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Across Three Continents

Reflections on Immigration, Education, and Personal Survival

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Katerina Bodovski

Born in Soviet Moscow, Katerina Bodovski was twelve years old when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, coming of age as the «perestroika» and «glasnost» movement gained full speed. She would later arrive in Israel during the peak of the peace process during which time Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. Her final move to America, months after the upset of 9/11, would also directly and indirectly shape the way her personal journey unfolded.
The unique feature of this work lies in the combination of autobiographical narrative and sociological analysis. By personalizing accounts of immigration, education, and family transformations, this book discusses the author’s firsthand experiences in Soviet Russia, Israel, and the United States. The book speaks to scholars of education by providing examples and patterns in educational systems of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the United States. Beyond academia, the book will resonate with immigrants who have experienced transitions between lands and languages. Furthermore, Dr. Bodovski utilizes her female perspective to illuminate different aspects of family life, immigration processes, and, finally, her experiences in United States academia as a doctoral student and a professor.
Across Three Continents: Reflections on Immigration, Education, and Personal Survival will be of specific interest to women, especially young women, who are trying to figure out the interplay between their family and professional life and what is possible for them to aspire for and to achieve. This text is ideal for courses focused on comparative education, women’s studies, Jewish studies, sociology of education, childhood, and immigration.
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Part I: Eastern Europe: Russia

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  PART I

Eastern Europe: Russia

Brief Family History

It is safe to say that I am the third generation of my family to be affected by the spread of modern education. This is especially reflected in the experiences of both of my grandmothers who received the gift of higher education suddenly available to women, especially Jewish women, after the Great Communist Revolution of 1917. In tsarist Russia education was a privilege for a few. Over 70% of the population was illiterate at the time of the Revolution (almost 80% of the population were peasants). The situation was considerably worse for women and ethnic minorities. Jews, in particular, were not allowed to live outside of the specific boundaries defined by the monarchy, called the Pale of Settlement. It included certain areas in the Western parts of today’s Russia and the territories that now are a part of the national borders of Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. Jews were not welcome in the Imperial capitals of Moscow and St. Petersburg; they could not permanently reside there. Exceptions were the result of special permissions, given according to outstanding talents or service to the State. With these permissions, by 1894 Jews comprised over 13% of the university cohort while being only 4% of the population. Jewish communities have always emphasized the importance of education but most did so primarily for religious purposes (learning Hebrew to understand Torah), and simple arithmetic. The prevalent language was ← 5 | 6 → Yiddish....

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