Hannah Antman and Jake Malavsky in the January 2020 production in Brooklyn
Article about Bena Shklyanoy's
parents arriving in Chicago
How Many Bushels Am I Worth?
When the Iron Curtain opened for Soviet Jews in 1967, families had to make agonizing decisions:
Leave one’s loved ones?
Leave the only home they had known?
Go to America where Russian newspaper propaganda showed pictures
of extreme poverty?
Yet, thousands immigrated when they had the chance in the 1970s.
Among the first were the Shklyanoys, including a grandmother, mother, father, and two daughters, 18 months and eight years.
Those daughters, now assimilated and pursuing their own lives and careers, do not remember life in the Soviet Union.
They have no recall of the communal apartment, the long lines for food or that being Jewish was a reason to get beaten-up by a classmate at school.
Their story resonates not only with those who came from the Soviet Union, but with refugees fleeing oppressive regimes around the globe today. The stories of culture shock and adjustment to a new world are universal.
The play paints a picture of life in the Soviet Union focusing on how Bena and her husband made the difficult decision to leave. It also applauds the unwavering determination of the Save Soviet Jewry movement and support of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) that allowed them to arrive and settle in the
Comments from the Chicago audience:
"For years, I’ve been waiting for the captivating immigration stories of
Soviet Jews to be brought to the stage or screen. This excerpt from history
needs to be heard and documented. Ire, hilarity, love, culture, and life lessons,
all found in How Many Bushels Am I Worth?."
-- Sofia Jouravel, Jewish United Fund of Chicago, Russian Jewish Division
"How Many Bushels Am I Worth? brings home the cumulative injustices
that compel a loving family to take that leap of faith to start over in an unknown
new place. Bena Shklyanoy's story, captured for the stage with sensitivity and humor by Kevin Olson, is one of hopes raised, dashed and raised again. Bena's determination and tenacity in overcoming political and bureaucratic obstacles resonate as immigration continues to make headlines. So do the grace notes of compassionate helpers along the way."
-- Ann Silverberg
"Full of power and emotion as they revealed what day-to-day life was like and what the perils were of trying to leave the Soviet Union. I felt the trepidation and ultimate exuberance in the journey of escape"
-- Vlad Shmunis, Chairman & CEO, RingCentral
"The play celebrates the American policy that, in its simplest terms, traded wheat for Jews. How Many Bushels Am I Worth? deserves to be experienced by all cultures as at its core; it paints a moving portrait of what happens when oppression makes us forget who we are.”
-- Karen Vaughan