Mirta Ines Trupp interviews Molly Abramovitz from Becoming Malka
Today, I am speaking with Molly Abramovitz who has recently returned from Odessa, Ukraine. According to some intriguing news reports, Molly’s trek to her ancestral home turned out to be quite an adventure. I am anxious to hear what lessons were revealed to this life-long historian and genealogy buff.
MIT: Welcome Molly. I’m so pleased you were able to join us today. You’re a hard person to reach; I must have left messages all over town! I’m delighted we finally connected. Now then, tell me… how was your trip to Ukraine? What took you to that part of the world?
MA: First of all, allow me to thank you for this invitation. I apologize for leading you on a wild goose chase; I am a bit discombobulated having just returned from a… an enchanting journey. I’m usually quite methodical and organized, but I haven’t been able to get back into my routine and find myself overwhelmed with various appointments. But back to your question- I was scheduled to attend a week-long seminar in Moscow with several of my colleagues. I am a graduate student matriculating in a Russian Imperial History program and since I was “in the neighborhood,” I decided I couldn’t pass on the opportunity for some genealogical research. That’s why I planned a side trip to Odessa.
MIT: You are of Ukrainian descent?
MA: Actually, I am the granddaughter of Russian Jews. As I recently discovered, my paternal lineage stems from Lithuania, but the family traveled into Novorossiya during the resettlement period of Catherine the Great. Ukraine was considered part of Mother Russia when my great great-grandparents were alive. My family later immigrated, once again, to Argentina thanks to the philanthropic efforts of Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association.
MIT: And you were born in Argentina as well?
MA: No, but both my parents were. I was born in California on January 20, 1991.
MIT: Yes, well…that brings me to a point I need to share with our readers. The History Imagined audience might be questioning the relevance of this interview, but I believe that…
MA: Excuse me? History Imagined? There must be some mistake. I thought I was here to speak to a group of scientists and physicists. I’m here to discuss time travel.
MA: Yes, yes! You see, that’s what all the hoopla is about. I didn’t simply return from Odessa…I returned from Odessa of 1900. I had to break it to my parents- no easy task, as you can imagine…actually my mom took it a lot easier than Dad. Anyway, someone on my father’s staff eavesdropped on our conversation and alerted the media. Now the time continuum community is up in arms! My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. My email server is down…
MIT: I readily admit that I heard something rather extraordinary occurred to you, but I didn’t realize the magnitude! My goodness! I wasn’t expecting this announcement at all, but since you’re here, would you care to answer a few more questions?
MA: I am better prepared to ask questions, rather than provide you with coherent answers. (Molly laughs) You see, I like things neatly explained- all wrapped up with a bow- but, I’ve recently been told that unexplainable is not the same as inexplicable. I wanted to explore that concept a bit further. Having just returned from a life-altering experience, and being a methodical sort of person, I was hoping to categorize the event with the help of some learned scientists- that’s what I thought I was going to do today!
MIT: I am sorry, Molly. I’m definitely not a scientist, learned or otherwise. But let me ask you this…How did it happen and why do you think you were propelled to the past?
MA: I inadvertently read an incantation. I found a tarot card in my family’s attic; it was the Queen of Eight Wands, to be exact. Apparently tarot cards are imbued with certain attributes; this particular card carried the power of time travel. I was transported to my ancestral home and met my great great-grandmother, Malka Abramovitz. On a side note, we call her Bobe Malka- bobe a derivative of the Russian word baba- meaning grandmother. But as I was saying, more than a journey back in time, it was a journey of introspection. You see, I found myself in the past.
MIT: That is extraordinary! I’m certain our readers would like to learn more about you Molly. What do you consider your greatest weakness? What does a modern, educated woman fear?
MA: Well, I can’t speak for all modern, educated women of course, but for me, it is the fear of instability. I suspect that’s the basis for my need to plan and organize everything ad nauseum. I am a bit of a control freak.
MIT: And what of your strengths?
