This audio interview was translated by Dima Dashevsky using the Russian transcription done by Edgar and Sophia Karpovich. Volunteers who assisted in earlier translations of the interview taped by Bella Galbmillion
included Rita Neymotin, Yana Vasutina, Fred Magaziner, Uriy Kushnir and Victoria Kushnir.
Interviewer: This is the interview for the Jewish Historical Society of
Columbus. We are recording this interview on July 13th, 1999 as a
part of a project creating an audio history of Jews of the city of Columbus. My
name is Galina Dashevsky, and today I will interview Bella Galbmillion. Let’s
begin with the questions that we wanted to ask Bella.
Interviewer:When and where were you born?
Galbmillion: I was born in the year 1908 in the city of Kiev.
Interviewer: Please talk about who your parents and grandparents were.
Galbmillion: I did not know my grandfather on my father’s side
because he passed away before I came into this world. Grandma was left a young
widow with six children. She had six sons. They lived in a suburb of Kiev in a
Jewish settlement. I don’t know if anybody aided my grandmother, but, in some
way, her children educated themselves. I don’t know how to say this, but they
left home. Her eldest son apparently fell into the first stream (of
immigration). He was not part of an evacuation; I do not know how to call
it. In any case, he went to America.
Interviewer: He emigrated?
Galbmillion: Yes. See? I have begun to forget Russian words. He went to
America. I did not know him. I knew nothing about him. As for the rest of the
children… I think… The eldest brother of my father drew fantastically. His
penmanship was beautiful. He had calligraphic handwriting. From this I drew the
conclusion that he somehow studied somewhere. My father’s youngest brother
excellently sculpted. Why do I know about this? Because when I was a little
child, he sculpted me, such a youthful head I had. I posed for him. He was
working, serving…In Kiev there was this antique store by the name of
Zolotnitsky. He worked for the owner. Therefore he had some connection to art.
We had many of my uncle’s paintings with his messages on them, but when World
War II broke out, and we evacuated with my mother, these paintings were stolen.
Only one was saved that we were able to transport here to Columbus. These
relatives – my uncles on my father’s side – all left after the revolution.
Some left for Paris and some went to Poland. My youngest uncle, the one whom I
called “sculptor”, died with his family in the Warsaw Ghetto. About
this and the rest of my relatives on my father’s side I learned from my son
when I came to Columbus.
Interviewer: Bella, pardon me please, what was the name of the uncle who died
in the ghetto?
Galbmillion: Ilya. The one who drew later ended up in Israel. Somehow
he got to Israel from Poland. But all of this my son found out later.
In my time, when I was obligated to answer questions in documents concerning
whether or not I had any relatives abroad, I answered that I did not. I was
obligated to answer these questions because I worked in a laboratory of the
special medical department number four, and getting a job there was very
difficult, especially for Jews.
Interviewer: Was this a medical department that served the government?
Galbmillion: Yes, the Government of Ukraine. That was my family on
my father’s side. My mother’s side is very different. They all stayed. It was the
Soviet Union then. In any case, they all remained there. They did not leave. My mother was
also born in Kiev. I think my grandfather could have also been born in Kiev. He owned a
vinegar factory. The factory by the name of “Macron’s Vinegar
Factory” was renowned. It was considered to be a very good factory, and my
grandfather was doing rather well. I am telling all of this from the words of my
aunts and mother. But all of this was while he was alive. He had many children,
twelve, and he had two wives. His first wife left him, went to another man, and
left him with two daughters. My grandmother was his second wife, and they had
ten children. In total, he had ten daughters and two sons. Still, he was able to
give an education to all of his children. But they were not all fit for
bargaining and commerce. They graduated gymnasia (secondary school of highest
grades preparing for universities in pre-Revolutionary Russia). Afterward,
one of my aunts graduated from Frebelevsky’s course. Another became a doctor.
The others got married. In any case, in the beginning they were well off and
very religious. They held all of the holidays according to Jewish custom. At
their grandmother’s ate two yeshiva buhers (boys). Then my grandfather
fell ill, and a competitor appeared. His last name was Ravicovich, and he also
owned a vinegar factory, and apparently he was a better businessman. And so it
happened that my family underwent a bankruptcy. This was all before the
revolution. My grandmothers passed away, first one and then the other.
And now I will talk about my parents. My mother was a homemaker.
Interviewer: Please tell us their names.
Galbmillion: My father’s name was Naum. His full name was Naum
Marcovich. He died very young as well. I was a child when he passed away. He
died after the revolution. More specifically, he died after 1918 in Kiev. Later
the Soviet Government was established there. My father served at a mill. It was
a big mill in Kiev. It was called “Brindera”, I think. After his
death, my mother was left completely unprepared for life, so to say. She
received welfare for us children, and we, of course, lived a difficult life.
Interviewer: What was your mother’s name?
