Local family’s foundation honors writers reporting on Stalinism

Local family’s foundation honors writers reporting on Stalinism

300 attend fourth annual event

At the Prakhin Foundation award ceremony are, from left, Michael Prakhin, Anastassia Melnikoff, Lyudmila Prakhina, and Boris Prakhin. courtesy prakhin foundation

Fair Lawn resident Lyudmila Prakhina established the Prakhin International Literary Foundation in 2006 with her two sons, Boris and Michael Prakhin, of Paramus and Glen Rock, respectively, to provide financial and moral support to authors who educate the public about the Stalinist regime under which her parents were arrested and exiled in a 1941 mass deportation from Moldova.

The foundation’s fourth annual prize, which honors the memory of those murdered under Stalinism and Nazism by recognizing works of prose, poetry, journalism, or scholarship about that period, was awarded Jan. 30, in front of some 300 people, at the Museum of the Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.

It went to David Silberman, author of “Like a Star in the Darkness: Recollections about Janis (Zhan) Lipke.”

Silberman’s non-fiction work is about Latvian Janis Lipke, who risked his and his family’s lives to save more than 50 Jews in Riga during the Holocaust. Lipke and his wife Johanna were honored at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem in 1977 as “Righteous Among the Nations.” Silberman, born in Latvia in 1934 and living in Queens, has been engaged in gathering information and documents on the Holocaust during World War II since 1958 and was an activist in the Soviet Jewry movement.

This year, the foundation inaugurated an award for works by students at high schools and colleges that teach about the Holocaust, human genocide, persecution, and tolerance. “Our goal is to involve colleges and universities by teaching students human values such as compassion [and] forgiveness,” said Prakhina.

The award went to Anastassia Melnikoff, a University of North Florida journalism and international studies major, for her essay “Stalin Gulag with a Camera around the Camps.”

The daughter of American photographer and publisher Sergey Melnikoff, who was granted asylum by then President Ronald Reagan after he fled the Soviet Union, Melnikoff often accompanies her father on lecture tours and even delivered an invitation from the Prakhin Foundation to the Dalai Lama in India last summer.

“My father … has involved me in his work since I was a little girl,” she told the audience at the museum.

“Through our travels together I discovered how diverse our world really is,” she said. “Recently, I became interested in my father’s journalism investigations about the Stalin oppression era. I have been helping with translating websites and discussing the evidence found on this topic. I am interested in continuing the research … investigating not only the Stalin era, but also the genocides that occur all around the globe. I want to fight for a future where people will be more informed, and in being so, make a vital change in how mankind is treated.”

Fred Buff of Paramus received an honorable mention for his 2009 book, “The St. Louis Diary of Fritz Buff: Riding the Storm Waves.” The book shares his insights as a 17-year-old passenger on that ill-fated ship full of World War II refugees that got sent back to Germany from Cuba. Dr. Paul Winkler, director of New Jersey Holocaust Education Program, had encouraged Buff to publish the memoir.

Prakhina said she puts a priority on involving children in each year’s event. As in previous years, the audience heard a choral performance by children in Fair Lawn resident Alla Chernyak’s Studio Music Planet, as well as a violin solo by Chernyak’s daughter, Alana.

Leena Prakhina, the 9-year-old daughter of Michael, read the poem “Old Log House” by James S. Tippett.

Sponsors included the North Jersey Surgery Center, the Institute for Diagnosis and Treatment of Pain, LAZAR Consultants LLC, the Silberman family, the Shnayder family, the Prakhin family, Studio Music Planet and its director, Alla Chernyak, and artists Ales and Julia Shaternik.

For more information about the foundation and the awards, see www.prakhin.org.

read more: