Category Archives: photographs

The coastal outskirts of the city in 1905 – walking the streets of Odessa

Although Moldavanka was the centre of Jewish life in Odessa, Jews lived in every part of the city. Possibly because it was a major Black Sea port and there were people of many nationalities and different ethnic groups, it had a history of integration and assimilation in different sections of the city, along with periods of tensions between the different groups. Over the days of the pogrom, hooligans spread out to wherever it was known that Jews lived. In his famous story, The lonely white sail or The white sail gleams, Kataev describes the hooligans ransacking the Jewish shop in his apartment block on the outskirts of the centre on Kulikovo Field, and then moving down the French Boulevard to another Jewish family. The 1906 pogrom report describes hooligans going out to the summer resort, Bolshoi Fontan, ransacking and burning Jewish summer houses, and terrorising Jews still there in the autumn, who lived there full-time.

Alex Stilianudi 1918 b fontan

Stilinaudi 1918 Bolshoi Fontan

These were not the poor working class or wealthy merchants, but ordinary tradespeople, craftsmen and middle-class shop owners, teachers or civil servants. The fates of the Jews who were spread out across the city may never have been known and are therefore absent from the history of the pogrom. My grandparents were probably typical of this group and I wondered if I could work out, from various bits of gathered information, more about how and where they might have lived.

stilianudi 1910 april

Stilianudi 1910 Dacha and orchard

Putting together the various stories of my grandfather growing grapes and making wine, of my grandmother not wanting to live in Manhattan but in a house with a garden as she was used to, of my uncle talking about his village, of my grandparents settling near the coast outside New York, I began to look for writers who had lived in Odessa in the early 1900s and described their daily life there, fictionally or as memoir, especially the areas near the coast with their winding lanes and small houses set in gardens – Jabotinsky, Kataev, Babel and Paustovsky, who worked in Odessa as a journalist just after the Civil War in 1920. I wanted to be able to see in my mind what those parts of Odessa might have been like in the early 1900s, and then walk down Google Streetview looking for streets and parts of streets that still reflect something from those days. Konstantin Paustovsky describes first arriving in Odessa:

 

In a piercing North wind, on a February day in 1920, the whites fled from Odessa, firing a few parting shots at the town… The shops shut down… The busy market squares had turned into deserts of cobblestones. Only the cats, unsteady with hunger, wandered about looking for scraps. But scraps in Odessa were a thing of the past.

Black Sea Street old photo

Black Sea Street 1960s

I had been living in Dr Landman’s disused sanatorium in Black Sea Street… Yasha and I found a porter’s lodge in the same street and rented it from the enterprising landlord, an unfrocked priest called  Prosvirnyak. The Lodge stood in a neglected garden surrounded by high walls of rough stone, at the back of a two-storey building facing the street. In those un-quiet days it was as peaceful there as in a fortress…

Черноморской улицы 3

Paustovsky’s house Black Sea Street

 Before describing the events that followed, I should say something about Black Sea Street. I grew very fond of this small suburban street and believed it to be the most picturesque in the world. Even the way to it from town was a tonic against adversity, as I often experienced. I might be walking home, utterly dejected by some failure, but as soon as I found myself in the deserted alleyways around Black Sea Street – Observatory Lane, Sturzo Lane, Battery Lane – and heard the rustling of the old acacia trees, saw the ivy dark on walls gilded by the winter sun, felt the breath of the sea on my face, I at once recovered my peace of mind and lightness of heart.

These alleys all ran between the garden walls; the houses hid at the back of the gardens, behind locked wicket-gates. The alleys led to Black Sea Street, and Black Sea Street stretched along the edge of the cliffs overhanging the sea – On the right, the steep rust-red cliffs overgrown with pigsweed and goosefoot, led to Arcadia and the Fountains, towards the misty beaches on which the tides would often wash up floating mines, torn from their moorings… (Konstantin Paustovsky Years of Hope p9)

otrada 1914 dir

Black Sea (Черноморскауа) St, Otrada and French Blvd, 1914 directory

In his memoir, A mosaic of life, Kataev wrote about all the streets his family lived on during his childhood, Bazarnaya, Kanatnaya and especially Otrada, the little group of streets at the edge of the steep lanes down to the sea. An area that had once been a fishing village was being colonised by the wealthy, and, more recently, by the growing middle class.

Kataev family 1910 Gotlib

Kataev family 1910

In 1910, the Kataevs lived in an apartment at Otradnaya 10, and one of their neighbours was the very wealthy publisher and printer, Fasenko.

otradnaya 6 fasenko 1910

otradnaya 6 dom fasenko

Otradnaya St Dom Fasenko 1910

Kataev describes his friends and the games they played on the Otrada streets, including exploring empty dachas, and playing in new partly-built houses.

