Interviewed by Carol Zuckert
March 16, 1999
Q: [I am meeting with a] lady from Russia whose name is Julia Genina. She lives at 6160 East Belleview in Tucson. So tell me if you please, how many people are in your household, and what their names?
JG Two. With me lives my mother in law who is 90. My husband died in 1995 and I arrive to Tucson after two months in January 1996.
Q: You already told me that you are the daughter in law of first. Are there any in the family who are not Jewish? Your occupation is?
Q: But you are retired?
JG Yes. I am 68.
Q: Very good. What was the name of your parents?
JG My father Abraham Gemin. My mother Melyenskaya Dvoira.
Q: Do you have children?
JG I have a daughter. She lives next to me in apartment with her family. She is Irine Yavnitsvaya. She has two sons, my grandsons, 18 and 16 years old. And a husband.
Q: So they all live next to you just about. And another daughter somewhere else?
JG No. I don't have another children.
Q: Oh, just one?
JG I have one.
Q: That's wonderful. How lucky. In Russia where you were born, you were born in Ukraine?
JG I born in Ukraine in city CKharkovv in 1930.
Q: Did you live anywhere else besides Russia and Tucson?
JG No, I was evacuated during World War II in Nizniy Novgorod, it's next to Moscow.
Q: But you didn't live in other countries and not in America either.
JG No. Only in russia, in Ukraine and this nation.
Q: So you are a physician so obviously you have graduated from university, graduate school, so that answers this question. So, why did you decide to leave Russia?
JG In Tucson lived my daughter.
Q: Oh, your daughter lived here. Already?
JG Yes, she lived here before I arrived to Tucson she lived one year. She arrived to Tucson in 1994. But we are refugees. We had a very hard life in Ukraine, in Russia. It was all my life. I feel that I am Jewish. It was my life, all life, and during all life my daughter.
Q: When you say you feel you are Jewish that means that they made you feel different, is that it? Or you are Jewish, aren't you, by birth?
JG I'm Jewish. But all time I feel I need be safer from another people in my country. I am doctor but it's too hard to became a doctor because I needed to be better than all my friends, Russian friends. All around me, all my students, all m y friends, Russian friends because it was hard for Jewish people to be educated.
Q: It was necessary.
JG It was necessary, yes. All time I need be better in my job, I need be better because I could lose the job.
Q: Yeah, you cannot be without a job.
Q: I understand.
JG Very, very hard.
Q: Did you work in a hospital?
JG Yes. And one moment in my hospital was closed because they want not a lot of Jewish doctors. The doctors came after World War II. And they worked in this hospital and the government in our city decide it's a lot of Jewish doctors in one hospital and close this hospital. And I lost this job. But director of my institute helped me to take a job.
Q: In another hospital?
JG In another office. In 1965 my hospital was closed because they want not a lot of Jewish doctors. Government in my city decide to close this hospital, maybe another people say about a lot of Jewish doctors in this hospital. It was very ba d. And I lost my job. But my professor, in science, helped me to take another job. I became a doctor in pathology in another office, medicine office. I worked in this sanitary - I don't know how to name, in English - sanitary specialists, about good food, how good preparing food.
Q: Bacteria, and...
JG Yes, yes.
Q: E. coli, salmonella...
JG Yes, yes. Ecologist.
Q: Your job was to prevent diseases from foods.
JG Yes, yes.
Q: Sort of an environmental medicine.
JG Yes. And I worked 37 years in this job. And I was a great specialist because I was a consultant. I had students from medicine institute...
Q: Medical schools.
JG From medical schools, from nutrition schools, and schools of nursing. It's little but they need to know about how to prepare food for children. But I repeat all time, I used to be better than all doctors who worked in my office.
JG Yes, department. When my daughter went to school she had a problem in the grade school with students, other students. My mother-in-law need to go with her to school and returned her home.
Q: Was that because she was Jewish?
JG Because she was Jewish. Another children, other children pushed her and stole, and told very bad words. Was very, very bad. When she graduate high school she want to go to institute but they was very good students in the school but they could not go to institute because a lot of Jewish students, for these students institute was closed.
Q: For Jews?
JG Yes, for Jewish, because they have a testing and the result of testing when I saw this list with people who did not receive a good grade! There was 13 names but 11 names was Jewish.
