Natalie's Immigration from Russia Home

Natalie's immigration from Russia during the war

Natalie as a girl in Russia

To a teenage girl it was a big adventure

Vladimir Ivanovich Terekhov was a mechanical engineer and inventor. Loubov Vasilevna Rjhexina was a teacher. They had five children.

Vladimir Ivanovich Terekhov graduated in 1923 from the Lomonosov Institute of Electro-Mechanics, in Moscow. This school was associated with Moscow Aircraft Plant #32. He immigrated to the USA in 1948 from Greece, with son Valya and daughter Natasha. He has two patented inventions. Between 1949 and 1962, he owned a small transport business. His autohelicopter holds US patent #3096953, patented on July 9, 1963.

(The above was taken from a letter written by Vladimir Ivanovich Terekhov to automobile manufacturers to promote his autohelicopter).

Childhood in Kazan, Russia

Kazan is a big city, famous for Kazan State University. It is situated along the shores of the Volga River where the ships and boats dock, giving the impression of a seaport. The river is incredibly broad, deep, and abundant with fish.

Kazan was one of the last of the Tatar Khanates, remnants of the conquering Golden Heads, and was liberated in 1552 by Ivan III. Kazan was always one of the important cities on the Volga for river trade, and it has one of the oldest universities, Kazan State University.

My mother was one of five siblings: Yuri, Natasha, Valentin, Katerina, Ludmilla. Natasha tells of a spacious, comfortable, wood frame house in Kazan, solid and well-constructed, on a large parcel of land with barns and a high fence. The boys would climb the fence, and Natasha followed them. She fell off the fence, breaking her arm and then wearing a cast.

There were rows and rows of roses in the yard, and the smell of roses always took Natasha back to her childhood home. They had a live-in nanny and a cook, and a live-out housekeeper. The servants and the family kept a vegetable garden as most families did, preserving the vegetables in the underground "pogrib" (Russian for root cellar). On Sundays the cook would bake Piroshki on the wood-fired Petchka, filling the house with the sweet aroma.

The family had a boat. The story goes that her daring brother Yuri, when he was six or seven years old, jumped off the boat while it was going full speed.

Communism had begun in 1918. Now there was a revolution.

The house and the boat were sold when Natasha was about five years old. The entire family moved to a small apartment in Moscow, to blend in with the general population and disguise the wealth. Natasha began first grade in a modern school in Moscow. She remembers good food at the cafeteria, which was served free of charge.

After a year or two in Moscow, the family moved back to Kazan. They bought a two-room apartment and her father purchased a few good pieces of furniture. The school #7 was practically next door, and all of the children attended school. Lunch at this school was not included, and they went without lunch every day as there was little money left and little food available. This was a difficult time, economically and financially. They had to stand in line to buy bread and other basics, the food line usually forming after midnight. There was no wood available for heating, so folks would cut fences, furniture, and pianos to burn for heat. Often they would wake up to find the water at the outdoor faucet frozen, and icicles hanging from their nostrils. They did have electricity though. Natasha came down with rheumatic fever and was in the hospital for months, where at least she was warm and was fed. The youngest child, Ludmilla, was sent to live with her grandparents on her mother's side, in Saratov on the Volga River.

When Natasha was eleven, her parents separated and her father moved far away to Krasnodar, in the south of Russia near the Black Sea. The mother and other children continued to live in Kazan until Natasha was about 14. Her father would periodically send parcels of food from Krasnodar.

Her mother's profession was that of a teacher, and she had to work to support her family. She taught English, German, and French in High School, and adult ducation at night. German was the compulsory second language.

Mother was off for the summer, and she rented a comfortable log house on the Volga River in the village of Krasnovidovo, which means "beautiful view" in Russian. It was indeed a beautiful village. They would walk through fields to get to the river, and swim in the river often. Young people would walk through the village in the evening, singing and playing the balalaika and garmon.

The Tatars were the people of the Kazan region. Natasha believes there is some Tatar blood in her ancestry on her motherís side.

Visiting father in the summer was splendid, for two or three summers. Fresh fruits were available, and vegetables to make borsch. The climate was warm and they enjoyed swimming in the Black Sea.

The war begins

It was June of 1941, shortly after the children were out of school for summer vacation. Natasha and brothers Valya and Yuri were riding a train to Krasnodar to spend the summer with their father when they heard announcements on loud speakers that the war had started. The two younger girls were with their mother in Kazan. Upon arrival to Krasnodar, the plans changed (as of so many others at that time). Yuri was sent back to mother shortly after the war started, as he was the oldest and therefore considered most helpful to her.

Father was tall and liked to wear white pants in the summer. Natasha had to wash everything by hand, including his long pants. At 14, she had to assume the role of lady of the house; shopping, cooking, cleaning. She did attend one school year in Krasnodar, 10th grade, her last year in High School.

A year or two after Yuri left, it became evident that it was time to flee, as the German battlefront was advancing and the Russians were receding. The Germans wanted to occupy the area. Her father chose to flee rather than live under the Communist regime. He wanted to get out while he still could, before the border was closed. When the time came to leave home and the city of Krasnodar, they packed a small bag for each to carry. This was packed the night before and contained necessities only. Natasha recalls asking her father if she could take her photo album, which contained mostly photos that she had made herself of family members and friends. She was interested in photography early in her school days, developing film, printing, and enlarging, and she belonged to a photo club at school in Kazan after classes. Since a photo album was not a necessity, her father rejected her request to take it.