In Otrada, searches frequently had to be made for an escaped monkey and a flyaway parrot… In the course of a moment, Otrada, with her four nice, deserted streets, framed in white acacias with feathery leaves through which the green-tinted blue sky peeped so romantically; Otrada, with her villas, smooth lawns, and beds of fiery-red flowers, was transformed into a sort of Valparaiso.(p239)

Out of the dormer window (the attic in a new, unoccupied four-storied house) we had a splendid view of the four streets with their buildings and ‘meadows’ and the good-natured policeman in his white tunic, standing at the crossroads in the shade of an acacia-tree; of the yards behind the houses, with their sheds, their well-trodden paths through the long, wavy grass and their freshly washed linen hanging on the line; and of the stretch of grey sea beyond the roofs on one side and a section of the French Boulevard on the other, with an occasional passing carriage and the iron standards carrying the wires for the recently built electric tramway line. (p161)

Not all the houses around Otrada were mansions or apartment blocks. Quite small one and two-storey houses, with gardens and vegetable plots, sometimes nestled between much larger buildings on the lanes that slope down to the sea off the French Boulevard.

lermontovski lane off french blvd

Lermontovskyi Lane

udilnyi lane off french blvd

Utildnyi Lane off French Boulevard

Morskyi lane malyi fontan

Morskyi Lane Malyi Fontan

Further from the centre, the streets are barely paved, and the houses, anything from an enlarged shed to a two-storey dacha, are set back in larger walled or fenced gardens, obscured behind trees and shrubs.

nedjelina st 2

Nedjelina St Srednyi Fontan

Kataev’s story, The cottage in the steppe, which continues from The white sail gleams, begins with the death of Tolstoy in 1910. Petya’s father makes a speech at his school in honour of the death of Tolstoy, is labelled a communist, and loses his job. He is then offered a job in a private school designed to get wealthy children through exams, but the job does not last long as Petya’s father is ethically unable to fiddle exam results as he is meant to. Eventually they try to make a living by renting a dacha at Bolshoi Fontan with several acres of fruit trees, and with the help of Petya’s friend Gavrik and his revolutionary brother and associates, they manage, just in time, to harvest their crop of cherries. The father, who is deeply loyal to the Czar, ends up teaching history, geography and astronomy to the working class revolutionaries.

bolshoi fontan 1904 kovalevsky

Bolshoi Fontan Dacha Kovalevsky 1904

The cottage was near the dacha of the wealthy Kovalevsky, a legendary figure in Odessa history for bringing the first water pipe from Bolshoi Fontan to the city in 1853. His land was at the end of Bolshoi Fontan, the lower right section on the map, and now all that exists of his country house, water tower and pumping station, is the name of the road leading to where his dacha was, Dacha Kovalevsky Street.  http://www.citymap.odessa.ua/?30

Before the water pipe, Odessa inhabitants collected rainwater in tanks as the well water was too mineralised to be potable. However, Kovalevsky spent so much money buying equipment from England that he went bankrupt, and the water quality never lived up to expectations.

odessa naberezhnaya st dacha kovalevsky

Nabereshnaya St parallel to Dacha Kovalevsky St

Kataev describes the little dacha and smallholding the family rented:

The house itself was a five-room affair with an outside kitchen, then there was a stable, a labourer’s hut, a rain-water cistern and a shed which, Auntie said, held the wine press.

They boarded the little suburban train that passed their house and went to the sixteenth station, from which a horse-tram took them to the Kovalevsky country-house. After that, guided by Auntie, they walked a mile or so across the steppe to “their cottage. (Kataev, The cottage in the steppe: 224-5)

I imagine my grandparents living in one of these villages, probably close to or on the edge of Odessa, as my grandfather was setting up a business, possibly one of the houses set behind a picket fence on an unmade lane.

12 lyustdorfskoi

Lyustdorfskaya Rd near Bolshoi Fontan

On Google Streetview, I have wandered down the little side streets in Sredni and Bolshoi Fontan looking for areas which have not been completely rebuilt. There are scattered modern apartment buildings, but mostly the area has been rebuilt with modern individual houses with brick, metal or rendered block walls or garages along the road so little can be seen of the houses. The older houses tend to have wooden picket fences and are often blocked by overgrown shrubs and small trees.

omskaya st bolshoi fontan

Omskaya St Bolshoi Fontan

rivnosti lane walls

Rivnostyi Lane walls

rjepina st walls

Rjepina St fences

sredi fontan close

Srednyi Fontan

slavy lane 2

Slavy Lane Srednyi Fontan

I can only imagine what the daily life was like in Odessa for those who lived in the scattered houses and villages, and what their houses looked like inside. Like many of Odessa’s suburbs and outer fringes, these were city people but not city people. One of my older cousins spent her summers with my grandparents at their house outside New York in the 1930s and said the house was unremarkable and had ordinary, non-descript furniture, although there was also a samovar, and my grandparents drank their tea from Russian glasses and cooked typically Russian food. The only photograph I knew as a child of my grandparents was taken by my father in 1935, my grandfather in his old-fashioned three-piece suit, and my grandmother dressed like an old peasant woman in a long checked cotton skirt, careworn, and haggard, not what would have been expected from her middle-class background, or in a photograph of any woman in her 50s in 1930s New York.

In Odessa I imagine they had typical furniture from the 1890s, flowered or striped wallpaper and little tables covered with vases, decorated boxes and family photographs. It is difficult to find photographs of interiors from the 1890s and early 1900s and the impressionist or art nouveau paintings of the time are abstracted or highly idealised. Two of the paintings below have dates and the other is more modern.

