other relatives in New York.

VB   Were they your sponsors When you came to this country?

EN   No, they couldn't. They, themselves are refugees. They only began to live here in United States. You mean sponsored ...

VB   Were they here prior to your coming. Before you came were they here in New York?

EN   You mean by money?

VB   No. To come here you needed to have either parents or sisters or children, so they did that paperwork for you.

EN   Yes

VB   And then you came from New York to Tucson. And you had no family here When you came.

EN   No.

VB   OK. Tell me what you did in the former Soviet Union. What was your training, your education, your background, your profession.

EN   I was born in Buchava and Buchava is the oldest city in central Asia. It is 2,500 years. I lived there for 7 years then my family moved to Dushambe. Dushambe is the capital of Dazikistan. I went to school there and then I went to college of art. At college I entered into Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan. After graduation I worked in art.

VB   You're saying art like drawing, painting?

EN   Sculpture. At college I was a painter. And I wanted to continue to study painting but I was not permitted to have painting class because as I was told I was not Uzbeck person. No, but even Russian people couldn't enter that faculty, that department. Only Uzbeck people.

VB   So you couldn't study painting because you were not from Uzbekistan.

EN   No, I was an Uzbek. You know I was born in Uzbekistan but I was not Uzbeck nationality.

VB   Nationality was not Uzbek. That's what I meant. OK. Did anyone say it was because you were Jewish?

EN   No. You know nobody told you officially that you are Jewish. Only meant that nobody could say...

T  It was like something [else].

VB   Was your paperwork stamped...what did your passport say?

EN   Jewish.

VB   And you feel that's why you were not allowed to go to those classes?

EN   Yes. And I had to go to ceramics classes. I liked it but after, when I received my grades,I had very low mark. So I failed. My relatives told me that they gave me the lowest grade because my father went to Israel.

VB   He who was living there.

EN   Had left for Israel.

VB   What year was this?

EN   He left in 1972 and I made my diploma in 1973. I didn't believe them because I was, you know, patriotic for my country, and they didn't believe that Communist system would be so cruel. I didn't believe it. But in a year I was told openly that I was. My grade was very bad because my father went to Israel. Why? There was a lower organization. It's like the Communist party but for younger people. They asked me "why didn't you go to Israel?" and I told them "I never thought about going there." And after their talk I understood that KGB made a visit to the institution to fail my diploma. But my project was published in German. It was exhibited in the first Uzbek sculpture exhibition. So actually I was successful. But I stayed under very deep depression for the whole year. It was very difficult time. I thought I was nothing and it was very difficult. Even my relatives said it's impossible to study for 10 years and to fail the diploma. But my mother only believed me.

VB   Mothers are that way. Was your mother with your father in Israel?

EN   No. My father left me When I was 7 years old. I went not to regular school, what it's called.

VB   Boarding school.

EN   Boarding school, because we were four children and my mother was alone and there was no relatives in Dushanbe, very difficult to work, to bring us up, the children. then, after graduation, I began work as a public artist. Certainly, I have many difficulties because I was a Jewish person. But there was some successful. My works were exhibited in all union exhibitions and published in all the union magazines. Later on I participated in first American and Russian ceramic sculpture. There is a publication in American -- I can show you.

VB   I'd love to see it.

EN   I was invited to Norway, in Oslo there was an international conference. And I myself I organized four international symposiums in Tashkent. We created to surrounding park in Tashkent. And then in 1991 I was invited to New York to participate in an exhibition and in 1997 I was invited to United States universities and colleges for workshops.

VB   Did it take you a long time to get permission to come here?

EN   Yes, actually, you know, I applied to move in 1989 and in 1991 I called Washington to find out about my documents and they said that they had my documents and suggested to wait. So I wait for about 8 years.

VB   That's a very long time to wait.

EN   Because at that time I have no...

VB   First degree relatives?

EN   Yes.

VB   I want to get back to what you told me. It's wonderful. But I also want to get a little bit of Tatyana's background and then we'll go back and forth if that's OK. So Tatyana, tell me about yourself.

T   I was born in Dnepropetroesk, a city it's Ukraine. It's a pretty big industrial city in Ukraine. I was born there and I graduated there. My mother actually was a worker. I don't know, I mean I didn't have the chance to know my grandmother because she died in World War II. My mother got alone When she was 18 years old. So I saw her pictures and my mother told me about her. then after I was graduated from school I entered college for my light industry, I don't know how to say it.

