Alla (Hannah) Aberson

b. 1960

Alla Aberson is a Soviet Jew who grew up in a family that was critical of Communist Party rule. Her father belonged to a small group of dissidents that tried to reform the government after Joseph Stalin's death. When those efforts failed, he and his friends were convinced that emigration was their only option. Yet when they and later their children applied for exit visas, they were stripped of citizenship and then denied permission to leave. They were known as refuseniks—individuals denied the right to emigrate. 

Scope and Content Note

Alla Aberson talks about typical “refusenik” jobs and life for her parents.  She explains how nursing school led to learning Hebrew and Jewish history.  Alla discusses living a secret life and her introduction to life as a “refusenik.” Hunger strikes were a common form of non-violent protest.  Alla describes her experiences with hunger strikes and what life under constant surveillance from the KGB was like, including when friends acted as informants out of desperation.  She reflects on her life story, her family’s history, and their desire to leave the FSU [former Soviet Union].  Aberson describes the antisemitism she encountered in school in the FSU and the evolution of her Jewish identity.  Alla discusses the Soviet Jewry movement contextualized within Jewish history and her Jewish identity.  Finally, Aberson discusses the path she and her family took to leave the FSU.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Alla (Hannah) Aberson. . Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 18, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/aberson-alla>.

Oral History of Alla (Hannah) Aberson by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.