Galbmillion: Rosa, Rosalia Moiseyevna.
Interviewer: Bella, may I ask you about the stories of you grandmother when
the family was at the dacha (summer house)?
Galbmillion: Oh, yes. Well, my grandmother had many children, and it
was necessary to take the children to nature, fresh air, and the dacha. Annually
my grandmother rented a dacha in the suburbs of Kiev. So for some time she lived
in the dacha in Boyarka. Nearby lived Shalom Aleichem. A Jewish milkman
delivered milk to both my grandmother and Shalom Aleichem. Some wealthy people
also lived nearby. They were also a Jewish family. I think that their last name
was Zaitzev. So one time a daughter and Zaitzev’s daughter-in-law took a walk
in the woods to pick mushrooms, and they got lost. This milkman was returning
home to his village. He led these two women out of the woods. This incident
served as an inspiration for Shalom Aleichem to create Tevye the Milkman (from Fiddler
on the Roof). Of course, as a wonderful writer, he embellished everything
Interviewer: May I ask you a little about the home you lived in? It is very
interesting. It was apparently a typical Jewish family, and a way of life that
was typical for a Jewish family of that time. Can you tell a little about your
Galbmillion: We resided on a street called Pushkin Street in Kiev. It
was parallel to Kreshatnik. It was a rather prestigious street.
Interviewer: Kreshatnik was the main street of Kiev.
Galbmillion: One of the most important. It was called the uptown. Below
was the Jewish settlement. They were permitted to live there when there were
“Pales of Settlement” where Jews could live. Few Jewish families lived
in our complex. My grandmother and grandfather had an apartment that was not far
from their factory. The factory was on Horivaya Street. What else can I say? We
had, of course, not a one or two room apartment, but we had an office for
Father, a living room, a nursery, a bedroom, and a room for the maid.
Interviewer: Only your father worked?
Galbmillion: My father worked.
Interviewer: This was enough to support the family?
Interviewer: Do you remember the revolution of 1917, or any events of the
family tied to the revolution?
Galbmillion: What can I tell you? The revolution…. Of course I do not
remember it all very well. About the revolution… I remember this about the
revolution. In Kiev the government was changing. Some were Germans, some were
Guidamacks (the name of one of the rebellious groups), and some were
Polish. Every time the government changed. I remembered very well that they
blocked the gates and blocked the front entrances because thieves roamed around
and robbed. They robbed especially the Jewish families. Even though we lived on
Pushkin Street, we still all had to use back doors. When Cossacks and other
bandits came and began to knock at the metal gates of our court, we all had to
go down, even the children, and scream in order to catch the attention of
policemen so that they would come to help us. This I remembered about the
revolution: we all shook, and we were scared. But then the Soviet Government
established itself. It became, in this regard, quieter. But then searches began.
They looked for gold, and they looked for valuables. I also remembered that they
came, and they came to us. Father was a member of the trade union so they didn’t
come to really look for gold at our home.
Interviewer: What became of the family’s property?
Galbmillion: My grandfather’s factory, of course, became the
government’s. They took it away from him. My father soon passed away. Times
were very difficult for us. I remember, even though I was a child, how Mother
would always take out our things to sell. I really loved my mother’s outfits.
She owned a wedding dress, and she also had a formal dress that went with a fan
and these special gloves. I really liked this fan. I was terribly disappointed
when my mother took all of this to sell. Times were very difficult for us, of
course. My aunt began something like a daycare. Mothers brought five or six
children to her. I would say that she graduated from Frebelevsky’s course, and
she worked with these children. They would cut out some pictures. This is how
she made a living.
Interviewer: Bella, excuse me, I do not know about Frebelevsky’s course.
Could you explain it?
Galbmillion: They were these courses for the purpose of educating
future teachers. Those who were allowed to work with children were called “Frebelichky”
(a name derived from “Frevelevsky”).
Interviewer: Do you remember the famine of the 1930s?
Galbmillion: I remember the famine of the 1930s very well because our
family experienced it. It was an awful time. I was more or less of an adult. I
was fifteen or sixteen at the time, maybe older. I was born in 1908. How old was
I in 1930?
Galbmillion: Twenty-two, yes. I even worked then. My sister and I
worked and studied at the same time. My sister began to work at age thirteen
(after my father’s death). Mother asked her to. In Kiev, there was at one time
a sewing shop by the name of Timukina. My mother had her dresses done there that
she later sold. My mother begged Timukina to hire her my sister, and she
accepted her because finding a job was difficult. My sister was thirteen years
old then, and she became Timukina’s apprentice and received a salary. I also
worked and studied then. I worked already. It was approximately 1932. I worked.
Then, my cousin’s husband referred me. He later became a member of the Academy
of Science, but then he worked in a polytechnic institute. He helped me to get a
job as a laboratory assistant in the department of painting materials in the
chemical division. I fell in love with chemistry.
