How I Was A Yiddish Singer

The mid-1970′s, when 7-year-old me was roaming the mean streets of Odessa, was a great time to live there. Odessa’s Jewish population somewhat recovered from the devastation of the World War II and the pogroms and devastations before that and, while the Soviet Government had a firm grip on the emigration spigot, prospered as much as was allowed. Jewish actors, teachers, musicians, artists, restaurant singers, underground business owners, doctors, tailors, professors – Odessa’s Jewish population was having another one of its golden ages. Maybe I should say “Odessa’s adult Jewish population” because many kids like me didn’t know we were Jewish.

Recently I ran across a website where Jews of my generation were describing how they discovered that they belonged to the Tribe. Not one of them found out from their parents. It was always a neighbor or neighbor’s kids, some lady at the store, an angry classmate, an opponent in a fistfight, someone throwing an insult or a backhanded compliment; Jewish kids were last to know about the most important thing in their lives. And then I understood why we don’t always see eye-to-eye with the American Jews, the ones carried to a Rabbi on the 7th day to have parts of them snipped, and taught how to participate in the great world Jewish conspiracy from their early days. Unlike them, we made it to adulthood intact, without ever seeing a Rabbi or even knowing the word Rabbi, or anything about being Jewish or the conspiracy we were born to participate in. While they were able to proudly announce their Jewishness in more languages than one, our nationality was conveyed in a series of winks and tongue-clicks with an understanding look and a sad face.

Around that time every resident of Odessa worth his eggplant caviar recipe had to have an underground recording of so-called Odessa songs. These were the songs usually performed in restaurants or weddings, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, but always entertaining and good for dancing. Some of those included faux Yiddish lyrics and even when the original Yiddish had some meaning they were copied from musician to musician so many times that they lost all or most of it in the process. My household of course had a tape like this and I played it enough times to remember all the words in Russian and Yiddish. Except I didn’t know it was Yiddish, just like I had no idea I was a Jew and many other things a 7-year old not supposed to know. I also didn’t know I couldn’t sing.

How I Was A Yiddish Singer

I am at the center with my usual facial expression. Girl whose father was a part of the panel of celebrity judges is on the left wearing glasses. Odessa, 1976

That didn’t prevent me from volunteering to perform in a school concert. The casting committee consisted of my first grade teacher with the last name Rosenberg* and the father of my classmate with the last name Schneider*. I went on to perform a hit “Rahilya, May You Croak, I Like You”.

It went something like this:

Rahilya, may you croak, I like you.
I can’t live without you, Rahilya!
Rahilya, we’ll get married, you’ll plump up
And we will live on the beach together.

And then the Yiddish part started. I dutifully repeated every word with an exceptionally joyful intonation, perfect projection and a smile on my face. At that moment I was Pesachke Burtstein reincarnated if I only knew who he was.

Afn boydem bakt zikh knishes,
They are making knishes in the attic

Funem tukhes shit zikh mel.
And flour is pouring out of the ass

Az der tote trent di mome,
When Papa is banging Mama

Kinder makhn zikh aleyn.
Kids are playing alone.

Rahilya, you are beautiful like Venus,
But you will grow a large belly
And if not, let the cholera take me
But let it take you first!

Rahilya, we will go to Yessen-tukhes**,
Where sun comes up between the blue mountains,
And if not, kish mir in tukhes***
But my patience has run out.

Tears filled my teacher’s eyes and streamed down her face. My classmate’s father, a gentlemen in what then seemed like his 70’s but probably in his 40’s, was shaking and crying like a baby. We didn’t have Kleenex then so they wiped their faces with newspapers and rags. I finished with an especially well-done kinder makhn zikh aleyn and triumphantly looked over my teary-eyed audience of two.

This is the original song I was performing that day from the infamous tape.

My parents were friends with my teacher, so she just called them that night and asked them to try and contain my singing talents at home.

My Mom still reminds me about this every once in a while.

I never found out why I wasn’t featured in the school concert.