They knew they would be leaving during the night. Father let the two children sleep for a few hours, then sometime during the night he woke them up and said it was time to go. Father, Valya, and Natasha left with their respective small bags of necessities, locked the door, and started their trek across the Balkan countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece. It took time, as they spent months, even years in each country (one or two years in Bulgaria, and four years in Greece). Natasha started studying English in Bulgaria. To get around, they used whatever mode of transport was available: walking, horse-drawn Telega (a platform on wheels to transport materials or people; civilian and military trucks that would stop and pick them up as they walked. In some towns they were able to ride in train cars, transporting various cargo, animals, etc. There were no train schedules; they had to wait for hours and at night at the train stations. Sometimes people would let them stay overnight, or longer, in their homes.

They settled for a while in Odessa, Russia, which was occupied by Romania, a German ally. Many Jews had fled Odessa out of fear of the Germans. Natasha and her family squatted a very nice high rise apartment, but it had no elevator and all the windows had been broken. Natasha attended a Romanian boarding school.

It was a couple of years or more by the time they reached Greece, traveling with another family. They first arrived in Salonniki, then Athens, spending a couple of years in each city. In Athens, they built two wooden shacks near a ravine. Natasha learned to speak Greek, and improved on her English (begun with a self-taught book course). The British Army was present in Greece, and Natasha worked in the officerís mess, preparing teas and sandwiches, and typing in the office in the morning (having just learned how to type). One British officer took a special interest in her and taught her how to drive a Jeep. She practiced driving the Jeep whenever possible.

In Athens, Natasha lived with the Millers, an American family, doing housekeeping and preparing family meals. She had a little dog named Enock, given to her by a British soldier who was leaving and could not take the dog with him. She stayed with the Millers for approximately two years.

Natalie made many friends in Greece and felt blessed to have had so many good people in her life. She fondly remembers traveling in a group of two girls and two boys on a big boat, exploring uninhabited islands. They slept and cooked on the beach, and listened to music on the beach through a gramaphone. The group had brought live chickens for food but everybody ended up falling in love with a chicken they named Theresa. They just couldn't eat her! A girl named Angela took the chicken home as a pet. One of the boys later wrote the story of the trip and about Theresa.

Natasha played music and sang in Greece. When she found a composition that she liked, she made a copy of it by hand. Her handwritten sheet music was so neat that it almost looked printed.

cartoon notes

Natasha left Greece on a Greek ocean liner, taking her dog, Enock with her. Enock gave birth to two puppies during the voyage, and a photo and story was published in the vesselís newsletter.

photo of Natalie and puppies in the newspaper
story of Natalie and puppies in the newspaper

By the time Natasha left Greece at 22 years of age, she could speak Russian, Romanian, German, Bulgarian, Greek, and English.

In total, it was about six or seven years from Krasnodar to America. Although there were hardships during the travels, it was also like a big adventure. Her father supported the three by being resourceful. He was innovative and always coming up with ideas. He wanted each of them to have a skill with which they could support themselves if they got separated. He taught Natasha how to make soap, and taught Valya to make leather out of raw animal skins and then how to make sandals. These were sold at a booth at a local market. The leather business began in Bulgaria and continued in Greece.

Natalie with brother and father

Starting over in the USA

During their travels, they lost all contact with the members of their family that were left behind. They could not carry with them the addresses of the relatives because if they were captured, the relatives could be punished by the Russian communist government.

Natasha last saw her mother, her brother Yuri, her sister Ludmilla, and her sister Katya when she was approximately 14 years old. She never saw her mother again and did not see any of her siblings until approximately 30 years later. Her father searched for Yuri, Katya, and Ludmilla for many years after the war, writing letters through the Tolstoy Foundation in New York, asking if anybody knew where they were, asked them to ask others, made phone calls, etc. They were all finally located through word of mouth and much letter writing. Many people were searching for lost family members after the war.

Ludmilla was 10 the last time that Natasha saw her. Many years later, in 1967, she was finally found in Yugoslavia. Natasha traveled to Yugoslavia and recognized her right away. Ludmilla had married a Yugoslavian man named Alexander (Sasha). He had been serving in the Russian army in Russia. They immigrated to Yugoslavia and there they had a son named Vladimir (Vlado in Yugoslavian, or Val).

The older brother Yuri eventually escaped Russia by jumping off of a ship (recall that he had practice jumping off of boats when he was a boy). The American government assisted him, and he lived under an assumed name for a short time.

My mother and father both arrived in New York within 12 days of each other in 1949, but didnít meet until 12 years later. They met at a Russian dance, an annual event among the Russian community in Boston, Massachusetts.

Natasha earned a Bachelor degree in Biology and Physiology from Hunter College in New York, completing her degrees in three years. After graduating from Hunter, she moved to Massachusetts and studied music (vocal department) at the New England Conservatory of Music. She also sang with the MIT Choral Society. After three years of study, she was thinking to record an album of Russian songs before she got married. Sadly, after she got married the album was never recorded.

When Ludmillaís son Val was in the third grade, she and her family immigrated from Yugoslavia to the United States, a move they later regretted. Not knowing the language and having only a Yugoslavian education that was not worth anything in the USA, they were forced to work blue collar jobs for the rest of their lives. Ludmilla had given up a good job at an insurance agency in Yugoslavia. She knew they could never go back, because once you give up a job it would take years to get another one.

Natasha grew up without a mother. She was just a girl of 14 when she last saw her mother. She did not even find out about her motherís death until many years after it happened. Her brother Yuri is the one that told her. Natasha was very sad for over a year. She just couldnít believe that she would never see her mother again. She had always planned to bring her to the USA and make her comfortable. Her mother seemed to be always cold, and Natasha wanted to buy her a big, down quilt. Sadly, she was never able to make her motherís last days comfortable.

I never met my mother's mother, and my son never met his mother's mother. Natasha died on November 20, 2004, during my fifth month of pregnancy.

Natalie with doggie

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