Interviewer: Do you remember anything about the events of those years when
there was a famine in Ukraine? That was a very difficult time in Soviet history.
Do you remember anything from that time?
Galbmillion: I remember. At the corner of Pushkin Street and Tolstoy
Square was a bakery. By that store lay two corpses. Farmers came to buy bread.
They were hungry. They would fill up on bread and fall, and then they would die.
I saw a corpse there; that was a terrible experience. This was during the time
of collectivization of agriculture.
Interviewer: Please tell me a little about where you received your education.
Where and how?
Galbmillion: In Kiev. I immediately enrolled in the Pharmaceutical
Institute. Afterwards there were many changes. In the end, for some reason, they
gave us temporary diplomas upon graduation, and then, I think this was after the
war, they gave them to us in medical school. Then there was some confusion. They
transferred us, and combined us. The Medical Institute merged with the Dental
Institute, and the Dental Institute was made a department. There was a….
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Approximately when did you go to college?
Galbmillion: I think I went in 1928.
Interviewer: Tell me please, were there difficulties at this time for Jews to
be accepted into a university or where there not? What do you think?
Galbmillion: There were not so many difficulties for Jews, but
blue-collar workers with a recommendation were first in line to be accepted.
First they accepted blue-collar workers, and then white-collar workers. I earned
very good grades on the entrance exams, though. It later turned out that my
grades were the third highest of those who took these exams. I had very good
grades, but I studied very much. I also worked and taught at the same time. How
did I do this? I began to do this at a young age. When I was in the seventh
grade, I tutored children in the second grade. After all, somehow we needed to
Interviewer: When did you make your husband’s acquaintance, and what was
his name? Was this while you were studying, or was it afterward? Can you tell us
Galbmillion: I met my husband in this way. I told you that an aunt of
mine could not find a job in Kiev. Well, she worked in a different town or
village as a doctor. She met and became friends with a family who owned a
pharmacy there. The owner of the pharmacy had a daughter who was my age. She
studied in an agricultural school in the city of Kaminetz-Podolsky. I already
told you that institutes were merging. There was some reorganization, and her
institute was moved to Kiev. This institute then made a foundation for the Kiev
Institute of Mikoyan. My daughter later graduated from this university.
Interviewer: Was it a university of the food industry?
Galbmillion: The food industry, yes. The father of this girl, her name
was Sonya Bikovitzkaya, asked my aunt to find a place to live in Kiev for her
until they found a place for her in the dormitory. This Sonya Bikovitzkaya lived
with us for about half a year. When she came to Kiev (my husband was from
Kaminetz-Podolsky), my future husband was returning to Kiev also, and he knew
Sonya. He helped her bring her belongings into our apartment. This is how we
Interviewer: Did he fall in love with you at first sight?
Galbmillion: No, not at first sight. We dated for a rather long time.
What was interesting was that while Sonya was living with us, the process of the
liquidation of illiteracy was going on. Students were appointed to aid in this
task later. When Sonya was going to class, it was slippery in the winter, she
slipped, took a spill, and broke her leg. She was taken to the hospital. I went
to visit her, and I met a familiar student. He was fulfilling his internship
there. He was in his fifth year of college, and he fell in love with
Sonya at first sight. Afterward, he married Sonya, this Moses “Mosya”
Frankfurt. He became an important professor and the head of the therapeutic
department. What? What is this?
Interviewer: This is an interesting photograph that you daughter just
brought. Who is in it?
Galbmillion: (Laughing) This is my husband with me.
Interviewer: This is a fabulous photograph. It would be good to get a copy.
Galbmillion: Yes. (Chuckling) So Sonya married my friend, and I
married her acquaintance.
Interviewer: Very interesting. Tell us about when you got married.
Galbmillion: I think… Oh my gosh, I don’t remember off of the top
of my head… Oh, I’ll tell you now. 1934.
Interviewer: Please tell us about your life with your husband.
Bella Galbmillion: With my husband? I can say that my happiest, dearest memories
are those in which I am with my husband.
Interviewer: Just a little about your life with him.
Galbmillion: Well, firstly, my husband was an architect. There were not
too many people in his group. He graduated from the department of architecture
of the Engineering-Construction Institute of Kiev. The public there was very
interesting, even amongst the students. His closest friend, the friend dearest
to him, with whom he was friends, was the writer Necrassov. He was also an
architect. During my first year of marriage, his architect friends would visit
us. One of them was, for example, Sergey Damansky. He was the son of a famous
bridge builder who built the bridge crossing the river Dnepr. It was destroyed
in the war. Famous bridge-building engineer. Bob Krichevsky also visited us. He
was the nephew of a famous Ukrainian artist and art critic. It was an
interesting, intellectual public. The family of Necrassov was also interesting.
