Leon Basin immigrated from Kharkov, Ukraine as a child. His wife, Marina Nekhendzy-Basin, immigrated from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Leon was nine years old when he arrived in the Bay Area, and Marina was two. Both watched their parents start over from nothing, which makes them all the more grateful for the opportunities they’ve had, with the help of their families and Hebrew Free Loan.
“The interest-free Covid-19 loan and the student loans we received felt too good to be true. We were shocked that this kind of help is out there for the Jewish community. We were able to get the funds quickly, and it was a huge relief knowing our financial load was lessened.”
Leon remembers his mother, Irina Basin, working as an elementary school teacher in Ukraine, and then in many different jobs when they first came to the U.S. She eventually found work as a piano teacher and also started a piano business. His father, Boris Basin, was a civil engineer in Ukraine and found work in biotech in the US. Leon still remembers firsthand the antisemitism they experienced in Ukraine. His family was relieved to find an environment here where they were safe to live in peace as Jews.
Since Marina was too young to remember immigration, she recounted the story her parents told about their escape from Russia. Her mother, Galina Balon, and father, Vladimir Nekhendzy, were both physicians, and her mother had almost completed her PhD before they had to flee the country. They left everything, including their careers and parents (except for Marina’s grandmother, Anna Nekhendzy, who was able to come with the family), and escaped through Italy to America. Their dream was to give their daughter a future free of antisemitism. Galina and Vladimir wanted to continue their careers as physicians, but everyone told them it was impossible and would never happen. They were told with the kindest intentions, “You’ll have better chances delivering pizza or driving taxis.”
However, both were determined to pursue their calling to heal others, so they reached out to Hebrew Free Loan to help finance their education. They re-learned medicine in English, studied for the boards, and raised their daughter, living off food stamps while they did. Galina was accepted into Kaiser’s internal medicine residency program, shortly followed by Vladimir’s acceptance to UCSF’s anesthesia residency.
Galina’s mother and father, Vera Gordon and Lazar Balon, immigrated two years later, and they helped take care of Marina while her parents worked 100-hour weeks during their training. Galina and Vladimir have since enjoyed 25+ years working as physicians at Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford, respectively. When the time came for Marina to apply to graduate school and advance her career, naturally they pointed her to Hebrew Free Loan.
Leon and Marina had already graduated from college when they met, Leon from the University of Phoenix with a degree in psychology and Marina from UC San Diego, where she studied pre-med as a psychology major and biology minor. By the time they were ready to get married, both knew they wanted to earn their MBAs. They made a pact to take turns supporting each other while each of them completed school.
Marina applied first and was accepted the day their first daughter, Ella Anna Basin, was born. She started taking evening classes at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business with the help of our interest-free student loans, while she worked full-time at 23andMe during the day. Having a four-month-old and just returning from maternity leave didn’t slow Marina down at all. She finished school in the middle of the Covid pandemic, and now has a job she loves as a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Photoshop at Adobe.
Leon was working in commercial business development at SurveyMonkey when the pandemic hit. Sales took a dip, and so did his income. They struggled to pay for childcare for their daughter, who was two at the time. An interest-free Coronavirus Impact loan helped bridge the gap while Leon searched for better opportunities during a tough job market. It didn’t take long for him to land a satisfying new job in business development at Sense, a talent recruitment platform.
Once things stabilized, it was his turn to enroll in school. With a little more help from our interest-free student loans, Leon too is on track to complete his Executive MBA at Santa Clara University in the spring. He has been promoted twice in less than a year, which he attributes in part to the graduate education he has received thanks to Hebrew Free Loan.
Leon and Marina’s second daughter, Leila Vera Basin, was born nine months ago, and the family is happily settled in Mountain View. They’re active at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, and the future looks bright, but they don’t take their good fortune for granted. While Leon has no family left in Ukraine, he has a strong emotional connection to the country, and he and Marina feel devastated about the war there. Like so many other members of our community with roots in Ukraine and Russia, they are carrying on, treasuring the life they’re building for their family here, with much gratitude for the opportunities that have come their way.