Two Cultures – One Family


– By Pamela Pipkin

The Katz family arrived in Baltimore on a cold day in January 1988. Having left Kiev, Ukraine two months earlier, Boris and Lyudmila with sons Slava 11 and Valentin 4 ½ years old, travelled through Vienna, Austria; Italy and New York before they reached their new home.

The air was filled with excitement as the Baltimore Jewish community stood ready to welcome them. Boris Katz couldn’t say enough about their reception; they felt immediately supported. Lyudmila’s cousin Roman Mogilevich and his family helped and guided them along with many others.

With very limited English language skills, Boris and Lyudmila began English classes at Baltimore County Community College. The agencies funded by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore on Park Heights Avenue helped schedule Boris’s first job interview. He accepted, beginning his first American job just several months after the family’s arrival. With a new bank loan that allowed the family to purchase their first car, they began to really settle in. The children began school at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. In the first of many examples of how their life would come full circle, today the Katz family has grandchildren who also are proud students at Beth Tfiloh.

As children usually do, the Katz sons quickly adapted to their new language, with their younger son Valentin now holding a Master’s Degree in English Literature and Slava in computer science. This very grateful family was helped by so many in our Baltimore Jewish community, including Rabbi Porter and Rabbi Diskind and his wife, who had developed an outreach program specifically designed for the newly-arrived immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

When Boris’ and Lyudmila’s older son Slava married Rachel Katz (née Dahan) , the bride’s mother Mira couldn’t stop thinking about a special moment many years ago. Mira, who had taken the bride along with her two other daughters to the December 1987 “Freedom Sunday” rally in Washington DC, heard the chant of “Let my People Go” echoing in her mind. This union was a direct result of that unprecedented fight for freedom years ago. Her new son-in-law belonged to one of the Russian families for whom they had marched.

Looking back, Boris recalled Kiev in the 1980s, when the Jewish population was twice that of Baltimore’s. There was but one very small synagogue — hardly a place to celebrate one’s Judaism.
Thinking back at their decades in Baltimore filled with Jewish holiday celebrations, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and grandchildren, for Boris, it is lovely to recall the memories and triumphs of his family. Today, the two families get together often for celebrations.


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Filed under Families, Israel & Overseas, Jewish Learning, Social Services, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women, Young Adults

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