• Autobiographical Remarks

    I was born in Kharkov on November 12, 1937. At the beginning of the war, my father went to the front (he had been drafted into a training camp even before the war). My mother, a doctor, evacuated with her children (my 6 year old brother and me) along with her hospital to the city Ageim in the region called German Volga Republic, and then a year later to Termez in Uzbekistan, near the Afghanistan border. Mother worked in the Military School as the head of the Medical sanitary division in the Military school. Early in 1946, we returned to Kharkov, to the same apartment we had lived in before the war. I lived and worked in Kharkov till emigration to the United states in 1978.


    After graduating high school with a gold medal, I enrolled in Kharkov Medical School, and completed the program in 1961. This was time of “Thaw”. I remember the “Thaw” very well – Khrushchev’s report to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with its criticism of the cult of Stalin’s personality, and the events and the mood associated with this period. I was still a student at the time, and had become interested in hematology. After graduating medical school, I became a hematologist. In 1970 I got PhD degree after passing special exams and defending doctoral dissertation in the field of hematology. By 1978 I had 26 published papers (one in the USA) and was one of two most well known hematologists in Kharkov.


    My father was born July 13, 1915 in Yampol, Ukraine. His parents were relatively well to do, they had a small farm, a cow, two horses, chickens, and fruit orchard with apples, nut bushes and grapes. They we able to eat themselves and sell surplus. There were two boys, Semen (1912) and Alexander (Shura or Sasha in Russian, papa) and three girls, Rosa (1909), Bela (1907), Tsilya (1920). All children had to help in the farm and in the store. Boys went to Jewish school “heder”. The father wrote his “official” date of birth as 1912 to be older for qualifying for the army, only in the army one was able to get food during years when millions died of hunger. Father studied accounting in Technical school. A few years before the WWII he was called in the Army. He was heavily wounded in the head and leg under Vyasma. He was saved by his friends who used self-made stretchers to bring him to the army hospital. These friends were sent back to the war front and were all killed. The father survived and was able to find us in Termez. He tought skills of the artillery in the Military school in Termez. After the war he worked as an accountant in the Regional Financial Office. This important post and his past as “frontovik” helped him defending me when I had troubles during my one year of studies in the Geology school. My father died on September 8, 1963 (the year Kennedy was killed) from wounds he had received in the war, at the age of forty-eight.


    My mother Anya was born on October 25, 1912 in Murovany Kirilovets, Ukraine. According to the family legend, her mother Lia did not love her husband and left him after my mother was born. She was in love with a Polish officer, and they lived well before WWI. He was drafted to the Army during WWI. After the war on his way back he became ill with typhus and was taken off the train in Kamenets-Podolsky. Lia went to nurse him but got infected herself, and they both died of typhus. My grand-grand mother Sarah was left with her six year old grand-daughter Anya destitute. The grand-mother soon died and Anya was taken to the orphanage. At the age 14 mother got accepted to the Nursing school. After nursing school my mother was sent to to help doctor in Mogilev-Podolsky. Doctor Blayvas liked his young nurse and became like a father to her. Mother met my father in Mogilev-Podolsky. He was a soldier in the Army division stationed in the city. During the war mother became the head of the Medical sanitary division in the Military school. When wounded father found us, mother went to his hospital and brought him to Termez. After the war, my mother worked as the Head Doctor in Kharkov hospital. She was demoted from her position in 1953 when Jewish doctors were accused in the conspiracy to kill communist leaders. She then worked as a pediatrician. She died on October 2, 1992, three weeks before her 80th birthday.


    My older brother Vladimir was born on July 6, 1935. He graduated from the school with a gold medal. He completed his education in the Kharkov University as a physicist. The father helped him to find work in Kharkov. In 1962 he started working in the Institute connected to space research. The father helped him to get this position that was otherwise closed to people with the “fifth line” in the passport written as “Jewish”. Later he worked as an associate professor in one of the Kharkov universities. He died of cancer on April 23, 2010.


    My life in the Soviet Union was connected with Kharkov, a city I loved. My world view was shaped in the stormy atmosphere of the sixties, with its hopes for a better future. The lack of genuine reforms eventually steered me to emigration. I emigrated with my family to Chicago in 1978 and started working as a doctor.


    I began writing poetry at the age of sixteen. It was written “for the desk drawer” and never published in the Soviet Union. Not long before my departure for the United States, my mother, fearing for my safety, burned all of my poems without even reading them. I published my first book of poetry, “The Hero of an Impossible Dream” with the University of Chicago Press in Chicago in 1989. The collection consisted partly of lyrics and longer poems I had written in America, and partly of the poems I remembered from those that had been burned on the gas stove in Kharkov.


    I returned to Kharkov for the first time in 1989, during “perestroika”, and collected the poems that I didn’t remember from my family and friends. These poems were published in four poetry collections in the United States and the Soviet Union. In addition, selections of the poetry were published in America, Kharkov, and Leningrad. I also made an unforgettable trip to Leningrad, where I was invited for reading of my poem “Hitler and Mozart”. I read the poem on December 5, 1991 at the Rimsky-Korsakov museum at an evening dedicated to the two hundredth anniversary of Mozart’s death.


    I began to write plays at the end of the 1990s. The play “Chekhov on Devon” was performed in Chicago in 1998 and in the St. Petersburg theater “Komedianty” in 1999. It was in the latter theater’s repertory for about ten years. My second play, “Paradoxes of Sredizemnomorsky,” was performed in Kharkov in 1999. In all of these cities the plays attracted full houses. A televised version of “Chekhov on Devon” was produced by “Komedianty” theater and shown by the nation-wide Russian channel “Culture” on October 7, 2000. In April 2001, “Chekhov on Devon” was performed by “Komedianty” theater on tour at the Rachmaninov Cultural Center in Paris.


    My joint work with the St. Petersburg composer Timur Kogan proved very successful. Timur Kogan composed an oratorio “A Viennese Kaddish” to the words of my poem “Hitler and Mozart” and other poems,. The premiere of “A Viennese Kaddish” was successfully performed in 1999 in the Maly Hall of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. A film of this performance is available in the internet ”youtube”. A special show about my literary work called “A Striking Talent” was broadcast in St. Petersburg at this time as well. In 2000 “A Viennese Kaddish”was presented at the Chicago Center for the Performance Arts with Timur Kogan as a conductor. This performance was broadcasted by WFMT Chicago classical music station. A review of this performance was published in Chicago Tribune. Our collaboration also produced various musical compositions all premiered in St. Petersburg. These included nine romances (with words from different poems, 1999). “The Four Seasons of a Woman” (based on my libretto, 2000), “Tragedy of a woman” (based on the poem “On the death of Anna Karenina”, 2004), and music for play “Rina” (2015). Other composers who worked with me were Nikolay Vorotniak, Euginia Lopatnik, Igor Rogalev, Yuli Galperin, Eugene Galperin and Eugene Irshai. At the present time about eighty musical works had been composed based on my poetry.


    In April 2002, my book of prose “A House by the Lake”, consisting of forty stories, four plays, and the first chapters of a novel “Borrowed Time”, was published by the Kharkov press “Folio.” The stories and chapters from this book were published in American, Canadian and German journals. My play “The Return” was premiered as part of the Fifth International Russian Festival of the Arts in Paris in November 2002 by actors of the St. Petersburg company “Baltic House” and the St. Petersburg International Classical Center. My other publications are included in my bibliography.