VB   You don't mean like fixtures.

T   Clothes and fashion design and textiles. After I was graduated I had an award to enter the university and I entered St. Petersburg University. It was called Leningrad then. And I was graduated from there. There was a special rule in the Soviet Union there. When you are graduated from the institute you have to go to certain place and work there for two or three years. You can either have a choice someplace to go work or you have to go. Luckily I had option and although my mother really worked, didn't need to come back home and live and work there, but I was a kind of independent person and I wanted to see other places. And I wanted to start my independent life. I went to Almatta, Khazikstan. This is Asian state. I worked there in big fashion company and I had friends there. I met El-Notan there. Our common friends, so I met him there. After I worked for year in Almatta we got married and moved to Tashkent. Then I had my first baby. While I was bringing them up I didn't have a really, a lot of chances to work, to upgrade skills. But then after I started working after they got older, I started working and for the last five, four years I had my private studio and I was making custom-made clothes. On one hand it was very good and very interesting and very challenging. On the other hand it was very difficult to run my own business.

VB   What made it difficult?

T   Because I didn't have any support from the government. I had to do it.

EN   You know, actually, many friends of mine have their own business. But after a few years, one or two years, they have to close business because it was very difficult and actually the government didn't do anything to develop private business.

VB   When you were going to school did you have any problems going where you wanted to go to school?

T  You mean when I was going to high school?

VB   High school and university and after that.

T  No, I didn't.

VB   Tell me about, both of you, whichever one, about your parents, your grandparents, what you know about your family backgrounds. Their names, what they were from, what they did, what their life was like.

EN   My grandfather on father's side, his name was El-Notan, born in 1919, no 1900. He was killed in 1920 because he was young businessman. He made a trade from Afganistan.

T  He was a trader.

EN   ...from Afganistan to Bukhara. His trip was successful but when he came to Bukara the people who supported his small trip, very dangerous trip, took a receipt from him, that they made him sign, and then they killed him and grabbed all the things.

T  They robbed him.

VB   Do you know what he was trading?

EN   I don't know. And my grandfather from my mother's side, was a capitalist. At the beginning of the century there was, in central Asia, capitalism being developed, and he had a factory, a cotton factory. He was a very rich man. My grandmother, sorry, I am talking about great grandparents. So my grandmother told me, showed me some photos, that they had a very big trip around the world on the ship. So they were actually rich.

VB   I would guess. Around what time?

EN   1910, before 1924 when Soviet Army came to power. So my mother was born in the prison because rich people from rich family was sent to prison. By the way, my mother died in prison when my eldest son was born. In same year my mother died, in 1982. Actually, it is absolutely true, she was put in the prison because she was, how you say, violent. Because she was, actually she didn't do anything against the law. She was a dentist. In order to support our education she worked besides, official work she worked at home and helped people with teeth. There was a man in Chamberg who had gold and then they couldn't prove that he had it so they joined some other Jewish people and made a trial in court. But there was no any evidence. When my mother was 53 she was sent to prison and she died there in a year.

T  We got married in 1980, or 81, and she was ...

EN   She was about two years actually. You know, actually, almost every Soviet family survived from the Soviet system. That's why I consider myself and my family as everybody. It was not easy for every people, especially for Jewish.

VB   What did they accuse your mother of doing? Why did they put her in prison?

EN   Because in Soviet Union it was prohibited to do anything in private.

VB   And she was doing dentistry in private.

EN   We had a very small, very poor house. When I remember our house and the bad conditions. My mother worked every day morning until night.

VB   When you told me that you went to boarding school, you went to boarding school, do you have sisters or brothers?

EN   I have three sisters.

VB   Did they go to boarding school or just you?

EN   No, they went to regular school.

VB   Did your mother have to pay to send you to boarding school?

EN   No. Just a small amount, just small payment.

VB   Were all four of your grandparents Jewish?

EN   Yes.

VB   Do you remember them practicing any Judaism? Can you tell me what they did, what you remember?

EN   Before each meal they prayed. Saturday they went to synagogue and we observed the holidays. We had special dishes for holidays. It was very interesting as I remember. There was some some plays and jokes.

