in memoriam Ada Zhurbin

My dear beautiful grandmother died this morning in Israel, having turned 92 in December. Though we hadn’t seen each other for approximately two years, we called her just two days earlier, to wish a happy new year. Till the end, she was the most caring and kind member of our family, cooking lavish dinners for us in her tiny kitchen, asking about each of us on the phone, patiently listening, advising, giving her blessings to the latest adventures.

We all lived closely in Moscow — but in 1990, our family emigrated from the Soviet Union — my parents and I moved to New York, while my uncle’s family moved to Israel, and Grandma as well. On many occasions until today, I would try to hook in a detour to Israel whenever I headed to Europe. The last time was two years ago, on a return flight from Moscow, with little Benjy in tow, to celebrate Grandma’s 90th. She was as beautiful then as she is in this picture.  We had talked about coming this winter, but schedules did not align. Yos’ka didn’t get to meet his great-grandmother in real life, only via Skype..

A few years ago, I called Grandma to wish her a happy birthday, but she was too busy to talk to me — she was darting out the door, to a choir rehearsal. She was actively singing in amateur choirs throughout her life, to the end. If there is any reason that all of us turned out to be musicians (my dad, my uncle, cousins, myself), it is because of her.

On one of my recent trips to Israel, we made an impromptu recording session of Grandma singing a few songs, accompanied by myself on viola and her friend Edik on guitar. Take a listen, below — this is an Argentinian song, with Russian lyrics:

(the original song is here: )

Some years ago, I wanted to dedicate a melody to my Grandmother — it became Garmoshka — you can hear it here:

We miss you, babushka! You will always sing in our hearts.


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