I still remember the words to this and other songs from that tape but nowadays my only audience is the shower curtain.

I don’t remember how I found out I was Jewish but I don’t think it was from my parents.

And that’s how I was a Yiddish singer.

*Unmistakably Jewish names
**Play on word combination Yessentuki, a famous Soviet resort, and a Yiddish word tukhes (ass).
***Kiss my ass (yeah, I know lots of ass-words in this song)

Big thanks to my friend Yelena S. for her Yiddish expertise in preparation of this post.

Graceland

One cannot visit Memphis without making a stop at Graceland. I’ve heard of people visiting Graceland more than once, but beyond checking the visit off your bucket list there isn’t much to do there that would warrant repeat visits. Elvis’s mansion might have looked impressive in the 1960′s but it’s pretty average today and it’s not even fully open “out of respect for Elvis”, so you won’t be able to see the infamous toilet where he met his demise. All the other exhibits across the street including Elvis’s personal planes and cars are of limited interest. And for a dead guy Elvis is charging way too much for the pleasure of strolling by all his jumpsuits and gold records and cassettes. That really doesn’t stop the crowds of people from filing in, and parking lot that would make an average Wal-Mart proud is never empty.

The first thing that struck me was that the mansion is fairly small by today’s standards. I always imagined it to be more grand and lavish. Not so much.

Graceland

…but wait,there is more… Graceland

Wars With Friends

Not a day passes when I am not asked about the situation in Ukraine. I have few friends in Ukraine and Russia and I keep a close eye on the developments. The events on the ground are played out thousand-fold in press and social media on a previously unprecedented scale. Newly-minted Russian and Ukrainian truthers on both sides sift through photos, text and videos, each coming away with the “iron-clad” proof of their version of every event. Facebook and Twitter wars reached a level warranting creation of a new term to describe it. Press resurrected the vocabulary and the level of vitriol not used since the 1970′s. For people of my and earlier generations the parallels with the past are obvious, what’s not obvious is how so many people can’t see them.

Luckily most of my friends remain sane and their integrity and sense of humor are intact. Others… As a woman I dated said to me once “I didn’t even know the real you”. It’s not that I don’t tolerate opposing views, it’s the hysterical tone of discussion that I find disagreeable. And just like that, explosions in the country I left so long ago are felt in such far away places as Kansas City.

This was a short introduction to an article by the Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov, an open anti-Semite and extremist. Or should I say former extremist since this article published yesterday no longer represents the extreme in what’s being put out on TV and Internet every day. More and more this is becoming mainstream and the voices of my friends are drowning in the ocean of screaming idiots.

My translation skills are not good enough to convey the dramatically-sermonizing tone of the piece, but until someone does a better job, this should cover it. Links and emphases mine.

 

The Victory – fiery, holy, divine.

For four years Soviet battalions and regiments, fearless divisions and enraged armies, mighty and unyielding fronts marched to it over blood, fires, and battlefields littered with bones. Tank crews, burning to death in the T-34’s, continued to shoot at the “Panthers” and “Tigers”. Pilots engulfed in flames rammed the German convoys and trains. Artillery tore at the Wehrmacht. Partisans, tortured to death, spit in the face of the executioners.

Ten Stalin’s strikes, ten red spikes were hammered by my Motherland into the hirsute torso of fascism. In the basement of the Imperial Chancellery the warriors found a black egg, smashed its shell, and broke the needle* containing Hitler’s death. Fascism croaked, as dies a twelve- headed dragon whose heads are chopped off by a red sword one-by-one. In the year nineteen forty five light won over darkness, love over hatred, heaven over hell.

Before the land had time to settle on the graves of the thirty million fallen heroes, when the embers of burned villages and towns still smoldered, Stalin gave the order to plant gardens. And these heavenly gardens bloomed from sea to sea. Among these blooming gardens we have rebuilt our ruined cities. We’ve built divine Minsk, amazing Kiev, and radiant Sevastopol. From these gardens we took off into space. And it seemed to us that their bloom will be endless.

