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father, Vladimir, was a computer programmer and his mother, Anne,
was an English translator and freelance journalist when they left
the Soviet Union with their two sons 27 years ago. (Eugene's younger
brother, Sasha, 29, is now completing a Harvard program that combines
a law degree and Ph.D. in economics.) Like most immigrants, the
Volokhs had to begin again in the U.S., moving into a small, $385-per-month
West Hollywood apartment. "My dad would send out a hundred
resumès," Volokh recalls, "and he'd say, 'Yeah,
maybe two or three will express an interest, but one will end up
hiring me. That's the way it's gotta be done.' "
who eventually worked his way back up from computer operator to
programming, often took his sons to work during school vacations.
By the time he was 12, Eugene was put on the payroll, at $5.75 an
hour. That same year, he adapted an accounting-utility program Vladimir
had written for Hewlett-Packard's 3000 series for more generalized
use; some of the sizeable profits from this new product funded a
magazine, Movieline, established by his mother. "I have heard,
'Oh, the Volokhs got so successful so fast, it must have been drug
money,' " laughs Anne. "But actually it was the software."
Eugene continued earning money as a programmer all through college
and, in fact, is still a partner in the small software company he
and his father started.
also entered UCLA as a freshman when he was 12, usually getting
dropped off by his father in the morning, then taking the bus to
his programming job in the afternoon. But although he was (and still
is) close to his family, as a teenager he felt the need for some
distance; when he graduated at age 15, Volokh moved out from his
parent's house into a Hermosa Beach apartment, close to a new job
at a computer company based in Torrance. His mother called their
state congressman for help obtaining her eldest son a special driver's
license so he could get to work.
says that entering college and the work world while still a child
wasn't really a huge adjustment, although his boss did at one point
have to ask him to please stop all that running through the halls;
people on the floor below were complaining about noise. As a pre-teen
at UCLA, he remembers wandering over to north campus one day and
being "very troubled" by the aggressive-looking statue
of a muscular woman with large breasts. "But my classmates
were actually very nice to me even though I was often an obnoxious
little kid," Volokh recalls of those years. "I would talk
loud in class, often on point, but sometimes not. I think they saw
me as an odd and amusing curiosity."