Q: Those that did not receive good grades.
JG Yes, yes. She was very good student in the school.
Q: So how old is she now?
JG And she had a job and here she studied in the night.
Q: Evening school.
JG Yes, evening school. And she had a job and after job, after working, she went to special school. She became an electrical engineer. She was a very good student, first category, she high specialist work. But in America she can't to be an engineer.
Q: I don't know why not.
JG It's very hard but she has a very good English language. But she can't. She has another friend in this department, in this office, and they need to help you.
Q: Somebody should have connections to get her a job.
JG Yes, yes. In America it's hard too.
Q: Her husband is Russian too?
JG Yes, Jewish too.
Q: And he has a job.
Q: Not a job. That's sad.
JG He is electric engineer too. And my husband was electric engineer.
Q: Electric or electronic.
Q: That is buildings, tools, machinery.
JG Not only building. It's machinery. My husband was in a very great company who made electric generators for machine that made rolled metal.
Q: Oh, they were doing rolled metal.
JG This a lot of electrical machines around. Very hot, people can't touch it. And he was a very great electric engineer in very great company who built these factories in all Ukraine. And my daughter too, she had a job in a train department.
JG Yes, electric too.
Q: They have electrical trains.
Q: So she had a very good job over there.
Q: Here it's very difficult, right?
JG Yes. She is very smart.
Q: And her husband is smart too.
JG Yes, very smart.
Q: And the children go to school here? That's your son-in-law.
JG No, that was my husband.
Q: Oh, that was your husband. Very handsome. So I see some pictures of the family, very handsome family. Father, mother and the daughter mostly. Then there is a picture that Miss Genina is showing me. Her father with her daughter. They are a ll educated people. As you heard earlier, a college education and they were engineers. OK, I'm looking at a picture. Daughter and her sons. This is her husband? That's also a nice American family now, right? They wearing University of Arizona t-shirts.
JG My older grandson, Constantin, he has a scholarship, here in May he will graduate from the high school, Catalina High School. And he has a scholarship to University of Arizona.
Q: Oh that's wonderful. What does he want to do? Engineer too?
JG No, computers.
Q: How old are the children?
JG He is 18. And my younger grandson, he is 16. He is studying in another school, I forgot now. Stas.
Q: Is that his name, Stas?
Q: Stas, and the other one is Constantin? Stanislav and Constantin.
JG Yes. My mother and my father lived until October Revolution in small Jewish village.
Q: In Ukraine?
JG Yes, Ukraine. And my mother and father had small store and he was very religious person. He was in the synagogue he helped the rabbi.
Q: Oh, rabbi's assistant.
JG Assistant, yes, rabbi's assistant. And when was October Revolution and they store was crashed and they house was crashed. And they were lost on the street. My grandmother had six children. They was adult person and they moved to the town to look for a job. But my grandfather, religion grandfather, they don't want to go to town because they understand he could not make a religion.
Q: Could not keep his religion?
JG Yes. And this time government said about Jewish village will be in the Crimea.
Q: Will be burned?
JG Will be built in the Crimea?
JG Yes, Crimea. And next to Black Sea.
Q: Oh, near Odessa.
JG Yes. And there will be Jewish village and will be synagogue and they believed, he believed in that. But my grandmother said "I will not I leave my children" and they were separated, the grandparents. My grandfather believed in the govern ment and go to the Crimea, the village never was built.
Q: It never happened. It was never built.
Q: It was just a promise.
JG And when he died we never know. My grandmother did not know about this. And my grandmother lived with her six children in KKharkovv. One, my aunt, was a doctor too.
Q: What were their names?
Q: The family name, Bela?
JG No, family is Miriamski and older daughter Bela, was a doctor of tuberculosis. She was on the front in World War II in the hospital.
Q: Military hospital.
JG Yes. My aunt...
Q: Your mother's sister?
JG My mother's brother, my uncle, my younger uncle was on World War II and he was a little time in the place that was occupied by fascists.
Q: German occupation.
JG Yes. And they walked, to the front, to the...
Q: Russian combat.
JG Yes. And one of my aunts was very sick and she was in Kharkov when Kharkov was occupied by Germany and she died then. And my two aunts was evacuated to Siberia at this time.
JG No, no. To Siberia.
JG Yes, next. Stalinsk.
JG Yes, Siberia.
