Sid: And oh do I have a Jewish man that’s red hot for the Messiah. He was a star acrobatic act in the Moscow circus, as a matter of fact in Odessa he won the national championship for what is called acro-gymnastics. It’s a combination of acrobatics and gymnastics. But Igor Ashkinaszi what was it like in the 50’s and 60’s in Odessa, Ukraine. Both of your parents were doctors and both of your parents were Jewish, what was like like?
Igor: Well that’s true my both parents are doctors and Jewish people and the life was in Ukraine at that time was for a Jewish person… it was just right after the war. And actually anti-Semitism in Ukraine was just flourishing and it really took off after the war, after World War II.
Sid: What did you know about Judaism because weren’t you raised under atheism?
Igor: I was raised as an atheist yes even though all of my relatives on my mother and father’s side are Jewish. And even some rabbis were there before the revolution my great great grandfather was a rabbi and so forth on my mother’s side. But I knew very little about. The first time in my life I heard about Jewishness is when I was called a kike. And or it was like a diminishing term for the Jewish person for a Jewish person. And I was about 5 years old and so I began to begin to call that friend of mine also a kike when we had a fight or he called me a kike and I called him back. And his parent got very upset and so his mother came to my mother and she said that your son calls my son a kike. And at that time my mother has given me a spanking because she said “You should not call him.” Well I said “Listen you have to understand that you have to understand that you are a kike he is not so you don’t do that to him anymore.” And that was a first time I was introduced to my nationality. And then I was of course asking the question and I was 5 years old and I heard nationality who I was from actually curse words the first time.
Sid: Did you observe the Biblical festivals?
Igor: We did not observe any Biblical festivals or anything religious. The first time I heard about from my Grandmother when I was maybe about 8 years old because they secretly obtained matzah. And she brought it home at night it was a stormy night it was a snow storm and she brought it in a bag and I asked what it was and they said “matzah” and I had asked “Why?” “Because we have Passover.”
Sid: So did you hear the story about Moses and going to through the Red Sea as though it was dry land?
Igor: No I didn’t not at that time but once my grandmother…I was ill I had this cold at home and my grandmother told me that it was the menace of cold weather and we didn’t come from such a cold climate as Russia. And so I said “Where did we come from?” And she said “Well we come from… she said “Well we come from a place and she said that Moses led us through the desert.”That was the first time and the last time I ever heard from my parents about Moses.
Sid: Well let me ask you what is it like being a Star in a Moscow circus? Is that a high honor in that part of the world is that a sort of like a football star in the United States?
Igor: To a degree it is similar but they exalt you a little bit less there in the Soviet Union. But I was first Soviet National Champion about a month of schools of highest athletic achievement and then it’s kind of easy to make the bridge into the circus. And so they would invite they would invite me into the circus and I immediately accepted into a Star Acrobatic Act which was a very beautiful act and was considered a 4 or 5 people and 4 men and a girl. And we just I did what I know best was catching people when they are flying in the air and throwing them around I’d say (Laughing) it is a circus.
Sid: But one day one of your partners said to you a horrible thing they called you a Jewish pig?
Igor: Yes that is actually why I left Soviet Union I was successful as you know in the Soviet Union and my life was really almost out of the league of anti-Semitism because I was kind of champion. You know people respect you and nobody every said a word to me for a long long time not like it was in the childhood stages or even the universities first years in the university. But this was a long time that I had ever heard that and suddenly my partner called me a dirty Jew in a drunken stupor. And when he said this to me he screamed actually among a lot of people and I felt extremely hurt I felt so hurt I don’t’ remember when I was so hurt. Because it was somebody that I liked and respected till that point and looked up to he was an older man. And we started to fight but as we fought bitterly suddenly something triggered in my heart a peace and I stopped. And I thought to myself “What am I doing in this country I have to leave.” It was just the days when the first Jewish people began to openly talk it each other we have to leave to go to America or go to Israel it is starting to begin the doors are start opening.
Sid: So you had an aunt in Israel who gave you an invitation and you applied to go but it wasn’t so easy to get out at that time. What kind of persecution did you go through?
Igor: Well at the time that I was applied in 1972 there was all kinds of snags to somebody who leave Soviet Union. For example, I had to get a good recommendation from your work and that was difficult it was almost impossible to get we have to fight for their back I spent 6 months just begging my supervisor to write me a good letter. And just the negative they would not accept in the police you have to be good. And usually they would not accept that was done on purpose at that time so they knew that supervisors would not want to write us a good letter become we have become an enemy of the country. And so I had a difficult time receiving that letter but finally I did receive that letter as we were leaving the Soviet Union we were given 24 days to leave the country. And the last days my grandparents at the station was stripped bare and my mother was I didn’t know why they selected my 80 year old grandparents and that’s who were leaving Soviet Union, my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather so they checked everything everywhere.
Sid: Did the KGB make it difficult for you before you were leaving?
Igor: Every one of us had to quit our work our job so we could not get any money and we did not know when we were leaving the Soviet Union.
Sid: Why did you have to quit your job?
Igor: Because they fire you because when I applied to go to Israel it implies to them the different countries had no diplomatic relationship we become like the enemies of the state at that time. And throughout all the ways throughout all the way through 80’s I think they cancel your job you can no longer go back to work. And so you become an enemy of the state an you cannot go back to work but they demand a good recommendation from your boss. Now imagine this Sid the situation and no boss, no supervisor rather, wanted to give a good recommendation to a person like that. And so it becomes a tension and the time is nothing, the money is scarce and every week I have to report to KGB office and every week a KGB officer will say you are not going anywhere we are not letting you out. And I have to say “I am going” and they’d say “Withdraw your papers you’re hurting your family yourself we gave you an education we made you champion and you’re leaving us you are not going anywhere you’re only going possibly to jail.” And I have to persist in that again and again and again until it was said “We don’t even want citizenship in Russia anymore and just take our passports just do with them whatever you want. You either letting us go or we’re no longer citizens here do whatever you want to do with us.”
Sid: How did it feel when you finally were leaving?
Igor: Suddenly we received permission out of nowhere out of nowhere we received a permission a year and a half later after I made my request. And we were given 24 days I felt very exuberant, very extremely happy but yet there was a concern inside too because I was actually going no knowing where. Going there not knowing where I was not leaving Russia because I knew America was great or I knew that Israel was great I was leaving Russia because I felt Russia was bad to me.
Sid: Igor our time is up we’ll pick up right here this is such a supernatural experience you’re about ready to hear the Jews require a sign.© Copyright 2017 sidroth, All rights Reserved. Written For: Sid Roth "It's Supernatural"