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Akiva Pollak


How I Became a New Yorker

I was born in Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 30, 1991. Although I have lived in New York my entire life, my father and grandparents were from very different places. My mother’s father, Moshe Drummer, was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930. He spent his childhood there and survived the Holocaust, despite being imprisoned in a concentration camp. Shortly after World War Two ended, my grandfather was able to come to America on a boat to Ellis Island. He settled in Brooklyn and worked in the diamond district in Manhattan. My mother’s mother, Judy Weiss, was born in a village in Hungary in 1940. The Nazis invaded Hungary in 1940, and my grandmother’s family managed to survive by hiding underground. After the war, she stayed in Hungary until right before the Communist Revolution in 1956, when she moved with her family to America. While in Hungary, my grandmother was a member of the national Olympic gymnastics team. My mother’s parents met in Brooklyn, where they married and had five children. One of these was my mother, Shirley Drummer, who was born in 1966.
My father’s father, whom I am named for, was Akiva Pollak. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1924. Although he managed to hide for a while after the Nazi invasion, he was eventually caught and sent to a work camp. After World War Two, he immigrated to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv, where he lived for the rest of his life. My father’s mother, Elizabeth Zussman, was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1932. Her family managed to escape to Switzerland at the beginning of World War Two, where they stayed until 1949. My grandmother then decided to move to Tel Aviv, and met my grandfather there. They married and had three children named Daniel, Josef, and Benjamin. My father, Josef Pollak, was born in 1954. Daniel, who was a soldier in the Israeli Army, died in the Yom Kippur War in 1972 at the age of 21.
After high school, my mother went to Israel to study at Bar Ilan, which is near Tel Aviv. She then met my father, and they married in 1985. A year later, my sister Shevy was born. In 1987, my parents decided to move to Brooklyn, where my mother became an audiologist and my father worked in the diamond district alongside my grandfather. And the rest, as they say, is history