Yuliy Vaysman, Ella Romm, Michael Romm: другие произведения.

From Bessarabia To... Story of a Life

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  Story of a Life
  Part One
  Memoirs by Yuliy Vaysman
  Compiled and edited by Ella Romm
  Translated from Russian
  by Ella and Michael Romm
  San Diego, USA, 2019
  In memory of all my loved ones
  ISBN 978-0-359-44217-1 9
  No Yuliy Vaysman and Ella Romm, 2019
  My Roots: The Meites Family
  The earliest memories about my family are going to the pre-war years when my parents, Genya and Lev Vaysman, and I lived in Kishinev, in my grandmother Tseytl's house, several years after my grandfather Yoil's death.
  Tseytl Averbuch (Meites)
  Yoil Meites
  The city of Kishinev was first mentioned in 1436. After the war with Napoleon in 1812, Kishinev and all of Bessarabia became a part of the Russian Empire until 1918. After the First World War, it was taken by Romania. In 1940, due to the rearrangement of the European territories between Germany and the
  USSR, Bessarabia (now called Moldavia) became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (one of 15 republics of the USSR. Then, it gained independence as the state of Moldova in 1991.
  Grandfather Yoil Meites came from a family of rabbis, and grandmother Tseytl was (by a family legend) a descendant of the famous rabbi Ben Sarah who was born in 1791 in Poland.
  Yoil Meites was born in the town of Balta, Bessarabia (near Odessa, Ukraine) which was a small outpost on the northern border of the Ottoman Empire (in Turkish Balta means an axe). From the 18th to the 20th centuries, most of the townspeople were Jews. The city survived two pogroms, a plague and a major flooding during this time. According to the Bessarabian archives, Meites family moved from Balta to Kishinev in the late 19th century.
  Grandfather Yoil had a family business that mainly consisted of collecting, utilizing and selling secondary materials (mostly clothes) to factories. After his death (around 1925), his wife Tseytl and the children (mostly his son Kolman) were running the business. I remember the piles of worn clothes in the backyard and the workers who, with primitive machines, were packing it into countless bags. I also recall the animal bones that were processed into bone coal and sold to a sugar factory as an adsorbent. Grandfather Yoil ran his business together with his half-brother Yosef. While on a business trip in Warsaw, Yosef was accidentally killed by police in crossfire with bandits.
  My great-grandmother Esther was married twice, once to a religious widower with children, and Yosef was a son from a previous marriage. Esther herself ran the business trading lubricants. She died at old age of pneumonia. Yosef had four children. His wife Aidl died young of cancer. After her tragic and unexpected death, the care of Yosef's family was placed on Yoil's shoulders, who by then already had 3 sons, Yankel, Eliyahu, Kolman, and two daughters, Clara and Genya. Successful business allowed Yoil not only to provide the food for a large family but also to educate all the boys. Even one of his nieces, who had shown interest in knowledge, completed 4 grades of the elementary school even though education for girls was not popular in those days.
  Meites' house was located on the outskirts of Kishinev, on Pavlovskaya Street, next to the railway station Visternicheny, on a small river Byik. There were large rooms filled with heavy wooden furniture. Each summer Yoil sent his family out of city. In 1903, this custom saved Meites from the famous Kishinev pogrom, known as pogrom on Asian Street. The pogrom was triggered by the murder of a 14-years-old boy for which the newspaper 'Bessarabetz' blamed the Jews. As a result of the pogrom, 49 people were killed, 586 were wounded or injured and over 1500 houses that made up one third of all households in Kishinev were destroyed. The Kishinev pogrom received a great public outcry in Europe and Russia in the beginning of the 20th century. A famous Russian writer Lev Tolstoy and professors of the Moscow University Vladimir Vernadskiy and Sergey Trubetzkoy accused the Russian state of acquiescence of the murderers.
   In the United States, my daughter met Mabel Meites, a widow of Professor Joseph Meites, my second cousin. In 1920, his father immigrated to the United States along with his family. Prof. Joseph Meites became a major American neurophysiologist who studied the processes of aging. His studies served as the basis for his students Guillemin, Schally, and Yalow, the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1977. Prof Meites' brother Samuel became an American biochemist, historian of medicine and specialist in lab diagnostics.
  Now let's go back to my grandfather Yoil Meites. His second son Kolman, who was also involved in the family business, was a solid man with a smile. I remember his petite wife Pesya wearing her colorful robe. On the July 28, 1940, after the Soviets occupied Bessarabia and entered Kishinev, Kolman Meites and his wife were arrested and sent into exile where Kolman died of typhus in the town of Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Grandmother Tseytl escaped such a fate because, luckily, she was not at home when the NKVD1 arrested her son.
  The eldest son of Yoil Meites, Ilyusha (Eliyahu Meitus, a famous Hebrew poet in the future), displayed great interest in literature and was sent to study at the Sorbonne University in Paris which he later left unfinished due to the outbreak of the First World War.
  Continuing his education in Petrograd University, Ilyusha joined the other Jewish poets of Russia led by Khaim Bialik, a poet who wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish. During the revolution, Ilyusha was on the Interim Government's side but grandfather Yoil saved his son from the upcoming upheaval in Petrograd by transferring him to the Odessa University closer to home.
  Eliyahu Meites
  After the so called Brest Peace Accord2, Bessarabia (Moldova) was ceded to Romania, and Ilyusha was told to return to Kishinev immediately to stay with his family.
  By that time, he had been married, but his wife Betty had not wanted to follow her husband and stayed on the other side of the Russian border. Eliyahu
  Meites became a Director of the Jewish gymnasium3 in Soroki in 1921, and then went to Palestine with his second wife Lisa in 1935.
  There, he worked as a teacher, and also published his poems and translations. The first poem in Hebrew ('Lilith') was published in 1910 in the magazine 'haShiloah' with support from Khaim Bialik. In Palestine and later, when it became the state of Israel, he published several poetry books, a large anthology of contemporary poetry, and memories of his childhood and youth years in Kishinev. He also gained popularity as a translator, mainly from Yiddish. Among his translations into Hebrew are Baudelaire's 'Fleurs du Mal' (Flowers of evil) and two volumes of military memoirs of Charles de Gaulle. I remember my mother repeating lines from his lyrics: 'You're so tender, you're so gentle, as if you were woven from the rays of the moon...' We possess a book of Eliyahu's sonnets 'On the edge of the Second Bridge' written in Hebrew. Here is a translation of the sonnet 'I am like a living gem...' by Sheli Fain from Canada:
  I am like a living gem in a fog of the Universe
  Stuck in the darkness of the Ecumenical Tower,
  I am rising forward behind God,
  I will not fall: my palm is in His hand.
  Look, I did not escape the wanderer's fate,
  The road got entangled in the net of the foreign Moon.
  But give me time and we will stay in the doorsteps
  Of the sacred Palace- the point of beginning.
  There has been blazing eye fire,
  There is a warm ray of light in the depths of amber,
  There is the silence of forests and seeds of meadows;
  Always will come the right day among the stream of days,
  In spite the fog on the mirror of the Universe,
  The grieving soul shall arise, of course.
  Once uncle Ilyusha arrived in Kishinev, he brought a colorful oriental dress for my mother and a book of postage stamps for me. This caused me to begin collecting stamps, although the first collection unfortunately completely disappeared during the World War II. In 1946, I started collecting again. Now, my collection has thousands of stamps and is waiting for my disciples.
  Eliyahu Meitus Street in Tel Aviv
  During the war and especially the harsh post-war years, we repeatedly received parcels from the Red Cross with clothing and food, and, it seemed to me, all that was coming from my uncle in Palestine. However, that was not the case. My uncle Ilyusha explained that, while working as a teacher and financing his own books, he was not able to help us. I remember how my father sent a few packages with paper to Palestine for the publishing purposes.
  The youngest Yoil's son Yankel died at the age of 20 of complications following his bike accident. Yoil's daughter Klara died of childbirth, leaving a baby girl Esther in the care of her father. In 1939, Esther was visiting us in Kishinev, and I felt in love for the first time in my life. By then, my father had rented a 4-bedroom apartment on Prunkulovskaya Street (which continued as General Inzov Street).
  House on Prunkulovskaya Street (photo by Steinchik)
  General Inzov was a Governor of Bessarabia during the famous Russian poet A. Pushkin's exile in Kishinev. Esther had visited us at the time when my father bought a wagon of apples in Romania for resale, and the entire apartment was soaked in a fragrant odor and packed with numerous boxes. Later, our family had learned the tragic story of Esther's death. At the age of 16, she had married a Romanian engineer. In 1940, the fascist regime of General Antanesku came to power in Romania. In 1941 or 1942, Esther and her husband tried to escape from the regime on a ship that sank in the Black Sea. Perhaps, it was the Bulgarian ship 'Struma', that was evacuating the Jewish refugees to Palestine but was hit by a Soviet submarine on February 24, 1942.
  The story of the Meites family ends with my mother Genya, who was called Anna most of the time. My father affectionately called her Kutzala, from the Romanian name Anikutza. The exact date of birth of Anna Meites is not known. Although her passport had her date of birth in the year of 1906, I think that she was born at the beginning of the century because she remembers episodes related to the 1903 pogrom.
  Genya (Anna) Vaysman (Meites) 1970, Sholokhovskiy
  1 NKVD - People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs during the era of Joseph Stalin, the primary state ministry responsible for the mass terror.
  2The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace treaty signed on 3 March 1918 between the new Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire), that ended Russia's participation in the World War I.
  3Gymnasium is a type of a common school for the general education of children.
  My Roots: Vaysman family
  My grandfather Mendel was a strong and respectful man. He led the entire family where everybody grouped around him. Each Saturday, all the relatives would seat together around the huge table and grandmother Heyved (Yekheved), who was taller than her husband, would stand near him with a bottle of wine that grandpa Mendel drank after praying on the bread. Then, he would wipe his moustache, and Shabbat began. I remember how the table was full of massive geese and turkeys, fish and pastrami, all cooked by my grandma and numerous relatives participating in the meal. Grandpa Mendel was a merchant. He was buying grain from Moldavian farmers and selling it to the mills. Grain was delivered on big wagons and stored in a huge barn in the backyard. This yard stood side by side with my mother family's yard. Grandpa Mendel had established very good relationships with the farmers. When they would bring grain, he fed and treated them with wine, and the peasants respected him. He was very religious and belonged to the synagogue that stood across the road.
  My father Lev Vaysman was the fifth, or, possibly, the seventh, child in the family, but all the prior children died very early in life. He also had three younger siblings, David, Ita and Kopel.
  My father graduated from a Jewish school that coincidentally was named after a Vaysman, unknown to us. He started to help grandpa Mendel in his business buying grain and selling it to the mills. At some point, grandpa, wishing to get his son more education, sent him to Vienna Polytechnic Institute that my dad had not finished for an unknown reason. He came back to Kishinev to continue working as a trader. When time came to serve in the Romanian army, grandpa Mendel took advantage of the law that allowed him to pay off his son's service. He gave the senior officer some money and a horse, and my dad became a second lieutenant and was released from the duty. However, this ridiculous episode played an ill joke with my father later, when the Soviet authorities charged him with espionage based on his service in the Romanian army that actually never happened.
  Aunt Ita died young leaving two daughters to her husband, Galya and Raya. He lived in Bulboki near Kishinev.
  Ita Vaysman and her husband Lazer Shpigel
  The Meites and Vaysman families lived side by side, and after my parents got married, they stayed in grandmother Tseytl's house where I was born in 1928. I was named Yuliy after my grandfather Yoil. When I was 3, we moved from the Meites' house to the two-bedroom apartment on Prunkulovskaya Street in the yard of Mr. Katz. In this apartment, my brother Fima was born in 1934. Soon after his birthday, we moved to the four-bedroom apartment on the 2nd floor in the same building. At the age of 4, Fima fell from the second floor window. It seemed that he lost his balance while I had turned away. I tried to grab his leg unsuccessfully, able to catch only a shoe that stayed in my hand. He fell directly into the flower pot, which obviously softened his fall. I ran outside and brought him home. Luckily, uncle Kopel had walked by, and so he called Dr. Urbanovich, our family doctor. There were no consequences to the fall, except for a scar. This outcome significantly diminished a sense of guilt that I experienced after this accident.