VB   Did you go to synagogue on the holidays?

EN   No. You know, actually, in Soviet period it was not good to go to synagogue. Nobody prohibited but at the same time, but for Jewish people who were Communists, it was prohibited. Even if you go to Memorial Day. If your relative died, if Jewish Communists came, it was very dangerous. But no, that's why all the old people usually go to the synagogue because it is not dangerous for them. Commonly it was dangerous.

VB   So from the time that you were a boy, in your own home, was there any Judaism practiced or just at your grandparents?

EN   You know, it was more strong When my grandparents practiced. It became less with my parents and aunt and relatives, less. But it began again after the Soviet system collapsed in '85. Not dangerous. But since those days many Jewish people moved to Israel and here to United States and there are only a few people left. The synagogues are supported by American synagogues but there are no people.

VB  Tell me about your home, your grandparents?

T  I cannot tell you about the story of my family. I told you that my grandmother died .

VB   That was your mother's mother, yes?

T  Yes. And my grandfather, my mother's father, he was missing in World War II. So When my mother was 18, in 1944, her mother died of lung infection. You know, When I was a child, When I was little, sometimes I asked my mother about my grandmother but for some reason she didn't tell me a lot. But probably there was something with my grandfather missing or my grandmother had something wrong there, very difficult times.

EN   You know, sorry Tatyana I would like to tell that it was really very dangerous to tell anybody about your parents in Soviet period. For example, my grandfather was in prison because he was considered to be a spy. German spy. It's funny now, but those times it was, he was in prison for several months, about six months. He had never told me about it. Only after he died was not dangerous to tell people he was in prison. That's why we thought that it is not worth, that good to tell people about your relatives.

T  So that's probably why my mother was afraid to tell me some things. Her name was Maria and I saw some pictures of her, my mother had them. I didn't have a chance to meet my grandfather. My mother didn't have any knowledge of how he died. A lot of people were just missing and sent to camps. So unfortunately I don't know about my grandparents. My kids, they asked me, and I try to explain because I left home When I was 19 and it was in 1975. I don't feel like blaming my mother for keeping secret. I really missed knowing about family.

VB   What about your father's family?

T  My mother divorced him When I was a baby.

VB   So you have no family history? Was your family Jewish?

T  No, I'm not Jewish. My mother was Ukranian. When I went to Tashkent we got married and we had a traditional Jewish marriage, so I got the Judaism. I liked it and we were with our relatives during Jewish holidays.

EN   And my relatives like Tatyana.

VB   Why not?

EN   Because she liked traditions. It was very interesting to her, especially about Jewish culture which has some difference. Because they came from Iran, Afghanistan, to central Asia. We tell our sons about our family, about our history, because we believe it is important for them to know what we know. We tell what we know, we tell them. There is not to hide now, it is not dangerous to tell.

VB   Do they consider themselves Jewish, the boys?

EN   They went to Jewish camps, religious camps.

VB   Here?

EN   No.

VB   Really!

T  It was started in 1990.

EN   Yes.

T  First time our oldest son went to summer camp and it was supported by Israel.

EN   American Jewish religious organizations from New York. He was happy. He came and prayed, he learned many interesting things. He changed a lot. He became very serious. It was funny. Some things weren't exactly new. He had some new feelings and he liked it.

VB   And now that they're here in the States?

EN   Now here he goes to University High School. He entered there because he studied very good in Russian, special linguistic classes. But now he since we came here he has changed a lot because of age, because of moving, because of having a new life. As for my younger one, Misha. He is quite different, he is a very socialized person. Likes everybody and everybody likes him.

VB   ...for the second time and we're going to proceed with some more information for the Jewish Archives. We will repeat some of what we did in our first meeting because there was a tape problem and hopefully between both tapes we will be able to get his wonderful story. First, he has brought some beautiful photographs which we are going to look at together and he's going to tell us about them.

EN   This photo was made in about 1933, 1932. My mother just graduated and had to work because the family was very big and because the time was difficult because of the World War II. She was sailor at that time.

VB   A sailor, in the Navy?

EN   How to say, yes, sailor. She sailed

VB   Ships?

EN   No. She worked in the store, shop.

VB   Oh, she sold. OK, she was a salesperson.

EN   She bought bread. After war she married my father. My father was a doctor in Army.

