A debut memoir tells the story of a Russian-Jewish family’s experiences throughout the 20th century.
This family history, a tribute to the author’s late mother, Alla, begins with the author’s grandparents, well-educated and relatively wealthy Jews who were forced to adjust to the Russian Revolution and the early days of communism. During the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Alla saw her father arrested on a political charge and sent to prison. Despite the difficulties of being the daughter of a political prisoner, Alla managed to complete her medical degree and marry Victor Dunaevsky, a young Jewish engineer. The couple made it through the horrors of World War II, and Alla gave birth to the author in the midst of battle and deprivation. After the war, the extended Dunaevsky family maintained a modest standard of living as they moved from one part of the Soviet Union to another and family members joined and left the household. Finally, Alla and Victor settle in Latvia, and the author joined them there partway through his engineering studies. In 1979, the author, disillusioned with communism and the rise of Soviet anti-Semitism, immigrated to the United States; the widowed Alla followed him several years later. They settled in the Pittsburgh area, where Alla was an active part of the community until her death in 2010. Alla’s story is engaging, but the memoir’s many digressions into the broader history of the Soviet Union might have been better organized and the writing itself more polished. That said, the author’s love for his mother and respect for the challenges she faced are evident throughout. The book is generously illustrated with family photographs, although a diagram of Alla’s family tree might have been helpful for keeping track of the many relatives who appear in the text.
A digressive family history which features a fresh look at life in the Soviet Union and the immigrant experience in the United States.