In first person… Picture provides the chronicle of a familys proud past

My dear grandchildren Sam and Mike!

In this shoe box you'll find a picture which was taken in 1951 on the ninth of June. There are six people in it of which you know only one — me, your grandmother whom you called Genya. In the picture I am 24. Can't believe, eh?

Mike? I see the surprise in your eyes. Remember, you told me that when "I grow real old, my face will become funny and I'll have those lines on it." You didn't even know the word "wrinkles" at that time. But then I don't blame you — you were 6 and I was 66.

In the picture everybody looks young: my late mother Fanya (you should know the names of at least some of your ancestors), my late husband Semyon, his father Isaak and his mother Riva and her brother Isaak.

Sam! I want you to know that you are named after your grandfather Semyon. He was a real, pure, ardent communist. An idealist. This was not what the false communists at the top wanted. So, he was excluded from the party. He got disappointed, frustrated. One day he said to me: "If only Russia unleashes the war with the U.S.A., I'll be the first to escape to America and fight for it against the communists." But he didn't have the guts to wait. He took his life. Thanks to his father, who had five brothers in America, we got in touch with them and only in 26 years could we fulfill his dream. His cousin Shelton Ehrlich was our sponsor and helped us immigrate to the [United States]. All the Ehrlichs who live here proved to be real family and I am proud to be one of them.

Unfortunately I, your mother, your father, and you Sam and you Mike, were born in the former Soviet Union, to all our mutual regret. But we all became citizens of the [United States]. When you open the shoe box and find the picture, hopefully you'll have your own children, tell them how your grandmother and your parents left everything behind in their native country and fled to the [United States] to make your life happier. We went through many barriers but we withstood for your sake. And we won. We've done all we could. Happy? I, in the paradise in heaven, you, in it on earth.

With love, Genya