My short bio: Hello! This is my grandma. She is a Russian Jew who's mother died when she was 10 (in a house fire) and her father died when she was 17 (in WWII). She's lived through some amazing things. She was born in 1924 a little outside of Moscow. Her father fought in WWI, her husband fought in WWII against the Germans (and there's a ton of stories about that). She had a child during WWII and was evacuated from Moscow when the Germans almost got into the city to Uzbekistan. She came over to the US after the wall fell to follow my parents who came in '81. I am running this AMA because even I only know bits and pieces of her story throughout the years and would love to really write them all down.

I will be translating all your questions to Russian, asking them to her and then transcribing her answers to English. I'll also be video taping her answers as well since my parents might be able to translate things better than me.

My Proof: My grandma and I together at her place for a little bit tonight before I head back tomorrow. Somebody mentioned to write on a piece of paper next time with the username so next time I shall. :)

EDIT: I will also be doubling back and asking my parents some of these questions (since they also understand English better than babushka by a long shot). They came over in '81 and were born in '51 and '56 after the wars but they experienced a different type of Russia, which was right before the wall fell.

Also I am terribly sorry if some questions can't be answered, unfortunately my babushka has started developing Alzheimer's and some things are clear and some are not.

EDIT 2: I'm heading back home to my place and I'll go through the questions again with my parents. Thanks guys for listening to the best translations of my grandma as I could do. I may do a different AMA with their perspective but another time. :)

EDIT 3: I'm on the road back to my current home but a lot of extra questions came in from last night so I'll be making some phone calls tonight both to my mum and my grandma. Thank you again guys for listening in!

Comments: 109 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

Mike-Idaho13 karma

Was the US seen by the average Soviet as the Soviet Union was by Americans? Did you have any awesome cold war movies like Red Dawn or Dr. Strangelove that depicted the USSR as the good guys and the US as the baddies? Why couldn't people emigrate, they always had to flee?

amaformybabushka23 karma

My parents said: Smart people wanted to be in America. The rest of the country was brainwashed and was afraid of America.

We normally did not watch any movies like that because it was totally stupid and we did not like the Soviet Union period.

People would be thrown into jail if you tried to leave the country. There was no way to leave the country. It was an iron wall.

amaformybabushka11 karma

For the first question. She in her group always looked favorably on Americans and envied their way of life.

There were movies that depicted the Americans as bad but she tended to avoid those because it was all propaganda. This might be better for my parents to answer later.

People had to run from Russia because literally you could not leave physically. Soldiers were stationed at any and all main points of leaving so you would have to go through them to leave.

HalPhilipWalker10 karma

What was the average citizen's view of Stalin before during and after the war, and how did it change?

amaformybabushka22 karma

So I asked if people liked him before the war. She said, nope, not at all, they were scared. He was cruel and he fought against his own people so nobody thought of fighting back. And generally the opinion never changed except that he was fighting the Germans.

amaformybabushka16 karma

My parents: According to my knowledge they were ecstatic of Stalin (the commoner) initially, but a small percentage of intellectuals understood he was a paranoid murderer. People whose families were disappearing to concentration camps knew the truth and tried to stay quiet because they were afraid they were next. The general population thought the accused were actually committing those crimes.

rishi1310 karma

Can you please explain the environment of that time in moscow ? What was people thinking about war that time ? What army officers tell you , german will win or they still has confidence of winning ?

amaformybabushka9 karma

It was tough in Moscow during the war. There was nothing in the stores. They gave out cards to the people and it would allow you like 300g of food and 300g of something else as an example. In general they all thought they would win even when they evacuated the city to Uzbekistan. She was taken to Uzbekistan sometime in December she believes and came back as soon as she could have.

lumoruk7 karma

What do you think of Putin?

amaformybabushka37 karma

She laughed and called him some nice Russian curses.

lumoruk-4 karma

Is the painting in the background a nod to the nazi's that rigged paintings to explode when officers would attempt to straighten them?

amaformybabushka5 karma

I just told her about the rigged paintings and she said she never knew about that.

amaformybabushka20 karma

My parents said a KGB guy will always be a KGB guy.

twochurchills6 karma

What do you miss the most about Russia? Have you visited since you emigrated? USSR truly had a lost generation of men after the war, how did that change the culture? What was the general atmosphere like when VE day was declared?

amaformybabushka11 karma

She says she misses nothing in Russia and never went back to Russia. She likes America more.

After the war women were fighting for the leftover men since in that time women still heavily relied on the men.

