“You Have to Respect Bread” by HanaLyn Colvin

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It’s amazing the things you don’t know about someone until you stop and listen to them. There is an older Russian woman who works in our office and before she left today, she stopped by my door to ask me about the pizza that we had ordered for the office for lunch.
“There is so much left over, it pains me to see the food thrown away. I cannot take it all, there is too much. Please, will you take? I cannot see food thrown away, especially bread.” She went on to tell me how she used to stand in line at 6am for a loaf of bread.

“The breadlines?” I asked, realizing that I had never really thought much about what her life had been like back in the Soviet Union. She told me about the breadlines, how each person would be given a single loaf, so she would bring her son along with her so that they each would be given one.

She spoke of other food shortages, how shelves would be bare. You couldn’t buy sugar. “We had the money, that wasn’t it. There just was no sugar to buy.” She told me how her mother had survived World War II, and had “a great respect for bread.” I’d been reading recently about the kulaks and the famine genocide under Stalin. Hearing her stories were chilling. (There was also the casual reference to having to leave Belarus in the wake of Chernobyl.)

She told me that when she first moved to the States, she took a part-time job at a restaurant. Every Friday when they closed up the restaurant for Shabbos, she was furious to see the extra food that was thrown out. She used to sneak leftover food to the Hispanic dishwashers. She said they appreciated it because they were sending much of their incomes to families back home. And she was relieved not to see food go to waste. “You have to respect bread.”

I took the leftover food home from the office.


This originally appeared as post on HanaLyn Colvin’s Facebook page.

2 thoughts on ““You Have to Respect Bread” by HanaLyn Colvin

  1. Yes, this was a wonderful story, and people do not remember the breadlines today. I had family living in Glasgow, Scotland and in the 40s and 50s my family living in San Francisco, CA, sent sugar and butter to our family members in Scotland and a month later we received home knitted Cashmere sweaters, scarfs, hats and gloves. We never appreciate how precious simple items can be until they are not available and our freedoms have been taken away. Or living a month off a 50 lbs. bag of cornmeal. Now I’m off to the store to pick up a couple of quarts of Haagen-Dazs. So spoiled today.

    Liked by 1 person

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