But silent worms gnawed at our gardens. Insidious rodents destroyed our apples and pears. Our hateful enemies killed the Soviet country. Taken away its territory, its army. Destroyed the great factories. Broke the will of the victorious people. They encroached on the Victory, which was sacred for us.

But the worms could not gnaw at the sacred. Rodent teeth broke on the holy likeness. We carried the victory through nightmarish nineties. And on this icon again blossomed a scarlet bud and bloomed a wonderful red flower.

We inhaled its aroma, drank its magic juices. Rose again from sickness and sorrow. Built our state. Erected factories . Strengthened the army. Returned the will to live to downtrodden. Inspired the unbelievers with faith. The victory remained with us, and we never lowered its red flag.

And as a gift for our patience and stoicism, for our efforts and faith the Lord has sent us to the Crimea. Russian people once separated by the enemies merged again in the arms of victory.

But the black sperm of fascism spilled on Kiev – mother of all the Russian cities. In the golden apse of St. Sophia of Kiev, among the shrines and temples, an embryo started growing with an ugly, hairy face and black horns, just like the devil is depicted on a church mural. Fascism, like rotten poison dough filled Kiev and began to spread through the whole Ukraine. Its tanks are rolling over the streets of Kramatorsk.

Its armored personnel carriers spread fire over Slavyansk. Its helicopters swoop over the suburbs of Donetsk. Its priests staged the ritual death in Odessa: forty Russian martyrs were burned alive while the executioners hooted and laughed. It was a fascist prayer to Hell, commemoration of Himmler, praise to Adolf Hitler. After Odessa crematorium Obama and Merkel smell of fried human flesh. Timoshenko, this vicious cripple weaved her braid with hair of prisoners of Auschwitz.

We celebrate the sacred victory of nineteen forty five, hearing cannons of enemy tanks in southeastern Ukraine, where there are mutilated bodies of militia, where there are crushed Russian skulls. New fight against fascism is inevitable.

Stalin’s eleventh strike is inevitable.

Let President Putin review a military parade and give the order to marching regiments and combat vehicles directly from Red Square , St. Basil’s Cathedral to go to Donetsk, where a wounded militiaman with a weakening hand is throwing a Molotov cocktail into a fascist Bandera tank.

*reference to Koschei

And here we see those militiamen and their weakening hands.

Wars With Friends

Memphis

The shortest route from Kansas City to Memphis is via Springfield, MO and rural Arkansas where highway is controlled by the roaming gangs of deer who stand around the road contemplating if they will let you live. I wouldn’t recommend driving there in the dark.

I didn’t want to go to Memphis. Even though I learned English trying to sing along with Elvis (and that’s why people often ask me if I am from Tupelo),  I didn’t feel the need to visit his house and other Memphis attractions didn’t really seem worthy of a fairly boring 8-hour drive. Usually we try to see things along the way, but there wasn’t much to see and the only memorable item was a town called Cabool, mostly because of how out-of-place the name seemed somewhere in rural Missouri.

Memphis

Memphis turned out to be a fun place for a weekend trip, with enough things to keep you busy for a few days.

…but wait,there is more… Memphis

Grigory Semenovich Obershmukler

I don’t make New Year Resolutions, but I start every year hoping to interview an Old Jewish Person®. Then I realize that I have no interviewing skills, or patience or determination to actually do it, and soon another year rolls around. So this is probably as close as it gets to having a narrative on this blog. This text is translated from an older gentleman’s blog I’ve been following for many years. He lives in Israel and seems to be retired after a long career as a physician. His stories are always fascinating, honest, and told from an old Jewish doctor point of view I find so relatable. If you read Russian you will find his blog to be a unique personal account of the long-gone era, mixed with tragic and funny stories he encountered in his latter years while working in Israel with ex-Soviet immigrants. And if you are Russian-impaired, you have to rely on my crude translating and editing skills. Translating takes a long time and there only so much of it I can do at work so this is only the first part. I also edited out an episode that cannot be possibly explained to a non-Russian reader without writing a small book. Part 2 that covers WWII and the years after is coming up sometime in the future.