This was a family of revolutionists, a noble family, a warm family. I wrote,
afterward, a tribute for Victor Nekrasov on the anniversary of his death. You
might have read it, they were printed.
Interviewer: With your permission we will make a copy of that. We will make a
copy with pleasure.
Galbmillion: I’ll give you one; you won’t need to make one.
Tomorrow an acquaintance of mine will bring me one. She took one to read.
Interviewer: Thank you. Tell us in a little more detail please, if possible,
about your friendship with Victor Nekrasov (a very famous and distinguished
Russian writer whose most famous book is The Trenches of Stalingrad)
and the circle of friends that was connected with you and him during that time.
And if possible, about his role in the memorial in Babi Yar. About this side of
your life, if possible.
Galbmillion: You know, the Nekrasov family was very interesting. He was
a dissident, Nekrasov. They, even though they were a noble family, had a
revolution-set mind. Victor Nekrasov’s father I did not know. Perhaps his wife
divorced him, I do not know. Victor’s father was a professional revolutionary.
Victor was born in Kiev, and he lived in Kiev, but his early years were spent in
Paris. Zinaida Nikolaivna studied there. She was a doctor, his mother. They were
friends with the Lunacharskies. All in all, their family was very interesting.
When you read the tribute, you will understand. You understand we never detected
any bad feelings towards Jews there, or that they considered them to be people
beneath their dignity even though the family was of nobility. Zinaida Nikolaivna
once told me, “Did you know that my family name is written in the blue
book?” What kind of book this was I do not know, but it was apparently very
important for nobles. For example, a friend of theirs was… We were often at
the Nekrasovs’. Almost, I wouldn’t say daily, but very often we would meet
during the evenings at their home. We met for tea, as they say. She was also a
doctor. Brodsky, Doctor Brodsky, a Jew. She studied with Zinaida Nikolaivna and
was a friend of an aunt of Victor’s: Sophie Nikolaivna. This family was
exclusively interesting, very intellectual, and wonderful.
Interviewer: With such a story… Victor Nekrasov, as I remember, later
played a role in the creation of a monument in Kiev on the location Babiy Yar.
Galbmillion: You know, Victor took this very close to his heart. It
saddened him very much. Firstly, it is possible that people whom they knew
perished. My aunt and uncle, for example, died at Babiy Yar, and another aunt
died in a gas chamber. She was disabled and couldn’t go with her sister and
her husband to Babiy Yar. Consequently, they came for her and took her. She died
in a gas chamber. Victor took this very close to his heart. It upset him that
there was no memorial. Annually, on the 29th of September, he
organized a meeting there.
Interviewer: On the day of the anniversary of Babiy Yar…
Galbmillion: Yes. And when Yevtushenko came, a young poet then he was
and was probably not too well known, asked Victor, and they went to the place of
Babiy Yar. Yevtushenka told him, “I will show you.” As the began to
talk, Nekrasov said, “Why do you write all of these other things? Write
about this.” Yevtushenka then said, “I will let you read this. I will
Interviewer: The famous poem “Babiy Yar” that begins with the
words, “There is no monument on Babiy Yar,” a poem by Yevtushenka.
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: And Victor Nekrasov rallied for the creation of this monument,
Galbmillion: Yes. You know, I have a magazine. When the Union of
Architects in Kiev presented the possible prototypes for the monument in Babiy
Yar, Victor wrote an article about it. I have this article; I will lend it to
you to read. I cannot say that they were my friends, but many people I knew
thanks to Victor Nekrasov. Firstly, he had a habit. You know, at first he had a
lot of fame. They spoke a lot about him that he was the founder of war
literature. He was the first the write the truth about the war (World War II).
They would say that like Russian literature was born from Gogol’s The
Overcoat, war literature was from The Trenches of Stalingrad by
Nekrasov. So he had this habit. Many people, interesting people, would arrive,
writers, journalists, actors, etc. He often took with him to his friends many of
the people, and in particular to us. He would suddenly show up with somebody for
tea. Like this he brought (I remembered of course this very interesting person)
Igor Alexandrovich Satz. He was the brother of Ilya Alexandrovich Satz. He
worked with Stanislavsky and Nemerovich-Danchenko (I think he was a musical
director). He was the father of Natalie Satz.
Interviewer: The one who was the founder of the Children’s Musical Theater?
Galbmillion: Yes, yes, yes. Igor Alexandrovich was a very interesting
Interviewer: His brother worked with them. He was a composer.
Galbmillion: Yes. Igor Alexandrovich an apprentice to Lunacharsky.
Afterwards, he worked for the magazine New World. From there is the
acquaintance. He came to Victor about some writings of Victor’s.
Interviewer: You have in mind the magazine “New World”?
Galbmillion: Yes. He was Tvardovsky’s right hand man in the magazine.