VB   You look just like your father.

EN   Thank you.

VB   May I interrupt? What was your mother's name and what was your father's name?

EN   My mother's name is Tamara. My father's name is Abraham. The last name is Abrama.

VB   And your mother carried your father's last name also?

EN   Yes.

VB   This little photograph must be of you.

EN   Yes, it is me.

VB   It is a wonderful photograph of El-Notan. He looks to be about 4 on a tricycle. Beautiful.

EN   This you can see my grandmother and grandfather.

VB   These were your mother's parents?

EN  No, my father's parents. My grandfather's name was El-Notan, as mine. He was killed in 1920 when he was 20 years old. He made trade, he was a trader. At that time when he was killed he was trading some things from Afghanistan to Buchara. Buchara is the oldest city in central Asia. It is about 2,500 years old.

VB   These are your father's parents? And they have the same last name.

EN  Yes.

VB   He's a handsome looking man. Was he married at this time when he was killed?

EN  Yes.

VB   So they were married quite young.

EN  Yes. Even my grandfather had, what do you call it, his worse before his trip. Very dangerous trip. He went to Moscow and made his voice record. And I was told the record was kept before 1975 and then was broken by chance.

VB   Isn't that a tragedy.

EN  I was told he had a very good voice.

VB   He was a singer?

EN  He was not a singer but his voice was very good. My grandmother was a nurse.

VB   What was her name?

EN  Miriam. She died in 1974.

VB   Did she ever remarry.

EN   Yes, she did.

VB   So your father really didn't know his father.

EN  He was six months when my grandfather was killed. This is my mother after graduating medical college. Here she is ...

VB   We're looking at a photograph of what must be the graduating class...

EN   Yes, it's 1958.

VB   ...of the medical college in ?

EN  In the capital of Tajikistan.

VB   Wonderful photo. Beautiful old photos. And then your mother went on to become a dentist?

EN  Yes, she was a dentist.

VB   Now when she graduated from college then she had to study dentistry further?

EN   No, after graduating from university she started work. She was a dentist. She worked her whole life as a dentist.

VB   Here is a picture of her with a patient in the dental chair. El-Notan's mother at work. Your mother's first name was?

EN   Tamara.

VB   Yes, Tamara. That's right. You told me that.

EN   I have one more picture. This photo is after wedding reception, my mother and father. This is my mother and this is my father.

VB   We are looking at the most unbelievable photograph.

EN  This photograph made in 1946

VB   Of El-Notan's parents at their wedding surrounded by their family. I've never seen a photograph like this before.

EN  Just after war, in 1946.

VB   Absolutely wonderful. These need to be preserved.

EN  Yes, I will do it.

VB   After we're through I'll talk to you about that. When we met last time you started to tell me a little bit about your, I believe it was your great grandfather who was very wealthy and who took a trip with his family. Would you mind telli ng us about that again? Was it your mother's grandfather?

EN  Yes, my mother's father was very rich man, my mother's grandfather was a very rich man. He was Capitalist. He has his own factory, cotton factory. They had ten children. Their house remains until now. Actually it's the main telegraph post now in Uzbekistan.

VB   What years are we talking?

EN   Their house was built at the beginning of the century.

VB   About 1900?

EN  Yes. But it still remains. When I was in the town I could see the place where my mother lived for some time, short time. Actually she was born in the prison because, as you know, after the Revolution every rich people and families were al l killed or sent some prison.

VB   These are your mother's grandparents who were very wealthy?

EN  Yes, yes.

VB   And your mother's mother?

EN  She married...

VB   Let me back up. Was it your grandmother who was born in the prison?

EN   No, my mother was born in prison. The central Asia was made like Soviet party in 1924. So Soviet came in central Asia in 1924.

VB   What I'm trying to understand is, it was your mother's grandparents who were so wealthy? And her own parents also were still very wealthy?

EN  No. Because my mother's parents were married just before Revolution, some years before the Revolution. Their parents were very rich and my mother's father and grandfather were very rich. But after Revolution everybody was equal. My mother was born in prison but, you know, as I remember her image she was very socialized person, she was very active. She liked people and people liked her. So it was her character by nature.

VB   How long were her parents in prison?

