«Jewish Observer»
March 2002
5762 Nisan

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- Oh, I've been looking just for you! - Betta Zinovievna, my fifth-floor neighbor was as usual short-winded when she met me at the porch.

- You are working for our newspaper, aren't you? - And without waiting for my answer she chattered on. -Then you must help me as a journalist. You remember my mom, do you?

- Fanya Abramovna? I remember her very well!

- So I want my grandchild to be named after her. It has always been this way with us, Jews ...

- Well, that's a good idea, - I agree. - So, what's the problem? Go ahead! Name him after her!

- But that's where the catch is, - Berta Zinovievna sighed with bitterness. - The matter is, my daughter and her husband are leaving for Germany. She is to give birth to the child there in autumn. The doctor have determined that this going to be a boy, long may he live. Verochka doesn't know how to name him. I insist he should have my mother's name. How can it be otherwise?! You know our tradition that a child should have at least the initial of his ancestor's name. Here the boy would be called Felix. But what kind of Felix is going to be there? He will only be laughed at and teased. I wouldn't like him to differ from German children and to be scowled at. Could you advise me a few suitable names starting with "f"?

- Well. - I made a helpless gesture. - You may call him Ferdinand.

- What? Ferdinand? No, no, - Berta Zinovievna protested. - Ferdinad is too a difficult name for a boy. Is there anything a bit easer?

- Well, then "Frits". It is German, too.

- Oh, Frits will do, - my neghbor looked really happy. - How did I fail to remember the name? We called all the German Frits in the war.

- Do you remember the war?

- Sure. You can forget all that horror? OK, neighbor. Thanks, for prompting the name. We'll name him like this. It will sound both German and Jewish, starting with "f".

With these words she retired to her floor. I smiled sadly after her and took out a cigarette from my pocket.


Oh, if only you knew how we sang 50 years ago! Did you happen to hear us, by chance? But how could you possibly hear us singing? You couldn't even toddle then. And we sang. In our Komsomol meetings, right after the war. About the Young Guards, about the railway steam engine rushing forward without stops and sending sparks in all sides.

These were good songs at that time of hunger. And we sang. Do you remember the proverb: Sing till you burst but do not ask for food?

And our conductor was our Komsomol organizer Fima Gelfand, a thin boy with very bright eyes as if suffering from neglected tuberculosis.

He would say equally bright, like a fire made of dry wood, words and heartened us to bear the burdens of life and believe in the bright future that was to come soon. And we believed him. If only you knew how strong our belief was!

Last year I met him at a charity dinner in a Jewish canteen. On hearing some irresponsible citizens complain that poor Jews had been promised chicken every day but instead had to eat tuna with a rather specific smell, Fima admonished as well as he could emphasizing that all those difficulties were temporary and they would disappear soon like smoke after a fire.

Yesterday I ran into him in the street. He was hurrying to buy suitcases on wheels. He is leaving for his historical Motherland. There are some difficulties there, too, but optimistic Fima assures that they will disappear shortly.

"Shabat Shalom", Dnepropetrovsk

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