This story is part of an ongoing Miami Herald series chronicling the lives of South Florida COVID-19 victims.
In the late 1970s, Mikhail Itskovich and his family left the Soviet Union for the west.
Despite the risks, Itskovich, who was Jewish, believed restarting their lives was necessary. America represented freedom, choice and opportunity.
He was born July 19, 1938, in Moscow. He died at 81 from complications of COVID-19 on April 6 in Miami-Dade County.
“He enjoyed life and living on his own terms and was committed to leave Russia to attain that freedom,” said his son-in-law, Mark Waldman.
His life in Russia didn’t allow him to pursue his dreams, said his daughter, Yana Itskovich, who now lives in the Netherlands with Waldman.
“He was a patent engineer,” Yana Itskovich said. “But his heart was in antique dealing, which was an illegal commercial activity in Russia. It became his livelihood in America.”
Mikhail became a fixture at both the Showplace Antique Center on 25th Street in New York and the 47th Street Diamond District, his daughter said. He loved the 18th and 19th century craftsmanship that went into the creation of old-masters paintings, porcelain, icons and other antiques.
Itskovich will also be remembered for his many adventures and love of storytelling.
“The stories are usually best heard in Russian, but even as a non-native speaker, you can still feel the sentiment behind it all — especially while toasting with shots of vodka,” Waldman said.
His trip from New York to his second home in Miami in mid-March was his last.
Because Yana Itskovitch and her husband were in Europe, they had to do everything remotely once he fell ill. She said hospital officials brought in a “crisis rabbi” — a term she said she had not heard before — to perform prayers, set up video calls and help the family understand the situation.
She also expressed gratitude to the Jewish community in New York, who made sure Itskovich’s body was transported to New York. Eventually, she said, her father will be buried in Russia, next to his parents, according to his wishes.
Matthew Garcia, a Florida International University journalism student, wrote this story for the Miami Herald.