He was the editor, and I think he headed the department of prose. He came to us
then and talked to us a lot. I don’t remember what about, but it was a very
interesting evening with him. Then, one time Victor brought to us a journalist
by the name of Olga Chaikovsky. Afterward he brought an architect from Belgium.
Pretty much like that… Not only to us, he also probably took people to others.
He was an all around very interesting person.
Interviewer: Bella, may I ask you… I know that you passed some materials
concerning Victor Nekrasov to Yad Vashem (a holocaust remembrance museum)
Interviewer: What kinds of materials? What materials?
Galbmillion: I will tell you. I gave them letters and postcards written
by Victor Nekrasov to my husband and me. I gave them photographs, also. They did
not answer me for a long time because they were checking whether or not they
were originals, and when they became sure that all of this was actually true and
that these were authentic handwritten letters by Victor Nekrasov, they accepted
them and send me a letter that said that they would keep them and the archive
numbers assigned to them, and that they would be open for reference.
Interviewer: I think that we ought to take a break and move on to the next
side of the tape.
Interviewer: We have reached a very important, saddening period of Russian
history. What memories do you have connected to the Great Patriotic War (World
Galbmillion: Oh, how heavy and difficult they are, and so many losses.
You understand, during the dawning of the war, the family and I, my husband and
I, were in Kishenov while my husband was serving with our border troops. He was
an architect in the headquarters of the border troops. I remember the day and
eve of the war. It was a Saturday, the 21st. The war began on the 22nd…
On Saturday the 21st, I was lecturing for the pharmaceutical nurses,
and they accompanied me on the way home. It was a wonderful evening. At night,
at four o’clock in the morning we heard a ring. My husband was called to the
border troops. The war had begun. The very next day, the women and children were
put on a truck, and they began to evacuate us from there because already…. I
was working in a laboratory then. The head of the laboratory, my friend, called
me on the telephone to say that a bomb was dropped near our laboratory. She was
spending the night in the laboratory. Luckily, the bomb did not hit the
laboratory, or else she would not have been among the living. We were being
evacuated in trucks. We were also lucky to not have been on a train because a
train was also bombed. The driver managed to get us out through some forest
trails. We were brought into Kiev. Well, Kiev is my home. That is where my
mother was. My mother, my brother, and I later left. That was my first
evacuation. Kiev. I did not stay there for long. We lived there for sometime
near a month, and we were able to go to the Northern Caucasus, the city Nalchik.
That was my second evacuation with two children, my mother, and my brother. My
sister passed at a young age of 21. In Nalchek, to my great luck, I was able to
find a job. The head of the laboratory there was drafted into the army; he was
young. I was accepted immediately because they needed people like me. There I
lived… Yes, I knew nothing of my husband because we parted, and that was all.
Interviewer: He was left with the border troops?
Galbmillion: Yes, he stayed there.
Interviewer: Bella, forgive me, what was his name?
Galbmillion: Miron Mikhailovich.
Interviewer: Thank you.
Galbmillion: I also wish to recall… Yes, I worked there. Afterwards
the Germans came there. When we were in Kiev, my husband’s parents also went
with us to Nalchek. My husband’s father also served in the border troops
headquarters. They consequently evacuated us to Central Asia. That was the third
evacuation. Oh, I forgot to say that my mother died in Nalchek. So I was with my
children, my in-laws, and my brother, and we went to Central Asia. In Central
Asia, I could not find a job. It was such a horror because many people were
evacuated and all of the positions were filled. I recall that I was standing at
a bazaar, and I was selling my son’s slacks. I showed you his photograph.
Interviewer: The two children were Boris and Anna, yes?
Galbmillion: Yes. So, unexpectedly, a woman approached. She turned out
to be my doctor co-worker, who was also the head of a laboratory in Kiev. Her
name was Doctor Soloviola. She was shopping. She had a son the same age as my
Boris, and she was looking for items to buy for him. We began to talk, and I
told her that I could not find a job. I did not have my diploma or any other
credentials with me, and I was only receiving pension for my children. The wives
of soldiers received two hundred fifty rubles then, I think. I don’t remember.
She told me, “You know, we need a laboratory worker. Come tomorrow, and I
will speak with a professor. Perhaps you will join us for work.” And thus I
started to work there, and worked in the Hospital Therapeutic Clinic of the
Samarcand Medical Institute for nearly two years. During this time the war was
nearing its end. There died my brother, in the same clinic in which I worked. We
starved terribly. Near the end of my residence in Samarcand, my husband found us
and sent me my diploma. Then things became easier. You can say that my brother
died from starvation because we were very impoverished and famished. As for the
children… My son was in daycare for toddlers, and my daughter Anna was in
preschool. Truthfully I cannot say…. Well, I was treated very well. Professor
Cornetov tried in every possible way to help. When vouchers were being
distributed, he secured some for me as family of a soldier. I recall some boots
that I received and sold for cash. There was an epidemic of malaria, and he sent
me to give vaccinations. We also took medicine there. For this, later, I
received rice. The hunger was terrible, and we suffered a lot. The world was not
without kind people. I remember that when I went to the laboratory, I entered
one laboratory (this was before I found a job at the institute). So I entered a
laboratory and a Natasha Paltaratzkaya worked there. I remembered the last names
of good, kind people. She headed the laboratory.