Mirek_Aleksey_Interer

Aleksei Mirek

somov the-interior-of-the-pavlovs-country-house 1899

Somov 1899

zhukovsky interior 1914

Zhukovsky 1914

I have one object that my mother said her mother had brought from Russia, an Art Nouveau Minton soap dish, which would have come with a complete wash set of bowl, jug, sponge dish and chamber pot.

minton 3

1903 Minton Secessionist soap dish

My mother may have invented the story that the soap dish had been her mother’s or had come from Russia. Her mother may have acquired it in New York as my grandfather was a scrap dealer, but as I discovered many years after I tried to date the dish, it has a number, a tiny 3, on the foot which signifies 1903, placing it exactly when my grandmother might have bought it in Odessa. Most similar Minton Secessionist ware is not dated and could have been made any time from about 1900 to 1920. That this dish is dated 1903 is most intriguing. It suggests that my grandparents may have had a taste for modern Art Nouveau furnishings and may have had some beautiful things. It is a strange fragile object to have survived their trip from Odessa to Minsk (possibly stopping for some time in Kiev to have their baby) to Liverpool, and then finally to New York. Washing apparatus was very important for Russian travellers, especially those with babies, but travellers would have carried small tin (or silver) soap boxes. A ceramic soap dish must have been packed deeply in their luggage.

soap tin

Russian travel soap tin

Because Russian inns tended to be primitive, and distances were so far, travellers also carried tea making equipment and bedding. I imagine this is why most immigrants often speak of their families having brought their samovar, feather pillows and quilts from Russia.

It is difficult to imagine my grandmother with her beautifully dressed babies (photograph in Rabinovich birth records and the pogrom https://odessasecrets.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/rabinovich-families-part-two-birth-records-and-the-pogrom/), her Ukrainian maid, and her Art Nouveau wash set, when, to me, she was the tiny careworn peasant in my photograph. It was not until many years later that I was given a photograph of my grandmother with her parents as a 16-year-old, a middle-class girl in 1889,with her life ahead of her. That is the only photograph I have of her taken in Russia, leaving her early married life with my grandfather and the first years of their first four children a mystery.

Michael Ignatieff, in The Russian Album, has a similar late picture of the Russian grandparents he never met, who had been brought up in mansions, standing in the snow in bedroom slippers outside their small bungalow in Canada. The photographs of his and my grandparents are photographs of people who have had to leave their homes, who have been emigrants, emigres, refugees and finally immigrants, but have never truly found a new home.

I have a picture of them taken by Lionel in the winter of 1944. They are standing outside the cottage in upper Melbourne, side-by-side in the snow on a cold winter’s afternoon. They are bundled up in long winter coats that seem to pull them down into the earth. Natasha is smiling in that squinting quizzical way of hers. Her grey hair is pulled back in an untidy chignon and her long straight neck is enclosed in a black choker. Her knees are slightly bent and turned inwards, which gives her stance the awkwardness of a shy girl. Paul is standing a fraction apart, elegant as always with an astrakhan perched on his head, a carefully knotted tie and trawled moustaches. The sockets of his eyes are dark and the ridges of his cheekbones are sharp and exposed. He is not smiling. They’re both wearing bedroom slippers and they stand on the flagstones, little dry islands in an expanse of white snow. Spring is months off; the darkness will soon close about the house. It is the last picture in the album. (Ignatieff p164)

 When I look at their final photographs in the family album, standing in front of the bungalow on a snowy afternoon, I want to be there to walk with them up the path to the house, to help them out of their coats, to make them a cup of tea and sit with them by the fire. I want to hear them speak, I want to feel the warmth of their hands.(p184)

 I would like to go back in time and talk to my grandparents as they stood outside their New Rochelle house in 1936 and also walk with them up their path to wherever they lived in Odessa in 1905

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Filed under literature, maps, photographs, places, silence

Peresyp and police surveillance – families and detention at Ellis Island

Jewish Chronicle 15 December 1905
The Anti-Jewish Atrocities in Russia. Further Narratives. The Reign of Terror at Odessa (from our correspondent)
Odessa, 30 November
A doctor on military service living in the Peressip suburb requested the aide-de-camp of Baron Kaulbars, with whom he stood on friendly terms, to protect his house. Forty soldiers were immediately placed at the doctor’s disposal and the hooligans were put to flight. The police officer who was leading the hooligans informed Kaulbers that soldiers, led by a Jewish doctor, were firing on ‘patriots’. Having ascertained that the doctor was a Jew, the fact of which the aide-de-camp had been ignorant, orders were given to demolish the house; the doctor and his family had a narrow escape. The walls were literally riddled with bullets.

 
A relatively uncommon name, in the Peresyp letter and in the list of those under police surveillance, was Goikhman (Гойхман). There were the brothers under surveillance, David Iankel Goikhman and Mordko Iankel Goikhman, then there was 50-year-old A. Sch. Goichman in the Peresyp letter, and 45-year-old Shlema Gershov Goikhman who died in the pogrom and may have shared his name, Shlema, with the patronymic of A. Sch. Goichman. Quite a few Goichman or Gochman families left Odessa for America after the pogrom. There were many spellings and misspellings of the name Goichman, and many changes of first names, so it was not easy to tie together families leaving Odessa and living in America. One Goichman/Gochman was a widow of about 50, Leie later Lena, who travelled to New York in 1913 with two of her grandchildren to live with her daughter, Sara Nechetzky. She is about the right age to have been the widow of Shlema. Leie and the children were held for a Board of Special Inquiry at Ellis Island, and it is marked on the manifest that Leie suffered from senility and curvature of the spine, which might affect her ability to work.

