Rabbi David Winitz Interviews Tatiana Resnikov
We are interviewing Tatiana Resnikov. She and her family live in the city of Sajansk, near Zima.
I ask her, “Tell me your history and your family’s, here in this place. And if you know, where did they come from?”
Tatiana says, “My grandmother told me that in 1860, they sent her from the village in the middle of Russia, near Veroniz.
The names of the Subbotnik families were: Proligma, Maslava and Shashalnikov. Some of them lived in a part of Zima, called Old Zima and some lived in the area near here, in a village called Plavina.
The grandfather’s family name was Maslov. He lived in “Zajinka” under the name Maslavoi. That is to say, only Subbotniks lived there and all of them had the family name of Maslov. The grandfather’s father was called Abraham Maslov.”
Tatiana’s grandfather, his brothers and children were farmers. They lived in “Zajinka” Maslov and worked the soil.
Tatiana relates that her Grandmother came from Zima and studied in Birkotzk. She studied medicine. She says that it was very rare in that period for a village girl to succeed entering medical school and successfully complete her studies.
Tatiana’s uncle, David, lives in the city of Kongarov, also in Siberia.
Tatiana relates that some of her relatives lived in “Zajinka” with the name Pokrovka. There were Subbotnik and Jewish graves there too. They lived in Pokrovka and were buried in the Jewish cemetery.
Tatiana says that after her mother did not complete her medical studies, she got work in Zima, so they both moved there.
Tatiana relates, “I remember that even when I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me to keep the Shabbat.
She taught me that it was forbidden to do any labor on Shabbat nor do we go to work or school on Shabbat.”
Tatiana adds that her grandmother would always say to her, “Do not listen to anyone who says the God does not exist. He does exist.” In addition, she always said, “God helps and will help us in the future.”
I asked Tatiana, how did she find the Subbotniks here in Zima even though she wasn’t born here? Also, her mother had passed away a long time ago and she herself was not connected with the Subbotniks?
Tatiana says that all the time she sought something. Slowly but surely she got to know people and found the Subbotniks there.
She said that she met a woman, who was also a Subbotnik, who had Israeli citizenship. Most of the time this woman lived in Israel with her family, children and grandchildren, but sometimes she would come to Sajansk for a month or two. That’s how Tatiana got to know her. They keep up contact and that’s how Tatiana gets her knowledge about the Land of Israel and about Jews all over the world.
Through a woman named Emma, she got to know Nestia, the Jewish Agency’s administrator in the city of Barsk[aya].
Nestia would arrive in Zima every from time to time to tell the Subbotniks about the Land of Israel, hand out the Agency’s brochures, etc.
Afterwards, she got to know the Agency’s [office] in Yakutsk and visited there several times. The Agency’s emissaries stationed in Moscow would also come to Zima and Sajansk a few times and she participated in meetings with them.
Tatiana says that she always wanted to make Aliya to Israel. After she got to know the people and visited the Agency, she says that hope was born in her heart that something would change in her life so that she and her family could make Aliya to Israel.
Another thing, she very much hopes that within a short time there will be a community of Subbotniks and Jews here, in Zima and Sajansk, so that they can have a real communal life.
She relates that they have now begun to learn Hebrew, the language of the Jews and it’s a wonderful thing. She already feels that she is half-way to Israel.
I asked Tatiana, “The people who set up the project that we are partners in, the emissary project to Zima, are interested in knowing, from the people here, how they see the project? Is it a good one? What are its shortcomings? What needs to be changed and what needs to be added? Is it an interesting one? Does it really contribute? Does it really provide answers for local Subbotniks’ questions/needs?”
She replies, “I am very happy with the studies organized in Zima. It is a wonderful thing, extremely good and efficient.” She is referring to both the studies in Hebrew language and Jewish traditions. Both she and her daughter, Elena, arrive for all the lessons, both in Jewish traditions, as well as Hebrew language. They both enjoy them.
She says that she never expected that she would be able to read Hebrew so fast and within a few lessons. She relates that before this, she thought that it was something impossible to happen if she hadn’t been born in Israel or had spoken Hebrew from birth. She says that besides the lessons given by us in class, she and her daughter sit down each evening at home and speak a little Hebrew and attempt to carry on simple conversations in Hebrew.
She adds that the lessons are taught professionally and well constructed. That is to say that, “We succeed in learning a great deal. The lessons are not boring. They are very interesting and add knowledge.
Tatiana says that her grandson, Leib, Aryeh in Hebrew, received the Hebrew alphabet as a gift from the Agency’s administrator.
She relates that, from time to time, he sits and learns the Hebrew words, talks about them with his mother and grandmother and asks questions. Tatiana says that she can already read passages in Hebrew to him, explain it to him and teach him. She feels very good about this.