  As a child, I had a nanny named Nastya. Nastya often took me to the Pushkin Park where she would meet with a young priest. According to my mother, I had curly hair and wore fashionable sailor's suits in those times.
  Having the opportunity to move to a more prestigious area, my father chose the central part of Gogol Street, opposite of the famous Cathedral and the Triumphal Arch built in honor of the Russian victory over Napoleon in 1812. It was a type of middle class apartment with four bedrooms and a piano in one of them. Renting this apartment meant that my father had reached a certain level in his commercial enterprise. My mother always had a maid and we lived happily until 1940 when the Soviets arrived in Bessarabia.
  Uncle David, my father's brother also participated in the business of my grandfather Mendel, albeit, to a lesser extent. Being a handsome young man, he loved to be surrounded by beautiful women. His future wife Ester was one of them. My uncle's fate turned out to be similar to the fate of my father - they both were arrested by NKVD. In the beginning of the war, uncle David was sent to Siberia for participating in the Zionist movement and for the so called economic counter-revolution. After his release way after the war, he settled in Lvov, Ukraine, where his family lived at that time.
  Let me turn to the memories of uncle David's daughter Bima who writes: 'Dad was arrested in 1941 by the NKVD for Zionist activities. According to him, he was an activist of Maccabi society. This Kishinev organization actively supported the repatriation of Jews to Israel, and dad was helping people moving to Palestine with fake documents.
  He served in Siberia (Republic of Komi, the city of Solikamsk) chopping woods for more than 6 years. In the harsh conditions of survival, he suffered from severe frost bites on the legs which affected his health through the rest of the life. He came back with no right to leave near the major cities, as people were saying, 'no closer than the 101 kilometer' (from Moscow). At the end, he was officially rehabilitated from all prior charges but the certificate came years later.
  David Vaysman (left) and Lev Vaysman (right) with David's wife Ester and daughter Bima
  (An interesting coincidence: dad was released and died on the Victory Day1, although years apart.) '
  My father's younger brother, Kopel, was not repressed by the Soviets. However, his personal life has evolved very dramatically. He was married three times. His first wife Rosa came from a wealthy family.
  Rosa (Rakhel) Merems and Kopel Vaysman, 28 July 1934, Kishinev
  Rosa and Kopel lived nearby, on the Pavlovskaya Street. I remember a comfortable mansion with beautiful furniture. When the war began, Rosa was not able to flee Kishinev and ended up in the ghetto together with her little daughter Tanya, who was later brutally murdered by the Nazis.
  Tanya Vaysman before the War
  An elderly doctor working there helped Rosa to survive in the ghetto. After the war, Rosa became his wife out of a sense of duty, but they were soon repressed as unreliable survivors of the ghetto and exiled to Siberia. There, they had a boy, who died in early childhood. After the war, I saw Aunt Rosa just once, when she came to visit my mother.
  As for uncle Kopel, he served in Iran in time of the war, where the Soviet troops occupied the northern part of the country. Together with the British troops, they carried out a corridor of assistance under the Lend-Lease2. I remember him in the American leather coat upon returning to Kishinev after the war. In 1944, Kopel managed to find us in Northern Kazakhstan through the Buguruslan Agency3.
  Moreover, he miraculously found the addresses of two other brothers who were serving terms in Siberia and we, being in the Northern Kazakhstan, received a letter from my father. Obviously, the fate provided so that one of the brothers stayed free to bring back together all the Vaysmans who were scattered all over the country in those terrible years.
  In peacetime, uncle Kopel worked in Zagotzerno4 together with my father.
  There, he met his second wife, Maria, with whom he lived on the Pirogov Street. After Maria's death, uncle Kopel married for the third time. His third wife, Lea, had worked in the prestigious food shop on the Lenin Street and supplied all the relatives with scarce groceries. Uncle Kopel also worked in a grocery store on the Kostyuzheny Highway.
  After the Aunt Lea's death, uncle Kopel stayed alone. My cousin Galya, who lived nearby, was helping him with the housework. One time, nobody opened the door. His Gipsy neighbors broke the door and found uncle Kopel seated in an armchair near a TV still turned on. He was dead. His difficult life and lonely death deserve regret and sympathy
  Kopel Vaysman after war. Kishinev
  Not to finish on a sad note, let's remember that the Vaysman brothers loved football and, together with us, the kids, and even with their wives, had not missed a single match at the Kishinev Stadium. I and uncle David rooted for Dynamo of Tbilisi, a Georgian team. My brother Fima's favorite was Dynamo of Moscow, and uncle Kopel preferred Spartak of Moscow. Altogether, they rooted for Burevestnik of Kishinev.
  Kopel Vaysman, Lev Vaysman and David Vaysman
  1The Victory Day - the Victory in WW2, in USSR was celebrated on the 9th of May.
  2The Lend-Lease policy, formally titled An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States, was an American program to defeat Germany, Japan and Italy by distributing food, oil, and materiel between 1941 and August 1945.
  3Buguruslan Agency - an agency in the town of Buguruslan, Orenburg region of Russia, helped people to find each other during and after the WW2.
  4Zagotzerno - Bureau of Grain Procurement in the Soviet Union.
  Change of Government in Bessarabia
  In the summer of 1939, my father, Lev Vaysman, decided to take a vacation and for the first time brought me to the Romanian mountains of Carpaty. After an hour, in a train we arrived at the station Pozharito. I remember an empty platform early in the morning, the fresh scent of herbs and mountains, rare local residents, dressed in white clothes, offering housing and fresh milk.
  Our host was Austrian. She fed us enormous number of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I still see freshly baked sweets served with tea and diversity of other stuff. Hiking in the mountains, we met my geography teacher Mr. Chekir who asked me about my summer homework.
  Every day we were going to the railway station to buy a newspaper. On one occasion, I saw a train platform loaded with German tanks. I clearly remember black swastika painted on a green background. The military train headed south and my father decided to come back home immediately. To the surprise of my mother, we were back the next day. She met us at the door holding my little brother Fima.
  I also remember another episode from 1940 when the Romanian newspaper was lying on my father's desk showing a huge printed portrait of a man with the inscription: 'The famous Russian revolutionary leader Lev Trotskiy was killed in Mexico'. I also recall reading news about war in Spain.
  On July 28th, 1940, we witnessed the entry of the Soviet troops into Kishinev. Majority of the people came to this event as it was a celebration. We sat at the table on Alexander (later, Lenin) street, and watched how the Soviet tanks came from the east as the Romanian cavalry and infantry were living to the west. Not a single shot was heard.
  Later, I learned that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact1 had secret chapters where Bessarabia was given to the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Soviet Union had annexed Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Boys, including myself, climbed the tanks, lovely Soviet soldiers wearing black helmets were giving us coins, someone from the crowd was throwing flowers, but petty bourgeoisie, like my father, understood what this may lead to. In the evenings, a mobile cinema played the Soviet blockbuster 'Chapaev'. Boys, sitting on the floor, watched this amazing movie with amusement. Later, I was fortunate to see the 'Three tankmen' and 'Battleship Potemkin'. All of these took place in the summer of 1940 not hinting anything bad yet. However, the Soviet power in Bessarabia was true to itself, arrests and repressions had begun.
  Before the Soviets, my father worked for a grain processing company. The Soviets put him in a management position in the same type of business named Zagotzerno. He had been actively involved in the work, but all this suddenly stopped due to a false envious accusation by his former school friend. My father learned about it in Moscow where he was brought after the arrest.
  As a side note, I would like to give a little more time to my dad's life under the Romanian authority. As Lev Vaysman had been climbing the hierarchical ladder in his business, he was also moving to more prestigious neighborhoods of the town. In 1940, we lived in the central part of Kishinev.
  'Battleship Potemkin' movie poster
  My father was an elected member of the stock exchange, giving him certain privileges: using sleigh2 ride in wintertime, watching movies in the 'Odeon' cinema from a personal balcony, etc. I recall how the same movie would be played non-stop all day long, and the people were guided to their sits with a flashlight.
  Lev Vaysman (right) with his brother's (David's) family
  Here is an interesting episode in the cinema. I just finished the 4th grade of the primary school located on the street of Stephan the Great across from the Pushkin's park, and was enrolled in the first grade of the gymnasium of Mihai Eminescu, the famous Moldovan poet. The students of gymnasiums were forbidden from attending the public places after 7 pm even if they were accompanied by their parents. One day, my mom, ignoring the rule, took me to 'Odeon' where the movie 'Robinson Crusoe' was playing. We entered the hall accompanied by controller's flashlight and, after watching one part of the film, shockingly discovered that my school Principal was sitting next to us. He looked at me and my mom, so she understood that tomorrow she would have to visit the school for an apology.
  Now let's go back to my father's fate. In the early spring of 1941, we heard a knock on the door. A strict male voice pronounced that they were our neighbor. When we opened the door, the first person who entered the room was indeed one of our neighbors who, as it turned out later, worked for the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). Then, the people in uniform followed. They showed the search and arrest warrants. You can imagine my parents anxiety at the moment but we, the children, were little aware of what was going on.
  Our apartment was searched, and my father was taken away. The next morning my mother ran for help and advice to my uncle's wife Esther but, it turned out, her husband David Vaysman was arrested the same night.
  We were bringing parcels to the prison where Grigoriy Kotovskiy, a famous Soviet military leader and communist activist, was once held under the Tsar. (Coincidently, we lived across from that prison after the war.) Having lost my father's income, my mother started to work from home making embroidery for customers. We were strongly supported by my grandfather Mendel and uncle Kopel. There was only half a year left before the German invasion. All attempts to get any information about my father were failing. Only later, from his own words, we learned that after a few months in Kishinev prison he was transferred to Moscow where the trial was held. He was found guilty as an 'enemy of the people', the infamous section 58 of the Soviet criminal law, and charged with the economic counter revolutionary activities. The charges caused a natural question on how he might have participated in the counterrevolution activities while living in another country (before the Soviet occupation). The officials replied that he was robbing the peasants as a capitalist, and also served as a Lieutenant of the Romanian army. My father refused to sign the indictment, but he was told about a possibility of torture (putting needles under his fingernails), and so he signed. I learned this terrible truth from my father but my mother never knew the details. At Butyrskaya prison in Moscow, he accidentally saw his brother and realized that David was facing a similar fate.
  Dad and uncle David were sentenced to 8 years in Siberian camps. Dad was sent to the town of Verkhoturie where the temperatures dropped to minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 F). At first, my father was a logger, the most difficult work in the camps, on equal terms with most of the prisoners. After the war began, the camp started to produce skis for the army. Considering his profession and leadership skills, the camp authorities put my father into an office position where he started to perform the clerical work. A person in charge of the camp was very ferocious but a fair general. At the end of the fourth year, he called my father and said that he intended to save his life because he will not survive any longer due to poor health and inability to do hard physical labor. He sent him to the doctor. My father visited the doctor who gave him a silk thread with an advice to smoke it on the eve of the day when the Medical Commission was coming from Moscow. This annual commission was the only hope for an early release. The doctor warned that my father will feel strong heartbeats after smoking but he had to bear. Dad followed the advice and stood in front of the Commission of 5 medical doctors. One of them listened to the father's heart, spoke with the other doctors, and then my father was informed that his health no longer allowed him to stay in the camp, and he would be released.
