1994 | Kiev, Ukraine | Age: 59
I wanted to take something that would remind me of my parents. I think of them often anyway, but I wanted to keep a tangible memento. This figurine is in itself a memory of my father. He loved antiques and did a lot of personal research on them. After the War, “trophies” were brought over from Germany and sold in the central consignment store, and antiques dealers would hunt for these treasures. My father would sleep outside the store all night so that he would get first pick the next morning. He had amassed a modest collection that I had inherited, but I couldn’t legally take most of it out of the country. I got special permission from the government to take this one figurine. It's from Dresden. It had been illegal for soldiers to steal things from Germany after the War, so you can see that the maker’s mark was rubbed off in order for it to have been smuggled out and brought to the Soviet Union.
I brought kitchen utensils not only because they would be useful, but also because they reminded me of my mother-in-law, with whom I had lived for a long time, and whom I loved and respected very much. I called her my “mama Sonya.” Those things that she had used, I took with me to America. This is her meat grinder, which I had gotten for her on a vacation in Riga. It’s probably about 50 years old, and you know, I still use it. This is a mandoline slicer, which she used to shred cabbage, and which I still use to do the same. I’ve tried an electric meat grinder and a plastic mandoline, but these are so much better than anything I’ve tried here. So it’s a very good thing that I brought them! It’s a matter of habit. I had lived most of my lifetime there.
The Soviet Union was so vast, comprising so many countries and cultures - Latvia, Estonia, the Caucuses. I would travel as much as I could, and I would bring something back from each of the places I visited. For example, I brought sets of plates from the Baltics. From Bukhara I brought crockery, bowls with a distinct Uzbek design. Before we emigrated, my husband and I went with a tour group to Uzbekistan and visited the three major cities, including Samarkand, where I had lived for 4 years in evacuation during the War. It’s a special place to me. It’s the city of my childhood. I still remember every address where we stayed during that time, and on this trip all those years later, I had spent the most time in Samarkand visiting those same places.
This ring is from my mother. Because my husband didn’t give me a wedding band, my mother gave me hers. These two rings were given to me by my students - one from one graduating class; the other from another. They are very old. I used to wear them all the time, but now only on rare, special occasions. But can you imagine - so many years have passed, and they still fit.These pieces are connected to my job, my career, my school, and my students because these were gifts from them.