Interviewed by Carol Zuckert (with interpreter)
March 10, 1999
CZ And I'm interviewing Maria Barkan. She's reluctant to give me an interview but she's got a big smile on her face. I want to know, where were you born?
MB I born in the Ukraine.
CZ Which city?
MB In Kharkov.
CZ Oh Kharkov, same place. Did you know each other in the Ukraine before coming? Were they married in the Ukraine or here?
CZ So that's where you were married. When were you born, what year and date?
MB October 22, 1913
CZ And in the Ukraine, born there?
CZ And when you were a child, did you...
MB I have a son.
CZ He doesn't have a child? No, no.
CZ No children.
MB My son don't have children.
CZ Is he here, your son here in Tucson?
MB In Tucson, he works at Ventana, as a cook.
MB My son's wife, she works in the flower store.
CZ This is your sister?
INT It is her son's wife.
MB Son's wife work in flower store.
CZ Now when you were a child, when you were young, did you have sisters and brothers?
CZ No sisters or brothers?
CZ An only child?
CZ Was your family Jewish?
MB Yes, my family is Jewish.
CZ Did you practice Judaism?
MB No. It was forbidden.
CZ How did you know you were Jewish? Is that too hard?
INT She Jewish only in the passport.
CZ That's the only way you knew.
INT Yes. And her parents did not speak Jewish.
CZ Did not speak Yiddish.
CZ So no education, nothing. OK. I didn't ask this last week, I don't think. Do you go to services? Go to Jewish services?
MB We go to Anshai synagogue.
CZ Anshai, OK.
INT She said that they usually go to the synagogue but not in summer because in summer is very hot and they don't have a car. And they go to the synagogue but not often, maybe one time in two weeks. They serve Passover here.
CZ Oh here, you have Passover here?
CZ Did you do that, did you practice your Judaism as an adult, as a married woman? In Russia, in Ukraine, but as an adult...
CZ So only since you've been here?
INT Yes, in America.
CZ Because it's available?
INT Because in Russia, in Ukraine it was forbidden.
CZ OK, that's interesting. Do you like doing that? Do you like going to services?
INT She said yes because if they don't like the service they don't go to synagogue.
CZ I'm missing a word here.
INT If they go to the synagogue, to the service, yes? And she said we love to go to the service. If they do not love to go to the ...
CZ Then they wouldn't go. I see, OK, but still that's nice. So what did you do in the Ukraine? Did you have a job?
MB Yes, I had work.
INT She graduated from the university
MB No, institute.UA SPec Colls
INT She graduated from the institute.
CZ Polytechnical institute. And what did you graduate, what did you do?
MB I five years work in a factory which produced margarine.
INT She was an engineer and five years she worked on the factory. She was a chief of a margarine department in the factory.
CZ Margarine, like butter. So you helped get that produced. You were in charge of...
INT And afterwards she worked in another factory. I don't know in English. After that she worked as a chief in the department but the factory was produced the paint. The colors for paint.
CZ Now, did you, as a woman, did you have, were many women chiefs?
INT She was one woman chief.
CZ You were the only one.
INT She was the only one woman.
CZ How did you do that? How did you get to be a chief since you were a woman? That's not an easy question.
INT She said that she get these jobs because she was a good specialist.
CZ I see. What about being Jewish. Did that hold you back? Anti-Semitism, did that hold her back? She's a woman and a Jew. We say two strikes.
MB In factory no.
INT She said in the factory it was not so. Not anti-Semitism.
CZ Really? Were there other Jews that were chiefs? Other males?
INT No, no not all the Jews.
CZ No, but other, there were chiefs that were Jewish too?
INT Yes, it was. But not the director.
CZ Director and then chiefs?
INT The chief of department, but not a director of the factory. She was not a member of communist party. She said that she was not a member of the communist party. She was not. But she said that, it was a time when the Jewish people cannot be there member of communist party.
CZ Oh, couldn't be a member if you were Jewish?
CZ How interesting. Was he [M. Barkan's husband] a member of the communist party?
INT He became a member very early because it was not so restricted. And after that you could not be, they don't take the Jewish in the communist party. He became member of the communist party in 1930. And in that years they take Jewish people. But after the war they don't.
CZ Did you want to be a member of the communist party?
CZ Not important. I'm just nosy. So, now how long have you been married?
INT In 1990 they got married.
CZ So your first husband, you were married before?
INT He was 50 years in the communist party.
CZ How interesting. It's a medal that we're looking at right now. It says 50 and it's got a red star on it and a wreath. So your first husband, what did he do?
MB My first husband died.
CZ Died, in Ukraine?
MB Died in 1990.
CZ Then you got married in 1990?
MB His wife and my husband were sister and brother.
CZ Ah hah..
INT They was relatives.
CZ I see. You were relatives. I see. So that's nice that you knew each other. And was he Jewish?
MB My relatives...
CZ He's so cute. Very nice.
MB Very nice when he smile.
CZ Very nice smile. Makes us all smile. So, your son is here. So you worked many years in the paint factory? How many years in the paint factory? I mean, doing chief thing in the paint section.
MB I worked 14 years.
CZ There, and 5 years in the job before.
MB In all I worked 40 years.
CZ What did you do, how did you spend your free time, did you have leisure time, free time? How did you spend your free time?
MB Go in theaters, in movies, in library, in museum.
CZ Did you do that a lot?
INT Yes, she said it was an interesting time. They went to the theaters, the museums, and read books.
CZ Could you read books when the communists were in power? Did you have restricted books when the communists were in power? Could you read any books?
INT We have very interesting books.
CZ During communism?
INT Yes. We have the classic author.
CZ And that was OK to read.
INT Yes, it was OK.
CZ Were you restricted in any of your reading? Were you restricted, did they say you can't read this, you can't read that?
INT It was but it was many books we can read. And she can sew.
INT Sew and needlework it is the same?
CZ Needlework is like one realm. Sewing means you can fix this, you can sew that, but needlework usually means you can do this kind of crochet work, do you do that?
INT She can do...
MB I can work on dresses.
INT She can sew a dress.
CZ Do you make your own things? Do you do your own sewing? Do you sew or do you buy everything?
INT No, she didn't sew.
CZ What do you do now? Do you do much for fun? Go to movies?
MB I watch Russia TV.
INT And travel.
MB To Sedona, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon.
INT And in Tucson she go to museums, cinema, movies.
CZ You go to the movies. How long will it take you, do you think, how long do you think it will take you to learn how to speak English? How long will you study English?
MB Two years, I will learn in two years.
INT In school, adult school.
CZ OK. Is there anything else you think I should ask? Anything else you wan to tell me.
CZ OK, very good.