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  • Lori Melnitsky

Understanding communication: an immigrant’s perspective

The truth is I never knew my grandmother Ida. She died six months after I was born but her legacy lives on through her son (my father).

My brother Ira was named after her and that is an incredible reminder of her continued presence in this world.

Immigrating from Russia, Ida Gulker married my grandfather, Oscar Melnitsky and settled in  Brownsville, Brooklyn. Ida enrolled in school at night to learn English and was insistent on her four children finishing college.  My parents thought of getting married before my dad finished pharmacy college she insisted he finish first.  Oscar worked long hours as a baker and from what I hear baked delicious bread and cakes.  (Wish I had some now).

Despite financial challenges and difficult situations, families remained close and I can only assume provided much needed emotional support for each other.  These are stories I love hearing and  know my kids enjoy as well .   Grit and hard work resulted in  four children, 12 grandchildren, and many great and great great grandchildren.  Education was paramount to them.

My father stuttered and I heard stories how my grandmother travelled with him from Brooklyn to Columbia University for speech therapy, which was a long train ride. Often I wonder how an immigrant with little education knew the power of communication and speech therapy.   She did not ask him if he wanted help but provided him with what she as a parent felt he needed to communicate.  How did she know that her four children had to finish college whether female or male.?  How did she know that stuttering was not to play an part in his success? How did she know that stuttering was not going to stop her son?

I mention my grandmother more because she was the head of the family in terms of education and careers. My father was the youngest of four and he respected her views.

Hearing this story inspires me daily. It taught me grit, hope and the power of communication. My grandmother Ida knew how important speech therapy was and so do I.  I am so thankful to her and the gifts she still provides our family many years later. What a strong women in a male dominated world. What strength both of my grandparents to start over in a new country and encourage their children against all odds.

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