  When I think about the miracles that accompanied our family during the five years of the war, it seems that a supernatural power had saved my father and uncle David. Who knows, what could have happened to them if they were not sent to Siberia. Because of the arrest and imprisonment, they, being Jews, evaded the Holocaust. On the other hand, many camp prisoners were shot to death during the war as potential traitors. This was especially applied to the real criminals while my father was ironically speared even though he was an 'enemy of the people'.
  In 1941, our family ran away from the coming Germans, and in 1944 we were living in a remote village of Vozvyshenskiy, in Northern Kazakhstan. That year, my father sent us a telegram saying that soon he will be released. My mother, together with other women, had worked in a farm taking care of the cattle, milking cows, bringing water from the well, while I was helping her shoveling grain, working as a motorist assistant, transporting gasoline on the bulls, etc. One day, after receiving the good news from my father, while working in the field with my mother, I saw a silhouette of a man descending to the village from the mountain and intuitively shouted, 'Dad is coming!' A few minutes later my mom cried, 'Lev!' and I ran toward my father. Thus, after a long wait and uncertainty, we were together again.
  1The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a neutrality pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939.
  2Sleigh - a sled drawn by horses, used in winter.
  I studied in a gymnasium for one year. To get in, I had to pass a math exam and read aloud a poem by Mihai Eminescu, a prominent Romanian poet. The gymnasium was named after him, and his initials were engraved on our uniform hats. We also had to wear a personal number on the left shoulder, so I was number 47. My father paid for the tuition, and I became a student.
  In Kishinev, there were many gymnasiums and lyceums1 in which boys and girls studies separately. Men's gymnasiums usually were named after poets (Bogdan Hasdeu, Alexander Donich) and women's after princesses (Princess Maria, Princess Dadiani). My cousins, Raya and Galya, with financial support from my father, entered the General Bertelot's Gymnasium. In this place, all studies were conducted in French.
  In the Romanian schools, there were no place for sloppiness or dirty clothing, teachers fought for the calligraphic handwriting and discipline. Smudge in the homework would lead to punishment. There were the old corn cobs on the floor in the corner of the classroom where the students had to kneel when they disobeyed the rules. Moreover, the students would get lashed by a ruler on their knuckles as a punishment.
  One time after checking the homework, my Romanian language teacher Mr. Ursulesku demanded to see the parents. My mother came and he demonstrated a smudge on a homework paper. Then he gave her a new empty notebook and requested that I duplicate that assignment on each of the sheets as a punishment.
  My mother did not leave my side for several evenings serving hot chocolate so I was able to stay awake and finish the task before the deadline. Finally, I brought the notebook to Mr. Ursulesku who smiled happily at me.
  We were checked for the clean neck, nails and hands every morning at the school doors. We also were supposed to have two clean handkerchiefs.
  I remember how our first French class started: chubby men came, we all stood up, and Mr. Drew asked something in French. Most of the class was stunned not knowing what was said, but those students who were introduced to French by their governesses, came to the rescue. From that moment on, everybody had to communicate with the French teacher, who did not know a word in Romanian, in French only. As a result, I learned French very quickly, and to this days can read an excerpt from the Lafanten's 'The Crow and the cheese' by heart. My father loved to buy me books, especially by Jules Verne, and I can probably hold a record of how many Verne's novels I read. I also knew Russian very well, and it was easy to study at school.
  1Lyceum - a type of a secondary school.
  War and the Last Train from Kishinev
  On June 22, 1941, we woke up early in the morning from glass cracking up of bombs on the Boulevard. I remember low-flying German aircraft with black crosses on the fuselage edges, giving off a wild breathtaking buzz. Many black dots of bombs were scattered down the aircraft. Terrified, I called out my grandmother: 'Pray to God!'
  Because the biggest impact of the German troops fell on Minsk and Leningrad, and there had been no breakthroughs on the southern front, we were able to survive in Kishinev until July 16, 1941. During this period, my mother managed to obtain a certificate for evacuation. In order to get this certificate, we stood in long lines while hiding from bombing in trenches on the territory of my school.
  We often stayed with my grandfather near the Vesternicheny rail station. The missile shots were visible in the night sky, and lonely German planes followed them. During one night attack, Grandpa Mendel came out in his white night clothes. Granny Heyved shouted: 'What are you doing? They will see you!'
  On July 16, we stayed in the uncle David's basement along with his family. The explosions have shaken the city. Kishinev was burning; the Soviets blew up everything that they could. We woke up early in the morning from knocking in the basement door, and I heard Grandma Heyved screaming insanely: 'Why are you sleeping? City burns, everybody run on the station's last passenger train! Go now! Run to the station!'
  We would have to leave the city or await out fate in darkness. My mother, wanting to save the children, did not hesitate, so we grabbed the bags prepared in advanced with everything that could be carried. Very special to me was the postal stamps collection which I kept in the pocket of my jacket.
  My mother Anna, my little brother Fima, who was 6 years old, grandmother
  Tseytl Meites and I ran to the station to catch the last train that was about to leave the crowded platform. There was a soldier with a machine gun blocking the way. My mother begged: 'I have kids! ' but the soldier was immovable. At the very last moment, a Lieutenant appeared in the doorway of the train. It was my school principal. 'What are you doing here Vaysman? ' - He asked. My mom answered for me: 'We have evacuation papers and want to leave but the soldier is not letting us'. Then we heard the command:
  'Let them in! ' The soldier stepped back, and we were in the train.
  Grandpa Mendel and grandma Heyved also came to the station but refused to leave Kishinev like many other people who believed that nothing terrible would happen upon arrival of the Germans.
  I remember meeting my cousins and other relatives in that salvation train. The city soon was invaded by German and Romanian military troops. All those who did not have time to escape, or decided to stay, ended up in the ghetto. Almost none of them survived.
  Later, my grandmother Heyved, who joined us in the evacuation, told me that it was not possible to stay in Kishinev any longer. The city was in flames, and people started walking away to the east. She and my grandfather were amongst them, even though they hoped the war will end soon and they will come back. In the rush, grandpa thought of his tallis1 forgotten at home.
  He requested his wife to keep going and went back to the house intending to catch up with her as soon as possible. They never saw each other again. We heard that Mendel Vaysman was last seen in Odessa, begging on the streets. He disappeared without a trace and all attempts to find him during and after the war failed. Finally, our train slowly exited the burning city. Soldiers blew up telegraph poles and railway tracks after we passed them. Slow moving, the train passed Bendery, Tiraspol and safely arrived to Odessa.
  We were not able to stop thinking about what happened to the grandparents and the uncles' families. We did not know if they had managed to evacuate because only us possess the evacuation documents. In Odessa, we were ordered to leave the train and travel further to the East by ourselves, since Odessa was overwhelmed with chaos and confusion.
  Life in Stalingrad
  Life in Stalingrad was a paradise for us because we were fed and had a place to take a shower. My friends and I spent time in the local school checking the exhibits, library and reading books at night in the empty classrooms. Stalingrad located on the hills, and when we were taken to a pubic bath, a miserable bus barely was able to climb uphill, and I felt, it will break loose and crash. A small hill grew in my imagination to a huge mountain.
  When my mother was admitted with typhus to a hospital, Dr. Landa was suggesting to her to start worrying about herself, not the children. Her beautiful curly hair was shaved. In the moments of returning from the state of the typhoid delirium, she waved at us from the hospital window. One day, my brother Fima fell ill of dysentery and was admitted to a general hospital. Later, he was transferred to the children's ward due to the complication with his kidneys. I was left alone.
  In the beginning of 1942, authorities began to move refugees to the left bank of the Volga River (former Republic of the ethnic Germans in the Volga region). These territories were not in use, as the ethnic Germans were evicted to Siberia and Central Asia in the beginning of the war. I was about to be sent there along with other refugees, despite my desire to stay with my mom and brother, but Dr. Landa was on my side. He sent me to the hospital ward where I and my brother slept on one bed until our mother was able to take care of us. This 'Solomon decision' of a stranger saved me from family separation, and, very likely, saved my life.
  During our hospital stay, several children from blockaded Leningrad1 were admitted to our ward. Even now, being a doctor and seeing many malnourished children, especially in the early years of work, I cannot describe those unfortunate kids who had only skin, bones and deep-set dark eyes. I still remember the horrifying picture of one Leningrad man I will never forget. He looked exactly like those miserable kids. He pulled bunch of money from his pocket and asked a nurse to buy a chicken and cook him a soup. Most likely, he knew that he is dying and wanted to die well fed. After a few hours, at night, apparently violating the doctor's order, the nurse came with a pot. She invited the poor man from the adult ward and offered him a meal. He did not even eat a half when he fell on his side and died right in front of me. This scene is still in my mind, and I see it as one of the worst episodes of my Stalingrad life because it was a moment when I discovered what the death was.
  My mother recovered, and after a few months, in the spring of 1942, the officials moved us to the city of Palasovka, on the left bank of the Volga River. We were brought to stay in a house with no glass on the windows. It was not possible to survive in such condition in the area of severe winds and sand storms, and the authorities moved us farther. In addition, the Germans were already in Stalingrad, and we could not stay in the frontline area. So, we were put in cattle cars (wagons for livestock). Very slowly, we moved through Orenburg, Chelyabinsk and further to North Kazakhstan.
  In Petropavlovsk, we were placed on a passenger train to Bulaevo where farm wagons waited for us. We were brought to Vozvishenskiy Kolkhoz (collective farm) along with a few families from Kishinev. We were taken to a remote village, where we spent the next two years until my father's arrival. I befriended a girl Rosa when our families were placed to stay together. Mom worked various jobs: she brought water for the farm animals from a remote well, worked at grain field with other women, at the field mill, milked cows, nursed the bulls, and I tried to help her around. There was an elementary school at the village, so Rosa and I were admitted to the fourth grade, mainly to be entitled to a portion of bread and some sugar.
  I would like to tell an episode that once again was a miracle in the name of my salvation. In May, when not all the snow yet melted, I and other kids were bringing hay on bulls for the livestock. After riding a long distance from the farm, we put a load of hay on the sled and headed back. I was going on the last sled because the local children got the priority. Suddenly, out of the blue, an enormous storm began. Everything started to spin, move and fly around, and we got lost not knowing the direction. I hid myself in hay, waiting for the decision of the older children. I was not scared; it was so cold that I only thought about how to warm myself. After a quick chat, local children put the oldest bulls in front of the entire procession. The storm continued as if by demonic powers. Its strength was unusually severe even for Siberia. Evidently, I fell asleep and woke up when the sled entered the farm. The old bulls that found the way saved six children despite the cruel storm. Not everyone was as lucky as we. Later, I learned that a part of the farm herd, together with the shepherds, lost the way and drowned in a lake.
  Every morning my mother had to bring a barrel of water to the farm. Water sled could not be left in the cold, because water could freeze and break the barrel. However, what we, the city-dwellers, could understand in this rural business? One very cold evening, we went to get water. The horse was breathing heavily, and icicles were hanging from its nostrils. After filling the barrel with water, we needed to go back immediately, but the horse began to get nervous, pounding hooves and not moving. There was an awful silence around for a moment. Suddenly, we heard a howl, and, in the dark, I saw bright lights. We recognized the presence of wolves. My mother decided to go back to the farm. We had to save the horse and ourselves, so we left the sled with the barrel alone, taking the horse by its bridle. The foreman, seeing us back without water, asked about the barrel. My mother explained the situation with wolves emphasizing that we rescued a horse that was frightened more than us, but the foreman screamed back that he has no water for the cows. He requested us to turn back before the barrel is not frozen solid. Fortunately, the wolves were gone, as was our fear. This time we had not relied on the horse, but rather pushed the sled ourselves in order to come back as fast as possible. By the way, this was the only one water barrel on the farm.