EN  For some years. She born there, for some years she lived there, and then they moved to the capital of Uzbekistan, city of Tashkent. They began a new life there. They lived in very bad conditions. They were very poor, became very poor. Aft er awhile, after many years they could have some own places to live because they had to work hard. So, actually, Jewish people wasn't persecuted openly in Soviet period. So nobody could say you openly, you are Jewish. You had no right for this, for that. But it was not official...

VB   Unofficial. What years are we talking about now?

EN  It was before and after second World War. When my mother got married our family moved to Bukaran where my father lived. After seven years living there they moved to Dushanbe, capital of Batikistan . It was in 1955. She entered medical college and in 1958 she graduated. We were four children.

VB   Were your parents divorced at this point?

EN   Yes. When we moved to Dushanbe they divorced. So, I grown up, some special school, I don't...

VB   Boarding school you said you went to.

EN  Boarding school, yes.

VB   Were you there for your whole school?

EN  Yes.

VB   Was it near your home? Did you get to go home?

EN  No. I went home on Saturday and Sunday I was at home. Monday back to school. It was interesting time. But we were, there was no relatives, there was some difficulty for my mother because we were poor, so she had a very hard time to grow u p us. But she was very strong woman by nature. She liked life, actually. I think it helped her in many situations to get over. In 1963 I entered art college. Finished it in 1968. And the same year I entered Art Institute in Tashkent.

VB   The Art Institute being a higher level?

EN  Yes, higher education. And it was not easy to enter it because at college I was teacher and painter and I wanted to continue my painting and when I tried to enter to paint faculty I was told no, only Uzbeck people could enter the faculty. So I had to choose another faculty like ceramic faculty. After graduating I stayed in Tashkent because there was no work for me in Boshambay. I worked ceramic factory all my life. At the same time I worked as a teacher at art college.

VB   Let's try and fill in some of the spaces if we can. Tell me about your decision to come to the United States.

EN  The main decision is because of the Soviet Union collapse and there was a permission to go.

VB   Are you talking about 1990, 1991?

EN  1988. I sent an application in 1989. So I had to wait because I had no relatives here.

VB   When you decided to come was it because you wanted to be able to be a Jew, that you wanted your boys to...what was the driving force?

EN  Your question is right. You know, I thought myself Jewish person there. It was good but on the one side, but on the other side, I have to put up with some prohibits, permission, I have to have some permission, because I was a Jewish perso n and it was not easy to do what I wanted to do. So I have to concentrate, it was very hard to understand the situation sometimes because you consider yourself as a person but at the same time you have to remember that you are Jewish. So it was difficult for me. I imagine that, I remember in my life and I imagine how my children would have their life in Russia. And it was the point where I understood that it would be very difficult for my children to live in Russia. In spite of the fact they are smart, th ey are, how to say, self sufficient, but they couldn't develop their talent, abilities in Russia properly. And then I could, the rest of my life I was spent very hard.

VB   I know that Tatyana is not Jewish but you feel yourself a Jewish family. Can you tell us about your life in Russia. Did you practice any Judaism there? Did your boys feel that they were Jewish? Compare that there to what you may or may n ot be doing here in Tucson?

EN  You know, actually, we lived surrounded by our relatives and we used to live in Jewish tradition, religion way. And, er, how to say

VB   Are your talking about in your household as you were growing up?

EN  We went for the first hour, yes, we lived with Tatyana. We used to go to my parents on Friday night because it was Shabat night. Then we liked this way of living and every Shabat night we did the same in our family. My children went to ca mpus, Jewish religion camps, and so we became, we involved in some Jewish way of living and we liked it. It was, you know, it's difficult to say but the atmosphere in house became warmer and more interesting and we liked it. And my wife liked everything. She is very communicative person and all my relatives liked her.

VB   I'm sorry she can't be here today but it was obvious when we met last that this had a great deal of meaning for her.

EN  Yes. And we had religious wedding. We had a special list with everything in Hebrew.

VB   You had the Katubah?

EN  Katubah, yes. And we made Roamn, how to say,

VB   Circumcised?

EN  When he was born.

VB   When he was eight days old? A bris?

EN  Yes. So we followed Jewish tradition because we liked it. And because it was used to be in our relatives places. But it was not very common in Soviet period to go to synagogue. Only old people usually went there on Saturday. When we came in Tucson my feeling changed, so I feel myself like a free person. Because nobody could say you are Jewish or not Jewish? I would like to say in Russia nobody told me that I'm Jewish but they meant it. They understood. This is my place because I'm Jewish.

