The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my father at my home in the suburbs. My father was a tall, fit guy who just got back from the army. After many applications and rejections, he got into medical school. It was difficult to apply to a prestigious school as a Jew in the Soviet Union due to great antisemitism. However, he managed to get in. He was in his early 20s, in his second year of medical school and attending school for a profession he dreamt of pursuing his entire life. My father considered this a very significant time in his life.

As the brisk wind blew through his hair, my father walked down the street of Kishenov, Moldova towards his university. My father was on his way to take an exam in a class he overslept every lecture for. Today was different. “I got it… no worries”, he thought to himself. As he entered the classroom, he looked upon the faces of students he'd never seen before. He walked towards the back of the classroom and sat down in unfamiliar territory. His professor entered the classroom and began to take attendance. “Igor Harlap?”, the professor exclaimed. “Here!”, my father replied. The professor looked at him in confusion. He was a tall, olive skinned, young man whom he has never seen before. “You’re my student?”, he asked. “Yes.”, my father replied. “Interesting, because I’ve never seen you before…”, he replied, bothered and probably offended. “Yeah, well, you see…”, my dad began to respond as his professor cut him off and said, “Whatever grade you receive on this exam, I’m lowering your score by one letter grade.” His response frustrated my father which only led to his boost in confidence. An hour later my father finished his exam. He handed it in with great confidence and assurance; yet, with a lingering feeling of doubt. He received an A from how impressed his professor was. Their conversation did not last long. “I’m impressed”, the professor said. “Well, hard work pays off”, my father replied jokingly. My father began his walk home with a smile from ear to ear and an ego bigger than the one he came in with.

An Encounter with the Professor

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1980s
Kishenov, Moldova

I interviewed my father at my home in the suburbs. My father was a tall, fit guy who just got back from the army. After many applications and rejections, he got into medical school. It was difficult to apply to a prestigious school as a Jew in the Soviet Union due to great antisemitism. However, he managed to get in. He was in his early 20s, in his second year of medical school and attending school for a profession he dreamt of pursuing his entire life. My father considered this a very significant time in his life.

Decade: 1980s
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Recorded by Michelle Harlap on December 7, 2020
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