July 15, 2010
Gita Vygodskaya (Lev Vygotsky’s daughter) died on July 13. She was in her mid-80s. I and so many Vygotskians around the world will miss her wonderful stories, her warmth and sparkle, and the joy she took in meeting people the world over whose work was inspired by her father’s writings.
Gita was nine years-old when her father died at age 37 in 1934. His works were then banned by Stalin and his widow and two daughters kept the manuscripts safe under their beds in their apartment in Moscow for years. When her mother died, Gita took charge of keeping the manuscripts safe and getting a volume of them finally published in 1956. Over the next two decades she worked, along with some of Vygotsky’s students, to turn the manuscripts into six volumes of his works published in Russia in the 1980s. She received her doctorate in psychology from Moscow University in 1959 and worked with deaf children for many years.
I first met Gita in Moscow in 1993 when she invited me to visit her in her apartment. She shared memorabilia and stories of her childhood with her father, something she continued doing with people until her final days. The next year, I and the East Side Institute brought her to the US for her first ever visit to visit with our community, visit the Vygotskian school we were running at the time (Barbara Taylor School) and give a conference presentation. Over the years, Gita and I saw each other a few more times. Our last visit was this past November at the home outside of Moscow she shared with her daughter, son-in-law and their family. With friends Carrie Lobman, Elina Lampert-Shepel and Dot Robbins, I spent a memorable and lovely night there.