Interviewed by Rhoda Babis
RB: Vladimir, the first question I'll be asking you is about your household here in Tucson. How many people there are in the household and how old they are.
VP: Well, there are three persons in my household. My wife, Rima, my son, Dmitri and me.
RB: And your ages please.
VP: My wife is 41, my son Dmitri is 15 and I am 51.
RB: Vladimir, please tell us the names of your parents and the names of your wife's parents.
VP: OK, the name of my father was Nikolai and the name of my mother was Katherine and my wife's parents were Michael and Anna.
RB: And can I have their last names please?
VP: My parents last name was the same as mine, Pereversev and my wife's parents name were different. Her father's last name is Landfeld and her mother's last name was Danilovich.
RB: Vladimir, in the former USSR where were you born?
VP: Well, I was born in the city of Kiev. That is the capital of Ukraine.
RB: And which countries or cities did you live most of your life?
VP: Most of my life I lived in the city of Kiev and I lived in some other cities but not in the territory of former USSR but some foreign countries.
RB: How long were you in these other countries?
VP: Well, I lived in Sri Lanka for three years in the city of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Later I lived in Nigeria, West Africa.
RB: Very interesting, thanks. Where did you go to school in the former USSR?
VP: Well I started my school in 1954 in the city of Kiev and I finished my school in the same city of Kiev. I studied ten years in this school which included elementary, middle and high school.
RB: I see. They don't separate the grades like they do here.
VP: That's right.
RB: Over most of your lifetime, Vladimir, what was your occupation? What did you do?
VP: After I finished my school I entered university of foreign language in my native city of Kiev. I studied there for five years and my profession is English and French. After graduation from university I worked in some travel agencies for about twelve years. For six years I worked as an interpreter in some foreign countries which I mentioned before, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. During the 80s I worked in two ministries for Ukraine, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Tourism. My total experie nce amounts to 33 years.
RB: Vladimir, insofar as the Ukraine is concerned, could you elaborate on that? Go into a little detail about exactly it is that you did in those foreign ministries?
VP: Oh sure. Ukraine is a big country, one of the biggest countries in Europe. There are about 25 administrative regions there like 50 states in the United States of America. The Ministry of Tourism is meant to coordinate all the activities of jobs which travel agencies throughout the Ukraine do. That is, organization of different trips and travels like train travels, plane travels and water ships, on busses and so on. I personally was responsible for arrangements of trips in the trains. Th is is a very good opportunity to see the places of interest and different cities of not only Ukraine but nationwide, I mean, throughout the USSR.
RB: Vladimir, how did you arrive at the decision to leave the USSR?
VP: Well, since January 1996 I have been living in the United States of America. I just immigrated from Ukraine for good. That was a decision that was not easy to make. The reasons for that were as follows: Political ones, first of all. Tha t is, instability in the country, lack of security, uncertain future. Then come economical reasons like collapse of economy, lack of job opportunities, crises in all spheres of economy, inflation, unpredictable cost of living, and so on. We realized that it's no more possible to live a normal life there but at the same time we understood that immigration could bring to us a lot of problems as well. You know, different society, different environment, for many immigrants different language which is the most important thing to adjust, and many, many other obstacles to overcome. Anyway, we did it and we are here now in a new world. A load of genuine freedom, plenty of opportunities, and perspectives for life. Though, to tell the truth, we all suffer now and t hen because we miss our homeland, our friends, many other things we left behind.
RB: Did you have any problems leaving? Was it a problem to exit?
VP: Well, I'd say there were not so many problems as though problems were before. We left the country easily and I guess this is an outcome of new policy which was adopted by Gorbachev. A lot of things have changed now in country and immigr ation became more easier.
RB: Vladimir, what were your connections in the United States?
VP: Well, my wife's brother lived in United States and he immigrated from Ukraine about four years before we did it. And he lived in New York, so he was the person who made invitation for the whole family of mine to come here.
RB: And why did you come to Tucson?
VP: Well, we were offered Arizona, and specifically the city of Tucson, to come and then we were told this is a very good place for living and we accepted that proposition.
RB: And what do you do now, actually? What is your primary occupation here?
VP: At present I work as a bus driver at Tucson Unified School District. I had an experience as a driver before and so to start with I decided to use my knowledge and skills and I started as a driver and I will work as a driver before now.
RB: You are Jewish, Vladimir, and I was wondering if your parents practiced Judaism in the USSR, and if so, how?
VP: Well, I can't say that they practiced Judaism because the political climate in my former country where I lived was very hard to follow the traditions and habits of Jewish people. There were synagogues but people really didn't go there b ecause that was persecuted by the authorities and my parents respected the Jewish holidays but actually they did it not in public and they tried to hide it out.
RB: So they sort of practiced in secrecy?
VP: That's right. Otherwise, you know, they could get into trouble and that affected their job, their living, so they restrained themselves from that.
RB: I see. In privacy did they have any Seders, did they keep a Kosher household, any of those things?
VP: Not actually as far as I can remember.
RB: What about your grandparents. Can you remember if they observed the holidays and if they practiced?
VP: Well, that was different time and as far as I was told by my parents the grandparents had more opportunities for that and they followed holidays and they visited synagogues but later, during Stalin era, there was a pressure on Jewish pe ople when they stopped doing that like my parents did.
