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Jewish Journal

Joys of growing up in Communist Soviet Union, and other tales of my Family.

by Julia Bendis

February 16, 2011 | 9:39 am

-While my husband, growing up in Ohio got to go on potato chip factory field trips, my brother and I got to go on Concentration Camp field trips.  Look up Salaspils in Latvia.

-When most kids got to play with Barbies, toy trucks and teddy bears, I got to play with syringes, which my brother and I used to prick my doll with, in the behind.  My Mother worked in a hospital laboratory, and occasionally brought home Medical paraphernalia. See picture.

-We were so proud of not only having a push button TV, instead of a dial, but also a whole of three channels.  One was a 24-hour Communist brainwashing news channel, the other an all-Latvian language channel (which only my father spoke fluently), and third which only had cartoons on Saturday mornings for an hour, the rest of the time it showed Red Square parades, and other Communist propaganda.

-When we first came to the States, we moved in with relatives who were kind enough to house a family of four in their home.  My Uncle invited us to go to Denny’s one day.  Having never heard of Denny’s or knowing what it was, we all ran to our rooms and came out with our finest apparel we owned.  As my Uncle stood in his t-shirt and shorts waiting for us, we paraded out of the house looking as if we were going to a Royal Ball.  People in Russia dressed up for every occasion.  It didn’t matter if they were taking a quick trip to the supermarket, a Doctor’s appointment or a meeting with friends.

-To live in Soviet Union one had to master the art of bribery.  Not only master it, but study it, learn it, and live it.  My grandmother was best at it.  At all times she carried a couple bars of chocolate with her, and large bills just in case you needed to bribe someone with it.  It isn’t that chocolate was hard to find in Russia, but it was more of a symbol of gratitude.  She would start bribing with chocolate, but if that didn’t work she would pull out the big bucks.  Doctors, supermarket employees, teachers, summer camp counselors, you name it she bribed them!  Her motto was: “Why take a chance that the Doctor will screw up when I can pay him to drink Vodka AFTER the surgery is done!”  We always got special treatment everywhere we went, but at a young age you don’t know why you are getting it…  We just assumed that my grandparents were famous people, what a shock to your system only to find out that it isn’t the case.  Later, I started to notice why we’d be seated at most popular restaurants way ahead of people that have been there before us, as I watched my grandmother slip something into the Manager’s pocket.  My grandfather was always ashamed of it, and stayed as far away as he could during those moments.  It was always my 4-foot-nothing-90-pound grandmother hard at work.

-To read more funnies: www.easternblocklox.wordpress.com  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I was born in Ukraine, in the former USSR, and grew up in Riga, Latvia which is on the Baltic Sea.  My family and I immigrated to the United States in 1989, right before the...

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