Interviewed by Carol Zuckert through an interpreter
February 3, 1999
CZ: Today is February 3rd. It's about 4:30. We're at the Jewish Community Center and Mrs. Sare I met through Rabbi Lachaim at one of the Friday night Shabat services. And, when did you come to the United States?
FS: We came almost 9 years ago, it was April 19, 1990.
CZ: And with whom did you come?
FS: It was my husband, my two daughters and me and my husband's grandmother. She was 87. She passed away a couple years ago. She passed away she was 93. And his aunt. And before us came his brother, with wife and his son and after us came h is mom with his father. His father passed away. And two years later my sister with her daughter and her husband came. So, big, big family.
CZ: Wow, and all in Tucson?
FS: Yes, all in Tucson, and it's more than 17 people.
CZ: Isn't that wonderful. That's very supportive. How old are your daughters now?
FS: The oldest she's 26 and the youngest 12.
CZ: And when was she born? Do you have her date of birth?
FS: September 16, 1972 and the little one was born May 15, 1986.
CZ: And their names?
FS: The first one, my big one, she's Tatyana and the little one Liza, Elizabeth.
CZ: I'm just going to stop and make sure this is recording. OK, started again and listened to the tape and it's successful so far. OK, Tatyana and Elizabeth. Tatyana is doing what now?
FS: She almost finished her pharmacist school.
CZ: Oh, at the University?
FS: Yes, university. She will graduate this May, May 14th from University. And May 15 from Pharmacy School and she will be Doctor of Pharmacy. She probably going to residence to Dallas or St. Louis. We don't know yet. She has interview next week in St. Louis and Dallas.
CZ: In the University hospitals?
FS: University hospitals probably and which hospital I don't know.
CZ: Wonderful. And your little one?
FS: Little one she is in the 7th grade in THA. She's going to her first Bat Mitzvah this year, June 5th she will be the first in our family to have Bat Mitzvah.
CZ: That's wonderful. And your husband?
FS: My husband he's working. He's a mechanical engineer but when we came here with English, with everything, he found different job but he still worked in R and R for the corporation. He is a painter. And right now, little bit afraid to find new work because we have to pay for the house, with the two kids and we need support. Little bit difficult.
CZ: I'm sure. And how old is he?
FS: He's 50.
CZ: And may I ask you your date of birth?
FS: Yes, I was born May 9, 1950. I am 48. And my husband last week celebrates his 50th.
CZ: Wonderful, congratulations. So, why did you come to the United States?
FS: Because I knew for my kids, my Jewish kids it's no future.
CZ: Where did you come from?
FS: Where? We came from Brest, it was Brest-Litovsk, before 1939. And after it was in Poland and after 1939 it was in Belorussia. At the border of Poland and Belorussia.
CZ: OK. So, was your family, did they practice Judaism?
FS: A little bit. I knew about a couple Jewish holidays but I never was at synagogue, I never saw a rabbi, I never, you know, pray.
CZ: How did you know you were Jewish? Because your family...?
FS: Because nobody give me forget I'm Jewish.
CZ: Tell me why.
FS: Because it's my last name, and my everything, I was Jewish, and I knew when I was little to be Jewish is not good because nobody like Jewish people in Russia. And for me it was surprise when I, a couple weeks ago when I went to synagogue, a couple people convert, you know, from Catholic to Jewish. I was very surprised because I knew to be Jewish is not good and it's here people was happy.
CZ: Do you feel the same anti-Semitism here?
FS: No. You know why not? Maybe when I worked at Jewish Community Center, almost all people around me were Jewish.
CZ: And your daughter goes to THA?
FS: And my daughter goes to THA and she had no problem to go to pharmacy school because she is smart. It was, you know, lots of people would like to go. It was 300 people who would like to go, they took just 50. She's smart! And in Russia doesn't matter you are smart, it doesn't matter, if you're Jewish you're not ... you know, you are not worth the full value, you are nothing.
CZ: Not a whole person at all.
FS: I heard and I read in newspaper, I saw it on TV about the anti-Semitism here, but not for me.
CZ: Not anything in comparison.
CZ: So how else did you feel it? How did you feel your anti-Semitism?
FS: In Russia?
CZ: Yes, in Russia.
FS: You know, between our friends, I knew lots of people who told me, you know, do you know what is a juden.
CZ: A juden?
FS: Yes, yes. And I knew this from parents and you know it wasn't fair. It will be forever.
CZ: So you actually, did you have a problem in school? Were you segregated?
FS: You know probably not a big problem. But all the time I was remember, I knew my parents were so smart, my father was a prosecutor and my mom was a detective. But you know she was just a detective and he was just a prosecutor because he was Jewish. And she can't be, you know, a manager or somebody because she was Jewish.
CZ: So, did you have, you said you celebrated some holidays?
