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the persistence of memory

D’s grandfather was an avid photographer. He purchased his first camera in the postwar years and always dreamed of living in an apartment that would be big enough to house a small darkroom. This dream, crushed by the realities of life in Soviet Russia, never came to fruition, but this did not stop D’s grandfather from faithfully chronicling his family through the years.

young Grandpa Boris, year unknown

Sadly, most of those photographs got lost in the shuffle of immigration. D had long thought about sorting through the ones that survived the move to America and scanning them for his family. During our recent visit stateside, he finally got started, unearthing a few real gems in the process.

1943 - Great-grandpa David and war buddy

This photo dates to late 1943. D’s great-grandfather David (right) fought in both World Wars and managed to live to tell about it, though the second World War left him a scarred man. D is named after him, though D’s parents thought his name was too obviously Jewish to give to their son, and only kept the first letter.

1952, March - Grandpa Boris and Navy buddies

D’s grandfather (back row, second right) began his service in the Baltic fleet half a decade after the war. He was in the boiler room when the ship went over a mine. He survived, but the explosion would leave him with lingering health problems throughout the rest of his life.

Grandpa Boris, Saturday labor, date unknown

Military service wasn’t the only service that was obligatory during Soviet times. Here D’s grandfather (right) poses with a couple of friends out on a subotnik — the mandatory Saturday community service on which the Soviet government relied.

1949 - Grand Boris and great-aunt Sveta

Proving that selfies were in vogue long before the advent of cell phones and digital cameras. Taken in postwar Moscow, this photo features Grandpa Boris’s first camera and his future sister-in-law, D’s great aunt Svetlana.

Grandma's grandparents Abram and Riva

This photo of D’s maternal great-great grandparents, Abram and Riva, is at least a hundred years old, and then some.

1909 - photo from distant relative Goldfayn in Chernigov, who was awarded a medal in 1904 by Tsar Nicolai

A curious find, one of the few photographs that feature a total stranger. This portrait, captured in 1909, was taken by one of D’s distant relatives. In 1904, he was awarded a gold medal by Tsar Nicholas II for his artistic photography — quite an accomplishment for a Jew living in a Ukrainian shtetl!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. These photos are so gorgeous. The closest I have is one of my grandmother and her nursing friends before the Finnish war.

    June 16, 2015
    • Thanks :) There are quite a few more, and I suspect it’s going to take quite some time to scan — never mind to digitally repair — them.

      June 16, 2015

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