In the early sixties, after three years of working in a rural area, my family came back to Minsk. I got a job in a TB clinic; my wife was hired as an ambulance doctor.

Soon I’ve met an interesting man in the clinic.

It was our consulting thoracic surgeon Grigory Semenovich. He was a distinguished man, a veteran of WWII, a PhD. Actually, when he was born in the beginning of the 20th century he was named Hirsch, his father was Simha, so his full name was listed in the passport as Hirsch Simkhovich. Not willing to pronounce such a tongue twister, people at his Worker and then Medical school called him Grisha, and later Grigory Semenovich. His last name was Obershmukler, which is translated from Yiddish means “chief smuggler”. It’s hard to say how his ancestors got that name, but in the early 19th century by the order of Tsar Alexander I all the Jews in the Empire were required to produce last names. And then it all depended on the imagination of barely literate clerks and happy owners of new names.

When I met him, he was an old man of sixty, small in stature around 160 cm (5’2’’), with a large bald spot surrounded by a narrow rim of gray hair. Thick black mustache streaked with gray, barely concealed a rough scar on his upper lip – a reminder of a childhood surgery. He had nasal and slightly hoarse voice. During surgeries he had to stand on a step-stool.
All this combined – a tiny height, baldness, big mustache and a voice – made for somewhat of a strange impression , although he was a good surgeon , very well-read and educated .

Grigory Semenovich had his habits.

During surgeries, when complications and difficulties arose, he did not yell at nurses or scolded assistants; did not throw tools like many venerable surgeons I’ve observed in my many years of study and work. He calmly and quietly muttered some unintelligible words in his nasal voice, and if all went well, even tried to sing something totally unfamiliar. When asked what it meant, he replied -
- Do not worry, I am commenting on the progress of the surgery to myself in Latin…
Once at the front, after a complicated and successful surgery, a higher-ranking doctor who was there with an inspection, said in Yiddish after a modest dinner and a “front-line hundred grams” (*of vodka):

- Hirsch, you need to be more cautious with your cursing , special agents (*of NKVD) may know what  “mome loshn” means but may not understand who it’s directed to …
Colonel inspector also grew up in a shtetl , went to a heder and was able to understand  all the terrible curses on the heads of Germans , crappy instruments, war, dumb commanders , bleeding and this lousy life …

Once when I was present with my electrocardiograph during a heavy thoracoplasty surgery performed by Gregory Semenovich, I was also able to make out the words of an indecent song that I heard as a child from my father .

In my translation of an arbitrary and totally outrageous pronunciation (after all , the last time I heard this song seventy years ago !) One verse of this specimen of folk art translates roughly as follows:

