Chisinau-City, Moldavia, USSR.
On March 5th, 1955 Victor was born exactly 10 years after the end of the Second World War in a family of Soviet teachers. It was the same day Russian despot Stalin passed away.
Like most Soviet families, my parents believed in a happy future, equal opportunities, the communist party, and in parity of all people.
It was a difficult time. Soviet Union was recovering from the 26 million destroyed by Nazis as well as the same number of people killed or sent to GULAG by Stalin and the KGB.
Luckily, we recovered exceptionally well and much faster than the rest of Europe after the war. The early 50’s in Britain were full of poverty and destruction, whereas poverty was mostly unknown by the mid ’50s in the Soviet Union. Communism had very few positive attributes, but the willingness of people to work for the common good of the State was a driving force.
The shelves in grocery stores were scarce. A long line of people, including my parents, lined up at the doors 2 hours prior to opening hoping to buy bread, butter, milk, kasha, sausage, etc.
My Grandfather, Isaac, was a physician. Our big family lived together in a big apartment in the central region of the city. One brick stove warmed up 4 bedrooms, the dining room, and family rooms. We didn’t have air-conditioning, hot water, a TV, or any cars.
My mom did not have enough breast milk and baby formulas were not known or available at that time. She asked our neighbor who delivered her daughter 3 days before me if she could share her breast milk between two children. That’s how I survived from starving.
Even though all of this was happening around us, the majority of people were happy. The war was over, many men and women came back home from Germany (injured, but alive), and the future seemed to be looking up. Our apartment was always crowded and full of noise.
Usually, in the morning, there would be 5-6 people waiting for my grandfather to evaluate and treat them. In the evening, his friends (also medical doctors) gathered for card games and tea.
I was always in the middle, listening to all the medical cases that these physicians discussed while drinking their tea. Everything sounded very interesting to me, I remember specifically when one gynecologist described in detail how he turned a fetus from horizontal to vertical during labor and prevented a C-Section.
I really enjoyed being amongst these people, sitting on my grandfather’s knees and listening.
At a young age, I wanted to be a firefighter, but that year on my birthday I said, “I will be a physician, like my grandfather.”
My grandfather was thrilled. His daughter, my mom, dropped out medical school and transferred to chemistry and became a teacher and now his favorite grandson said that he would be a medical doctor and continue a tradition for our family. What else could he possibly dream of?
Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was almost 9 years old, one month before my sister was born. It was a real tragedy for all of us. He was the center of the universe, not only for our family, but also for all his friends, patients, co-workers, and neighbors. He always smiled and had lots of jokes.
At the end of January of 1964, my sister was born and my whole life changed because she became the center of the attention. I cared about her from day one, I swaddled her, and I washed her. One day I asked my mom, “How do you know that she is a girl and not a boy? She does not wear a dress or skirt yet… So, how do you know?” I was 9 years old at that time.
My mom did not know yet that 15 years later I would graduate medical school and become a board-certified OBGYN physician.