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Home Away From Home : Plummer Park Picnics

December 14, 1989|KATHLEEN HENDRIX

Balmy weather, picnic tables in use in December, palm trees and sunshine, transvestites wandering along the paths: There is little about Plummer Park that brings the Soviet Union to mind.

In fact, the observation brings a burst of laughter from Boris Levitas, 79, a former warehouse supervisor and World War II veteran from Kiev, and his two companions. In this country 11 years, Levitas comes to Plummer Park in West Hollywood every day, he said, often with his granddaughter, and spends two or three hours before heading across the street where he works as a volunteer at the Assn. of Soviet Jewish Emigres.

One recent afternoon he was in the park with two friends from the emigres' association: Yury Serebryany, 62, from Odessa, who has been in this country for one year, and Boris Gorlovsky, 40, from Kiev, who arrived with his family just one week ago.

As they made their way through the park, it was clear that Soviet emigres, especially the older generation, have made the park their hangout. A group of women sat at a picnic table, conversing in Russian and playing cards. They were well supplied with bags of sandwiches, and there was a bowl of chocolate on the table. Nearby, Soviet men, World War II veterans, some wearing their medals, played dominoes. A bagel peddler, sacks of his wares slung over his shoulder, walked from one cluster to another.

"Russian fool," Levitas said, describing the card game the women were playing. He was quickly corrected, in Russian, by the women. Levitas chuckled as he explained: "Gin rummy. Russian fool was left behind."

The touch of home is provided by their comrades, Levitas said, and so they play cards, gossip and "decide the future of the world and discuss all that is happening in the Soviet Union."

As the emigre community becomes increasingly organized--the more settled members welcoming the newcomers and sharing their good fortune with donations of household items, clothes, services, toys--the exchanges of goods often take place at Plummer Park.

The only thing they miss about the old country, Levitas said, eyes filled with tears, is the family members they left behind, those who are stuck there--either because they cannot get out or cannot get into this country.

As for this country, "the main thing they've received here is freedom. There's no need to talk much about freedom," he added. "Freedom is freedom."

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