For nearly 30 years Naum has been a news photographer at News 4. He has shot just about every type of news story you can imagine around St. Louis. Hard news, breaking news. medical stories, feature pieces, sports, politics, crime. The list goes on and on.
Naum could be his own news story. He has a fascinating background. Naum was born and raised in the Soviet Union. If you're a baby boomer or older than you probably have a good idea what that means. We were raised with daily doses of stories of the horrors of life in communist countries. The Soviet Union was the evil empire. Naum got a taste of the Soviet Union "up close and personal" as they say. He was lucky. He was able to leave the Soviet Union with his family and emigrate to the United States.
When I first started working at Channel 4 I loved to go out on assignments with Naum. I would pepper him with questions about life under Soviet rule. He told me he was amazed that we had such freedoms here. The freedom of the press that we enjoy was impressive to Naum. When we have a news story we can send a photographer up in the helicopter to get aerial footage. Naum told me that in the Soviet Union it would take weeks to get clearance and mounds of red tape to get through the bureaucracy to get a helicopter. Any of the footage that he shot would have to go through government censors.
In the Soviet Union it seemed just about everybody had something going on the side to survive. The black market thrived. Since Naum was a photographer he would shoot weddings, a bar mitzvah, graduations and trade others for his pictures. The butcher may give him something on the side, perhaps the grocery had some food that had been left off the books.
When Naum left the Soviet Union he ended up in St. Louis. Think about leaving everything, and practically everyone, you know and relocating to a city on the other side of the world where you don't know, the language, the customs, the culture. What kind of person does that take? I told him I admired him for that. He just shrugged it off.
Naum was always a student of our culture and absorbed everything like a sponge. One day he asked me what it meant when a person says "until the cows come home." I said it mean that it would be late into the night or early the next morning. Later that day we were on a story covering a local school district that was working to settle a potential teachers' strike. The two sides were meeting behind closed doors with an arbitrator. It was one of those times when the reporters and photographers gather in the hallway waiting for some word on a resolution. It can sometimes drag into the wee hours of the morning.
The assignment desk called Naum. I could hear him in the outer hallway on his cell phone. He listened for a moment then said in his heavy Russian accent, "We are here....until the cows....they come home." He walked back into the room with a very proud look on his face.
So here's to you Naum.
We will miss you around the newsroom. We will miss your passion. Your wonderful Russian accent, Your dedication.