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Meet Author Lev Golikin at Spertus Institute

Meet Author Lev Golikin at Spertus Institute

Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

Listen to audio from Lev's visit

In conjunction with this year’s One Book | One Community selection — A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka — Spertus Institute presented a series of programs about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, capped by two opportunities to meet the selected book's author. 

This was the second of two special appearances by author Lev Golinkin.

Lev Golinkin was born in Kharkov, Ukraine in 1980, during the twilight of the Soviet Union, a time of virulent antisemitism. When immigration was made briefly possible due to international pressure, his family risked everything to make a new life for Lev and his sister. Years later, Lev, after graduating from Boston College, retraced his family's long trek. To offer his thanks, he located the strangers who helped his family and fought for their freedom. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is his story — and theirs.

Backpack Bear Cover


"A perceptive, unflinching, and unexpectedly funny look at a life sculpted by history."
—Amazon Best Book of the Month

"[A] hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family’s escape from oppression....whose drama, hope and heartache Mr. Golinkin captures brilliantly."
The New York Times

"An awesome intercontinental whirlwind, funny and smart."
—Gary Shteyngart, bestselling author of Little Failure


Today Lev Golinkin lives in New Jersey. His essays and opinion pieces have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

To kick-off this event, Lev Golinkin was introduced by Julie Smolyansky, who like the author, came to the US from Ukraine as a refugee.  

Julie SmolyanskyJulie Smolyansky immigrated to the US with her parents as an infant. Her father introduced the Russian staple kefir to America under the brand name Lifeway and became the first Soviet immigrant to take a company public in the US. In 2002, Julie became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over at age 27. Since then, she has grown revenues to $130 million annually. She was named one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company and among the most influencial women on Twitter by Fortune. (See @JulieSmolyansky.) She serves on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council.

A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is available in hardback, paperbackebook, and audio versions. Lev Golinkin also signed attendees' books.

Hanukkah candle-lighting and a reception followed the program.

Author photo by Diana P. Lang.

We'd love to keep in touch


JUF Logo Blue

JUF News was the media sponsor
of One Book | One Community.

NSS Beth El

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El 
was our One Book | One Community
synagogue partner.

JUF Russian Jewish Division


Related Programs

USSR FlagIn conjunction with the 2015 One Book | One Community initiative, Spertus Institute presented a series of programs about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

Guardians of Rememberance
Thursday, October 29 at AMC Theaters Northbrook Court

Building Zion in Stalin's Russia
Sunday, November 15 at Spertus

Jewish Artists in Chicago and the Gift to Birobidzhan
Sunday, November 22 at Spertus

Author Event #1
Sunday, December 6 at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El

Author Event #2
Sunday, December 6 at Spertus