Jew has sex with a Jew , goy has a goy ,
Rabbi has a rebbetzin and all enjoy …

It is known that in the USSR from NKVD to kindergartens people disgruntled with someone or something wrote anonymous complaints on a variety of subject to different organizations. Grigory Semenovich didn’t escape his. Clinic received a directive from the regional party committee with the request to verify the facts, investigate the matter and report back to the regional committee. The attached anonymous letter stated that the operating surgeon Obershmukler writes off a lot of valuable medicinal alcohol, but in reality he drinks the alcohol with no zakuski, while getting drunk with other physicians and operating nurses but the junior staff is never invited, as if they are not human… and these drunken parties cause harm to the Soviet state in general and all of medicine in particular.
Everyone knew that Gregory Semenovich cannot drink more than one shot during the evening. When they showed him the letter, he grinned into his mustache and said -
- Tomorrow is my surgery, send the commission, they will see for themselves …
The next day, Gregory Semenovich came to work with a large portfolio. Commission gathered soon – assistant director of the hospital Anna Artemovna, secretary of the local Communist Party organization, the chairman of the local union and chief nurse. Surgeon Obershmukler dumped a few thick monographs with bookmarks and a pile of printed instructions on the table.
- Please verify that I am following the guidance. This is a monograph with existing hand sanitizing methods, and these – he pointed to the printed sheets – are the latest instructions of our ministry. Now I’m going to wash my hands, and you will observe … Nurse, are you ready? Begin!
They began the long process of hand sanitizing while Gregory Semenovich explained.
- We are using the Fyurbringer’s* method with modification by Alfeld*. Sometimes we use Spasokukotsky* – Kochergin* method (*all these names could be medical-sounding gibberish). In all three methods the last stage is rinsing of the hands with a 70 % alcohol solution for 2 to 5 minutes; we will use 2 minutes. Nurse, give me a sterile napkin, start the stopwatch and slowly pour the alcohol on my hands!
Alcohol started trickling down on his palms, and then to the sink …
What are you doing! – screamed the Chairman of the Union, retired paramedic and a no stranger to drinking.
Last drops emerged from half-liter bottle.
- Now have to leave, patient is waiting, – Gregory Semenovich raised his clean hands and looking like a surrendering prisoner, shuffled over to the operating room …

Few more episodes.

In those years, our clinic expanded, changed staffing and simultaneously recruited several young graduates of medical school. One of them, Valya, came the first time to work in a mini-skirt. Minis were just beginning to come into vogue and assistant director Anna Artemovna stated that the Soviet young people and members of Komsomol cannot appear at work dressed like this. Reprimands did not help, and Anna Artemovna used every possible way to find fault with a young girl.

Anna Artemovna was a partisan nurse and after the war she married a former guerrilla commander, barely finished college and once admitted that after the college has not read a single book.
Once she burst into the staffroom, where doctors spent their free time and in a raised voice began berating Valechka for her transgressions. Valya didn’t have to look for words and said loudly -
Why are you attacking me like a Fury?
Assistant director froze for a few seconds.
- Girl! What did you say to me? I am an honest woman! I have a husband! It’s you who is shaking her tail, flashing your panties and bare hips to everyone, be ashamed! I would never put on skirt like this!
-Of course, at your age you have nothing to flash and have nothing to show, and no one wants to see it anyway!
From the far corner came a hoarse voice nasal voice of Gregory Semenovich -
-Anna Artemovna why are you boiling so much? Fury is not a prostitute, as you though. In Greek it means an evil vindictive woman and it may not be too far from the truth.
- You are and old man and on her side…
Anna Artemovna left the room and slammed the door.

Grigory Semenovich didn’t have a lot of work in our hospital. He dealt mainly with adhesions after the placement of artificial pneumothorax, occasionally performed therapeutic thoracoplasty and some others. For several days after a surgery, even on weekends, he visited his patients, punctured the pleural cavity, changed wound dressings and made new prescriptions.

During those years he lived with his wife in a small two- story Khrushchev-style apartment building, she was often sick, and he felt lonely. I often picked up duty hours in the therapeutic ward to make extra money. Grigory S. came to me in the duty room and we had long conversations …

Grigory S. was born in the early 20th century in a small shtetl near Minsk , and as all the local kids went to heder – elementary school at the synagogue. Since the childhood he started helping his father who was a cobbler, but always wanted to study and become a doctor.

The boy was born with a small genetic defect – a slight cleft lip and had surgery in his childhood to repair it. For the rest of his life he remembered the majestic figure of the surgeon in a long white coat and mask with clean hands raised up in the air…

After the revolution, Grisha went to Minsk and began working as a mechanic at the depot at the railroad station, while attending a night school. After 2 years local Communist cell, the trade union committee and the director gave him a referral to the technical school. Grisha successfully graduated and enrolled in medical school.