On VE day (or Day of Winning directly translated) was super happy and there were parades on the Red Square. On the radio they said that the war was over. Tried to get some more details but she doesn't quite remember except the feelings.

amaformybabushka9 karma

My mum: At this point I don't miss much. Before we missed living in a real city, not just a city in America. We missed our friends and family but at this point they're all here.

We have not gone back since we came here.

For the VE day. She said my grandmother heard on the radio was afraid to venture out because of the crowds because my sister was about 9 months and she was afraid of a stampede. People were crying and rejoicing.

ZomarOfTheNightfall6 karma

My mother grew up in Azerbaijan in the times of the Soviet Union, and one thing she said she was taught was that Hitler colluded with the Polish against the Russians, is this consistant with what you were taught?

amaformybabushka6 karma

I asked her and she says they never mentioned anything about the Polish working against them. It might be a specific thing to Azerbaijan. Moscow was also a little different from the rest of Russia as well for news.

Mike-Idaho6 karma

What's your best recipe for a Russian stew?

amaformybabushka13 karma

Her favorite recipe is a mushroom soup but after that she remembers only bits and pieces. She has a lady cook for her. This is a question I'll ask my mum since I believe we wrote it somewhere.

pamplemouss6 karma

What were your first weeks/months/years in the US like? What took the longest to get used to? And, what is your best Jewish-grandmother recipe you'd like to pass on?

amaformybabushka9 karma

She said she felt great. She said that she just took everything in and was super happy to just be in America. The food was different and she thought that it was incredible how full the grocery stores were compared to Russia. She says she'll have to try to remember a good recipe since now she doesn't eat much. She did used to make me bezee which is like a whipped egg white with sugar thing.

I believe the immigration question might go well with my parents since they came in 81 before my grandmother so I'll ask them as well.

amaformybabushka8 karma

My mum: Terrifying.

Texas accent and the fact that there are no cities (in the European sense of a city).

(My parents ended up Texas when they came over because Boston was closed at that time when they came over and they didn't want to go to NYC because of the crime.)

pamplemouss-6 karma

Texas sounds like the absolute worst place to go! My great-grandparents all came to either New York or Boston, so there were plenty of other Eastern European immigrants around.

amaformybabushka17 karma

My mum: Texas was actually one of the best places to go because you have to learn to speak English and you have to do it fast. There weren't any other immigrants. Also the people were very nice and warm. It was better to be an immigrant than a damn Yankee. They're very genuine, those people. I hated the humidity in Houston.


What is one fact that shocked her related to the WWII?

What has she learnt from her experiences that everyone should know and remember?

How does she feel about communism today?


amaformybabushka17 karma

My mum: Remember the history. Don't forget the history. If you forget it, it has a tendency to repeat itself.

I hate communism the same way I hated it before. Communism and fascism is basically the same thing.

amaformybabushka10 karma

She said in general WWII was a huge shock.

Her wise words are that you live how you're supposed to. How you think you should live and not how anybody else says.

She says she doesn't care about communism. She lives here now so to her it's all far away.

thefaceofawesome5 karma

Do you have any stories from back when you were in the USSR? What was the coolest thing that you saw over there?

amaformybabushka11 karma

My mum: The nature was absolutely gorgeous and since it was the USSR and the countries were connected traveling was amazing. Museums in Russia were very good. Classical music concerts in Moscow were very good. Theater watching the plays as well.

Coolest thing you could go camping (it's not like America where you have a shower and a toilet), you really camped in the wilderness and you could really be in the middle of nowhere.

amaformybabushka7 karma

She says the coolest thing was the museums in Russia and the dances that happened everyday. The dances were in the clubs and they played foxtrot, tango, waltz, and other ones.

JimmyTorpedo2 karma

My grandfather also fought in WWII, he never talked about the hard times because its was better to talk about the funny good times. Any good stories about her husband or father?

Also she has seen so much in life, what are her thoughts on the internet? Does she realize her words are possibly reaching millions of people, and a good portion of those people are probably pooping while reading/commenting? (This is a serious question lol)

amaformybabushka9 karma

She says unfortunately the times were generally tough and there weren't any funny or happy stories to talk about.

She just laughed when I translated the last portion and said she doesn't really think anything of it. She says she doesn't care what they're sitting on and doing but the whole business of the internet just made her shrug her shoulders. She really stopped at the TV point technology wise.

amaformybabushka2 karma

My mum: There were a lot of stories about how my dad escaped from a German concentration camp and how he sat in a broken tank in February talking to his comrades telling them where the Nazis were so they could hit them.