  As I said before, all our winter footwear was stolen in Stalingrad. In summer, I walked barefooted, but at fall, when we were taking care of the grain, the snow suddenly kicked and, to warm my feet, I had to dip them into the grain. Then I would run home crying, and telling my mother that I can no longer go to work without shoes. My mother went to the farm officials. The head of the farm was an exiled Trotskyist (persecuted for belonging to an ultra-left political ideology). He explained politely that there are no shoes and the only thing he can help with is to give us some 'syromyatina' (raw leather) from which, if properly tailored, we can make the so called 'onuchy' or 'postoly' (kinds of primitive native shoes). My mother came home with a roll of syromyatina, and, together with our neighbors, they sewed a resemblance of shoes for the children.
  There was a tiny yard in the back of our place where we planted potatoes, our only available food. Before going to work, we cooked a bucket of potatoes to be eaten during the day. When the harvest season arrived, my mother and I were assigned to cleaning the grain from impurities. There, I drew my attention to women who were stealing the grain, hiding it in their pants. Noticing my mother's surprise, one of the women asked why she is not wearing pants. The next day, my mother came on her duty in dad's pants tucked into the stockings. Stalin's regime was imprisoning those who hid grain from the government, but our desire to live and necessity to feed the children were above the harsh law, and my mother took the risk without hesitation. Our host woman gave us a tool to grind the grain, and, sitting on the floor with my brother Fima, we were steering the little 'mill' together.
  Thus, we had some flour and grain grout, and we were able to make soup, 'kasha' (hot cereal) and pancakes, even though there was a shortage of salt and sugar. It was the third year of the war.
  1The Siege of Leningrad (also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military blockade of Nazi Germany against the Russian city of Leningrad, during WW2. It lasted 872 days after it began.
  Back from the Prison Camp
  Let me remind you that in 1944, we have received a letter from my father informing us about his early released. Thanks to the efforts of his brother Kopel, he found us in our evacuation place. Suddenly appearing in our life and seeing our poverty, on the next day, dad went to sovhoz (farm) management and, after talking with the director who was a exile himself, was hired as deputy director of the oil and lubricants division.
  Some of the Polish exiles who were sent to Kazakhstan in 1939, lived in the same area. They were young and strong guys who signed up for the army of a Polish general Anders, who, not wanting to fight on the Soviet front, organized his own army for operating in Middle East and North Africa in cooperation with the British forces. (The Polish Government in Exile was located in Great Britain.)
  So, we moved into the central sovhoz. I went to the eighth grade, and Fima - into the second grade, but there was neither paper nor ink. Mom made ink out of coal and ashes, and we wrote on newspapers between the lines. We were practically naked, and mom was wearing her last dress. And then, dad came up with an adventurous proposition tipped by the Poles. Going into the town for fuel, he managed to sell a tank of petroleum. With that money, he bought a bag of flour, potatoes, clothing, shoes, paper, and other necessary goods. Moreover, on advice of those Poles, dad bought a lean cow, but we, the urban people, were not able to take care of it and decided to sell the poor animal. For that, we had to travel to the town. Mom hired a carriage. We travelled a day and a night to reach the marketplace where the cow was sold. Those risky projects of my father were an act of desperation, and at all could end badly. Being on early parole, he was required to check-in with police periodically. It was a miracle that his illegal activities went unnoticed.
  A few months later, dad was summoned to the Chief of Police who tried to recruit him as an informant among the evacuees. Obviously, my father couldn't agree to comply, and so he asked for one day to make a decision. With that, he went to the Poles. They suggested two options to him. My father could sign up as a volunteer in the Polish Army and go to Palestine. Or, he could sign up with the Red Army. For that, he would have to travel to the city of Semipalatinsk and report to major Shtromberg who was forming a reserve tank regiment. Not thinking twice, my father left for Semipalatinsk, telling us that he went on a business trip. A few days later, we got a letter from him with a photograph where he was in a uniform of a junior sergeant. There was also an instruction to go to police with this letter. Having received this letter from a 'prospective informant' Vaysman, the police chief angrily said: 'Well, a sneaky Jew always find his way'. This was yet another miraculous exit from a critical situation.
  In 1944, Stalin started to resettle the Caucasian population, Chechens, Ingushes, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks and other 'not trustworthy' peoples, to Central Asia and Siberia. One winter day, we witnessed a terrible sight: Chechens were brought to our area, and most of them were women and children. Soldiers literally threw them on snow. I even remember that some of the unfortunate walked barefoot. Our moms took in a family that later was sent to a remote village. Two new teachers, both from Caucasus, a history teacher and a teacher of literature, appeared in the school. Then, in a few months, they disappeared as suddenly as they came. I think, they were accused of an arson in the house of a party official.
  Another scary case happened in the central farm where two dentists from Kishinev, a brother and a sister, lived. They were killed by local robbers for money.
  In the farm, we lived together with the other 12-15 years-old boys. We all worked on the farm because all the man went to war. I changed several occupations: was an assistant to a tractor driver, fuel carrier, and a shepherd. Once at night, I went to the farm field with a tractor plow. It was the area of the virgin soil, not touched by agriculture earlier. An American tractor 'Caterpillar' had to be started manually by turning a metal handle. the tractor driver told me to turn the handle, but I was unable to move at a millimeter. Then, he put me on the plow. My duty was to clean the plow from dirt with a heavy-lifting lever, but I had a hard time moving it even with both of my hands. We made a half-circle on the field, and the tractor driver, seeing that I am falling asleep and afraid that I would fall under the plow, told me to lie down in the field and wait for his return. I remember only that I instantly fell asleep. Tractor driver, completing one circle, nearly crushed me. He forgot that I was sleeping there.
  But let's go back to the story about my father. After serving in the army in 1945, a few months before the victory, daddy, not coming back to us because of the dreaded NKVD, went to Kishinev where his younger brother Kopel already returned. In Kishinev, he got back his former position at Zagotzerno under the command of the same comrade Cherniavsky, and immediately sent us a letter to return. Upon the Victory Day, we, joyful and happy for a first time, together with other evacuees from Moldova, went back by train. It was the summer of 1945.
  Return to Kishinev
  The train was overloaded with the evacuees. To get a comfortable seat, we had to storm the train car. My mother and Fima climbed first, and then I joined them. There was a young woman next to me in the car, and I took care of her all the way. I believe, I fell in love with her. It seemed that she answers me back. I don't remember her name, can't remember her face, but later, when I became a doctor, traveling between Kishinev and Ungeny, during the brief stop at the Sipoteni station, I was looking for her. At one of the Ural stations, we separated from the authorities who were accompanying us from the beginning of the trip. Now, feeling some freedom, we decided to go to Moscow as the only way to Kishinev. One early morning, our train came to the 'Moskva-Tovarnaya' station. I was the eldest among the boys, and I got an idea to show Moscow to the others. With our moms approval, we went to the nearest metro (subway) station. We enjoyed the colorful ornaments of the walls and the underground architecture unseen before. After Kazakhstan, Moscow seemed like a paradise on Earth.
  Suddenly, at one station, someone grabbed me by the shoulder, and we all ended up at a police station. We were perceived as pickpocket thieves based on our old and dirty clothes. The policeman tried to communicate with us on the gang slang. We were puzzled by the slang, and he erupted swearing. Among other things, I heard a hint of my Jewish nationality. We got into a very nasty situation, threatened by arrest and separation from our mothers. But then, a senior officer checked our train record by phone, and we were released. Fortunately, we came back without a major delay, and after some time, the train left Moscow. One fine summer day, after five years of absence, we, vibrant and joyful, were met by uncle Kopel and my dad at the Kishinev central station. I easily forgot the woman from the train, even did not care to ask how to find her later, because I was so happy to be back home. We went to uncle Kopel, and a few days later, dad got an apartment at Kuznechnaya Street (corner of Benderskaya), across from the prison tower where he was locked by the Soviets in 1940. We could see the tower from our window but never talked about bad times.
  School #3
  After returning to Kishinev, I started the 9th grade in school #3, named after a Russian writer Maxim Gorkiy. The school was located in just five minutes of walk from our house. Next to the school, across Kostyuzheny street, my second cousin Salya Mereshenskiy lived. I and my friends Grisha Berman and Syunya Zaydman liked to come to her place for lunch. Across from us, on Kuznechnaya Street, another friend, Lyuda Shpilevaya, leaved. She was the nicest girl of all six schools in the area.
  Nearby, the future scientific elite of Kishinev studied: Professor Vitya Kovarskiy, Professor of Oncology Zorik Zisman, a leading expert on the physiology of hearing Professor Yasha Altman, Karmazin who later became the husband of my classmate Nelya Yankelevich, as well as my friend Yasha Frenklah who graduated from the Moscow Power Engineering Institute. The fate of the first Yasha was tragic. After graduating, already a doctor, he drowned in the Ural river while rescuing his sister. Amongst my other friends, there were Abrasha Paromschik, Volodya Kalnitskiy (nicknamed Manus) who studied in the Moldavian school #1 and graduated from the Pedagogical Institute, Ika Goldshteyn whom I met many years later in New York.
  I remember the girls from the school #6: Toliana Tintulov (who later became my first wife), Marta Troitskiy, and Yulya Kletinich. (Vova Berginer from Railway School was in love with Yulya. He was a head shorter than her, wore shoes on double soles and visited Julia on a motorcycle. Eventually, she became his wife. Vova was to become a famous neurologist.) Among the girls at the school #6, Briggita Ornshteyn stood out. She and Nelya Yankelevich received gold medals for excellence when they graduated. Briggita became Vitya Kovarskiy's wife, she wrote many books on Physics and Needlework. From school #2, I recall Ezya Sheinfeld to whom I dedicated my first poem.
  Yuliy Vaysman in the 10th grade
  Once, I performed an old man in a school play. I glued a beard and mustache to my face, but both pieces fell on the floor as soon as I appeared on the stage. Then, there were dances. I invited Julia, a girl from my neighborhood. I was in love with her before the war. We lived on the same Gogol Street.
  In the 10th grade, a son of the Head of the Moldovan Communist Party, Dima Koval, was studying with me. He was in love with Larisa Kamishova from the school #6. At that time, we met with the girls of the elite classes: a daughter of Chief of Zagotzerno Tyunyaeva and one more, a daughter of a general. We spend days and nights in their houses before entering the universities. We also gathered near Isya, nicknamed Violin. He lived on a Benderskaya street. Not far from Isya, another buddy of mine lived, Rufka Dorfman. When we were hanging at our house, mom and dad went to the cinema so we could enjoy the freedom. My normal grade in school was C, rarely B. I knew the history and geography but wrote Russian with spelling errors. The teachers were supportive of me, realizing that the student missed the seventh grade and one quarter of the ninth, unable to catch up with his talented classmates. Seeing my difficulty with math, parents hired a tutor, teacher of our school, famous Vasiliy Veter. He lived at the school, was a real Russian intellectual who spoke nicely. We acted as his disciples, often went to him to listen life stories. Moreover, he was a gifted painter and read us lectures on art.
  I still remember the teacher of literature Aleksandra Razumniy. On my final test, she was not sure how to rate my essay 'All Roads Lead to Moscow', where I used a turnover 'caravans of people' by analogy with the 'caravans of camels'.
  Teachers of the School #3 (1960)
  Unfortunately, many of my comrades passed away now. Eternal memory to them!
  Admission to the Medical School
  When the time to think about further education came, everyone was confused. It was a year of hunger, and I decided not to leave home like some of my friends did who went to Moscow or Leningrad. Mom wanted me to go to a medical school because we did not have a doctor in the family. I wanted to be a filmmaker (obviously, influenced by the shot during the WWII movies).
  Many students from the schools #3 and #6 ran to submit their papers to the medical school. This school came to existence after the war when the stuff of the Second Leningrad Medical School moved to Kishinev. During the war, they ended up under the nazi occupation, and thus, lost the government's trust. Therefore, the school was moved from Leningrad to Kishinev and started to operate in 1945. Other higher education institutions also resumed to accept new students around that time. So, my friends-mathematicians Grisha Berman and Syunya Zaydman were admitted into the University, Volodya Kalnitskiy went to the Pedagogical Institute where the study was held in the Moldovan language.