Student years were difficult – Grisha worked nights as a nurse in a hospital, then as a surgeons’ assistant and studied hard.  He often participated in simple surgeries …
Then graduation. He, a Jewish guy, son of a shoemaker – a medical doctor! Joy knew no bounds!
But he was yet to become a surgeon …

Initially he worked in Polesia, in a remote village in a forsaken district hospital with 10 beds. He worked alone, treating all diseases, delivering babies. Queues at the reception were huge, and after a day at work – night house calls …
The following year they hired a midwife, and then came a paramedic – life became a little easier. Grisha set up an operating room, started performing minor surgeries. The village had no electricity so he arranged for a power generator near the hospital. When the old steam generator started huffing and puffing at night – the whole village knew that there was a patient or a birth.
After three and a half years he was sent to a surgical residency.
Gregory never came back to the village, he was sent to the district center to work as a general surgeon. At the age of almost 30 his lifelong dream came true!

At the new job young surgeon met a charming female colleague, an obstetrician -gynecologist, who started working there a couple of years prior.
Her name was Rachel. She was a tall, stout, pretty blonde. Her face had a disproportionately large nose that made her embarrassed …
Her path to medicine she was easier than Grisha’s – her parents were able to get medical education during the Tsarist years and escape from the Pale of Settlement – her dad was a pharmacist and her mother a midwife , and they were allowed to live in big cities .
Rachel was three years younger Grisha, 16 centimeters taller without heels and 15 kilos heavier …
Grisha always liked big women. He realized that it was his destiny and started a proper siege.
Fortress did not especially resist, Rachel liked miniature men and, in particular, Grisha. After a few months a simple wedding took place in the yard of a small house, where young people found an apartment – just a friendly dinner. Toward the end of the event happy and tired groom took a nap in the corner. Rachel took him in her arms like a baby, and carried him into the bedroom next to her powerful chest   to the applause of the remaining guests.

Gregory S. and Rachel worked at the district hospital for a few more years, when they encountered the first trouble – they did not conceive. Pregnancies ended in miscarriages, doctors’ advice did not help, and to get the advice they had to go to the regional center or to Minsk. And the young family decided to move to Minsk, the capital.

In the early 1930’s, doctors were needed in all hospitals. Without much difficulty and patronage Rachel and Grisha got jobs in their respective specialties, and moved into an apartment with Rachel’s aunt.
Finally, nature took its course, Rachel became pregnant and in 1936 and delivered a healthy girl.
In the fashion of those years she was named Svetlana.

Time passed quickly, maternity leave has ended. Not so young mother-doctor knew that to send the infant to the nursery meant to put the long-awaited child in danger. A thought to leave work did not cross her mind. They had to find a nanny. One of the former patients suggested his distant relative – Alesya – a 16-year-old girl, an orphan from a distant village, almost illiterate , but familiar with young children , decent and clean .

They took the girl took into the family and she raised Svetlana from the age of 8 months! They even looked similar, both were round-faced blondes, only  Svetlana had green eyes and Alesya’s were blue …
When friends asked the Alesya where she works, she nonchalantly replied “I do not know, some surgeon” …

Few more years passed. Svetochka started in kindergarten. Alesya helped around the house and attended night school. Grisha and Rachel worked hard and taught Alesya all they knew themselves – from cooking to nursing care. They took care of her future – Alain finished seven grades, passed the entrance exams and in the autumn of 1941 was supposed to go to nursing school.

Grigory Semenovich didn’t have a lot of work in our hospital. He dealt mainly with adhesions after the imposition of artificial pneumothorax, occasionally performed therapeutic thoracoplasty and some others. For several days after a surgery, even on weekends, he visited his patients, punctured the pleural cavity, changed wound dressings and made new prescriptions.

During those years he lived with his wife in a small two- story Khrushchev-style apartment building, she was often sick, and he felt lonely. I often picked up duty hours in the therapeutic ward to make extra money. Grigory S. came to me in the duty room and we had long conversations …

Grigory S. was born in the early 20th century in a small shtetl near Minsk , and as all the local kids went to heder - elementary school at the synagogue. Since the childhood he started helping his father who was a cobbler, but he always wanted to study and become a doctor.

