As a child at Sabbath dinners at my grandmother’s house, my eyes would often wander to this samovar on a side table. Only after years of admiring its ornate handles and glistening surface did I learn of its role in my family’s immigration story.
The samovar once adorned the home of my late grandfather’s grandparents in Kovno, Lithuania. When they immigrated to the US in the 19th century, the samovar was one of their few valuable possessions and they refused to part with it. The journey by ship was arduous and the samovar was damaged. When my great-great-grandparents arrived in Chicago, they abandoned the samovar on the curb, convinced that its damage was irreparable. Fortuitously, a neighbor insisted that they bring it to a local craftsman who specialized in repairing such objects. The samovar was successfully rehabilitated and was eventually passed on to my grandfather.
My late grandfather must have been as intrigued by the story of the samovar as I was. I imagine that he admired it over family meals with his grandparents just like I did with my grandmother. I do not doubt that his curiosity about the samovar and his grandparents’ immigration inspired him to devote his career to the sociological study of American Jewry.
Someday, the samovar will adorn my dining room. When my own grandchildren admire it, I'll explain its function and its journey. Although the samovar no longer brews tea as it did in Kovno, it now brews curiosity about my family’s immigration story.
– Becky Gould