  My ideas to conquer cinema did not work as I quickly gave in to my mother and began to prepare for the exams into the medical school. I scored 18 out of 20 points on the entrance exams and was admitted.
  The first exam was literature. We had to write an essay. I chose the topic of 'We are peaceful people, but our armored train is ready'. Guided by the war impressions, I easily coped with the subject, but because of the numerous grammatical errors, the composition would probably get an F. My dad was frantically searching for the ways to overcome this obstacle. He remembered that a man whom I gave an essay, Sergei Smirnov, taught Latin in his grammar school. Smirnov's wife worked with my father at Zagotzerno. She promised to help. Sergei Smirnov handed a clean piece of paper back to my father. I rewrote the essay without errors and received A for both style and grammar of the composition.
  The next exam was in chemistry. Coincidentally, another coworker of my father lived in the neighborhood with the chemistry teacher. So I got a B.
  However, on the physics exam, my father has exhausted the stock of his contacts, and I was sure of failing the test without help from my friends-mathematicians Grisha and Syunya. The day was hot, my friends sat under the widely opened exam room window. Lev Landa, who later became a husband of my second cousin Salya, was my examiner. As I expected, I was unable to keep up with the questions. So I threw out of the window a crumpled piece of paper with the prerequisite problem description. Landa, apparently trying to help me, left the room several times, asking each time: 'Well, Vaysman, are you ready yet?' Finally, I had back the solution from my friends and got a B, scoring 18 points as was necessary. I was enrolled into the medical school!
  No one of the boys from the School #3 and girls from the Schools #2 and #6 failed on the entrance exams. It was time after the war, a shortage of the youngsters who could fill the study rooms, thus the rules of admission were relaxed.
  Medical School
  There were 280 students admitted to the school that year. Amongst them, there were people of more than 10 nationalities, with the Jewish/Moldovan/Russian majority. In the future, our school graduates became the elite of the Moldovan and Soviet medicine. We studied with fun and enthusiasm, although the times were harsh and people went hungry. Guys from the dorms, who came to study in Kishinev from the remote places, worked at night unloading railcars on the railroad, being nurses in the hospitals and somehow surviving.
  My school friends: Sasha Brezhko (left), Sasha Kotlyar, Zyunya Grinberg
  It was easier for those like me who lived with their parents. We, in turn, helped the poor students to earn some money by spending hours in the lines for the movie tickets, buying those tickets and then selling them for hire prices to those who did not wish to stand in line. The school was far from my house, on Skulyanskaya Rogatka, and we stormed the only trolleybus that ran on the Lenin Street. Since I had not always had patience to wait for the trolleybus, I walked, making my way through the alleys and backyards to shorten the path and to reach the place on time.The school auditorium was big but I always sat in the front row among girls and word to word recorded the lectures. They were taught by the famous professors. One of the lecturers was Associate Professor Sheynfayn, an imposing man with a long beard, womanizer, later a victim of the Soviet authorities. Usually, he was coming to the classroom waving his cane.
  Yuliy Vaysman - 1 year of Medical School
  It took me three tries to pass a test in anatomy. First time, I tried to pass with Professor Lavrentev, honored figure of science in the USSR. I searched in vain for help from his assistant teacher Makarova who unsuccessfully tried to show me location of the Lisfrank joint on the human body. I was looking for it in the area of chest while it was on the foot. Realizing that I could not answer two of the three questions, Professor Lavrentev returned my gradebook back to me and said, 'Come back in a week'. I went home to study the anatomical atlas. Mom served me hot chocolate so that I do not fall asleep. A week later, I went to take the test again. This time, it was Professor Sheinfayn whom we called 'Beard'. I managed to answer two out of three questions this time. Smiling, 'Beard' said: 'Let's meet in a week'. In due time, now knowing all of the anatomy almost by heart, I proudly and confidently entered the anatomical theatre, feeling like a winner. Professor Boris Perlin asked, 'Well, Vaysman, have you learned Anatomy yet?' I firmly replied, 'Yes!', and was ready to answer the questions. But, no wonder this professor was the favorite teacher on the faculty. Before I had time to open my mouth, he handed me the gradebook with the 'B' and said, 'Now we know that you have learned everything'. Much later, in New York, at the fiftieth reunion of our graduates, we remembered Professor Boris Perlin and even ran a little fundraiser for his gravestone in Kishinev. The first two years of the medical school were very difficult. I hated Chemistry. Physics, Anatomy and Latin were difficult for me. However, on the third year, I and my friend Sasha Kotlyar who later became a professor of physiotherapy in Moscow, made a pledge to improve our grades and, to our own surprise, passed the most difficult subjects of this year, Pharmacology and Pathology Anatomy, with the 'A'.
  For 3 year, I studied with my future wife Toliana Tintulova who was originally was a girlfriend of my buddy Maryasis. Unfortunately, Toliana went ill and took a break in her studies. Later, on the advice of doctors, she left the school. I continued getting good grades, passed the Internal Medicine exam with Professor Starastenko who had the only car ('Moskvich') in the entire faculty. Once at the lecture on gastric ulcer, he emphasized importance of the regular eating. Considering the post-war condition, someone from the audience asked, 'So, what if there is nothing to eat?' The professor replied, 'Then chew an iron nail'.
  I remember, the Professor of Psychiatry Molohov introduced us to one of his patients, Prince Mirskiy, who 'invented a bird language' and wrote many books on it. Mirskiy lived in Kostyuzheny psychiatric hospital and studied in Bucharest and Sorbonne universities in his youth. He also served in military. The hospital was built by a wealthy landowner for their sick children, Kostya and Zhenya, hence the hospital's name. Two incidents come to mind in relation to the surgery exam on the third year of school and the neurology exam on the fifth year. Professor Lvov, who wore huge sunglasses, believed that all students of our school were required to subscribe to the multi-volume edition of 'The experience of the Soviet Medicine in the WWII'. For two days and two nights I and my friend Zyunya from Faleshty studied the General Surgery course. I read, and Zyunya snored or periodically hummed the melody of 'Tiko-tiko' learned from a Brazilian movie. Among other things, we paged through a volume of 'Experience of the Soviet Medicine' where my eyes caught pictures of bronchopulmonary fistulas. With my good visual memory, I easily remembered those images. I usually entered the exam room amongst the first students. Seeing that I have only a vague knowledge on the subject, Professor Lvov looked at me through his glasses, and I knew to expect 'F' for the grade. Grasping at straws, I told him that I read additional literature about fistulas. Professor was surprised, and I, not giving him time to recover, quickly sketched a diagram and got 'B' for my bravery. Most interestingly, Zyunya, who was going next and was prepared even less than I, survived using the same trick. He told the professor that we both read an article about bronchopulmonary fistulas and even demonstrated the diagram that I managed to pass to him.
  At the Department of Neurological Diseases headed by Professor Sharapov, it was believed that students cannot learn this the most complex science, so before the exams, a lottery took place. Each student would get one ticket with the questions to be learned by heart. Professor Sharapov had a special rule: the girls had to cover their legs, and boys had to wear a tie. He considered it disrespectful to him and his subject if one did not obey such attire rules. In the spring tests season, I appeared the very first in the exam room as usual. I was not wearing a tie, for which Professor Sharapov gave an immediate comment. Perhaps, I was not aware of his rules, or just because of the hot weather, I let my tie at home. I knew the exam material okay, and, what also helped me, was a smalltalk we had about Tchaikovsky's ballets. I, being a connoisseur of music, knew the ballets much better than neurology. Receiving 'B', I jumped out of the auditorium and shouted to the boys to run outside and borrow someone's tie right away.
  Yuliy Vaysman and his cousin Bima at the ship 'Russia' (a former trophy German ship 'Patria'), Odessa, 1950
  After graduation, I was appointed to the Tiraspol District, the village of Karmanovo, but because of missed deadlines, my place in the hospital was taken by somebody else. Skipping any regret, I went back to the Ministry of Health to obtain a new assignment. In the hallway, a tall and beautiful Comrade Konyaieva from the Ungheny District was gathering a group of doctors for her area. She was surrounded by my colleagues: Senya Kamenker, Monya Tonenboym and Vitold Epshtein. They also were late and searched for a new assignment. Comrade Konyaieva claimed that we were lucky to joining her, and, among other reasons, mentioned that our rural hospitals had a stock of firewood enough for the entire winter. All four of us agreed without hesitation. Thus, we became chief doctors in rural hospitals, and had to start our careers in the most remote and backward villages of Moldova, lacking electricity and roads, with the horse carriage as the only means of transportation. It was 1952, beginning of a new phase in my life that lasted a period of thirteen years instead of the expected 'exile' for three years. On the eve of my arrival to Unceshty, I got married. At the same time, my school friend Grisha Berman married too. He was a mathematician, and his new wife was a chemist.
  When I suddenly informed my parents about the upcoming marriage, instead of the expected confrontation, they gave me the 'go-ahead'. I took Toliana's hand and led the way to the civil registry. The witnesses were Grisha Berman and Volodya Kalnitskiy. Toliana came to Unceshty a week after me. She did not finish the Medical School, as I already mentioned, but became an x-ray technician. She worked in my x-ray lab that I founded as a chief of the Unceshty hospital. A year later, on November 24, 1953, after a difficult delivery with the help of a district midwife, we had a son Anatoly.
  Lev Vaysman with his grandson Anatoly, 1956, Kishinev
  Becoming a Doctor
  My departure to the village of Unceshty was scheduled for the August 16th, 1952. I was going to take the 'Moscow-Bucharest' train, since it had a stop at my new home station, and bring the necessary things with me. Among the things, there were medical manuals, clothing, as well as an umbrella and galoshes (rubber overshoes) that mom insisted on. She also managed to pack a lot of food. In her opinion, the food was to be useful to me in the beginning. Not arguing, I agreed. A ticket price for the train of the international class to Unceshty was 40 rubles. The trip lasted 3 hours and suited me in every way, so later, for many years, I was going home the same way, regardless of my limited financial resources (in 1952 I was paid 650 rubles a year as a doctor and another 10 rubles as a head of the hospital). Looking back, I am not sure how it was possible to survive on that money, especially with my frequent trips home. So, when the Children's Trachoma1 Orphanage in the neighboring village of Chetyreny offered me an additional part-time position, I happily agreed, although the salary was paid in food, not cash. It is suited me well because, at that time, the food was difficult to get.
  My train stopped at the destination late at night, it was raining, and I jumped out of the railcar. I was supposed to meet a man with a hospital horse carriage. When the station emptied, a Moldovan man approached me. His name was Kostya. I was overjoyed and asked how he could recognize me. Kostya responded, 'I've recognized you when you opened the umbrella, because we don't have umbrellas here'. The sky was grey, I sat in the 'doctor's car' pulled by two sickly horses, and we took course to Unceshty. There was the evening of August 16th, 1952.
  The road went uphill. The horses were sorry to watch as they barely dragged the carriage. I was staring at the darkness of the neighborhood that did not know electricity.
  Sense of duty and romantic nature lead me to these forgotten Moldovan villages where the post-war devastation dominated. Hearing how hard the horses were breathing, we decided to get off the carriage and walk on our feet. The ground was wet, and I put on my galoshes.
