Today we received an email from Dina Belinsky, mother of Mark Matsuki, a Genesis 2013 participant. It is an unbelieveable story of the reunion of two families after years of global separation.
“I wanted to share a Brandeis Genesis experience with you, which is really beyond imaginable.
The story goes back to 1930’s when my grandmother started elementary school back in Leningrad, Russia. She made two friends: Julia and Natasha. They continued in the same class together all the way to high school, graduating in June 1941. They went on a short vacation together to celebrate, and that was where they found themselves, away from the city and their families, when the war with Germany broke out on June 22nd. My grandmother told me that the three of them walked back to the city for days under heavy Nazi bombardment. They made it back to the city and very soon found themselves surrounded in the infamous siege of Leningrad. I will not go into the details of the war, suffice it to say that all three of them were evacuated, survived, returned to Leningrad after the war and re-established their friendship. Each one got married and had children and then grandchildren. The families lived within close proximity of each other, and I grew up knowing the two of them as “aunt” Julia and “aunt” Natasha. Childhood friendship turned into long-lasting family connections. I went to the same school as “aunt” Julia’s grand-daughter Masha.
Fast forward to the late 1980s, when Soviet Union started to fall apart, and Russian Jewish families scrambled for an exit. Aunt Julia’s family was able to find their way to Germany, my family left for the US, and aunt Natasha stayed in St. Petersburg. Grandparents kept in touch, but connection between grand-daughters didn’t endure. And while we knew of each other and had a rough idea of one’s life “outline” (via grandparents) we were not actively communicating.
Fast forward one more time to the summer of 2013 (did you guess where the story is going?). My son Mark Matsuki went to Brandeis this summer, my beloved alma mater (I am class of ’95). Two weeks into the program he called me with a question: “Mom, do you know a woman by the name of Masha Krichevskaya?” “Yes, of course, why do you ask?” “Her son is here at Brandeis, and we’ve become best friends!” As it turned out, when Leon Feldmann was speaking with his family back in Germany, he mentioned that there were many other Russian Jewish kids on campus, and even one “Russian Japanese kid.” (Mark’s dad is Japanese, Mark has a rather rare combination of Jewish-Japanese heritage). She quickly thought of me, could it be? “Ask Mark if his mom’s name is ‘Dina’,” she told Leon. “And if it is, ask if she remembers my name.”
Needless to say, Masha and I have since reconnected, to the great joy of our families. Mark now plans to visit Leon in Berlin next spring. The Genesis program brought together the 4th generation of friendship between the two families that is now 80 years in the making. We all thank you for that!”
Mark and Leon at Brandeis, Summer 2013
Leon’s great-grandparents (left and right) and Mark’s great-grandmother (middle) – late 1940s?
Mark’s great-grandmother (left) and Leon’s great-grandmother (right) – mid-to-late 1930’s