Ellis_Island_arrivals 1904

Ellis Island inspection hall 1904

Could this ‘senility’ have been the results of whatever circumstances led to this woman been widowed and the stress of travelling with two small children from Odessa to New York, possibly speaking no language except Yiddish and unable to read or write?

gochman leie 1913 extract

Leie Gochman SS Volturno manifest arrived NY 15 Feb 1913

The Gochmans and Nechetzkys seem to have been quite a large family who lived near each other around East 100th Street in Manhattan. In searching the many Goichman names online I also came upon 2 people in mental asylums, as the word ‘inmate’ tends to stand out on the page. This made me think again about the problems of surviving pogroms and then emigrating, often with young children. One of the inmates in the 1940 census was from Odessa, a teacher of 35 called Anna Goichman, who was at Rockland State Hospital on the Hudson River, which, at its peak, had 9000 inmates. Also in 1940, a 29-year-old Joseph Goichman was in an enormous Long Island hospital, Pilgrim State Hospital, which housed up to 14,000 inmates. Anna appears meticulously in the records with her family up until 1940, but Joseph appears nowhere except possibly as someone who emigrated to Québec, Canada in 1928.

Anna’s records go beyond the censuses. In June 1938 there was an article in the New York Sun about the teachers’ retirement board and a protest about two teachers who were retired without having asked to be. There is then a list of other teachers retiring because of disability including Anna Goichman, who had been teaching at PS 34, a Bronx primary school, close to her family home at 1566 White Plains Road. She had lived with her family until 1931 when she is listed in a Bronx directory as a teacher living at 36 White Plains Road, near where the road reaches the East River.

PS34AmethystAve&Victor

PS 34

1566 white plains rd

1566 White Plains Rd (house with green door)

Had Anna made a bid for independence that went horribly wrong when she moved away from the centre of the Bronx to the quieter waterside, which was not very different from the small lanes near the Odessa coast? Had she moved because of problems at home?

harding park bronx east river

The East River at the end of White Plains Road with Manhattan in the distance

Looking at where Anna may have gone walking along the river, it seems to be an area of contrasts – of messy boat sheds, oil drums, discarded tyres, and general boat rubbish, but also wasteland appropriated for tidy little gardens with their flamboyant plant urns and garden furniture.

white plains rd end

Gardens by the East River

white plains rd end 2

boats, sheds and integrity on the East River

Anna was only 33 in May 1940 when she was listed under the Bronx civil court records as a plaintiff, probably being committed to the asylum. The next record is from the Social Security death index. She received her Social Security number in 1963, when she must have left the hospital and taken a job. She had been living in Middleton, a town fairly near the hospital, when she died in 1971.

rockland state hospital

rockland state hospital 2

Rockland State Hospital

Anna being committed to an institution led me to wonder what had happened to the rest of the family. As the comprehension of the name Goichman for census-takers was so difficult, it is not easy to find members of the family. In 1910, the name Goichman was spelt Goehmincls. But eventually some records were found for each member of the family. The three sons, Harry, Sam, and Milton all became plumbers like their father and all married. Harry and Sam married before 1930 and Milton, the youngest by 1940. Harry went to live with his wife’s family in Yonkers, but the other two brothers stayed near the family in the Bronx. Sam was only a few streets away. The younger daughter, Sophie, was still a student at home in 1930. Of the brothers, only Milton appears on the 1940 census. He had moved to a different area of the Bronx. Sophie seems to disappear. The parents, Nathan and Esther, also are not easy to find in 1940, although Nathan filled out a 1942 World War II registration with an address in the Bronx, further north than they had been living. The Nechetsky family also moved to the Bronx and all of them stayed in the South Bronx round 163rd Street.

Why was it Anna, the child born in Russia in 1905, shortly before the family emigrated, who was committed to an asylum? Why had Nathan and Esther left Odessa shortly after their first child was born? Like many families, there is a different emigration date on each census, one even before Anna was born (while still saying she was born in Russia). Eventually I found Nathan, as Nathin Goichman, a locksmith, on the SS Statendam sailing from Rotterdam in June 1904, his last residence having been London. Anna’s birthdate on her death record was 7 February 1905. It was possible that Nathan had only stayed briefly in London, as ‘last residence’ does not necessarily mean last permanent residence. I could not find Esther on a ship’s list but their next child, Harry, was born on 5 September 1906, which means that Esther and Anna must have arrived in New York very soon after the pogrom, by January 1906, unless Harry was born early. Anna may have had a difficult first few years, possibly having witnessed the pogrom and experienced the fear, followed by the long trip to America, her parents trying to get to grips with a new country with little money and a new baby. In the New York death records, there is a Nathan Gershma Goichman who died in 1946, and if this was him then he might have been the younger brother of the Shlema Gershkov who died in the pogrom. They might also have been related to the brothers on the surveillance list, and possibly to Lena Gochman and the Nechetskys.

