By Marla Friedson
On Feb. 7, UMass Hillel hosted Israeli actor and former Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier Dean Miroshnikov. Despite the snow storm, a group of over 30 students attended his presentation. After talking about a few of the big moments of his life in the army and on the movie screen, Miroshnikov went on to discuss his childhood in Ukraine.
Miroshnikov spoke of how he grew up believing he was Christian. This was because his mother hid his Jewish identity from him in efforts to keep him safe from the anti-semitism in the Ukraine. He discussed how his grandfather faced a lot of oppression for being openly Jewish. Miroshnikov recalled being slightly ashamed by his grandpa. It wasn’t until Miroshnikov was nine years old, when he and his mother immigrated to Israel, that he was informed that he was actually Jewish.
Continuing his childhood in Israel, he faced some bullying due to his Russian sounding last name and accent. When he got old enough, he even changed his name. He remembered being 18 and excited to join the IDF, not just because he wanted to help defend Israel but because joining the army was something everyone did at 18, and he wanted to be like everyone else. At the age of 20 he was a part of a series of missions that were very dangerous, and almost took his life. This experience helped him to understand the importance of going after what you want in life.
Nine years later, at the age of 29, Miroshnikov said he has an extremely different outlook on wanting to blend in. He realized that it’s important to remember where you came from and learn from your mistakes.
Despite feeling ashamed by his grandpa when he was younger, he said he knows now that you should never be ashamed of yourself or your history.
"If you’re different, you’re special," Miroshnikov said.
He spoke confidently as he gave the audience three pieces of advice, including "set a goal and go after it" and remember that the “journey is always of value.” He wrapped his advice by telling the audience that they should not to try to be someone else; instead, “be yourself," he said.
To learn more about UMass Hillel events, visit www.umasshillel.org.
Marla Friedson is a senior double-majoring in communication and journalism with certificate in film. She is currently working in the Office of News and Media Relations as a diversity social media assistant.