MA: I’m an honest, loyal person. I’m dedicated to my friends and family and highly goal oriented. I may not be a “Johnny-on-the-spot” with a witty comeback or a spontaneous answer, but given time, I can find my way out of problem and I can admit when I have been wrong.
MIT: Do you have a fictional hero or heroine?
MA: Lately, I’ve been reading some of my mom’s favorites- mostly Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. I know one of Regency’s favorite heroines is Elizabeth Bennett, but if I had to choose a favorite fictional heroine, I think I’d go with Miss Anne Elliott of Austen’s Persuasion.
MIT: Really? What attracted you to her?
MA: I’m not sure how this will sound, but Anne Elliott reminded me a little bit of myself- prior to her trials and tribulations and prior to my time travel! She was a responsible, dedicated and loyal young woman. She was also easily persuaded by family and friends to always do the right thing- the proper thing. She had to experience disappointment and regret before she was able to see her own worth- before she was able to sum up the courage and wherewithal to meet life’s challenges. She discovers that she is- and always has been- good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough…brave enough to face life head on.
MIT: Interesting. Why does that resonate so deeply with you?
MA: Because prior to meeting Bobe Malka, I was not capable of seeing my own worth. I had placed her and my ancestors on pedestals and feared not being able to live up to their expectations- or mine. I had a five-year plan- everything was organized and thought out, but I was in danger of losing my best friend- the love of my life, Michael because I was overly stressed. I was persuaded that letting go of the reins meant letting go of everything that I had strived to build- and I just couldn’t do it. I needed my crutches, so to speak. Bobe Malka, in her infinite wisdom and with the patience of an angel, was able to make me see where my strength lies.
MIT: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
MA: During my time in 1900, it was of paramount importance to see my family safely out of Ukraine. The Russian Revolution began in 1917, but prior to that, the Jewish community would be terrorized with pogroms-acts of government approved violence, theft and destruction. I knew that my family had immigrated to Argentina before the revolution, but I didn’t know how my presence would affect their history- or mine. I was deeply concerned that I messed up the so-called Space Time Continuum (yes, I’m a trekkie). I’d have to say that my greatest achievement was shepherding my great grandfather, Yosef, in the direction of the Jewish Colonization Association, while keeping my true identity a secret. In addition, when it came time for me to leave the Abramovitz home of 1900, I met another challenge with new-found courage. The fact that I was finally able to let go of my angst – my desire for assurance, my need to know everything will turn out alright- was quite an extraordinary feat.
MIT: It seems that a 19th century, aristocrat had a significant impact on your emotional and spiritual growth. How did you fare in that rather restrictive, Victorian society? What would you have done had you been stuck in that period…not able to return home?
MA: I quickly came to the realization that it isn’t quite open-minded to put 19th century women under a 21st century microscope, in order to criticize their way of life. Each period has their good points; we, none of us, have it perfect. Don’t you agree? My first reaction was to feel constrained- by the clothing, by etiquette, by religious traditions and by conversation. That being said, it didn’t take as long as one would believe for me to see the beauty of a slower-paced, observant life-style, to relish a peaceful Shabbat afternoon, to enjoy being pampered and looked after, to feel elegant and womanly, and to celebrate the differences between men and women. There was a moment or two when I considered remaining with my ancestors, but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. I would have been running away- taking the easy way out and needless to say, I would have changed the course of history for myself and my family. No- I needed to return and like Anne Elliot, face life head on. I had been afraid of not living up to expectations, of making mistakes…of not living up to my name sake. My anxieties kept me constrained, not any worse than that wretched corset. You know, Bobe Malka used to say, “Only she who does nothing, makes no mistakes.” Now that I’m back in the 21st century, I’ve become a new woman. I’m paying tribute to my great great-grandmother- I’m becoming Malka.
MIT: Molly, I want to thank you for spending some time with us today. This has truly been a one-of-a-kind interview and one that, I am certain, our readers will not soon forget. Now that you are back, I’d like to wish you all the best for your future…oh dear, no pun intended!
Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with ‘un pie acá, y un pie allá’ (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, she lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, she most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.