Sunderpool2 karma

In 91 years you have seen a lot. What is the funniest joke you have heard?

amaformybabushka7 karma

She just shook her head and went I don't tell people jokes. Trying to drag it out of her but she might not remember that unfortunately. Sorry about that one. :(

ChronicHerpes2 karma

Why did she leave for America? If it was possible would she have left earlier? Also how did citizens view USSR soldiers?

amaformybabushka10 karma

She came to America because her daughters were in America already and she was the only one left. My parents (my mum is her daughter) came in '81 and told her to come. She couldn't leave any earlier because they didn't let people leave. There was just a window that opened up in the emigration that she could. She was also taking care of my parents dog while they were setting up base in America.

She viewed the soldiers as people fighting for their country. Her husband was actually a military man as well and was 26 when he married her. She was 18 or 19.

ChronicHerpes2 karma

Awesome, thanks for doing this AMA btw. Another follow up question, did your grandmother's view of USSR soldiers change when the Cold War was at its peak and when she wanted to move to America? Was she more scared/threatened by them?

amaformybabushka4 karma

Well in Russia it wasn't the soldiers that were bad, it was the KGB. She tried her hardest to avoid both though as things got more tense.

amaformybabushka9 karma

My mum: We left because of anti-semitism and because we absolutely hated living under the communist regime.

Yes we would have left earlier, ideally when we were just born with the parents but we left as soon as we could.

Nobody cared about the soldiers really. We actually felt sorry for all those kids who were just drafted to the army. Smarter kids were trying to get into college to not get drafted.

Ekolot2 karma

How long after the war did she see her husband again? It must have been years.

amaformybabushka8 karma

Kostya (her husband) and her married when she was 18. Trying to get some dates out of her but her memory is kinda foggy. She said he did come back after the end of the war and left almost at the beginning so essentially he was gone the full length of the war. One of her daughters, Sveta, was born during the war but she forgot the exact date. She did mention that there was very little food so she couldn't produce milk.

amaformybabushka5 karma

My mum said that apparently it took a few weeks after the war ended for him to come home. (I think)

MathAndFerrets1 karma

What are some of the most influential books you think have had the biggest impact on the world over your life?

amaformybabushka6 karma

My mum: I don't talk for the world. The world is so heterogeneous you can't say that, but you can say the Bible for a big chunk of the world. For me, Master and Margarita.

amaformybabushka3 karma

She loved Jack London books and pointed to her bookshelf for me to check it out. So one moment. And then said she loved absolutely every book, they all left a mark on her. I pointed at Tolstoy and she even loved that.

MathAndFerrets1 karma


amaformybabushka1 karma

I'll see if I can see some more of the books but they are in Russian so its fun to try to read the titles and translate them.


Thanks for doing this! You have already been asked what you missed the most, but what were you happiest to get away from when you moved to the US?

amaformybabushka5 karma

She didn't like the bad things people did to each other. The general corruption and horribleness of people.

Hilardy1 karma

Did she ever witness any large soldier march (eg. - during the War?

amaformybabushka3 karma

She said of course she saw this in Moscow going through the streets. I asked if she saw them in the Red Square and she said that was more for parades. Parades were for March 1st (no idea what that holiday is) and some ones in October.

CStel1 karma

I wish I had access to my Russian-side grandparents like this, but too late now. It's fascinating getting first hand accounts/opinions. Out of curiosity, are you personally interested in the history? For your grandma, what's the most important thing she learned and believes about life?

amaformybabushka10 karma

I actually just lost my other grandmother two days ago (funeral was today) and I've been meaning to do a video of my parents and my grandmother since I was born and raised here and never experienced the same hardship as any of them. The funeral today just told me to do it now. I regret not doing it earlier because her Alzheimer's is really kicking in.

She believes to be (I think) truthful and never do harm to others. To never wish bad upon another.

amaformybabushka8 karma

My mum: You need to understand that you can have absolutely everything you want in life. You can create your own variate of life. You need to want what you really want. What your inner self wants, not what other people want or what's in or fashionable. The goal is to get to a place which makes you personally happy.

paulatina8-1 karma

Any advice in case the Russians take over the world? I tried to learn Russian, but the teacher was too hot, couldn't concentrate during classes. And all of the other teachers were just as hot :(

amaformybabushka5 karma

My parents: You learn to play the game and stay low profile.

---Eagle----8 karma

Your proof is just a picture of your grandmother - you could just be making up these responses 'from your grandmother', couldn't have her hold a paper with IAMA written on it or something?

amaformybabushka1 karma

I'll be sure to do that next time. :)

f6fhelldweller-10 karma

Does the word ''Athiest'' remind you of communism?

amaformybabushka2 karma

My grandmother says for her personally they are very different things.