She says that the lessons and meeting we held in Zima were done in a good and professional fashion. Since, in the beginning [of the day] we taught Hebrew, while people still had a relatively high level of learning capability, while during the later part [of the day], we spoke about tradition and we taught how to celebrate the holidays, keep the Shabbat as well as teaching about personalities in Jewish tradition and history.
Tatiana stresses that the lessons in traditions helped her very much. She hopes that they will help other people, because the Subbotniks today in Zima know almost nothing about Jewish tradition.
She says, “We had some basic knowledge about tradition. Now we have learned much more. Some of the things we learned in depth.” So she feels that now she understands more, is closer to Jewish tradition and that it is much more open to her.
Tatiana relates that the one thing that left a deep impression upon her was the Shabbat we spent together.
She says, “That we really felt then that we exist, that we have some beginning of a community because otherwise everyone would have just sat at home, feeling alone, without relatives, without people from the same community.”
She adds, “The Subbotniks have great difficulties in finding one another because they are so scattered, so they do not know who is and who isn’t a Subbotnik. So now, when everybody was together and each contributed what he could towards the Shabbat, we really had a holiday. Everybody felt great. Everybody felt that they were people that others needed.” She said that this was the first time that she made Shabbat and she loved it very much.
Tatiana relates that she knew for a while already that the Jewish tradition is not such a simple thing. That is to say, it takes a great deal of knowledge and skill. She said that until now, they always tried to do something but they always had misgivings that they were not doing it right. Therefore, they sometimes just did not do anything. She says that now that we did it, the community felt more open since there was an emissary who knows how to prepare the Shabbat and holidays. They felt that there was always a person one could ask questions and could show them how to do everything.
Tatiana said that she thinks that the work done in Zima was most successful and efficient and aroused the local Subbotniks.
I asked her regarding the future. How does she view the prospects of working with the Subbotniks in Zima?
“As far as the future is concerned,” she answers, “The primarily important thing to do is establishing a Jewish community, a community of Subbotniks.” Tatiana says that because the Agency’s administrator made Aliya and Shavei Israel’s emissary is returning there, there is a fear of what the future holds. She says that it will be very difficult for the local Subbotniks if they do not establish a community. They will remain alone again, each one by himself. So, it is very important that there be some kind of strong kernel of a community around which the local Subbotniks can congregate.
Secondly, she says, she very much wants to continue learning Hebrew, but if a Hebrew teacher is not present, it will be most difficult to continue learning. She relates that she already owns a Hebrew dictionary for several years now. It really isn’t enough for learning Hebrew, writing sentences in order to advance. Because, “Again, without a teacher you aren’t sure that you are reading or constructing the sentence correctly.”
Tatiana adds a third item. She feels that lessons on tradition must continue. She says that she already habitually reads the Bible, but without discussions, without a teacher, it isn’t the same as sitting down and learning. She relates that there is a lack here of Hebrew literature, books on tradition and on the Bible.
Another question that I asked her, “How do you view the future for your family? Does she see it here in Zima or elsewhere?” I also asked what she thought about other Subbotniks, “What do they think about their future? Where do they see themselves? That is, if there were a possibility for them to make Aliya to the Land of Israel, would they want to? Who and how many would do so?” I also asked if in her opinion, if the Subbotniks feel that they have a connection with the Jewish people, with the State of Israel.
Tatiana says that she and her family very much want to make Aliya to Israel. They have wanted to do so for a long time.
She relates that she always thought that the Land of Israel was the Subbotniks’ homeland. So, she wants to return there, to make Aliya. She says, “We are ready to make Aliya tomorrow!” She explains that her love for the Land of Israel is something she got as a tradition from her mother even though she does not remember exactly what her mother told her about the Land of Israel. She says, however, that already long ago, since she was a child, she always thought about the land of Israel and how it appeared. She also knew that she was a Jewess and very much wanted to make Aliya to Israel.
Tatiana adds that when there bad relations towards the Jews and somebody said something not nice about them she would always say, “I am Jewish!” She was never afraid to say so.
She says that her soul is already in the Land of Israel. She remarks that if her grandmother were alive today, she would be very delighted if she would see the activities carried out now in Zima and the Shabbats that we had made. She relates that while they were sitting at the Shabbat table, it reminded her of her grandmother.
She thinks that there are many among the Subbotniks who would be interested in making Aliya. The main problem is, in her opinion, that many Subbotniks do not know that somebody needs them, that somebody is searching for them. The are simply sitting at home and doing nothing. There are those who wish to immigrate but do not know that they can or don’t know how it can be done.
“Tatiana, thank you very much for this interview. Be seeing you!”