  We passed 15 kilometers in two hours, and, when a valley with barely lightened houses appeared before my eyes, I reached my destination. The first village was called Manuileshty. Another one, Vulpeshty, appeared a little farther to the left. These villages shared a well that reminded me of the Biblical stories about Jacob's meeting with his wife. Then, there was another hill. Half an hour later, wearing galoshes and with an umbrella, I reached my residence at the hospital. On the hill to the left, there were a tavern and a food store. A couple of men were standing nearby. Kostya ordered me to close the umbrella not to cause a laughter. The carriage with the tormented horses finally entered my hospital where I was met with kind smiles and questions on their faces The people were skeptical how I was going to lead the crew of the hospital of 15 beds, no electricity, no laboratory, no physiotherapeutic room. I had organized all that within the next 13 years.
  I was taken into a house opposite the hospital. Passing through mud, I lost one of my galoshes but, not to embarrass myself in front of the curious villagers, I pretended not to notice. The hospital housekeeper Volodya Marar who accompanied me to the house, became my faithful helper and friend for years, even though he liked to drink and I didn't.
  My new place had two rooms with low ceiling. There were a bed, a table and two chairs in one room. The second one served as a kitchen. I noticed a hole in its ceiling. The hospital was organized in a house of a former kulak* after he was sent away by the Soviets.
  Tired, I went to bed after eating the food carefully packed into my suitcase by mom. The housekeeper brought back the lost galoshi that I already forgot about. The night went awful, screaming women awakened me in the middle of the sleep. In the morning, I asked Volodya, what happened. He explained that our two midwives and one nurse tried to pick up the nuts from the hospital nut tree before I get to those.
  In the morning, I went to the outpatient block for my first round, introduced myself, and met with my staff, 15 people altogether. Among nurses, midwives and auxiliary personnel, I noticed an old man, Ivan Alexandrov, who, during the WWII, ended up in Austria under uncertain circumstances. Later, he told me an interesting story about Lenin. He heard it from his landlady in Austria. The house was formerly a boarding place where Lenin spent time before the Russian Revolution. Ivan shared a bad secret about Lenin's sickness with syphilis. The future leader of the world's proletariat was treated by a famous local doctor. Majority of the Soviet population learned about Lenin's condition much later, only at the time of the Gorbachev's perestroika, when it was possible to discuss such things openly. Alexandrov served as a health aid in my hospital. In the mornings, he would walk around the public toilets of the villages and apply a disinfectant with the help of one other guy. Often, after those walks, they were coming back to the hospital drunk.
  *Kulak - a relatively wealthy Russian peasant who could own a farm and hire laborers.
  the sleep. In the morning, I asked Volodya, what happened. He explained that our two midwives and one nurse tried to pick up the nuts from the hospital nut tree before I get to those.
  My Rural Medical Practice, Part One
  At the age of 24, I became chief physician of a rural medical hospital with the monthly base salary of 650 rubles and a supplemental package of food for my work at the trachoma orphanage. There, I was twisting the children's eyelids to remove the so called trachoma grains. The Principal of the orphanage was a young Armenian. He kept his beautiful wife at home hidden from everyone. Unfortunately, a few years later, they disappeared, and with them my extra salary vanished. The orphanage was closed, and I received an addition to my salary from the district budget.
  My service area included eight villages: Vulpeshty, Manuileshty, Rezina, Old Florictzoya, new Floritzoya, Grozaska and the two largest villages, Chetyreny and Unceshty, where the rural soviet (the government office) and the hospital located.
  A nurse wedding at the Unceshty hospital, 1963.
  I was responsible for 12,800 people of three collective farms. Subsequently, the collective farms came together under the leadership of Mikhail Glemb who became my best friend. Unfortunately, in 2013, he died in Israel at the age of 88. Abrasha Paromschik, who lived in the same Israeli city, was able to find this information about him. I could say many good words about Glemb. He built a house for the doctors, bought us a car 'Skoda', helped to open a day hospital for tuberculosis patients. For this and other good deeds, he periodically received a warning from the Unceshty Communist Party, because they thought that a Jew is helping a Jew too much. On this, Glemb was reasonably responding, 'The collective farmers love the doctor as their own, and he makes a big difference for the collective'.
  1Trachoma is an eye disease caused by a bacterial infection with chlamydia trachomatis.
  My Rural Medical Practice, Part Two
  In 1952, the rate of mortality among under five-year-old children was 16.5% because of rickets, pneumonia and malnutrition. When I left Unceshty, it fell to 4.5%, primarily due to my contribution to the healthcare in the area. The theoretical learnings I brought from my school was accompanied by an entire suitcase of reference books. When I couldn't make a diagnosis on the spot, I would go to the adjacent room and flip through the medical literature in search of an answer. A doctor in a village is a universal specialist. I had to deal with all sorts of diseases. I went to the remote villages on horse carriages, skied down from mountains in winter, and, when it rained and the roads were covered in mud, I had to ride a horse which I held by its neck until finally learning to sit in the saddle.
  Picture of the 'rural ambulance'
  The Moldovans feel special reverence to the priests, police and doctors. There was usually one of each per a village or wider area, unlike teachers and other specialists.
  I recall a hilarious episode. One time, on the main street of Unceshty, an old lady approached me and, not giving any time to escape, started to kiss my hand. I was embarrassed and said that I am a member of Komsomol (the youth organization of the Communist party), and she replied that since a doctor saves lives of her fellow villagers, he should be treated as God. Such a beginning of a medical career was very usual for a 'mama's child' from a bourgeois family. My good knowledge of the Moldovan and Romanian languages was a big help because many of my patients could not speak Russian.
  As a part of my duties, I had to issue warnings to those staff members who did not do their work well. Naturally, this caused discontent, and, in accordance with the Soviet 'customs', unhappy personnel started to complain to all possible authorities, in particular, the municipal government and the newspaper. For example, a nurse, while on duty, went to a date in the district center. Naturally, I called her 'on the carpet' and gave a warning. A few days later, I was shown a local newspaper with this kind of accusation: 'Doctor Vaysman was enriched at the expense of the hospital. He took a pillow, a blanket and a horse'.
  Such insinuations had occurred many times because I was young and strict. By the way, I had never had a
  problem with the locals. They were used to discipline, in contrast with the temporary workers who did not value their work.
  Even while facing numerous professional challenges, I still decided not to request the second doctor. Once a month, I collected records of birth and child death from the seven heads of the midwifery units, although, it seemed to me, those numbers were completely arbitrary. Then, I passed the reports to the higher authorities, and, if they were not satisfying, I had to also falsify the 'correct' numbers.
  My Rural Medical Practice, Part Three
  Every year, we have conducted a checkup of all students in the schools. It was needed predominantly for reporting, but those and other trips allowed me to get acquainted with the rural intelligentsia. I made friends with them. We met at clubs and houses, danced, I played accordion, and once even performed on stage. We were happy to take part in blood donations that turned into real celebration because the donors were rewarded with free lunch and wine. The donor number one was always the head of the collective farm for which he was awarded a honorary donor medal of the USSR.
  Amongst the teachers, I remember remarkable figures of Kolchak, the school director, and Vasiliy Vasilaky, a future writer. He left the village and enrolled in the Moscow Gorkiy's Institute of Literature when I still worked in Unceshty.
  My first mother-in-law Maria worked in the Editorial Office of the 'Soviet Moldavia' newspaper as a head of the Letters Department (read and answered letters from the readers). She worked together with a famous in the future Soviet poet Kiril Kovaldzhi. I often met him on the Kuznechnaya Street in Kishinev near my house. In 2010, I emailed him my memoirs. It was joyfully received with a warm response.
  I developed a new passion for the books, reading them in my spare time. I started to spend money on them, even though it was costly in the postwar years. I even subscribed to those large volumes of the first showy Soviet publications. Loaning books from the libraries and elsewhere, I was forgetting at times to return them.
  In 1953, 'the great Soviet leader' (that is Stalin) died. People were at a loss. Considering the infamous criminal 'Doctor's Plot'1 (most of my patients were not Jews), some patients stopped trusting me. They were asking, 'What should we do now, you are the only one here, and a Jew, and the party said that Jews are the poisoners!' To that, I replied, 'If you need a doctor, come, I will not poison you'. People laughed and continued to receive treatment from me.
  Young Dr. Vaysman, 1959, Unceshty.
  After a few years of work, I gained a certain status, and, in the election period, the local authorities nominated me for the post of Chairman of Election. I naively hoped for some weight in the process. In fact, I was the Chairman only in name, not performing any meaningful function.
  1 'The doctor's plot' was a repression campaign organized by Joseph Stalin. In 1952-1953, a group of predominantly Jewish doctors from Moscow were accused of conspiring to assassinate Soviet leaders.
  Midwifery, Gynecology and My Surgical Achievements
  As I mentioned above, there was a high infant mortality on my territory, especially among children under one year old. Weakened by war and famine mothers often gave birth prematurely, and children were susceptible to rickets and dystrophy. They all demanded attention. I used to conduct monthly check-ups for children and provided all possible assistance, including free distribution of medicines. Such practices were satisfying, although demanded great efforts, because the trips were performed under any weather and in absence of decent transportation.
  On my site, a midwife was responsible for examining women and delivering babies. Childbirth was the only type of medical work in which I 'floated'. By a Moldovan custom, during childbirth, the husbands stood outside with a towel for midwife as a gift and a wine bottle. They were wetting the newborn's lips with the wine.
  Once, I had to perform an abortion not having any practical experience. There was a terrible storm, and one of my nurses who was in need of this procedure refused to go to Ungheny where abortions were usually performed. She met with a smile my refusal to work on this surgery due to lack of experience. She said: 'I'll tell you what to do'. I learned the procedure from a textbook, and, guided by a nurse, who at the same time was a patient, in the presence of the other assisting nurses, I performed that abortion. Unfortunately, within a week we had to redo the surgery because the bleeding had not stopped. Finally, at ended well, but I never performed an abortion again even after going to a two-day seminar on obstetrics to improve my skills and to get a certificate.
  In the course of work, I often had to display my organizer's skills. Once, I brought a bottle of alcohol to a printing place and asked to print 1000 forms for gynecologic patients and patients with thyroid diseases. (Apparently, there was not enough iodine in the drinking water, and I watched many patients suffering from goiter.) Then, I instructed the midwives to complete those surveys with the available women for the statistical purposes. But I did not go beyond collecting the stats. A thick folder of papers that I took with me when I was later moving to the Rostov region was forgotten forever in my garage.
  Mastitis (breast infection) was another major problem on my site due to lack of sanitation during breastfeeding. I didn't have a clue how to deal with it, and did not want to ask the midwife not to show my ignorance. Then, I studied the Vishnevsky tutorial 'Local Novocaine Anesthesia'. Based of the drawings from the book, I applied a local anesthetic, boldly took a scalpel, made incisions and drainage, and covered the wound with ointment and bandage. The result was superb! After a week, the sick women recovered.
  Sometimes, on the streets of our villages, I met people (especially, women) with ruined noses. It made me recall the lectures of Professor Borzov, who had mentioned that we will face syphilis of the third stage which affects noses. We accounted such patients and treated with biohinol.
  One day, a patient with a huge belly came to see me. He suffered from the liver cirrhosis, a disease complicated by a fluid in the abdomen. I had a number of khaki bags with various medical tools, obviously from the war time, left by the previous doctor. In one of them, I found a trokar - a hollow tube with a nail inside. I pierced the abdomen of the patient with the nail, entered the abdominal cavity and removed the accumulated fluid under local anesthesia.
  My next 'heroic achievement' was to pump oxygen into abdominal cavity in patients with lung tuberculosis in order to compress the lung. I learned this procedure from Dr. Ostnis who was a great specialist in that area. His wife, a very pretty woman, was an ophthalmologist but, unfortunately, died too early. Dr. Ostnis left later to Israel, and, with help of our common friend Tenenboym, married my second cousin Salya Landa. She also lost her first husband who was that physicist Landa who helped me pass the Medical school entrance examination by turning away and letting my friends to help me.
