Diary Peter Pomerantsev

Brighton Beachesque scammery as a history,here is an excerpt from the article that recalls some strange nostalgia  perhaps a collective subconscious type, but nonetheless…

“‘It was a different place then,’ Volodya said. ‘Brighton was ruled by black gangs: they sold drugs on the boardwalk, lived in slum housing. They didn’t want us here. I had to wear a bulletproof vest under my shirt, we all did. You had to keep it on when you went out to restaurants. Imagine going dancing in that.’ Those early years are Little Russia’s foundation myth. ‘We patrolled our stores and restaurants,’ Volodya said. ‘Everyone carried a gun. And they soon learned not to mess with the Russians. They had thought we were soft Jews – they forgot we had all served in the Soviet Army.’ Others tell the story a little differently. The main way they got the older communities out was by buying up the slum housing and raising the rents.
Volodya’s first scam was as a taxi driver picking up visitors from JFK. On the drive into the city he would pretend he was partly blind: could the passenger tell him what was going on down his left flank? He would swerve about the road, making out he could barely drive. The passengers would panic and jump out, leaving him at least part of the agreed money, and much more than he would have got for the small drive he had taken them on. But that was just the start.”

Check out the entire article Brighton Beach Memoirs

Babushka’s Story

In chronicling some of my family’s history mostly via photos I have snapfished, blurbed and scanned my way through photos dating back to 1920s. What amazes me is the crispness and color value still preserved. Last year I stumbled upon a site that preserves memories via an oral history,
STORY CORPS records personal stories. They provide a framework and have folks come into a booth they have in the city forming a collective narrative. Grandma and I had our own storycorps session in her Brighton Beach apartment where she has been living since the 1970s.

Usually she shares stories as it is, so I figured it would be important to get it for once on record. She was feeling ill as it was, she recently returned from the hospital after falling.  I let it free flow so she outlined the same story as she usually shares, it seemed all the more urgent with her getting progressively worse. Below is the audio and corresponding translation/transcript of what she shared.

Babushka’s Story

Lucky me with two loving grandma’s .Grandma Klara on the right in yellow.
Summer 1994.
Grandma was already living in NY in the late 1980s, she would come back to Russia for visits as pictured  here

Me: Tell me when you were born and about your childhood. 

Grandma: “My name is Klara I was born in Berdychiv, Ukraine on October 15, 1921. Everyone in my town spoke Yiddish, the entire town was Jewish. ( In 1897, out of the town’s population of 53,728 41,617 – about 80% were Jewish. By the 1920s the Yiddish Language was officially recognized. In its peak, the shtetl was famous for it cantors and was an important center for Hasidism)  Classes in school were administered in Russian although the colloquial spoken language was Yiddish. I loved to read,by 10 years old I had read all the works of Tolstoy in Russian. Since my parents were not literate I would read to them. 

Me: What did your parents do for a living? 

Grandma:  Back then no one worked, I don’t know what we lived on. My dad would wake up early in the morning, we lived near the market. My grandma had 3 sons and everyone lived under one roof, in one household- children, grandchildren… basically we lived like Gypsies. This is the family I was born into. We would buy water in a large bucket , it cost one kopek, we would carry it from the outdoor well. When my mom was pregnant with Lyova ( her younger brother) people believed that in the last few months of pregnancy that if you bathed in hot water it would ease the birth. There were no doctors, there was a local midwife who had a list of who was giving birth, she would make housecalls. By the time my mother carried the water, by 2  buckets and bathed she had already given birth. Old bed sheets were torn and used as cloth diapers, my mom showed me how to do this . There was no sink, or amenities we washed in basins.

At 16years old I announced that I would leave the small town for Moscow. 

Charter Schools Enrollment

Wins come rarely so when they do it is important to reflect and celebrate them, even if they are rhetorical wins. The final session of my Budgeting class had groups present their Budget Justifications to the City Council . Each group had to outline their program, statement of need , the amount they are requesting, why they should receive funding over another agency. When one group presented the class had to play the role of the frugally skeptical city council members. It was interesting playing devil’s advocate and arguing on the side of charter schools.

Then came the rebuttal/question portion-  a class mate knew a bit more about the controversy so he asked

“What about the fact that charter schools syphon the high achieving students from public schools? ” Also charter schools traditionally enroll less ELL and Special Education students.I had the perfect rebuttal : we concede to this issue and are currently passing legislation to address the need via the new enrollment and retention targets.( with couth) , as far a rhetoric goes- I hit the nail on the head! Phew! The professor exclaimed that our team was good at selling our program. My group earned an A on the project.

Check out the new targets here at the Charter School Institute :

In constructing our budget that included the basics like revenues and expenditures I looked into per pupil revenue, schools earn money per student that is enrolled, the northeast traditionally has the highest per pupil funding around $14,000. Here is a comprehensive report, U.S Education Finances (2010) from the U.S Census Bureau