Russian Samovar

Russian samovar, detail
Russian samovar, detail

My great-great grandfather, Chaim Berg (1879 – 1972), brought this samovar from Russia when he immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century. Before sending for his family, Chaim settled in Albany, where he delivered giant blocks of ice around the neighborhood. My mom remembers how strong he was: even in his old age, he could break open walnut shells with his bare hands. He learned English but primarily communicated in Yiddish and Russian. 
Eventually, his wife and two daughters, Rose and Anna, emigrated from Russia (my mom guesses somewhere close to Odessa) and joined Chaim in Albany. My great-great grandmother—Bubbe, as my mom called her—hated Albany so much that she, Rose, and Anna got back on a ship to Russia. Facing rampant anti-Semitism, both in the failing Russian Empire and the rising Soviet Union, the three women quickly realized that they could not stay in Russia, but they could no longer leave freely. Managing to get smuggled across the border, they again headed to the U.S. to reunite with Chaim (who my mom called Zade). The family moved to a Russian Jewish immigrant community in the Bronx, where Zade opened a bodega.    My grandmother, Louise, gave the samovar to my mom, who now keeps it in a glass case among other treasured possessions. Studying the samovar now, I like to imagine Bubbe heating water for tea or coffee, Zade cracking walnuts, the two of them conversing in Yiddish on all that they miss about Russia, all that they love about the United States. 

Place(s): Russia,Albany,Bronx
Year: 1917

– Sarah Konowitz

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant