Leon Goltsman

“My grandparents wanted to go to America and my uncle wanted to go to America but my father was determined. He said, “Australia it is.”

I was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1972.
My mother, father, sister and I arrived in Australia in May 1978.

Coming to Australia

My father had a cousin here who was the first person from our family to actually come here. It was him that called out to my father and said, “Look you’ve got to come here. This is a lucky country; you’ll come here, it is not like Russia. You'll be glad that you did.” My grandparents wanted to go to America and my uncle wanted to go to America because they had a lot of family there but my father was determined. He said, “Australia it is” … so history was made.

Being grateful

One of the things that resonates with me more than anything is gratitude. I think it’s something that anyone can have irrespective of what religion they are. Gratitude is just being glad to be you, being glad to be me. Being glad to be here in the moment. I have to remind myself regularly because it’s very easy to forget …taking the time out to just observe what we have and how lucky we are to be here. You’ve got to give thanks for that.

Key Migration Wave - Former Soviet Union Jewry

Between 1971 and 1980 a wave of Soviet Jews migrated to Australia under the sponsorship of the Jewish community. The majority of these migrants had left the USSR after receiving an official invitation to be reunited with family in Israel. The Jews who applied to leave but were refused permission became known as “refuseniks.” Those who were eventually permitted to leave, after intense international pressure, were generally forced to relinquish their passports and stripped of their citizenship. They left permanently. However, once they arrived in Vienna, some decided to opt out of migration to Israel and were sent to Rome, where they applied for immigration to a Western country. This included some who were accepted to migrate to Australia under its humanitarian migration program. The migration of Soviet Jewry peaked in 1979 and continued, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with many migrants settling in Sydney, around the Bondi Beach area.

Listen to Leon's Eat, Pray, Naches stories

Read the full transcript here

Leon's Soviet Jewish family experienced many years of discrimination and antisemitism. His parents wanted a better future for them all in Australia.


Leon grew up for the most part a Russian Australian and says nothing beats his grandmother's and mum's Russian cooking, especially borscht (beetroot soup)!


Discover how Leon first learnt of his Jewish identity when in school. When they asked what religion he was, his parents told him “You’re Jewish".


Leon’s parents always got naches from Leon, but he also finds his naches in representing his community and being able to work with amazing people.