FS: We celebrate but you know, our doors was closed all the time and our neighbors didn't know that we celebrated. And for Passover we bought matzohs. I never give to my kids to take matzoh to go outside because you know I heard, I have good neighbors and we was friendly but one day my neighbor asked me if it's truth. I asked her if she would like to try piece of matzoh, she says No, I can't because Jewish people make matzoh and they put Catholic kids blood to matzoh. I said, Ola. You know, me a long time. Do you think I can do it? She said, no, you can't. But I heard my parents told me Jewish people can do it. You know it was enough for me because we were so friendly when we were little.
CZ: Was your husband Jewish?
FS: Oh yes. In my family everybody's Jewish.
CZ: That's a little unusual isn't it?
FS: In my family my parents and my husband and my sister. And right now her daughter she got married and her husband is not Jewish, he's Italian, he's Catholic. He's not religious and they have babies.
CZ: So how do you feel about having your Judaism really available to you?
FS: You know I like it. I like it a lot. And you know, I go to synagogue not that often but once a month we all go. And you know I don't understand maybe words but it's my fault. And I'm so happy. And right now it's time my daughter, she in the 7th grade, right now it's time for Bat Mitzvah. Almost every Saturday we go to synagogue and we study, not study, we celebrate Bat Mitzvah your friend. And she has Sunday School every Sunday and she had Bat Mitzvah class. We are so busy.
CZ: And she's working with Rabbi Lachaim, or Marcia Lachaim, with the Rabbi?
FS: With the rabbi. She works with Melissa., is her tutor. She is the teacher.
CZ: Why did you join Reform congregation?
FS: You know, when we came we went to Anshai Israel synagogue. I like it but you know I like this Rabbi, I like Rabbi Lachaim. I think you know he has very good heart and I like his, I don't know. I like how his talking to people. He's open for everybody.
CZ: It's a very big congregation also.
FS: I liked it but I like Rabbi Lachaim.
CZ: Tell me, your parents, when they celebrated Pesah and all it always was very hidden.
CZ: Did you have any religious training as you were growing up?
FS: You know I just knew what kind of food we need to cook.
CZ: Did your mother keep Kosher.
FS: No. Come on, in Russia? It was not possible. And I was surprised, I didn't know we can't eat meat and you know dairy together, it was a surprise.
CZ: All of it was new for you.
FS: Yes, and I didn't know about shrimp, I was surprised...we're not keep Kosher but we try, because here we have choice. We can buy turkey, we can buy chicken, I don't need to buy pork. We try. My kids like to be Jewish. They know they're Jewish.
CZ: And the older daughter as well?
FS: Oh yes. She's ...
CZ: Is she Bat Mitzvah?
FS: No. When we came she was 17 and we didn't think about it because, you know,...
CZ: Oh, because the cost. I need to do it... You going to have a party for your daughter?
FS: Oh yeah. It's going to be here at JCC, evening time, she will have DJs, drink and everything.
CZ: How wonderful that you can do that for her. You must feel really wonderful about it.
FS: Yes, we will pay in a couple of years, but.
CZ: That's nice.
FS: Yes, that's nice.
CZ: It's a real celebration for you isn't it?
FS: I like it. I'm waiting, you know, I can't wait. This year for us is a good year. My older she is graduating from pharmacy school and I can't believe because when she came nine years ago she had big troubles with English. And she learned English just for six months and she went to college. She went to pre-pharmacy school and she got her test to pharmacy school in four years and she's the best student!
CZ: That's wonderful. You have a lot to be proud of.
FS: Oh yeah.
CZ: Well, you're a nice person.
FS: And I work long time at JCC.
CZ: Since you came?
FS: I came in April and I start to work June.
CZ: Oh, just a month off.
FS: We start to work almost immediately. Never get help from government, we don't know what it is welfare.
CZ: They helped you get started.
FS: We start immediately to work and we get no money.
CZ: But they didn't help you for the first couple of months rent?
FS: They did. Oh they did. And they help us my little one when she was 4 to go to JCC. They pay for. They help us a lot.
CZ: Do you know anything about your parents' experience with Judaism?
FS: You know, I know my parents they knew Hebrew, they knew Yiddish, they talked Yiddish between them, they would like us don't understand. Anyway, my sister and me, I don't know how we, but we did understand.
CZ: It's a common experience, my mother and grandmother didn't want, but they couldn't get away with it too well. So they did, but you weren't able to continue because times have changed. Did you feel the communism per se, or just the...
FS: When we left it was good country Russia. It was little bit too many pressure you know for us, for Jewish people, but there was food in the store, it was everything. Right now it's nothing.
CZ: No, it's terrible.
FS: I have my aunt she live in Kiev, my aunt and I have two cousins.
CZ: Still there?
FS: Still and we tried to send money all the time because we know they have nothing.
CZ: Do they get the money.
FS: Oh yes. You know how? If some people go to Kiev, you know, we try to give them money. I never send money from bank. And a couple of times we sent food and because I know, my aunt, my mom's sister, she's 89, she'll be 89 next month, and she's retired and it's very difficult for them to live.
CZ: Now why did they...they were living in Kiev and you were living in another city?
FS: Yes, they live in Kiev. Why they didn't come with us?
