Six weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, nine-year-old Lev Golinkin climbed onto a bus carrying a change of clothes and his favorite teddy bear. His family was about to leave the USSR and vanish into the world with almost no money, no documents, no contacts, and no plans beyond Vienna, where, rumor had it, Jewish refugees received help. It was the happiest moment of Lev’s life.
For decades, the Soviet dictatorship waged a campaign aimed at eradicating Jewish religion and culture, and for decades, American Jews fought to free their Soviet kindred. Both sides succeeded. Hundreds of thousands of Jews immigrated to the US; once in the States, many of them rejected the very communities who had liberated them.
A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka takes the reader into the last great migration out of the USSR in 1989, from a childhood in Soviet Ukraine through refugee camps in Europe and beyond. The book explores the insidious power of hatred and anti-Semitism, the meaning of identity, and the search for self-awareness, all conveyed within the framework of a sweeping history.