Q: But it was not a gulag? They just had to live there.
JG Yes. They lived there and when Kharkov was freed from Germany fascism they returned to Kharkov.
Q: In other words, after the war ended then they actually settled...
JG No. It was in 1944.
Q: So when the Germans moved out of the area...
JG From Ukraine and this part of Ukraine was freed they returned. Many houses were crashed in our town, and our home was crashed because it was bombed.
Q: They bombed it? The Germans?
JG Yes, Germans bombed. And I very good remember how we were evacuated from Kharkov. It was in September 1941, two weeks before fascism entered into Kharkov.
Q: 1941 you said?
JG Yes, 1941. And we walked. I was 10 years old. I am a twin, I have a sister. My sister now lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Q: Is she identical twin? Looked the same?
JG Fraternal. And we, with our mother, we went, I don't know how many miles we walked, but it was several days and nights. And fascists planes were flying and bombing us.
Q: German planes.
JG Yes. And bombs are falling. People who walked on the road were bombed. In one train station, small train station, stood a train. We climbed into the wagons, the freight train, without food, without water, it was cold. And my mother keep us warm all time. And we did not know where goes this train?
Q: When is it going to leave?
JG Yes, we did not know. And then the train went to Belgorod, east of Kharkov. Belgrat, small town, and I very good remember how fly German planes and they have voice, sound, and all people know there are German planes.
Q: German planes?
JG Yes, German planes. And our train stopped and people say "we need to go out from the train" in the field. And my mother keep us on her knee and said "if we crash, we get killed."
Q: But you didn't get killed. [stop] [restart]
Q: Please tell me, all the parents and grandparents were Jewish and religious Jews. OK, did they observe all the holidays: Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanna, Passover, and they all observed this, right? Were you able to get matzoh and wine in Russia ?
JG No. My family, my father and mother were religious persons but they would not worship religion, pray. In Kharkov before October Revolution were eight synagogues but after the revolution, nothing.
Q: No one go to synagogue and pray.
JG No one. And my father met with people who want to worship and it need to be ten men.
Q: A minyan?
JG Yes. And he found these people, persons who want to worship or pray and they look for a room and pay money for this room. But militia went to this room and arrested them. And they could not worship Jewish religion.
Q: So you were saying that the observant Jews they respected the holidays, Passover and all the high holidays, Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur.
JG In my family I knew about these holidays and need to keep this holidays. But we have to do it so that our neighbors did not know.
Q: You have to do it in hiding.
Q: What did they do if they find it?
JG It was very hard for my father because he was not so young. He was religious.
Q: How old was your father?
JG We grew without religion because in school was not religion, any religion. Christian religion, Muslim religion, Jewish religion, nothing.
Q: So your parents kept kosher, if they could?
Q: No kosher foods?
JG When he came to buy this kosher food...
Q: I understand. That's why I'm asking.
JG Yes, but he want, my father...my mother died when she was young...and my father died when he was 92. It was in 1984. He all time wanted to pray but he could not because it was not synagogue in my country. Young people, could not do this. It was too hard for them. I know,my family celebrate these holidays, Jewish holidays, but it was very hard because our neighbors did not know about these holidays, we do it in our apartment, our homes. It was very hard. But I know all Jewish holidays.
Q: Let me ask you something. When boys were born did they circumcise them in Russia? So you're stating that in Russia we couldn't have circumcision for boy babies but the children when they came to America they had the Bar Mitzvah, that's th e grandchildren. In Russia they don't have Bar Mitzvah.
JG No, no, no.
Q: They have no synagogue.
JG No, in 1989 was open Russian synagogue.
Q: That was during Gorbachev.
JG Yes. After glasnost, perestroika.
Q: And there was an understanding and they eased up on it.
JG And one rabbi came to Kharkov and it was in Kharkov very beautiful synagogue. German and Russian government can't crash it, can't destroy it because it's too big, very big walls.
Q: Thick walls, made of stone.
JG Second biggest synagogue in all of Europe, Very beautiful synagogue, in Kharkov, and very big. In this building was fitness club.
Q: Fitness club, for communists?
JG Yes, fitness club. And they did destroy inside.
Q: Destroyed the decorations, symbols.
JG Yes, yes, but one symbol left next to roof, lef thet star, Mogen David. Because they could not destroy it.