  But let's go back to the problem of tuberculosis on my site. Due to a large number of patients, I proposed an innovative solution to open a daytime clinic in the village of Chetyreny. The collective farm had to allocate space, food for staff and patients, 10 beds, and free medications. This innovation was approved by the Board of the collective farms, and the clinic began to operate with a huge benefit for the population. Since I learned to inject oxygen into the abdominal cavity, a few years later we were able to dramatically reduce the number of tuberculosis patients.
  'Lenin's Lamp'
  Four young specialists started to work in Unceshty at about the same time. Victor Cherniavskiy was Director of Winery, Father Nikolay led a small local church, Mikhail Glemb headed a collective farm, and I was a new local doctor. Glemb represented the Soviet State and the farmers, father Nikolai was the spiritual head of the local population, I treated illnesses, and Victor Cherniavskiy was the most important person, because he possessed a critical commodities: wine, spirits and electricity. All of the high bosses had come to drink with Victor. Everybody was seeking friendship with him. I often visited him to ask for a canister of alcohol. Alcohol was the exchange currency in those years, you could get anything for it. By nature of his profession, Victor periodically had to taste his production, that is, wines. Often, his wife Alla participated. Sometimes, seemingly for tasting, Victor would call me, and I would gladly come to the family gatherings. However, Viktor's attempts to make me love alcohol failed. Nevertheless, with his help, I had completed a lot of useful projects for the hospitals, and for the village of Unceshty.
  One of the main projects associated with Victor was electrifying the hospital. In those days of the villages, the light was received from kerosene lamps. Without much hesitation, Victor responded to my request for help. My part of the job was to get poles and aluminum wiring that were scarce at the time. With an approval papers from the central Doctor in Chief and a canister of alcohol from Victor, I and Volodya Marar, who drove the collective farm truck, went to the city warehouse to persuade the management and fulfill our request. I argued for a half of the day with an associate at the warehouse, to release the poles and wiring to me. He kept refusing, finding many reasons for it. When I all the arguments were exhausted, Volodya brought the precious canister that shook the stubborn better than any persuasion. A few minutes later, the warehouse chief and his aides began to load the polls, that surprised me with their thickness, as well as a heavy roll of wiring. Then, we stopped by my parents' place on Kuznechnaya Street, where they fed us, and in five hours, tired but satisfied, arrived at Unceshty.
  At our house on Kuznechnaya Street with mom and brother (at the piano), 1960, Kishinev
  The next step in the wiring operation was installing the power lines from the winery to the hospital. The help came from the chairman of the collective farm Mikhail Glemb. He sent electricians to lay the first in history of those Moldovan villages electricity lines. Remarkably, it was done not by the Soviet state, not by the Communist party, and not even by the collective farm, but by a young and energetic doctor. I wanted to shout, 'Viva Lenin's lamp!' 1 although, to be fair, the light was on only at nighttime and in the early morning. But that was enough for starters. In the coming years, again with the help of the farm and chief of the regional hospital Dr. Vainberg, we expanded our hospital from 15 to 20 beds and opened an x-ray, physiotherapy and dental cabinets. Today I wonder, why I was always scolded and punished, and never praised for those acts? Why two Jews, the chief of the regional hospital and chairman of the collective farm, were constantly receiving reprimands solely because of me, the third Jew, who, apparently, because of the peculiarities of his nature, simply could not sit idle waiting for the others to do anything useful? I followed my inner impulses and did not understand, or did not want to understand, that this was nothing more than a manifestation of antisemitism.
  Once the 'Lenin's lamp' lit in my apartment too, I decided to buy an electrical radio. Back then, it was almost impossible to get electronics but my father's connections helped.
  Victor, the head of the wine factory, finally left us and moved his family to the town of Yelets. He was a great friend, and I keep some good stories related to him. Once, he was teaching me how to ride a motorcycle. Feeling like a real man, I jumped onto a saddle and, without hesitation, stepped on gas. The motorcycle escaped from under me just like a horse, and I found myself on the ground. Victor did not have enough time to even blink.
  1The term 'Lenin's lamp' (Ilyich's lamp) for an electric bulb, a reference to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, is a reminder of the Electrification Plan under the Lenin's command.
  Pontoon Bridge Regiment
  The next adventure of my life happened a few years after Nikita Khrushchev1 came to power in the Soviet Union as a result of a short and bloody showdown around the Moscow Kremlin in 1953. In 1956, the so-called Suez crisis was erupting in the Middle East. Following a revolution in Egypt, King Farukh was overthrown, and young military officers, led by Abdel Nasser, came to power. They blocked the Suez Canal which was very important for the international navigation and oil trade. France, England and Israel launched a military campaign against Egypt. Although Israel was established on Stalin's approval and survived with the assistance of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev somehow took the side of Egypt.
  Because of this event, a draft in the Soviet Army had begun. I and my supply manager, who, by the way, fought on the German side somewhere in the Don region during the World War Two, were summoned to the military. We were sent to a camp in Vadul Lui Voda on the Dnestr river, leaving our hospital without a doctor. I was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, and, in spite of hernia, found fit for military service. Hernia would have caused me to be sent home from the service if I was only a low-ranked soldier, but for an officer, it was not an excuse.
  So I became a senior doctor in the not yet formed regiment. Upon arrival to the regiment, I saw a huge number of 'amphibians', floating on the water tanks. I opened a clinic and was allocated 3 people: a paramedic, a head of pharmacy and a nurse. In the evenings, I treated the reservists. Among them, there were many aging people.
  When I asked the head of the pharmacy about availability of medications, he said that there were only 4 types: red streptocid, white streptocid, aspirin, and iodine.
  I remember well my first patient in the military. An aged man came and complained of the back pain. I issued a certificate of incapacity for work and told a nurse to give him some aspirin from our inventory. Aside from helping me, the nurses was disinfecting the toilets with chloride. The lazy head of pharmacy was just carrying the streptocid left-overs from the big war time and moving it from one box to another.
  The regiment consisted primarily of engineers and other intellectuals, absolutely not trained in amphibious operations, naturally, did not constitute any combat unit, although armed with several dozen pieces of equipment like pontoon bridges and amphibians. Our perplexity about the mobilization was quickly dispelled by a senior officer. In the evening, he explained us gathered in the smoking room that we were preparing for a move to the 'eastern front'. One of our warriors asked about the whereabouts of the eastern front. Then, something happened that, I believe, was destined to happen. Because most of our reservists were Jewish engineers, the laughter was indescribable. We realized that they wanted to send us to Egypt where we would fight against our brothers. But the officer was just kidding. The real Soviet troops were already prepared to strike, and us, the reservists, would have never been sent to a real military operation.
  Despite the huge technical assistance to President of Egypt Nasser, Israeli tanks of General Sharon had already crossed the Suez Channel and were not far from Kairo, the capital of Egypt. The Soviet leader Khrushchev had waved his boot in the United Nations and shouted at President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Eden to stop the Israeli aggression. Finally his wish was fulfilled through the diplomatic channels.
  During the two months of our unexpected service, we were swimming in the Dniester River every day. Every day I was receiving food parcels from my mother through an acquainted driver who brought food to the regiment. In addition, I was getting food from the officers' cafeteria.
  One time, I was walking on the central plaza of the military base with undone collar and untightened belt. Two staff officers stopped me, one of whom made a comment that was mostly cursing. However, I was rescued from the awkward situation by the second officer who said: 'Leave him alone, he is a civilian'.
  Then, the rains started. They were going for hours, as if in the jungle. Water was pouring through the holes in the tents, and we had no choice but to wring our clothes with bare hands and wear it again. Interestingly, nobody got sick. Finally, we were put into the bottom compartments of the amphibians where we practically laid in layers. In the thick mud, our car was moving slowly and throwing us to the right, then to the left, until it finally sled to the side of the road. The soldiers had to attach a chain to a tree and pull us back. Finally, by the end of the night, we arrived to Kishinev where I went home and, waking up my parents, fell on the couch totally exhausted. That was the most senseless ending of the two months of my military life.
  By the way, in the army, I did suffer from my hernia and therefore decided to get rid of it. Dad found a good surgeon, and the hernia was removed under local anesthesia.
  1Nikita Khrushchev was a Soviet statesman who led the Soviet Union during a part of the Cold War as the First Secretary of the Communist Party. He was responsible for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.
  Beginning of My Career in Radiology
  In 1957, there was a decree from a local medical chief to equip our rural hospitals with radiological facilities, and all young doctors were sent to a Kishinev medical school to study radiology.
  After 4 months of study, I earned an additional medical diploma in Radiology and spent the next 8 years working part-time as an x-ray doctor, That 'part time' arrangement worked in a way that I was seeing up to 100 patients a day due to the overwhelming desire of Moldovans from the surrounding villages to get the new examination.
  The x-ray place was approved by the collective farm Chairman and situated next to the library and wine cellar. So, in the afternoon, I often visited my friend Victor Cherniavskiy who always had a new kind of wine to taste.
  Intrigued by the radiology and having a huge number of children suffering from rickets1, I decided to collect x-rays of their lower limbs. I had accumulated a lot of such images, described them and classified. Unfortunately, this study did not go further because my main job distracted me from the science. Besides, what new could I discover in that well-developed field?
  I was getting tired of living in the old doctor's house and I asked a chief of the regional hospital, Dr. Vainberg, to help me with the problem. It tuned out, none of my rural colleagues ever complained about housing before. In that period, the Soviet government began to purchase the so-called 'Finnish houses', quick to assemble small residential houses exported from Finland. Glemb, the collective farm Chairman, provided the carpenters who brought and assembled a three-room cabin with a veranda, a kitchen, a bathroom and a basement. That became my place and home for the doctors who eventually replaced me.
  I also managed to engage in agriculture. Together with the team of the hospital staff, we planted a peach garden on the clinic site for which the farm gave us some plants. 3 years later, we tried the first harvest with great pleasure.
  However, not everything went so smoothly. One unpleasant event happened to my son. He caught a cold, and then developed acute laryngitis with loss of voice and laryngeal edema. We urgently took him to Kishinev where I spent several long days and nights at his bedside. He recovered, thanks to the introduction of prednisone, although the timbre of his voice had changed permanently.
  The Moldovans whom I served were nice to me. According to a tradition going back to the Romanian times, they idolized a doctor and brought all kinds of food to my doorstep. Often in the morning, I discovered either a chicken, vegetables, grapes or wine there. Some of it I ate myself, but a larger part was given back to the hospital kitchen. Because my wife and son moved in Kishinev, I ate in the hospital. There was a dairy kitchen in our village, led by a Russian woman. Modeled on that kitchen, we organized two more dairy kitchens for children up to one-year-old. It helped to reduce child morbidity and mortality in the area. There was an episode that almost brought me into the hands of the KGB. An older woman came with her sick daughter and, traditionally, brought a gift of a chicken. I diagnosed a complicated heart condition and explained to the mother that the disease is not treatable. The disappointed woman reminded me that she just gave a chicken. Being angry, she reported the incident to the authorities. When an investigator arrived from Ungheny and began to interrogating me about this episode, I realized that not all my patients were that nice. I was in a big trouble but my friends Kamenker and Goldgamer, who knew the investigator, helped to turn it into an ordinary misunderstanding.
  1Rickets a disease of children causes by vitamin D deficiency, characterized by softening, and distortion of the bones typically resulting in bow legs.
  Father Nicolay
  In the first years of my work, there was high infant mortality despite the use of penicillin. Trying to identify the source of the problem, I came to the conclusion that one of the main reasons was the church, and more specifically, baptizing of the newborns in cold water. Even though Father Nikolay helped to paint the hospital with the paint I borrowed from him and never returned, I, a convinced atheist, wrote an angry article about him in a local newspaper. The article, by the way, has not changed his good attitude toward me. We were young, and each of us benefited the people in his own way.