Milton retired to Florida and died in 1999. Sam died in 1966, age 59, and is buried in Bayside cemetery in Queens. Harry died in 1978 in the Adirondacks. His residence was in the small community of Blooming Grove, a beautiful rural area, in the same county where his sister had been institutionalised. Possibly the family had always remained in touch with her. He is however buried at Huntington Station, Long Island, an area where Long Island is becoming more rural, which must have been his previous or main home. This is the first family who was able to move out of the city, which might have been Anna’s idea when she moved closer to the East River.

blooming grove ny 2

Blooming Grove, New York

In searching for Anna Goichman on a ship’s list, I tried the name ‘Chane’ and found another baby, six months old, travelling from Odessa with her parents Josef and Rose Goychmann and her grandmother Janke Goychmann shortly after the pogrom on 30 December 1905. They had no friends or relatives in the US and were sponsored by the Hebrew Society, which I assume is the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS). I had no idea that people affected by the pogrom were able to find space on ships for America as early as December 1905. I had assumed that the ships might have been booked for several months. If not, it might be that the ships leaving in the few months after the pogrom had some of the people most affected by the pogrom on board, even if their names were not in the pogrom records, as many more probably were killed in the pogrom, and there was also the large group who had their homes and livelihoods destroyed. HIAS had a huge operation at Ellis Island helping immigrants with form filling, money, food, and locating housing and jobs, both in New York and across the country. According to Wikipedia:

 

In the half-century following the establishment of a formal Ellis Island bureau in 1904, HIAS helped more than 100,000 Jewish immigrants who might otherwise have been turned away. They provided translation services, guided immigrants through medical screening and other procedures, argued before the Boards of Special Enquiry to prevent deportations, lent needy Jews the $25 landing fee, and obtained bonds for others guaranteeing their employable status. The Society was active on the island facilitating legal entry, reception, and immediate care for the newly arrived.

 
HIAS also searched for relatives of detained immigrants in order to secure the necessary affidavits of support to guarantee that the new arrivals would not become public charges. Lack of such affidavits and/or material means impacted a large number of immigrants: of the 900 immigrants detained during one month in 1917, 600 were held because they had neither money nor friends to claim them. Through advertising and other methods, the Society was able to locate relatives for the vast majority of detainees, who in a short time were released from Ellis Island.

 
One of HIAS’ jobs was to deal with orphans travelling alone. I have never seen a record of a child alone on a ship’s manifest except the Scheindless brothers who seemed to be in a group with an adult. This is a photograph of orphans from the 1905 pogrom travelling from Odessa to New York in May 1908.

orphans arrived 1908

HIAS also had offices in Europe but I could not find any information about their role in helping families emigrate. Josef lists his profession as merchant, which suggests that he had his own business, so I assume that he lost everything in the pogrom necessitating help from HIAS who may have come to Odessa specifically because of the pogrom.

gojchman josef ship 1906 close

Goychmann family, December 1905, Hebrew Society

Like Leie Gochman, this family also had to go through the Board of Special Inquiry, probably to check that the Hebrew Society would continue to settle them. There was another Goichmann family of two merchant brothers, Chaim and Idel, and families including two children of 3 and 2, on the same ship being helped by the Hebrew Society. It seems that this large extended family, who may have worked together in a business, all had their livelihoods destroyed by the pogrom. This would have been around the same time that Esther Goichman was leaving with Anna. The other two families may have been related to Josef but could not use him as a sponsor as he had only recently arrived in New York himself. I began a search for the family of Josef and Rose and after finding no Goichman or Gochman families with those names, tried to search with only the first names and discovered a family in which all the dates and ages matched a Josef and Rose Gutmann with three children, Stella, the same age as Chane, Morris and David. Joseph’s brother, Meyer, was also living with them. Josef was working as a cap maker in a sweatshop, quite a change from being a merchant in Odessa.

sweatshop 1910

Clothing sweatshop New York c1910

By 1920 the family had moved to Brooklyn, Josef was working in a cap factory, and there were two more daughters. Morris and David’s names had changed to Max and Theodore, and the family name had changed to Goodman. Rose’s mother, Sylvia Luskin, was now living with them. In 1930 they were living in the same place and Josef is described as a cap maker and proprietor. They had had another son. Stella had married and was living with her in-laws not far from her family on a street of terraced two-storey houses. What particularly interested me about this family, besides the incredible number of name changes, was eventually finding an online family tree which had begun with the Goodman descendants but could not find their way back through the previous names, Guttman or Goichman, and had no idea where the family had come from and what had brought them to America. They had no idea of Josef Goichman, the Odessa merchant, who had left directly after the pogrom helped by the Hebrew Aid Society. The silence permeated through many generations and so many stories were lost, as in my family.

Because I had known nothing about the lives of any of my older relations, they meant very little to me – I could not differentiate one from the other, especially as they rarely addressed the children. I had once asked and been told the family had come from Russia but nothing more was said, and I’m not sure I actually believed it. If I had been given some idea of their lives in those days before electricity, cars and telephones, of the forests and huge spaces, I would have been fascinated and wanted to hear their stories. If only I had been shown an old postcard and someone had said, ‘This is where we lived.’ Instead they were silent and seen only as distant old people, sitting, observing us children, from a far-off corner of the room.

Navahradak,_Rynak_(XX)

Novogrudok, Minsk district, marketplace

Another name, Groisman (Гройсман), was in the pogrom death records, on the surveillance list, and, between 1893 and 1908, had eight members on the Odessa Jewish small business list, both in the centre and in Moldavanka. In the 1904-05 directory, one Groisman owned property at 15 Alexander St., one was a second guild merchant with a fish business at 74 Bolshaya Arnautnaya, and another had a lumbar business in Moldavanka at 40 Gospitalnaya. None of them had a similar name to Samuil Shimonov, 22, in the death records, or Leivi Itsek Moishe, 26, on the police surveillance list. However, on the ships’ lists, leaving Odessa in April 1906 was a woman of 30, Chane (later Eva) Groisman, with four children, travelling to her husband in New York, Jossel (later Joseph), a butcher. Their eldest son was called Moishe, then Morris, so there may have been a connection with Leivi Itsek Moishe. There were also several Josephs on the business list. The other children were Liube (Lillian), 9, Hersch (Harry), 5, and Roza (Rose), 3. The family was temporarily detained by the Board of Special Inquiry, the two younger children were admitted to the hospital and it was noted that Moishe had atrophy and partial paralysis of one leg, possibly from polio.

groisman ship 1906 paralysis

Chane Groisman travelling to her husband Jossel, April 1906

At first the family, now Grossman, lived on First Avenue in East Manhattan and then moved to the Bronx, to Simpson St near 163rd St, where the Nechetskys had settled. In 1920, Joseph’s much younger sister, Anna, 28, was living with them as well.

940 simpson st bronx

940 Simpson St, Bronx

The family remained there until 1940, when Joseph, now a widower, Morris and Lillian, both single, moved further north in the Bronx near to where Harry and his family had settled. Morris had not married, possibly because of his weak leg, and Lillian, the eldest, seems to have taken the role from childhood of looking after the family. The youngest daughter, Rose, disappears from the records. She does not appear in the New York marriage records, although she may left New York and married. There are several Rose Grossmans in the death records, both in the Bronx and other parts of New York, so she may have stayed, choosing to live by herself and avoid the public records, possibly because she was out a lot. She is last in the census in 1920 as a 17-year-old, living at home, working in a department store. Lillian was working as a stenographer, Morris as a bookkeeper, and Harry as a shop clerk. Everyone in this tightknit family had their role to play settling into New York life until sometime after 1920 when Rose, like Anna Goichman, went her own way. Although this family is easy to trace as there were not endless name changes, it is difficult to work backwards and imagine where they might have been living in Odessa and who they might have been.

The Jewish families who wanted to leave Peresyp after the pogrom were all working class families but several of the names, such as Poliakov, Nemirovsky, and Rabinovich, which are relatively common, also included very wealthy Jewish families either in Odessa or elsewhere. Lazar Poliakov (1843-1914) was a wealthy banker and Lazar Leib, 18, who died in the pogrom, may have been his grandson. In the 1904-5 directory, many Poliakovs owned property in both the centre and Moldavanka. There is one L. Poliakov who owned a property in the middle of Moldavanka, at 29 Rozumovskaya, which is a continuation of the street running through the centre, Malaya Arnautskaya. The house below is 27 as there is a gap and then modern buildings where 29 might have been.

27 rozumovskaya poliakov 2

27 Rozumovskaya

Gelman (Гельман) is another common Jewish name and two different Gelman families were victims of the pogrom, a young man of 25 and a woman of 38 with two small children of 5 and 2. Their names do not relate to the worker on the Peresyp letter, the five Gelmans on the Jewish business list, or the member of the social Democratic committee wanted by the police, Azriel Nakhimov.

1816 GELMAN Shaya Shlemov 25
1915 GELMAN Efoim-Menash Zusev 2 years 5 months
2018 GELMAN Isruel Zusev 5
1570 GELMAN Fradya Meerova 38

I mention them because the mother and two children are the only family group of mother and children in the records, although, according to the accounts, there were many deaths of mothers and small children in the pogrom. The father of the children, Zus Gelman, does not come up anywhere in the records. On the Jewishgen Odessa database, an Israel Gelman was born in 1900 (http://thefamilytree.com.ar/odessa/RES_AODB_Home.asp). The index does not carry on until 1903, but there are some individual birth records and one includes a Gelman child born in July 1903 with different parents. Efoim would have been born around May or June. He must have had remaining family if they knew his age so exactly.

My next step will be to return to Odessa to explore other places Jews may have lived outside the main areas of the centre, Moldavanka, Slobodka Romanovka and Peresyp.

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Peresyp and police surveillance

Peresyp (Пересып) was one of the later areas of the city to be attacked in the pogrom as it is separated from the rest of the city by a ravine, and was not on the route of the marchers. It is a predominantly working class area and only 20% of the population was Jewish, compared with 50% in some other areas. Even though it runs along the coast, it was a mostly industrial area which does not feature much in Odessa history, as it does not compare with either the wealthy centre or colourful Moldavanka. Its own stories must lie hidden in the walls of the old buildings still lining the main streets and small lanes. The Jews in Peresyp were shopkeepers as well as skilled artisans, factory workers and casual labourers on the nearby docks. Several factories related to the grain trade, such as flour mills , as grain was brought from the interior to the port at Odessa to be shipped all over the world. As much of the grain throughout the 19th century was brought to the docks by oxen dragging heavy wooden carts over the unmade roads, there were also tanneries, slaughter houses and factories for meat preservation and tallow making, as it was not worth the cost and effort to take all the oxen and carts back.

odessa port cattle

Oxen, carts and sacks of wheat, 19th c

Many Jews took on the laborious business of visiting farms throughout the Ukraine and coordinating the delivery of grain to Odessa, a process that lasted from May to September. Eventually the transport was taken over by rail.

peresyp moskovskyu st

Moscovskaya St, Peresyp

peresyp 1890

Peresyp 1890

Probably quite a few of the pogrom hooligans were the casual dockworkers who lived around Peresyp and did not want to rampage in their own area, leaving it to others to finally march down the streets causing destruction. None of the Russian reports focuses on or even mentions the streets attacked or the numbers of people killed in Peresyp.