RB: I see. Vladimir, I'd like to know what your current connection is to Judaism, and that is, if you observe any of the holidays, if yes, which ones, and how you observe them. If you light Sabbath candles which would be Friday night. If yo u have a Passover Seder, do you fast on Yom Kippur, things like that.
VP: Well, unfortunately I have to confess I haven't gotten used to these from my childhood and in spite of my great desire it is very hard at my age to transform myself and to observe all the holidays, traditions, because a lot of time have passed by and this is not an easy thing. But anyway, being here in United States we try to change something in our lives. We respect religion of Jewish people, traditions, holidays, and history and we always wanted to learn more about these. So here in T ucson we have such an opportunity to enrich ourselves with that. To learn some more about that. And from time to time we paid the visits to synagogues, and we read Jewish newspaper, which we receive by mail from Jewish Federation, and we are learning how to observe Jewish holidays like Hanukkah, Passover, and so on. In this respect I would like to point out that the Jewish Federation of Tucson turned to be very helpful to us. They mail us the booklets containing useful material about history and tradition s of Jewish people. Also, they arrange the parties to go to holidays and during these parties someone tell us a lot of good things, interesting stories about history. These parties are aimed at better understanding of Jewish social life and activities. An d apart from this we are provided a good opportunity to visit and participate, a great deal of activities which are held in the Jewish Community Center. There is no doubt that our kids have a greater opportunity than we had in our past. They study Hebrew because my son personally was going to Hebrew Academy and they learn how to read and write Hebrew, and he can talk to some extent that language and he knows much more than we do. And we are very happy that they have such an opportunity.
RB: Vladimir, do you have any friends who are Jewish that are not Russians?
VP: Oh yeah, I have some, and I'm very glad to have them as friends. First of all I want to mention Rhoda Babis who is interviewing me now, and I'm very happy to have her as a friend and to be a friend of hers.
RB: That's very mutual.
VP: She's a nice lady and she's so helpful. We like her.
RB: And I'm very happy to have you as a friend as well. Thanks.
VP: Thank you Rhoda.
RB: Vladimir, who did you leave behind in the former USSR?
VP: Well, I left behind my two other kids, my eldest son, Andrew and my daughter, Katherine. But anyway, I'm sure they will join me very soon and I'm just taking care about that issue and do everything possible for them to join me here. As far as relatives in Israel are concerned, we got a relative there and this is a man, his name is also Vladimir, and he is the cousin of my wife.
RB: Thank you. Do you have any idea when your children will join you here?
VP: Well, my son is going to join me this year, probably the middle of April. Daughter will come here later. I can't tell now when exactly but I guess probably by the end of this year.
RB: So you're working on it.
VP: Yeah, sure.
RB: Good. Vladimir, the Jewish Federation has been wonderful in taking action to bring you here, but there's undoubtedly so much more that needs to be done in order to help you become more acclimated to this very new and different culture a nd more settled and secure in it. What do you feel needs to be done in addition to help you in this area, to help you and all the other new arrivals?
VP: Well, in spite of tremendous job they have been doing, there is something which still leaves much to be desired. In my own opinion, there's a lack of legal consultation for the immigrants. I mean, sometimes people happen to be in unusua l situation and sometimes they're not aware of how to handle the problems which they might face. And I think they should be the lawyers giving advice and help them to get rid of the problems or to find out the right way how. It would be nice if such a law yer is employed by the Jewish Family Children's Services to be available to the immigrants for free, to make the life of immigrants easy and more helpful.
RB: For instance, what kind of situations are you talking about that would warrant a lawyer?
VP: You know, the main obstacle for the immigrants is the lack of language. For the first period of time they are not so good at English and that can bring them to situations which are not able to understand. That can happen with their job or even on the road, they can get in accident, they don't know what to do or where to call and how to talk and how to explain. In those situations, they're like children, they don't know what to do. A lawyer who can just show them the way, the right way, would be very helpful. And I guess that Jewish Family Children's Services could have employed one or two lawyers just to be helpful.
RB: That sounds like an excellent idea because there are certainly things that come up in a strange culture that would be foreign to you and yet you wouldn't have expertise in handling it.
VP: Another side of this problem is that to hire a lawyer costs big money and you know, people who are just arrived they don't have enough money to pay for that.
RB: Right. I think that's a wonderful suggestion. Is there anything else that you think can and should be done for the new arrivals?
VP: Well, there is one more issue. The matter is to handle the people who have to see the doctors pretty often. They need an interpreter for these visits. As far as I know this problem is not solved yet at this organization. I mean, they're short of interpreters who could be helpful and provide the quality visit to the doctor.
RB: So somebody to accompany people who aren't that good in the language and particularly older people from the former Soviet Union so they could have an interpreter accompany them to the doctor.
VP: Actually, they have interpreters but the number that there is not enough to cover all those who need to see the doctors.
RB: Vladimir, to sum it all up, how does the future look to you? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
VP: The future seems to be very bright to us. We are taking steps, seeking new jobs, new opportunities which I'm sure will bring us to a better life so we have high hopes in this new life.
RB: That's wonderful. Thank you so much for your openness and honesty in doing this interview for us.
VP: Thank you very much.