  Once, I had a privilege to care for his wife (in the Orthodox Church, a priest can marry). I was summoned to the bedside of the sick and greeted by a welcoming variety of food and booze. Then we moved on examining the patient, and I told Father Nicolay: 'Your wife has an acute cholecystitis, but why do you have to ask me to help her instead of praying for her recovery?' He timidly replied: 'Of course, I will pray from morning till evening, but the doctor is a god of medicine on Earth. Do your job, and I'll do mine'. Thanks to the prayers of Father Nikolay and my diligence, his wife recovered very soon.
  Many years later, when I lived in the Rostov region, a priest from a nearby village Leninka requested my medical assistance. He was an erudite, even knew some Hebrew. We became friends, and he started to supply me with the church literature. In one of the magazines, I read that the priest of the village of Chetyreny received the highest award of the ecclesiastical authority, the order of St. Vladimir. It was Father Nicoley, and I felt proud that I knew him.
  Typhus and The Beginning of My Neurological Career
  Soon, I started to enjoy modest successes in my work. Infant mortality in my district went down to its absolute minimum. I presented at several medical conferences with good feedback. My personal life was also going well. I was reading a lot, had a vinyl record player, and was purchasing records actively, mainly the classical music. I would start my day with a morning listening to Beethoven. Often, we went on harvesting, helping our collective farm. I was playing in the first football team established in Unceshty.
  Dr. Vaysman, early 1960s
  These were the happy days until the second doctor Bobrikova arrived. At first, I was glad and gave her the therapy, obstetrics and children's departments. But how could I get along with a second doctor who poked her nose into everything? Once, I caught her doing abortions and recording it as 'gastritis' in the medial chart. I went to the chief physician of the district Dr. Vainberg and told him all about that. Dr. Vainberg took Bobrikova to his regional hospital and saved me from her presence.
  The peace was restored at the hospital until one unpleasant incident happened. I was going to Kishinev for the weekend. When I was getting into the car, my nurse called me to see a sick women from Manuileshty. The patient had a high fever, chills, headache, and there was no clear diagnosis. Instead of staying for the sake of this patient, I filed it as influenza, and sped away. Could I guess that the patient actually had typhus contracted from her husband when he came back from a business trip? The tragedy was that, when I came back, the patient died. I reported this to the chief physician of the District, and he, in turn, reported to a chief in the Health Ministry. The epidemiological commission was sent to us. They requested to wash our population that suffered from lice. Even though we had always inspected our patient for lice, in the case of that deceased patient, there was no nurse's record of the inspection. I was punished. Luckily, I was not put to jail, only removed from the position of the chief physician of the hospital and became a regular doctor. I was called to the bar in the Ministry, received a severe warning recorded in the personal file, but I got off easily. Soon, the second doctor came from Kishinev, and I was transferred to a position of the district neurologist in Ungheny. Now, I was going to work in Unceshty in the early morning and coming back late at night.
  After a thorough disinfection of the population, there were still several cases of typhus, but without a lethal outcome. Again, per my request, the collective farm allocated premises for the public bath1. It was the first public bath in this rural site, and people, unfamiliar with such thing, used it with reluctance.
  1Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness at a time when most people did not have access to private bathing facilities.
  In 1963, doctors of rural hospitals were asked to come to the regional hospital and pick up the new nurses. Because I was more agile and got up early, I came first. Chief Doctor Vainberg said with a smile: 'You are the first buyer, and I know, you will choose the most beautiful nurses'. He brought me into the hall. There were about 20 girls. I walked between them trying to choose 2 nurses. Then I spotted two girls sitting next to each other, one was bright blonde, and the other was almost a Gypsy. Somehow, I immediately decided that I'll take them, and asked only one question: 'Will you go with me?' Valya, who was very tired of moving from Rostov, first said: 'Yes'. Lisa supported her. So, I got a paramedic and a nurse. I put the girls in our little 'Skoda', and so we left. The 30 minutes on the road, my mind was stuck on the blonde, Valentina. I felt an extraordinary drive towards her, falling in love on the first sight.
  About a year later, Lisa came to my office very upset and sad that she is pregnant and that her boyfriend Poya, who was drafted and served in Odessa at the time, is refusing to marry her. I decided to help her but how? I wrote a letter to the Army General Babadzhanyan who had succeeded Marshal Zhukov as Commander of the Odessa region. In the letter, I outlined the situation and asked for his assistance. Imagine our surprise when the groom arrived in a few weeks and offered his hand and heart to Lisa! Later, Lisa gave birth to a child, and lived happily for 15 years in the marriage. Then, unfortunately, she died early.
  Valentina Reznikova, 1965
  Another rather funny episode of this period occurred when one day after work, I, Valya, and my friend Kolya Popovich stopped at the winery. The owner of the winery, previously mentioned Victor Cherniavskiy, seated us, as usual, at the table and served wine. It was a new kind of wine that we drank as water. However, coming back to the clinic, we were so drank that could not go on and fell on the sofa, on a chair, and just on the floor. So ended the tasting the new kind of wine, and we, as laboratory mice, experienced all 'delights' of that alcohol.
  Potemkin-Tavricheski Gravestone
  Once, I and my coworkers went to the picnic in the so-called Redenskiy forest, that got its name from the village of the Old Redeny. When I stopped by some trees to relieve myselves, I accidentally discovered a headstone deep in the ground, with the word on it, 'Tavricheski'. Well educated in history and geography, I realized that the famous Russian Prince Potemkin-Tavricheski died here (on his way from Iasi to Nikolaev). Given all my energy, I, most likely, would have organized a commemorative event for the discovery of the stone and certainly alerted the local newspapers. But during that period, I was too busy dating my future wife Valentina. So I just reported the finding to the local Museum of Natural History of Kishinev. The Museum staff took the information with thanks, but within the next two years when I still lived in Unceshty, and to this day, I have not heard anything about this stone. Surfing the Internet, I managed to find a photograph of a monument to Potemkin-Tavricheski located near the village of Old Redeny. The question is, if this is the stone I discovered.
  Monument at the place of death of Prince Potemkin-Tavricheski (photo from the Internet)
  My Father's Second Ordeal
  In the spring of 1962, I received a phone call and learned sad news: my father, Lev Vaysman, was arrested on charges of improper allocation of funds in the same trust 'Moldraszhirmaslo'. In this difficult time of Khrushchev's rule, several of his colleagues were charged in a wave of trial 'for show'. My father found himself in the same prison where Kotovskiy was expecting his sentencing, and where, in 1941, dad spent months himself. The prison, by coincidence, was visible from the windows of our house in Kishinev.
  A speedy trial took place in Beltzy. My wife's best friend, Valentina Deripasko, worked as a secretary in the court where the trial happened, another strange coincidence. Of course, this could not change anything.
  The strange coincidences do not end there. My father served his time in a Soviet prison twice, and both times he was sentenced to eight years, and the both times he was imprisoned for alleged wrongdoings while working at the same place on the same position. After the trial, my father was sent to a labor camp at the village of Karmanovo, the district of Tiraspol. And again, it was just that village to which I was assigned after my graduation, although did not go there.
  Once, I, my mother and my younger brother Fima came to visit my father in the labor camp near Karmanovo. After the meeting, we took a taxi, but the car had only 2 vacant seats. My brother jumped into the trunk, and the cabbie didn't mind. Fima arrived to Kishinev in the trunk with periodic stops to stretch his legs.
  My brother did everything possible and impossible to shorten his sentence, he was pardoned 4 years later. He came back a sick man. After losing his job, he had to take a job in the same building but behind the counter of a book kiosk. Then, there was a boom in the sale of book as they became a valuable commodity. Dad had access to the most valuable publications that were happily added to our home libraries. When he was 65 years old, my father retired. To determine the pension size, he was required to bring the confirmation of employment from the Romania time. Because he worked in a branch of a French company 'Dreyfus', he wrote to his cousin in Paris. She was married to a hero of the French resistance, Colonel of the patriotic group of Maquis that supported General de Gaulle. The cousin helped to get the confirmation letter, and a proposal from the company to pay a compensatory pension came. Dad went to the Interior Ministry with the French proposal. He was hinted that it would be nice if this money would be donated to a government fund. My father understood, and did not respond to the offer of compensation.
  Lev Vaysman with his granddaughter Zhanna, 1973, Sholokhovskiy
  My father couldn't sit without work. In addition to his duties at the kiosk, he helped the vendor of a neighboring store. Understandably, the two arrests and labor camps severely damaged his health. His blood pressure was elevated, and he developed signs of a heart disease. During one of my regular visits to Kishinev, I noticed that he was taking nitroglycerin (a heart medication) too often while walking. As a physician, I knew the dangers of the situation and wanted to suggest that he quits his jobs. I also understood that, without work, he would feel worse emotionally. This condition could not last for long, and soon my father suffered two subsequent heart attacks.
  In 1976, I was awakened by a phone call from Sofa, my brother's wife. She said that my father is in the hospital, and I should come to Kishinev. I rushed to find someone who, in the autumn slush, will be able to bring me to Rostov, and my good friend Andrey Dosaev responded. In difficult weather conditions, he drove me to the Rostov airport. Then, a number of unfortunate events cause by the weather, continued. Two hours en route, the flight attendant announced that the plane will land in Kiev, not in Kishinev. Upon arrival in Kiev, I rushed to the phone and called home. My niece picked up the phone and asked where I was. She told me: 'Uncle Yuliy, you need to be in Kishinev as soon as possible'. I realized that my dad probably died.
  Learning that the Kishinev airport was closed, the passengers who stuck in the Kiev airport, went ahead to take taxis or to catch a train. I, together with a group of them, took a ticket to Zaporozhye. We were late and ran to the aircraft by foot. Kishinev was still closed, and I chose to fly from Zaporozhye to Odessa. We ran across the field again, almost on the tail of the aircraft. An hour later, I was in Odessa and, waving a bundle of money, run to the first taxi driver, offering any amount if he takes me to Kishinev immediately. Having 500 rubles at stake, a taxi driver drove me to the hospital where my father was. I asked the driver to wait, but in my heart was hoping that dad is still alive. A nurse told me that Vaysman was discharged. I was stunned and could not immediately realized what happened. I ran out of the hospital and crossed a half of the city by taxi. When I came home, the gate was open, and relatives, who embraced me with tears in their eyes, brought me to the house. According to Jewish tradition, the funeral must be held no later than the next day. By some miracle, I managed to get their on time.
  Dad was laying on the table, encircled by the relatives. After deaths of two grannies in the war time, it was the first loss for me. From that point on, I started to realize that I cannot live so carelessly any longer, depending on mom and dad.
  That night, I and my brother, crying and sad, were sitting on either side of the table, thinking about our future. It is time to recall how, a few years earlier, my dad's friend, leaving for Israel, suggested to follow his example. He thought that for my father, who had twice suffered from the Soviet reality, the decision about leaving would be easy. But my father understood that neither I nor my brother were ready to commit to such an adventure. He could leave along but would not without his children.
  My father Lev Vaysman's gravestone in the Jewish cemetery, Kishinev
  The funeral was held on the next day. I was surprised at the number of total strangers who accompanied my father to rest, and how he was respected not only within the family but also in the society. My father is buried at the Kishinev Jewish cemetery, where the other relatives lie.
  With the departure of our father, my brother Fima took care of our mom, to whom he came every morning before work. Because of our father's arrest years earlier, Fima was expelled from a good job position. He had to work as a mechanic at one of the wineries. Earlier, he was an engineer at the factory of washing machines built on the land that, before the Soviets, belonged to my grandfather Yoel.
  With that, I would like to end the first part of my narrative. The life in the village of Sholokhovskiy, my personal prison epic, and the period of emigration will be presented in the next book.
  Author: Yuliy Vaysman
  The initiator and executor of the project: Ella Romm
  Assistant: Michael Romm
  Family photos from Yuliy Vaysman's archive
  You can order the book via email queenstory@gmail.com or on the website www.lulu.com.
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