A gramd Now Wored
Agimg JN America
He's amazed he can wear a yarmulke. She cannot stop raving about America.
osif Sakin looked more like a
proud graduate about to receive
his diploma than a 79-year-old
Wearing his World War II beret and
his best suit, the retired optical engineer
grasped the outstretched hand of the
judge. He shook it fervently as he ac-
cepted his certificate of American citi-
Mr. Sakin and his wife, Bella Izakson,
69, who shyly gushed over their status
as Americans, later sought the judge's
autograph and posed for pictures with
him and a volunteer from the Jewish
War Veterans who helped coordinate the
The couple, who live in a one-bedroom
apartment in Oak Park, cannot stop talk-
ing about how much they love America.
They rave about how great this country
is, how nice its people are, and how plen-
tiful the food is.
"America is a very beautiful country,"
Ms. Izakson said. "It gives everything for
immigrants: apai tment, food and help."
Still, they live a modest life, surviving
mostly on government assistance pro-
grams. While they miss certain aspects
of the former Soviet Union, Russian-lan-
guage media help them stay in touch.
Aged and faded black-and-white snap-
shots from years past and a country now
foreign are mixed in an album with col-
or photos of more recent holidays and
family functions in the United States.
Special pictures, like a snapshot of the
couple's first night in America, are
framed and proudly displayed.
Mr. Sakin and Ms. Izakson came to
this country from Leningrad six years
ago, joining relatives in the Detroit area.
"For 50 years, my father, who left Rus-
sia at the age of 16, looked for these rel-
atives and never found them," said
Bonnie Torgow, of Southfield. Mr. Sakin
is her father's nephew.
In 1988, six months after her father
died, Mrs. Torgow received a letter from
the couple, originally sent to her father's
old Detroit address.
Mrs. Torgow wrote back and asked
them to consider moving to the Detroit
area. She told them to apply for citizen-
ship and said her family would sponsor
Mr. Sakin and Ms. Izakson's son came
to the United States with his parents,
but after three years in Michigan, he,
with his wife and child, was lured to Con-
necticut by a promising job offer.
Because Mrs. Torgow's family paid for
their relatives' trip to the United States,
it only took six months from the time the
couple filled out an.application until they
"When they first got here, I took them
to Farmer Jack. They couldn't believe
the food in the supermarket," Mrs. Tor-
gow said. "Yosif was amazed by the free-
J EWISH N EWS
dom of religion allowed here, that he
could wear a yarmulke and that his
grandson could go to a Jewish day
In the Soviet Union, Mr. Sakin and
Ms. Izakson's grandson was beat up be-
cause he was Jewish. His kindergarten
teacher once told him not to tell people
he was Jewish.
Today, Mr. Sakin attends Sabbath ser-
vices, conducted in Hebrew and Russian,
at the Jewish Community Center. On
weekdays, if there are not enough peo-
ple for a minyan, Mr. Sakin gets a call.
Leaving the Former Soviet Union was
hard for Mr. Sakin, who was worried
about what America would be
"All my life I was in Russia," he
said. "My work was there, every-
thing was there, and I left it.
When I came to America and saw
the good here, I didn't have any
His wife added: "It's painful
when you are born in a country
and people tell you that you don't
Although most of their family
is living in the United States and
Israel, Mr. Sakin and Ms. Izakson
have a granddaughter, from their
A walk to a nearby park is common for Ms. lzakson, Bertha
Merzon and Mr. Sakin. The three spend almost every day
Ms. lzakson takes her ESL classes at Northgate Apartments.
She walks from her apartment across the street for the class.
Mr. Sakin, a retired optics engineer, works daily on
equations and formulas.
Bella Izakson and Yosif Sakin beam with pride the day they
become American citizens.