Russian Veterans Oral History Project


These personal stories are part of the history of European Jewish migration to America encompassing German Jews in the mid nineteenth century, Jews from Czarist Russia who arrived at the turn of that same century and the beginning of the twentieth, and the smaller settlement of post-World War II refugees. Their tales are also part of the much larger immigration story that is the foundation of American history— the story of being pushed out of one’s native country because of discrimination and hopelessness and being pulled toward a country that promised freedom of religion and economic opportunity.

The people whose stories you are reading lived through the effects of the Russian revolution, the German invasion during World War II, the Stalinist anti-Semitic campaign and its poisonous after-effects, the wrenching decision to leave when it became possible, and the difficulties of resuming their life in a strange land.

Accounts have been shortened, tenses corrected, and the definite article has been added, which does not exist in Russian. Stories have been changed without adding the usual ellipses in order to avoid a blizzard of periods. Parentheses have been eschewed when changes we made. This has been done for several reasons: We wanted to capture the voices of the respondents and the sound of Russian grammatical construction without making the respondents sound awkward to ears accustomed to English. We walked the fine line between presenting authentic voices and not making our story-tellers sound clumsy. Return often we hope to add further accounts in the future.

Be sure to check out JHSUM’s exhibits Old Lives, New Lives: Soviet Jewish Women in Minnesota and The Great Patriotic War.
Click here to view JHSUM’s pathfinder for more Soviet Jewish history resources.