Peresyp on google streetview

peresyp factory 2

otamana chepihy peresyp

However, on the website Museum of Family History (http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ce/odessa/pogrom-unionmembers-A-G.htm) there is a letter written by Jacob Tenenholz to the Committee of the Jewish Colonization Association in Paris from a group of about 100 Jewish Peresyp union-members and heads of households asking for help to leave Russia after the pogrom. The letter is written from the address 17 Bozhakina St. Peresyp is long and narrow, running along the coast, and originally had four main parallel streets, one of them the coast road, and the third one being Bozhakina.

odessa map 1888 peresip

Peresyp

odariya st perecyp

Now the coast road is broken up and two of the parallel roads make up the carriageways of the M14. Many road names have changed. If the second carriageway was the old Bozhakina St, then this would have been the house where Jacob Tenenholz lived and possibly one of the streets affected by the pogrom.

17 M14 bozhakina peresyp

17 Bozhakina St, Peresyp

Nine families on the list also had the same names as people in the pogrom death records, although several were fairly common Jewish names. The list of nine families was as follows:

D. Dorin, age 38, “charrotier”wife, age 36, sons: ages 15, factory worker; ages 11, 6 and 1, daughter, age 4
Muny Dorin, age 46, “s’occupe de charriage?” wife, age 44, son, age 14
G. Gelman, age 32, buttonier wife, age 30, sons: ages 12, 5 and 2, sister, age 20, milliner
A. Sch. Goichman, age 50 wife, age 45, sons: 23, 10 and 5, daughters: 21, 14 and 7
S. Kritschevsky, age 38, worker in a mill wife, age 35, sons: ages 14, 12 and 11, daughter, age 3
Ichel Mankovsky, age 33, labourer wife, age 26, sons: ages 7 and 6, daughter, age 4
R. Nemirorovsky, age 40, “currently colonist” wife: age 38, shopkeeper, son, age 17, daughters: ages 11 and 8
W. Poleikov, age 38, “bottenier,” labourer wife, age 36, sons: ages 12, 8 and 3, daughters: ages 10 and 6
W. Rabinovitsch, age 46, labourer wife, age 38, sons: ages 17 and 16

The people in the pogrom death records with these surnames, 4 adults, 4 in their teens, and 2 small children, are:

1841 Dorin Berel Motev 31
1815 Goikhman Shlema Gershov 45
1816 Gelman Shaya Shlemov 25
1915 Gelman Efoim-Menash Zusev 2 years 5 months
2018 Gelman Isruel Zusev 5
1570 Gelman Fradya Meerova 38
1871 Krichevski Gersh Khaikelev 19
1888 Mankovski Moishe Idelev 19
1902 Nemirovski Yankel Moishev 15
1946 Polyakov Lazar Leibov 18
1564 Rabinovich Freida 70
1963 Rabinovich Avrum Nukhimov 60
2033 Rabinovich Solomon about 30 visitor from Riga

1841 Дорин Берел Мотьев 31
1815 Гойхман Шлема Гершков 45 Кодым
1816 Гельман Шая Шлемов 25
1915 Гельман Эфоим-Менаш Зусьев 2г 5м
2018 Гельман Исруэль Зусьев 5
1570 Гельман Фрадя Меерова 38
1871 Кричевский Герш Хайкелев 19
1888 Маньковский Мойше Иделев 19
1902 Немировский Янкел Мойшев 15
1946 Поляков Лазар Лейбов 18
1564 Рабинович Фрейда 70
1963 Рабинович Аврум Нухимов 60
2033 Рабинович Соломон около 30

Two other family names were in the pogrom records and in the 1904-5 directory owning property in Peresyp, Goliak and Fefer, (Голяк и Фефер) although they owned property in several areas. Duvid Faivelev-Leibov was a second guild grain merchant who owned property in the centre and in Peresyp, one at 160 Bozhakina St, but the 22-year-old who died in the pogrom, Abram-Lazar Leibov may not have been related.  G. Goliak owned property on the outskirts of Peresyp, at Slobodka Baltovka on Baltskaya, but the pogrom victim was 36-year-old Luzer Duvidovich, and there was a D Goliak who owned a house in Moldavanka at 39 Vinogradnaya and was possibly the father of Luzer, as mentioned earlier (The pogrom at Moldavanka).

slobodka baltovka

Peresyp Slobodka Baltovka (Слободка Балтовка)

Google streetview does not cover Slobodka Baltovka or Baltskaya, which lie across the railroad line from the main running along the coast. While trying to position the marker to see if it was possible to get a view across the railway, I accidentally found myself on a little lane going down to the sea, nearby but in the other direction from Baltskaya. It seemed a typical little Peresyp lane.