The boy was born with a small genetic defect – a slight cleft lip and had surgery in his childhood to repair it. For the rest of his life he remembered the majestic figure of the surgeon in a long white coat and mask with clean hands raised up in the air…

After the revolution, Grisha went to Minsk and began working as a mechanic at the depot at the railroad station, while attending a night school. After 2 years local Communist cell, the trade union committee and the director gave him a referral to the technical school. Grisha successfully graduated and enrolled in medical school.

Student years were difficult – Grisha worked nights as a nurse in a hospital, then as a surgeons’ assistant and studied hard.  He often participated in simple surgeries …
Then graduation. He, a Jewish guy, son of a shoemaker – a medical doctor! Joy knew no bounds!
But he was yet to become a surgeon …

Initially he worked in Polesia, in a remote village in a forsaken district hospital with 10 beds. He worked alone, treating all diseases, delivering babies. Queues at the reception were huge, and after a day at work – night house calls …
The following year they hired a midwife, and then came a paramedic – life became a little easier. Grisha set up an operating room, started performing minor surgeries. The village had no electricity so he arranged for a power generator near the hospital. When the old steam generator started huffing and puffing at night – the whole village knew that there was a patient or a birth.
After three and a half years he was sent to a surgical residency.
Gregory never came back to the village, he was sent to the district center to work as a general surgeon. At the age of almost 30 his lifelong dream came true!

At the new job young surgeon met a charming female colleague, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who started working there a couple of years prior.
Her name was Rachel. She was a tall, stout, pretty blonde. Her face had a disproportionately large nose that made her embarrassed …
Her path to medicine she was easier than Grisha’s – her parents were able to get medical education during the Tsarist years and escape from the Pale of Settlement – her dad was a pharmacist and her mother a midwife , and they were allowed to live in big cities .
Rachel was three years younger Grisha, 16 centimeters taller without heels and 15 kilos heavier …
Grisha always liked big women. He realized that it was his destiny and started a proper siege.
Fortress did not especially resist, Rachel liked miniature men and, in particular, Grisha. After a few months a simple wedding took place in the yard of a small house, where young people found an apartment – just a friendly dinner. Toward the end of the event happy and tired groom took a nap in the corner. Rachel took him in her arms like a baby, and carried him into the bedroom next to her powerful chest   to the applause of the remaining guests.

Gregory S. and Rachel worked at the district hospital for a few more years, when they encountered the first trouble – they did not conceive. Pregnancies ended in miscarriages, doctors’ advice did not help, and to get the advice they had to go to the regional center or to Minsk. And the young family decided to move to Minsk, the capital.

In the early 1930’s, doctors were needed in all hospitals. Without much difficulty and patronage Rachel and Grisha got jobs in their respective specialties, and moved into an apartment with Rachel’s aunt.
Finally, nature took its course, Rachel became pregnant and in 1936 and delivered a healthy girl.
In the fashion of those years she was named Svetlana.

Time passed quickly, maternity leave has ended. Not so young mother-doctor knew that to send the infant to the nursery meant to put the long-awaited child in danger. A thought to leave work did not cross her mind. They had to find a nanny. One of the former patients suggested his distant relative – Alesya – a 16-year-old girl, an orphan from a distant village, almost illiterate , but familiar with young children , decent and clean .

They took the girl took into the family and she raised Svetlana from the age of 8 months! They even looked similar, both were round-faced blondes, only  Svetlana had green eyes and Alesya’s were blue …
When friends asked the Alesya where she works, she nonchalantly replied “I do not know, some surgeon” …

Few more years passed. Svetochka started in kindergarten. Alesya helped around the house and attended night school. Grisha and Rachel worked hard and taught Alesya all they knew themselves – from cooking to nursing care. They took care of her future – Alesya finished seven grades, passed the entrance exams and in the autumn of 1941 was supposed to go to nursing school.