VB   And you can't go out of your place.

EN  Yes. You have to know your would. For example, no Jewish people could dream to be a president. So now I'm happy because I can see my children's future and even my future is safety and I'm not worried about tomorrow, about my future. There is no one dangerous for my family and for me. There are lots of opportunities. But the only difficult is to find your way, to reach your dream, to reach your goal. So we have to think, settle.

VB   Let me go back to the Jewish piece here in Tucson. Have you gone to one of the synagogues here? Have you connected with the Jewish community in any way since you've been here?

EN  Yes, I was connected to Jewish community but I didn't go to synagogue because I was grown up not as a religious person, and I'm not a religious person but I like, er

VB   Customs and traditions?

EN  Yes, the customs and traditions. Actually, you know, we are newcomers and it's difficult to adopt here for as everybody who came to the United States and I hope sometime later I have time and possibility to join synagogue, to participate in Tucson in things.

VB   Are you able to celebrate the holidays here?

EN  Yes.

VB   Do you?

EN  Yes. I would like my children to know that, as far as I know, Jewish people pursued in every country and the same in our country, in Soviet country and in central Asia. So, most Jewish people settled in central Asia because there were mor e opportunity, for skilled people, more skilled, Jewish period were skilled at those times. They were invited there even because they could do something.

VB   You're talking about the turn of the century?

EN  Yes. I would like to know my sons that in those period in Jewish people in central Asia had good time but it was very hard time. You had to work harder than other people in order to succeed in something. But life was not very bad. People are people everywhere. They are happy with what they have and what God sent them. I would like my sons to know that here in the United States their laws and their government give every opportunity for every people and it's equal. So they have an opportuni ty here, unbelievable opportunity to succeed.

VB   Thank you. Last time - and this was something I think I lost on the first tape - you talked about your mother's life and what happened to her. Would you mind repeating that for me?

EN  My mother was, as I told you, she was a dentist. She had a salary as usual as every people had. But it was very small amount for the family.

VB   She was working in a government clinic as a dentist?

EN  Yes. But there was no private clinics. But she had to work in private sometimes which was against the law. In that way all the children had high education and in order to support the family my mother had to work in private. And she was ar rested in 1980. She had to be in prison for two years, a year and a half, and she died there in 1982, when my son was born.

VB   The same year that your son was born. And if I remember correctly I think Tatyana said that she never had the opportunity to meet your mother, is that correct?

EN  No, she saw her when my mother died.

VB   But she hadn't been able to see her before?

EN  No.

VB   And neither had you, I guess, through all that time? When your mother was in prison were you able to see her?

EN   Yes, I saw her three times.

VB   In all that time.

EN  Yes. I had permission to see her twice a year.

VB   And she was about 62 when she died?

EN  No, she was about 55. She was born in 1925.

VB   You have three sisters?

EN  Yes.

VB   What did they study and are they all in the States now?

EN  Two of my sisters live in Israel now and one, my sister, lives in New York.

VB   Are you the oldest?

EN  No, my eldest sister lives in New York. And I'm second.

VB   When you applied to come to this country did your life change a bit?

EN  You mean in Russia? No. Because it was quite another period. But I was under control, I know, because I was called several times from KGB and they invited me to their place but I told them, send me official invitation. But they couldn't s end me an official invitation. Because they wanted me to work for them. But, you know, I am artist, I was not able to help them. And I was not patriotic and neither against the system.

VB   What do you think they wanted you to do?

EN  It's like information about...

VB   Your neighbors?

EN  My neighbors, and the reason was because those times I contacted with American people and I was invited to Norway International Symposium and I was in Israel in 1988. So but it was still remain Soviet system, you know, with Perestroika, t he system was the same. And so I decided to refuse their invitation to help them. Because I'm not a person who could do the things they wanted. But, you know, everybody knew that in every organization, in every group, there was certain person who worked f or KGB. But nobody knew who it was.

VB   But you just knew someone was there.

EN  Yes. So you had to be careful. And I didn't afraid and at those times many people didn't afraid because the Soviet system was going to go.

VB   Yeah, it was falling apart.

