Ivan’s parents arrived in South Africa from Lithuania around 1930. Prior to immigrating, they knew each other from Klykoliai, a shtetl in northwestern Lithuania. Ivan’s father was the first to arrive, taking up work at a concession store in the mining town of Brakpan. As for Ivan’s mother, she came over with her mother after her siblings had prepared a home for them in Brakpan. After being sent to a convent in Rhodesia in order to learn English, she returned to Brakpan where she married Ivan’s father. Together, the couple raised two children, who grew up with their maternal grandmother, who only spoke Yiddish. Consequently, Ivan grew up speaking Yiddish as well as English. He even gave his bar mitzvah speech in Yiddish, causing his Lithuanian grandmother to beam with pride.
Although they were not well off, Ivan’s parents managed to send their two sons to university. As an undergraduate, Ivan studied pharmacy at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. He met his wife while visiting his parents in Kimberley, where they had moved and were managing a hotel. The two were introduced on a blind date and corresponded for well over a year when Ivan went to do a post-graduate degree in industrial pharmacy at the University of Michigan. When Ivan returned to South Africa to take up a job in Cape Town, the two dated, became engaged, and married. In 1990, they immigrated to Canada with their two children as part of a job transfer. After a short stay in Brockville, the family relocated to Kingston, where they were active in Jewish life. Ivan’s wife, Daphne, passed away in 2006. He moved from Kingston to Toronto in 2018, joining his children Marc and Shelley and families who live there.