When she learned of my story, she said, “May I see you at home?” If
you would have seen where I lived… I rented a little room. It was practically
a barn. The owner who was an Uzbek kept her donkey there earlier. Later she
installed some plank beds (don’t even mention what kind of horror it was), and
installed a small stove. There I lived with my children. This Natasha came to me
and brought with her a liter of cod liver oil. This cod liver oil possibly saved
my children. I fed them cod liver oil, and they also got nutrition from
preschool. Afterward, Professor Nikolai Ivanovich Cornetov gave a voucher for
Anna. She attended a children’s camp. I suffered a great deal. Oh, I don’t
wish to remember it. The most important was this: the death of my brother who
was also taken into the labor army. He was already exhausted, enervated, and
ill. There he completely swelled up. He died from an elementary dystrophy. So
finally my diploma arrived from my husband who found out where we were, and
things became easier. By then Kiev was liberated, and people feared the epidemic
of typhus. So then doctors were called in, and they administered typhus
vaccinations, and we were directed towards Kiev. I needed exactly that. I
arrived in Kiev. I suffered greatly during the war. In Kiev, I was able to find
a job in the laboratory of the government department number four. Why do I say
that I was able to find a job there? You understand, the conditions there were
better than in other laboratories. There they gave us food rations (then they
had a stamp system). The conditions were better there. I began to work there as
the head of the pharmaceutical department of the clinical laboratory. My
supervisor (I had an excellent supervisor) was an old man of 70 or some age near
that who was a former zemscoi (elective district council in pre-Revolutionary
Russia) doctor. He was a man with a very kind soul. Now I can tell you about the
“Case of the Doctors” if you want.
Interviewer: Yes, I wanted to ask you about the Case of the Doctors.
Galbmillion: Do you understand what we had in the fourth department? We
had excellent Jewish doctors. Doctor Avgustina Yakovlevna Glavatskaya was a
wonderful theraputic doctor. Many people were like her. Eventually all of them
were fired. When the Case of the Doctors began, you can imagine what kind of
treatment we received.
Interviewer: That was February of 1953.
Galbmillion: Yes, this was already after the war, yes. Back then, my
supervisor, I have confused everything because I cannot not mention my
supervisor without a kind word. He was Andrei Mironavich Litvinenko. When he was
interviewing me for the position (I think he did this with everybody), he did
not simply accept me. I brought him a reference from two professors: Professors
Kornetov, for whom I worked during the evacuation, and Fialkov. My supervisor
went to my place of work (my laboratory before the war). The same director
worked there then who was there when I worked there. Litvinenko asked him about
everything about me. Only then did he accept me for the job. Of course he didn’t
accept me, but I passed. In order to be accepted into the fourth department, I
had to go through a special committee that ran a background check. And imagine
this: they checked me fairly quickly. I filled out an application, and within
something like a week they told me that I could begin to work there. Usually the
background check for my coworkers ran for three or four months. I don’t know
why. Perhaps it was because they had all of the information about me. I was born
in Kiev, and all of my relatives were in Kiev, so I suppose that everything was
known about me.
Interviewer: When did you begin to work for the fourth department?
Galbmillion: This was in 1944. Yes, in 1944, and I left in 1964. I
think that three Jewish women worked in the laboratory then. Andrei Mironich
fell terribly ill, and he was on his deathbed. He had cancer of the kidneys, and
he knew that he was dying. He, however, was very respected. He was one of the
first to receive the title of an Honored Doctor of the Republic. He said this,
“I hired them. I ask you to not fire them while I live. When I die, do
whatever you want, but while I live, please leave them alone.” He passed
when Stalin died, just after Stalin.
Interviewer: When the Case of the Doctors ended. Did any of the people that
you knew suffer during the Case of the Doctors?
Galbmillion: I would say no, but I don’t know. They just were no
longer there, the Jewish doctors. Only in the laboratory were a few Jewish
people left, but none were left there. They fired those doctors, and hired only
entry-level graduates fresh from medical school. They had just finished medical
school. Some were ministers’ daughters or someone like that.
Interviewer: So people were hired through connections?
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: To fill the places of the fired Jews?
Galbmillion: Excellent Jewish doctors. I already mentioned those two.
Jewish professors worked with us. For example, there was a Professor Izenberg
and a Professor Louriye, to whom I was sent as an associate. We had then opened
a hormonal department of the laboratory and I was sent to him. He was a Jewish
professor. Well, they worked, but they were consultants and not permanent
workers of the fourth department.