CZ: Yes. When you had so much support.
FS: You know, it was big trouble because she had a son, he passed away. He was sick and she didn't want to go. And when we came, I tried to make invitation for her to come but government said no because she's not my mom, she's my aunt. But you know she's, for me, she's like my mom. I like her a lot.
CZ: Tell me about your parents. What did they do and, even though they spoke Yiddish and Hebrew.
FS: My father was a prosecutor I told you, prosecutor. And my mom was a detective.
CZ: Tell me about the prosecutor, is that a lawyer? Like somebody for the state?
FS: Yes, not lawyer. It's I don't know how, it's people who...
CZ: They work for the state against criminals.
FS: Oh yes, yes.
CZ: Just like it would be here.
FS: Yes. Same. It's all the same. And we have a very good family. My parents, but you know, we celebrate Passover with our friends, my mother side. And what else did they celebrate?
FS: Hanukkah. I knew just because my father-in-law told me to make latkas. I make latkas and he and my parents gave to my kids Hanukkah gifts. It was not for us presents, it was just Hanukkah. And right now I don't know why they decided to give presents, just like people for Christmas. I don't like it, but OK. My kids have presents for Hanukkah this year. But I buy for New Year, not for just Rosh Hashanna, for New Year. In Russia it was a big celebration.
CZ: So your parents, were they Bar Mitzvah?
FS: You know I think that they had because they lived before, in the small city, you know. It's a small town. And it was lots of Jewish people around.
CZ: So it was more comfortable.
FS: A big community. And it was a school, they finished Jewish school, Heder. And my mom and my dad they knew Hebrew and they knew Yiddish and they spoke it to each other. And we didn't' understand. And they read books too. But you know we had no Jewish traditions.
CZ: And your husband too?
FS: Same. It was a little bit more because his father was more religious. Because it's so country. In Russia all people was not religion. It was no religion in this country.
CZ: It's communist.
FS: Right. It was no synagogue, it was just one church in our city.
CZ: How big was your city.
FS: It was 300,000. It was not big. Beautiful city. I liked it.
CZ: Oh, I know what I was going to ask you. How come you didn't go to Israel?
FS: You know, it was a big, big problem for us. It was my dream to go to Israel but my husband's brother he came the first, he was in America. It's safe right now, how we can live in different countries and we can. I'm happy. I would like to go to Israel for a visit because we have lots of relatives, lots of my cousins in Israel and lots of my friends. My husband he went to Israel from Russia. He makes invitations for us to come to America. He made in Israel. He went to Israel and sent invitations for us. And with the Israel invitations we came to America.
CZ: So he went to the Embassy in Israel and got you a permit, or whatever...
FS: Yes, and he sent invitations and we make all papers and Russian government.
CZ: Scary going?
FS: Yes, it was very scary.
CZ: Tell me.
FS: And you know, when we came in this country I was happy. It was food for my kids with everything but, you know, it's very difficult.
CZ: I can't imagine.
FS: I was 40 when I came and it's a new language, new culture, new people around, no friends, no who was with me from where I was born and went together to school and we worked together.
CZ: Old friends. I can't imagine how you do it. I mean, I have moved to different cities. That's very difficult but it's nothing like coming to a place where you don't know anything.
FS: And you know it was no busses and I start to drive my car when I was 42. I told my husband I don't want to drive but I have no choice. And now I drive my car.
CZ: You're fearless!
FS: What I can do? I live in this country and I do everything the people do here.
CZ: That's wonderful. You're very adaptable. You feel like you've been here all your life?
CZ: Do you have a lot of friends here now?
CZ: Well, you've got your family.
FS: I've got my family but I've got friends. My sister she's, her husband kill himself in Israel, she has new family, and she in my house almost every day.
CZ: So she's a single woman. How old is she?
FS: She's 54
CZ: What does she do?
FS: She's an accountant, assistant accountant. She is very, very smart. She came when she was, 49, she starts her new life when she was 49. It was very difficult.
CZ: But what you are lucky is that you have all the family and support them, the brother-in-law and, so that's wonderful. How do you like your job here?
FS: I like it but I'm tired.
CZ: I can't imagine taking care of young children.
FS: I work here almost 9 years and I'm tired and I'm thinking to find something new.
FS: But I don't know what I want to do. I work all my life with kids, I have elementary school masters degree, and...
CZ: So you don't want to be a teaching assistant, it would be just as hard. And they don't pay anything.
FS: You think they pay me here? No, I work for fun.
CZ: I bet. So what could you do? They don't pay those kinds of positions.
FS: And I don't know for how long I can stay, you know, to work with babies, because it's hard.
CZ: I'm sure it's hard, very hard. Well, this is wonderful. Do you think I've gotten pretty much the basic interview. You're right, it took a little less time than I thought. If you think of like any special situations or stories, can I put this in, can I use this? Can I have a copy?
CZ: Well, this concludes the interview and I'm going to include a very nicely written paper on her story, Faina, in with the archives. So this will conclude our interview.