EN  Yes. But, we have to be careful because sometimes it was dangerous. If you're against the system you might have serious problems.

VB   Now I know that your boys went to special school. Did they have any problems because they were Jewish, or part Jewish.

EN  Yes, certainly.

VB   Could you talk about that a little bit, and then where they ultimately went to school?

EN  My eldest son went to special art school, Roman He succeeded there, he was a very good student. But I didn't satisfy it with his regular subjects because actually he was talented but he didn't work properly at home. I decided to find a sc hool with more good skills. And I found one school, it was very difficult to enter there because it was special gymnasium, for children from the first grade. And Roman was on the fifth grade, it was late for him, but I'll try it. I hired a tutor for Engli sh and for German and for a month and half Roman could learn five books, three books in English, two books in German and he passed the test. But it was not gymnasium class.

VB   He was not allowed to enter?

EN  Yes, he entered the school but there was three levels and we wanted him to get the higher level. But he was left to get the second level. But there was a mistake when his name was put in the paper and he was put in the higher level. It wa s a mistake. But he has succeeded very well and he was the best student in that gymnasium and especially in math and languages. His teacher is very happy with him. [turn off tape when someone enters room] It was the first problem and when we enter that sc hool they didn't permit Michael to enter his documents to apply for the school and I talked with the principal.

VB   Do you think that was because he was Jewish?

EN  Yes, certainly, because the new principal came to the school. She said, no, I cannot take your application. Because there is no place left for children. And I had to fight. I went to some government places and it was no use for him. Then I applied to my friend who worked at the government and she phones some of her friends, powerful friends. Her friends called to the principal and she promised. But when I came she said no, nobody called me, and I had to fight again. So, at last, she gave up, gave in. So Michael was permitted to final examination. But the principal would like him to take the test before her.

VB   In front of her.

EN  In front of her, in her presence. OK, I talked to Roman's teacher, who liked Roman very much and she said, I will help you. And she came to the teachers who had to examine him and she talked to them and the test began. And they asked Misk a questions and Misha was very good. He knew English very well for that level and he answered all the questions and she was surprised. She said, OK. There is nothing to do and she had to accept him.

VB   Tatyana just joined us, much to my delight. I have a couple questions for you if you don't mind. You notice we're using a mike this time because we had trouble with the other tape. When you married El-Notan, did anything change for you b ecause you had married someone who was Jewish?

T  First I didn't, I mean, I didn't think about it. Of course it did change and I met his relatives and they were very, very warm and [end of side 1] They were very happy that El-Notan married me and they invited us to great holidays. They ta ught me how to make some dishes, how to celebrate. Of course we didn't have a chance to celebrate our wedding because El-Notan's mother was in prison. But they did met us at the railway station and they make a little party for us to introduce to each othe r. Then after, when Roman was born and we were supposed to, there is a special custom in Jewish, like cutting, and then we got married by traditional Jewish way.

VB   Oh, so you had two wedding ceremonies?

T  First it was not like ceremony but just a party. And then there was a rule, a law in my country, we were supposed to get registered in government office. And then, but at that time it was, I mean, it was made exactly as it was supposed to.

VB   But what I was thinking about also was you married someone who was Jewish out in the business world. Did you see any difference in how people responded to you?

T  You mean,

VB   Not within the family but out in the community, once you had married El-Notan.

T  Actually I didn't have a chance to came across with something because I had got a baby and then another one.

VB   So you were at home.

T  I was at home but I, I mean El-Notan had some trouble and of course I was involved in it because of him.

VB   OK, and the other thing...oh, before I do that. Does he want to be part of this?

VB   The last time we met you talked and El-Notan referred to it also, about how difficult it was to run a business. Can you tell me a little more about that?

T  First of all, it was hard about the money. We didn't have an opportunities to get any loans, whatever. We had to start from scratch. And then, we didn't have any support. Sometimes but, I mean, it was not law. Actually, officially governme nt was supposed to support small businesses but in real life it was not. So sometimes we had to try to avoid some, how do you say, some rules and regulations in order not to get into trouble. Actually as for my business I couldn't do really, I mean, I cou ldn't expand it because I was working for middle class people and, the money I earned just were enough to join our ends.

VB   To make our ends meet?

T  Yes, to make our ends meet.

VB   OK.