Interviewer: During these years, mainly 1953, were your family or friends
affected? That was a very difficult period for Jews in the Soviet Union, so that
is why I am asking this question.
Galbmillion: Yes. You know, somehow it happened that nobody was
arrested in my family. You know, there were 1937 and more… Somehow all of that
went past my family.
Interviewer: It is very good that it went past you.
Galbmillion: Yes that was very fortunate. I was called in a number of
times, and my husband almost one time… He worried very much. I was called in.
You understand, there were occasions there when… I turned out… I did medical
analyses and tests. I was called to do these analyses. There were these
different cases when there were troubles with Khrushchev. He had troubles when
he was in Ukraine. And then Sherbitsky, I was called in with Sherbitsky. There
were these troubles.
Interviewer: Can you say what these cases were?
Galbmillion: Now I think I probably can tell you, but I once signed an
agreement dictating that I would not speak of them. The first time that I was
called… I’m not sure whether or not this should be recorded.
Interviewer: Bella, it’s not necessary, it’s not necessary. If you do not
feel comfortable, then you do not have to tell me about them.
Galbmillion: Well, pretty much I was a consultant or something… I’m
Interviewer: I want to return to your husband. When he returned from the
front, how did you reunite? How was that?
Galbmillion: How was it? My husband returned, and he went to the
hospital. He was in the Hospital of Kiev. He was there for four months, and then
he was honorably dismissed from the army. This was in the beginning of 1946. It
was the end of 1945 or the beginning of 1946.
Interviewer: He continued to work as an architect after the war?
Galbmillion: Yes, he was an architect. After the war he always worked
Interviewer: May I ask you about your children and their educations? Where
did they receive them, were there any difficulties with receiving then?
Galbmillion: Of course there were difficulties, of course. It was
difficult. My daughter graduated school with an academic medal, and she enrolled
in the Institute Mikoyana. She wanted to enroll into the mechanical department,
but she was accepted into the economy department. Thank goodness for even that.
Even so, it was very difficult for her to enroll. My son was not able to enroll
into a regular university, so he studied in a night college or he took remote
Interviewer: Were these difficulties with enrolling associated with their
Galbmillion: Of course, of course, of course. My granddaughter also
found difficulties, but she… They really wanted to throw, manipulate, and
falsify her exams and results.
Interviewer: What was your granddaughter’s name?
Galbmillion: Alina. We named her after Victor Nekrasov’s grandmother,
Interviewer: Very interesting. If you don’t mind, we are approaching the
time in which your family made the decision to leave Ukraine and immigrate to
the United States. May I ask you why your family made that decision?
Galbmillion: Why was that decision made? You understand, my son already
lived here, and so did my granddaughter. Many of our friends and most of our
relatives passed away. All of our friends scattered about different places, and
very few friends and relatives remained. Almost nobody was left. My son and the
family were here; my granddaughter was here. Because of this, we came here.
Interviewer: In order to be with your relatives?
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: And so your family decided to move to Columbus, and first your
granddaughter Alina came here.
Galbmillion: My granddaughter, yes, and my son, yes.
Interviewer: When did you arrive in the United States?
Galbmillion: We came in 1993.
Interviewer: I apologize Bella. I need to repeat the question.
Interviewer: So your family decided to move to America, and first came your
granddaughter Alina. When did you family come to America?
Galbmillion: In April of 1993.
Interviewer: Who from the family?
Galbmillion: My daughter, her husband, their son, and I.
Interviewer: You came straight to Columbus?
Galbmillion: We came to, yes, Columbus. We came through New York to
Interviewer: What were your first impressions when you arrived here? I’m
talking about the very beginning of your new life in this new country.
Galbmillion: I liked very much the people here. An American family
welcomed us. Now they are our closest, best friends. They treated us very well.
Interviewer: Can you name them?
Galbmillion: Debbie. She is an American, and I of course could not
speak with her, but my granddaughter served as an interpreter. And her husband
Voice from aside: Schwartz, Debbie Schwartz, yes?
Interviewer: Do you remember he last name?
Galbmillion: Anna (Bella’s granddaughter) knows. Debbie was a
volunteer (an anchor family) for my son and my granddaughter. They are very
well-wishing people. They helped us so much that I cannot express it. When we
settled here, in this house, nearby lived an elderly married couple. He was a
disabled veteran of a war. Vietnam, Korea, I don’t know which war. They also
welcomed us warmly. She once emigrated from Germany. Her husband was a professor
in Torah Academy. She was an American also. She greeted me with a bouquet of
flowers. They welcomed us very warmly. I was awestruck at how these people were
strangers and accepted us so warmly. I liked this very much. Then it was
interesting. I wished to know Americans and their customs closer. As you know,
every society has its uniqueness, meaning what is not common for us. I wanted to
know them closer. I liked this society very much, very much.
