A Back­pack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vod­ka: A Memoir

  • From the Publisher
May 22, 2014

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.

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