Home Front cover PHOTO ESSAYS About Letters Contact Back Issues Book Shop Contributors LIFE FORCE
The magazine of the photo-essay
June 2017 issue
New Life:  Russians, Jews, Germans
by Michael Kerstgens
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
In January 1991, I travelled to Moscow to photograph daily life during the final phase of the Soviet Union. I lived in an apartment belonging to a Jewish family that had migrated to Germany some weeks before. Only the son, who was 17 years old, had remained in Moscow to finish school. My work, Final Winter was the beginning of my interest in Jewish life and in Jewish emigration to Germany. It was the period of history when over 250,000 Russian Jews emigrated to Germany. Most Germans knew little or nothing about Jewish religion or traditions. The arrival of the Russian Jews sparked a renaissance of Jewish life and also posed a number of challenges for the small Jewish communities already in Germany. Without this influx of people from the East, few of these communities would have survived. Today, most of the Russian-Jewish immigrants are still living in Germany. A small number went on to Israel, others returned to Russia, and some
continued their emigration, like the Troitschanski family, whom I met in Berlin in 1992.   After a number of years in Germany, during which time they were able to put the family on a sound financial footing, they emigrated to Canada and changed their name to Troychansky. Today the Troychanskys are practising Jews, and Mikhail Troychansky’s best friend, Shlomo Vorovitch, who shares the same Russian roots, is the rabbi of his community. Mikhail once told me that it was in Berlin that he first heard the word “kosher”. Today, the Troychanskys have their own kosher kitchen in their home in Toronto.
Today the buildings and synagogs of the Jewish Communities are under protection of the police. The New Synagoge in Berlin, 1992
German lessons for Russian-Jewish migrants at the Jewish community of Weiden, Bavaria 2001.
Reception and transitional homes provided by the government. In former US barracks, Jewish families live up to 12 months before they can be forwarded to a Jewish community elsewhere in Germany. Grandfather from Sibiria with his grandchild.
Halfway house, for the Jewish community, in a former US-Base in Weiden (Bavaria, Germany).
Purim at a Protestant community hall in Weiden. The Jewish community does not have enough space for parties like Purim or religious celebrations.
Irina Pilschuk and her husband came from Ukraine in 1992. Today she is second chairman of the Jewish community and supports the new migrants during their first weeks. The week before they moved into their new home in Weiden.
Brit Millah (male circumcision) being perfomed on 15 year old, Sergei Ben Vladimir Burlakov.  Many Jews from the former USSR weren’t circimcised as babies. The ceremony takes place in the Jewish Hospital of Berlin.
Brit Millah (circumcision) of Izaak Ben Jacob Rosenfeld at the Synagoge Joachimsthaler Straße in Berlin, 1992. For the Russian-Jewish family it is the first circumcision in a synagoge to take place after a period of 70 years, living in USSR.
Shabbat at the Jewish primary school, Bleibtreustraße, Berlin 1992.
Léja Dediniene teaches Asta Sasnauskaite (10 years) traditional Jewish songs in a transitional home in the Berlin suburb Hessenwinkel.
Russian Disco. Once a month the young urbanites attend the ‘Russian Disco’ in the Cafe Burger, an old traditional Cafe in Berlin. The host of the monthly event is the Russian born novelist Vladimir Kaminer.
Chanukkaball at the Hotel Interconti, 1992. For many Jewish migrants of the former USSR the Chanukka-Ball is the first big social event of the calendar.
Chanukkaball at Hotel Interconti, 1992.
Demonstration of the Jewish community after an attack against a Holocaust monument in Berlin and several other Holocaust memorials in Germany. Some days before, a bomb exploded at the Holocaust-Memorial "Puttlitzer Brücke".
Father, Michail Troitschanski (36) is an engineer and cannot find work. He sells used cars. Later he was to become a frozen food saleman and migrate with his family to Toronto, Canada.
Son, Ilja, teaches his father German and English. Father, Michail Troitschanski, 36 years old, is a studied engineer. He has no work and makes some money selling used cars. Mother, Galina Troitschanski (35 years old) is a hospital doctor. Her university-certifactes are not accepted in Germany. Matwei is 10 years old and attends the primary school. Ilja, (14) attends the high school. The arrived in Berlin in September 1990.
The Troychansky family, in their home in Toronto, Canada. 2011. They migrated from USSR to Berlin in 1990. After several years, and after they had had great success with their business and after schooling their eldest son Ilja, they transfered their lives to Canada. Every Sabbath they come together to have dinner. They become religious Jews.
2011, Michail and Galina Troychansky now live in Toronto. For the past 20 years he has been a successfull business man in the  export business. Both sons have studied in Germany and Canada. They run their own companies. Michail is now very religious. In earlier days he had no time for religion. Now he donates money to the synagoge.
Back to menu