African Diaspora, Black Russia

Yelena Khanga became one of Russia’s best known celebrities

Yelena Khanga was born and raised in Moscow when it was considered the USSR, and is the author Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family: 1865 – 1992. Khanga divides her time between New York City and Moscow.

Yelena is the daughter of Abdullah Kassim, a former vice president of Zanzibar, and Lily Golden, a historian and educator. Her American maternal grandmother, of Polish Jewish descent, was a Russian-English translator for a Soviet news agency. Her African-American grandfather, Oliver Golden earned a college degree in agronomy from the Tuskegee Institute. Unable to find any work in his field, coupled with oppressive racism in the US and disdain for interracial couples, he and his wife moved to Uzbekistan to develop the cotton industry there.

Yelena Khanga is a former fellow of the Harvard University Institute of Politics, a correspondent from 1984 to 1990 for the Moscow News in Moscow, and a commentator for two years for Vzglyad, a program on Soviet Television.

For one year, Ms. Khanga was an intern with the Christian Science Monitor in Boston as the first participant in a unique journalistic exchange program established by the Christian Science Monitor and the Moscow News. She was also a performer with a comedy group in Brighton Beach called Kanotye, and has also appeared on Russian television on “Shkola zlosloviya” as Herself – Guest (1 episode, 2005), aka “The School for Scandal” – International (English title) (informal title) and Episode #4.12 (2005) TV episode as Herself – Guest.

Yelena Khanga
L,Mr. Khanga in Moscow, R, with her mother

Yelena Khanga recalls the day in I February 1991 when she ran her fingers through the rich soil of a farm once owned by her great-grandfather in Yazoo County, Miss. At that moment, the Black American Russian Jewish African great-granddaughter of a former slave and a Polish rabbi knew in the deepest recesses of her soul that she was connected to something much larger than herself.

“I always believed that the only relatives I had were my mother and my grandmother,” Khanga says with a distinctly Russian accent. “But when I went to Mississippi and saw the land, I was like, ‘Wow! We have roots. This is where we come from.’ Now, I feel that I am somebody.”

Read an article with photos of Ms. Khanga’s family originally published in Ebony magazine in 1992.

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4 Comments

  1. […] Lily Golden, a historian and educator. Her American maternal grandmother, of Polish Jewish descent, Yelena Khanga became one of Russia’s best known celebrities | Black Women in Europe Kuhusu Mwalimu Nyerere kutiwa doa na vifo vya kusikitisha vya Kassim Hanga na wengine wengi huko […]

  2. Davidocero says:

    Beautiful indeed.

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