Back to Written Stories

image of author

As my Bar Mitzvah approaches I think about my deep family roots in Russia. My parents met in America and I am a first generation Natanov in America. My dad's family (Natanov) was from a region in Russia called Caucasus which is by the Caspian Sea and near the mountains. My mom’s family (Loyeva) was from Kiev, Ukraine. My mom’s and dad’s family immigrated to America in the early 90s in hopes of a better life.  As a result of their bravery and their hope they gave me an amazing life. I want to repay them by capturing their stories and preserving a piece of priceless history.

High hopes in heart my grandma Nellie and her husband Sasha and their kids Julie age 11 and Anna (my mom) age 20 arrived in New York September 29, 1992. They came on a plane from Ukraine. They fled the anti Semitism in Ukraine that made it difficult Jews from getting a good job or going into a high ranking university. Even though Ukraine had been their home, going to America was the only way to pursue a better life. But even being in America would have other challenges such as learning a new language and getting a new job. Nellie and her family were very frightened about coming to America. It was their life on the line. However they were in luck as they had relatives who they stayed with for two weeks as they got legal documents and adapted to their new life. They all learned how to speak English. Soon they got an apartment in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Nellie got a job as a chemist, Sasha worked in a computer office, my mom went to college, and Julie went to school. Even though they were occasionally homesick they each endured hardship, but in the end each of them got a beautiful life.

My grandpa Kolya and his wife Mila and his two kids Julia and Serge (my dad age 24) came to America May 25, 1991 by a PANAM plane. Kolya’s brother Lazar was also bringing his family to America. They were not only fleeing anti-Semitism but also local Muslims in the area who were angry about the Gulf War. They knew it would not be easy to make it in America. Especially because both my grandma and grandpa were over 50 and getting use to a new culture at that age is very hard to do. However they knew what to expect in America, but life is always full of surprises. After coming the family moved into Budd Lake, NJ. They attended a Jewish vocational school in East Orange, NJ to learn English. Even after learning English they had a hard time getting a job and making money. But through their courage and perseverance they made it through and now have an amazing life in America enjoying their children and grandchildren to prosper.

My Bar Mitzvah is more than just the party or the service. It is about becoming an adult in the Jewish community. But even more for me it’s about becoming the first member of my family to have a formal Jewish education. Without my family I would have never succeeded. I need to honor my family by giving them the recognition they deserve. I needed to capture the stories of my family that made me who I am today. For without family who are we?


profile photo


you are very smart young man--great story, thank you

Report Abuse