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My long journey to freedom

Vladimir Bychkov's story posted by Meir Alelov on December 09, 2012 at 12:51 pm. Vladimir emigrated from Moscow, Soviet Union (USSR) to Chicago, United States in 1975

Vladimir Bychkov was born in Moscow on January 24th, 1932. Vladimir’s father’s name was Iosif; his mother’s name was Sheina. He lived with parents in Moscow, in a communal apartment. His family was well off as his father was a lawyer and the chief legal advisor to the Ministry of Health. He had a sister, Elena, who died two years before he was born. Vladimir went to the First Moscow Medical School and specialized in Pathology. In Moscow, Vladimir became associate professor of Pathology at the Central Postgraduate Medical School. He met his future wife through an acquaintance of his father, Dr. Galperin. It was love from the beginning, strong and mutual. They both were 22 and got married 6 weeks after their first date. His wife, Ida, was from an educated Jewish family. Her father was professor of Dermatology, and her mother was a lawyer. Soon after their marriage Ida got a position of a legal advisor at the Central Postgraduate Medical School, which Vladimir joined later.

They had two daughters: Elena and Sonia. The children were born in Moscow in 1956 and 1968. Vladimir learned English when he was 25. He applied for the emigration permission in October, 1974, under pretense of having a relative in Israel. The HIAS helped Vladimir’s family with receiving invitation from the faked relatives that allowed them eventually to get permission to leave the Soviet Union. In January 1975 they arrived in Italy and, with HIAS’ help, obtained a refugee status in the US. They arrived in New York on April 29, 1975.There they lived in Forest Hills, Queens, NY for three years. Vladimir passed his medical exams in June, 1975, and became Chief Resident in the Department of Pathology of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. His wife worked part time in the kitchen of the Dov Revel Yeshiva in Forest Hills where Vladimir’s younger daughter was a student. His older daughter worked in a factory, and then entered undergraduate program in the Queens Community College. After completion of the Residency Program in 1978, Vladimir received a position of Assistant Professor and Director of Residency Training at the Department of Pathology of the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago. Vladimir’s wife started a job as a Resettlement Worker in the Jewish Community and Family Service in Chicago.

Their younger daughter continued her studies at the Hebrew School, and the older daughter remained in New York. Later his older daughter got married, moved to Boston and entered Brandeis University taking a course in French Language and Literature. In 1983 Vladimir received a position of Associate Professor of Pathology at the John McGraw Medical College of the Loyola University in Chicago. 1990 Vladimir became a Director of Pathology at the Elmhurst Hospital Center and Associate Professor of Pathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. His wife, Ida, moved with him to New York and worked at the United Jewish Appeal (UJA).

In 1991 Vladimir became a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA), and created Soviet Émigré Advisory Committee consulting the new coming physicians from the former Soviet Union about the ways of regaining their medical license in the United States. In 1995 his monograph “Pathology in the Practice of Gynecology” was published in New York.At the end of 1999 Vladimir’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease, and he decided to quit his job to be with her. They moved to Chicago where Vladimir’s younger daughter Sonia resided, who by that time got married and had a child. Vladimir worked part time at the University of Illinois and Loyola, consulted difficult cases, and served as an Expert Witness in the Court of Law. His wife’s condition steadily deteriorated and in 2004 they moved to Brookline close to his older daughter’s residence.

 Eventually, at the beginning of 2006, Vladimir and his wife were admitted to the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC) in Boston. She received excellent medical care, but passed away on February 18, 2011.Vladimir had multiple encounters with anti-Semitism in his life that greatly contributes to his alienation from Russia. Vladimir in no way considers himself a Russian. His experiences with anti-Semitism began when he was only six years old. Vladimir had discovered that he was Jewish when a girl in his courtyard called him “zhid” (derogatory word equal to **** or Niger). This was the first time he realized that he was different from other Russians. At the beginning of the war with Germany, Vladimir and his family were evacuated in a freight train to the Bashkir Republic. It was a very harsh winter; they spent two weeks in a cattle car riding to Ufa, capital of Bashkiria. While changing trains, they had to stay with a local family. The girl, about 12, called Vladimir and his cousin “*****” again.

 In the other example, in 1953, Vladimir saw a man making loud anti-Semitic statements. The crowd around him was sympathetic. He jumped forward and called the man a “Fascist”. An army major happened to be on Vladimir’s side. He said: “Young man there will be a time when people like him will be punished”. While Vladimir did not experience radical racism in his life, the idea of so many anti-Semites living in Russia made him feel like he didn’t belong there and this was the reason that he did not consider Russia to be his home.Vladimir has a love for languages. He is fluent in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, and is now learning Hebrew. He believes in the motto: “Determination and persistence are omnipotent.” Vladimir has currently completed his memoirs entitled, “One Flew Over the Iron Curtain.” (They may be obtained from by filling the title into the search window of GOOGLE. He has 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren, 2 sons-in-law, and a grandson-in-law. All of them are wonderful. They are the reward Vladimir received from fate. He loves America where he feels inner happiness and bliss. Vladimir said that he has done everything he could ever dream about.

This story was collected by Meir Alelov, a Brandeis-Genesis Institute fellow, as part of a joint project with the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, MA.The Brandeis-Genesis Institute (BGI) is an initiative that prepares Russian-speaking students from around the world to become effective community leaders fortified by Jewish knowledge, a systematic understanding of Russian Jewry, and a commitment to the future of the Jewish peo