I was born in Moscow in the early days of the Second World War, when my country's very existence was in great jeopardy. In 1941, my family was evacuated to Ural, where we were rescued by German peasants who had been exiled to Ural as enemies of the Soviet authorities. My father was an artillery captain who joined the military in Byelorussia in the first days of the war. He became a commander of one of the first partisan detachments there and finished the war in Berlin as a colonel. We reunited with my father in 1944, after he rejoined Soviet troops following a year and a half in a concentration camp. In 1946, we moved to Lvov in western Ukraine, where I spent the next 20 years. I learned from my father the importance of being strong in the face of adversity. I can think of no more important lesson for someone starting a business today.
10.1 Laser Opportunities
I first became interested in science in school and went on to receive a master's degree in electronics from Lvov Polytechnic Institute. After spending three years working at a high-tech company in Lvov, I returned to receive my PhD at the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology. My first real taste of R&D as a career was in developing systems for a Soviet satellite program.
Although I was able to use my background in electronics, the more time I spent in this first job, the more I felt the need to move on to something more exciting. I then had the good fortune to get involved with the Soviet Academy of Sciences (SAS).
When I arrived, the SAS was an impressive network of science institutions, rather like a cross between Bell Labs, Caltech, MIT, and NASA. It was an amazing organization, home to some of the world's most outstanding scientists and Nobel laureates. This was a place that welcomed me into the field that would become my life's work: the fundamental physics of light and laser technology. The SAS was also a place of freedom and autonomy from tough bureaucratic regulations.
I started at the SAS in 1964 as a post-graduate student, working hard to strengthen my knowledge of basic physics and the laser science industry.