Oral history
History witnesses

Ilja Zmiejew

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Józef Markiewicz
Józef Markiewicz
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
11th August 2015
Recording location:
Recording duration:
01:16:00; mp4
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
Jews in Poland


World War II, Polish-Jewish relations, Everyday life, Jews in the USSR.

Interlocutor biogram

Ilja Zmiejew was born in 1955 in Kazan (currently the capital of Tatarstan). He comes from a mixed Jewish-Russian marriage. Parents: Rachela Malinger, surgeon (born on December 1, 1927, in Vilnius, died on June 13, 2013); father Sergiej Zmiejew, psychiatrist.

Before World War II, Rachela Malinger’s father was a travelling salesman working for a German furniture company. Due to her father’s occupation, the family would often move: they lived in Warsaw and then in Łódź, where they were staying when the war broke out. Within the September Campaign, Rachela Malinger’s father was called up to join the army. He was sent to Białystok, where the family reunited. They are evacuated to Kazan, where a chemical factory is being built. Rachela Malinger delves deep in the Russian culture, studies literature and becomes an active Komsomol member. She started studies at the medical academy in Kazan. Her sister Dora marries a Kazan Jew, her brother Israel is conscripted into Berling’s Army.

Ilja Zmiejew begins medical studies in Kazan, from which he is expelled due to being accused of organising an illegal student march. Between 1970 and 1991 he lives in Perm, where he marries a Russian and commences work for a radio station. In 1991 he comes with his whole family to Poland, and settles down in Warsaw. He works for the Russian Editing Team of Polish Radio for twenty years. In Poland he works as an editor, a journalist, a Russian teacher. He also has a successful acting and directing career.


Recording circumstances description

The interview was recorded in the garden of the interviewer’s house, in Piastów near Warsaw. Before the talk, the interviewee put on the jersey of the “Makkabi” sports club.

Recording summary

  1. Basic information about the interviewee: parents, education, workplace; 01’’
  2. One of the interviewee’s daughters assuming her grandmother’s family name: Malinger and changing her name from Barbara (Russian Varvara) to Estera; approx. 01’20’’
  3. Information about the interviewee’s mother – Rachela Malinger. The family’s fate during the war: the September Campaign, evacuation to the east; approx. 02’50’’
  4. Leftist views of Rachela Malinger’s father; social background of her mother; approx. 06’45’’
  5. The first husband of Rachela Malinger; approx. 07’45’’
  6. The support of Arnold Malinger – interviewee’s grandfather – for communist Russia: secretly listening to the Moscow radio; approx. 08’20’’
  7. Situation of the Jewish population in the Soviet occupation zone and in the USSR: volunteer work at “socialist construction sites,” the family’s departure to Kazan, approx. 08’30’’
  8. Rachela Malinger becoming accustomed to new conditions: learning Russian language and literature, being a Komsomol member, studying at the medical university in Kazan; approx. 09’50’’
  9. Fate of particular members of Rachela Malinger’s family during the war; approx. 10’20’’
  10. The story of how the interviewee’s parents, i.e. Rachela Malinger and Siergiej Zmiejew, met; the circumstances of the wedding, approx. 11’40’’
  11. Social and cultural base on the interviewee’s father: peasant background, Old Believers; social differences between the families of the interviewee’s parents; approx. 13’
  12. What happened to Rachela Malinger’s relatives: stay in Siberia, emigration to Israel, the USA, and the Federal Republic of Germany / death in concentration camps – Treblinka; approx. 15’20’’
  13. Spreading mother’s ashes in Treblinka and Złotów; approx. 16’37’’
  14. Jewish identity in the Soviet Union, patronymic as a nationality declaration in documents; approx. 18’10’’
  15. Commencement of studies in the medical school in Kazan by the interviewee; “hippie march” and the circumstances of being expelled from the university, anti-Semitism in the USSR; approx. 20’
  16. The Six-Day War from the perspective of the USSR; approx. 23’10’’
  17. The identity of a Polish Jew in the USSR: being different as a Pole or as a Jew; approx. 24’40’’
  18. People evacuated in the city of Perm: doctors, the Waganowa Leningrad School of Choreography; approx. 25’45’’
  19. Polish exiles in Perm; hiding Polish identity; approx. 27’26’’
  20. The interviewee being enamoured with Poland as a boy; learning Polish, being fascinated with Polish culture (film, press, literature), dreams about coming to Poland, approx. 29’40’’
  21. Childhood memories of Rachela Malinger – the interviewee’s mother / cultivating the Jewish tradition, approx. 31’10’’
  22. Social and financial status of Rachela Malinger’s family: fear of unemployment; approx. 33’10’’
  23. Confrontation between the myth and reality: job of Rachela Malinger’s father in the USSR / shock and deconstruction of dreams about a system of social justice, appeal of the Soviet propaganda abroad; approx. 34’10’’
  24. Local community of the city of Perm and Russian-Jewish relations: relations between the Russian and Jewish youths, positive image of a Jewish man, characterised by better manners and education, appreciating family values (contrast with a Soviet man addicted to tobacco and alcohol), mixed marriages, approx. 36’10’’
  25. Reasons for better manners of individuals of Jewish origin – thoughts of the interviewee; approx. 37’50’’
  26. Emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation; approx. 39’40’’
  27. Situation of Jews in the People’s Republic of Poland and in the USSR after the war – comparison; approx. 41’50’’
  28. Rachela Malinger missing Poland, missed repatriation opportunity; approx. 46’10’’
  29. Cultivating the Jewish identity and activity of the interviewee’s daughter for Warsaw’s Jewish organisations; approx. 47’
  30. The recurring nightmare of the interviewee – thought on genetically passing the experience of the Holocaust and on the related consequences; the interviewee’s participation in the activity of the Association of “Children of the Holocaust” in Poland, comparing the trauma of experience of the Holocaust to the experience of Polish survivors of Soviet forced-labour camps; approx. 48’05’’
  31. Coming to Poland for the first time, emigration plans, working for Polish Radio, coming to Poland for good, buying a house; approx. 56’30’’
  32. Life in Poland, visits of Russian friends; approx. 57’35’’’
  33. “A Russian with Jewish identity living in Poland” – the interviewee’s thoughts on his own identity, differences between the “Russian spirit” and the “Jewish spirit,” Russian chauvinism; approx. 58’
  34. Thoughts on Russian mentality; approx. 01h02’43’’
In order to properly print this page, please use dedicated print button.