Interviewer: Were you able to get better acquainted with the culture and
customs of Americans?
Galbmillion: Not everything, not all, of course. Here, you see, my age
served as an obstacle.
Interviewer: So there is still more to learn.
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Very interesting. How did the lives of your children and
Galbmillion: How did their lives develop? Like this, I will tell you.
My granddaughter immediately began to work. She worked as a maid in someone’s
home, and worked in the kitchen of a restaurant. She also studied here; she
studied in college. Then she, when we came here, still worked like that, but she
finished college and found another job. She now works as a computer programmer.
My grandson also, as we came, enrolled in a university. In Ukraine, he was in
his second year of college, and enrolled in Ohio University. He also graduated
and now works as a programmer.
Interviewer: What is your grandson’s name?
Galbmillion: Mine? Michael.
Interviewer: How do you think the lives of Anna and Boris developed here in
Galbmillion: Fine. I don’t think they’re completely satisfied
because Boris is an Engineer, and is not currently working as one. Anna was a
Ph.D. In Kiev, she also worked in the field of science, but here she at one time
worked in Children’s Hospital, and then she changed occupations. I don’t
know what her position is called. She has something to do with homes.
Galbmillion: Yes. So I don’t think that they are satisfied. I know
that when I retired and left my job, I was very anxious and missed it greatly.
Interviewer: Tell me please… In the beginning of the interview you
mentioned relatives who immigrated long before you, long ago. Did you find
anything out about them after you came to America?
Galbmillion: Yes, we found out about them. I will tell you how it all
began. Back in the Soviet Union, my elderly neighbor who was a high-ranking
officer in the Navy told me about an acquaintance who in 1918 or 1920 immigrated
to Paris and met somebody there. I told my neighbor that my relatives also
immigrated, but I did not know anything of them, do not know anything of them,
and I even wrote that I did not have any relatives abroad. He told me,
“Write to the Red Cross”. I wrote to them, and they answered me that
they did not know anything (about my relatives). Victor Galbmillion was two
months old, and I thought then that perhaps his children left and live in
America. Maybe truthfully he is somewhere abroad and I can contact him.
Interviewer: Bella, I’m sorry, I did not understand who was two months old.
Galbmillion: My cousin Victor was two months old in 1918 when the
family immigrated with him.
Interviewer: Thank you.
Galbmillion: You understand, I am older than he is. Therefore somewhere
I have a cousin, I thought. I wrote (to the Red Cross), and they answered me
that they do not know anything about that, but they suggested that I refer to
the HIAS, but I did not ask them. My relatives here in America found our
relatives, and when we came, we already knew that we in fact had a relative
about whom we did not know for some reason. He was involved in classified work
connected to going to the moon.
Interviewer: I heard that you found here some tracks of your family. Some
burials in the Arlington Cemetery.
Galbmillion: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Who is buried there?
Galbmillion: Victor Galbmillion is there, or maybe Halbmillion. On the
signed picture by my uncle, the signature reads “Halbmillion”. The
records there show that Victor Galbmillion passed away in, I think, 1990 and is
Interviewer: What would you like to add for the conclusion of this interview?
Do you want to contribute anything about which I did not ask you, and that is
related to your very interesting life? Your life is a story.
Galbmillion: (Laughing) I don’t think I can add anything. I am
already very old, and have lived through much. I have seen a lot and have known
many interesting people. My relatives were also interesting people. But all is
in the past and has passed. They have died.
Interviewer: I think that we have all of the reasons to finish this interview
on a very optimistic note because here in America, your family leads a good
life. If you can please tell us a few words about your grandson, Boris’s son.
Galbmillion: Yes, he is currently on vacation for nineteen days.
Interviewer: What is his name?
Galbmillion: His name is Slavik, but here he goes by Steven, Steven
Zilberman, Sokolov-Zilberman. I love him very much, perhaps because he is the
youngest. He is a very good, kind boy. He wanted to join the military, and
enlisted in the Navy. His first two months there were extremely difficult
because of tremendous physical hardship, but he overcame it all. Afterwards
there was school. He studied there very well, and they decided to continue his
education in order for him to become a Navy officer. He was given a vacation of
nineteen days. He is now in Columbus, and in a week he is leaving for Newport
(where he studies).
Interviewer: Is he also studying in college?
Galbmillion: No. He is studying in this school, and if he finishes it
well, he will be able to move on to college. He wants to be in Ohio.
Interviewer: How wonderful. He got married here?
Galbmillion: He married a very nice girl who was also from the former
Soviet Union. Her name is Katie. I think that is it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for a very interesting meeting and a very
interesting story. Everything that you say is very fascinating. I think that
this is very interesting for us. Thank you for contributing your time. I think
that this will also be interesting for future generations who will grow up here
and who will learn from these materials how their grandparents and
great-grandparents lived. I wish your grandchildren great success. Thank you
very much for this interview.