Q: So it was saved.
JG Very, very nice. It's a lot of time safe this part of the building.
Q: It was a good sign, right.
JG And when came this rabbi, Lubovich rabbi, he opened two rooms.
JG Yes, for praying.
Q: Tell me. What it is today...
JG And it was opened, a school, Hebrew school for children. And my younger grandson went to this school when he was in second grade.
Q: Julia is now showing me the stones, the gravestones from Russian cemetery where the parents are buried. And this is a mixed cemetery and says ...
JG Genin Abraham Savelyevich and Mirianski Vera Ilynicna. It's changed to Russian.
Q: Maiden name, yeah I see. What does it say here?
JG She died in 1957.
Q: Born in 1902?
Q: Thank you. I see that. What do you expect, did you have any problems with Jewish community here in Tucson? Do you expect more from them? Less from them? They alright? Very helpful to you?
JG I go to Jewish Federation and I am in an active group.
Q: You are?
JG Yes. And I come to meetings and...
Q: Come to meetings?
JG Yes, every month in the Jewish Federation. But for my opinion, it's a lot of mistakes. For people who arrived from Russia, from Ukraine, from former Soviet Union, Jewish synagogue may be separate. Maybe they don't know, what is a people, how to help them to know, what is Jewish religion?
Q: They don't know enough?
JG They don't know. And I think they don't want to know it's my opinion.
Q: You mean even here in Tucson?
JG I don't know in another towns. It's my opinion there are a lot of synagogues. There are a lot of people from Russia, Poland, from Europa who knows in what specific life lived these people in Russia, former Soviet Union. And they need to help them meet with Jewish people.
Q: They should get together with Jewish people because they don't have a, they are missing, they have no understanding. So this is an opportunity and they should help them.
JG And they need to help them.
Q: Who needs to help them? The Jewish people, who live here many years?
JG Yes, it's my opinion.
Q: Can't you force them?
JG I think Jewish synagogue need more activity. Make anything to come to meeting with this people who never knows what is a Jewish holidays. It's need activity. It's very bad for Jewish community, for Jewish synagogue who did not do it. It' s very bad, because they lost lot of Jewish people. Some Jewish people go to Christian church. It's very bad.
Q: A mistake, right?
JG I think it's very big mistake.
Q: So you think that maybe the local Jewish community, the American Jewish community should have special programs to help Russians to learn about Judaism.
Q: That is very good. That is on the record and maybe something will be done. Invite them to come and have special classes.
JG Maybe a lot of people tell them thank you.
Q: Maybe they will appreciate it.
JG Did not know about it. Did not know what's in our blood, our soul. And it's too bad for Jewish synagogue, for Jewish religion, to lost to a lot of people.
Q: Yes, that's correct.
JG Jewish people who never knew, they very bad lived in Russia, former Soviet Union, they only knew about Jewish but what is Jewish? They did not know. They was killed but did not know what is Jewish.
Q: They died for being Jewish but they didn't know what it was to be Jewish? But here they should learn here.
JG Yes. I think that it is very big mistake synagogues, synagogues.
Q: They making a mistake.
JG They make, for money maybe, maybe they need to have busses.
Q: To take them to the synagogue.
JG To take to synagogue. I know my sister lives in Cleveland, Ohio and from one synagogue, small synagogue, no rich synagogue, to their home came on Sunday bus. With this small bus people go to synagogue to pray.
Q: Do you think they would go if they were invited? Some of them would, right?
JG Yes, yes. I think it would be okay. In Tucson enough rich people who can help maybe two hours in a week, in Sunday, to take Jewish people in one synagogue to another. I think it is a general problem in Jewish religion. They have maybe sp ecific group in the synagogue, high group, who need to decide this question. It's my opinion for Jewish people.
Q: Alright. It's on the record and I'm glad you said it. Did you leave anybody behind in Russia? Any of your relatives are still there? Family?
JG My friends, my relatives, all live in Israel, in Germany, in Canada, in America.
Q: But nobody from your family is back there? All left?
JG All left.
Q: This is a question here, not necessarily for people who retired. What are your hopes for future in America?
JG Turn off.
[tape turned off]
Q: OK, this is basically the end of the conversation with Julia Genina. And I appreciate very much and I hope that you can transcribe this and it will be a good record for the future. Thank you Miss Genina.