peresyp near baltskaya

Peresyp lane to the coast

Of the surnames on the list of families in Peresyp desperately trying to leave Russia, it stood out that several appear on lists of people, including whole families, wanted by the police in Odessa for their socialist activities. There is one list online entitled Jews under police surveillance 1905 (http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/rokiskis/rok_pages/jews_under_police_surveillance_1905_parts1and2.html), which has several surnames that are in the pogrom death records. The people under surveillance were:

Goikhman, David Iankel
Groisman, Levi Itsek Moshko
Kaplun, Mordko Meier
Rabinovich, Viktor Khaim-Iankel
Shapiro, Maria Semen

Another list of people wanted by the Okhrana in Odessa is in an online excerpt from an article in Avotaynu Winter,1995 by George Bolotenko with references to material from the Russian archives – Odessa Okhrana Detachment March 1905-1906:

Azirel Nakhimov GELMAN (member of the Social Democratic Committee)
Zisia Maruksev FEINSHTEIN (19 yrs old of No.83 Preobrashenskaia Street)
Mordko Iankelev GOIKHMAN
These were members who met on January 29, 1905 at the home of the son of
Zhakar Movsheve MIKHELOVSKII at 29 Malia Arnautskaia Street. The police took ten people into custody.

This list also includes people from the Peresyp list, Gelman and Goikhman, the Goikhmans being brothers. Although the police surveillance list includes family members, the family of David Iankel Goikhman does not include Mordko Iankel Goikhman who is on the second list. Most of the Odessa people on the surveillance list were not originally from Odessa, but had been involved in a revolutionary group in Odessa and were now missing. There is also an online Okhrana 1905 document from Paris which includes several interceptions from Odessa, again with names, Kofman and Leschinsky, which are also in the pogrom death records (cdn.calisphere.org/data/…/Okhrana_XIIIc_Incoming%20Dispatches.pdf ):

Iosa D Leshhinskiy from Odessa received permission to go abroad
Interc. letter from ‘Nilka’ in Geneva to Osip Kofman in Odessa, for Faya: asks for assistance in distributing the manifesto of the Anarcho-Communists

None of the actual people under police surveillance were in the pogrom death records, either because they were in hiding or had left Odessa by then, but maybe some of the victims were related in some way to those who were wanted by the police. Because they were not given full rights as citizens, there were many anti-czarist Jews active in politics who might have been targeted by the police and by the more traditional conservative workers.

There was one Rabinovich on the surveillance list, Viktor Kaim Yankel, age 23, about whom is written: registered in Ukmerge JC; born in Shklov; finished Odessa Realschule; exiled to Siberia for surveillance for 4 years; armed resistance to the authorities in Iakutsk; was arested and sentenced to hard labor (“katorga”); escaped from Aleksandrovsk prison in 1905.

His wife Tauba Iosel Rabinovich (nee Slutsky) was also on police surveillance in Yakutia. His parents and four sisters were on surveillance in Odessa. Victor Rabinovich appears in another online record, Fond 364 (154) in the Odessa archives Прокурор Одесского окружного суда 1870-1920 (The prosecutor of the Odessa District Court 1870-1920)
http://archive.odessa.gov.ua/el_arh/doradjanski/f_601-700/

The first entry on the left reads: Inquiry into the charge against V Kh Ia Rabinovich, S M Levin and others for producing hectograph proclamations for the RSDWP (Russian Socialist Democratic Workers Party) 11 Oct 1904-19 Jan 1905.

fond 634 154 rabinovich propaganda

Fond 634 Odessa archives

The word ‘hectograph’ left me puzzled. I knew about the printing presses and illegal literature of the revolutionaries. I had a Russian Socialist journalist great-uncle who was barred from entry into Russia in the 1880s, but was constantly entering with false passports and spent six months in Wormwood Scrubs in 1913 for travelling with a false passport. He was finally deported to Russia after being interned in Germany from 1914 to 1916, having travelled with a false British passport. It didn’t matter that he had a wife and six British-born children in Britain. I knew that bookbinders were drawn to the revolutionary movement because they were very independent and often itinerant, going from town to town mending and rebinding books. They had the perfect opportunity to carry literature from place to place. But I had never heard of the hectograph. According to the online Early Office Museum (http://www.officemuseum.com/copy_machines.htm):

‘In the hektograph (also spelled “hectograph”) process, which was introduced in 1876 or shortly before, a master was written or typed with a special aniline ink. The master was then placed face down on a tray containing gelatin and pressed gently for a minute or two, with the result that most of the ink transferred to the surface of the gelatin. Gelatin was used because its moisture kept the ink from drying. Copies were made by using a roller to press blank papers onto the gelatin. Each time a copy was made, some ink was removed from the gelatin, and consequently successive copies were progressively lighter. In practice, up to fifty copies could be made from one master.’

1876_Transfer-Tablet-Hektograph-Holcomb_1

Making-Copies-with-the-Hectograph

1876 ad for J. R. Holcomb & Co.’s Transfer Tablet hectograph

Hektograph_composition_bottle_front

Hectographs were occasionally used by artists, especially the Russian futurists and German Expressionists, who experimented with printing methods and making books. The result was a beautiful, faded mimeograph or carbon copy.

Kruchonykh

Kruchonykh’s Myatezh I (Mutiny I) 1920

While looking for information on hectography, I came upon this interesting quotation from Trotsky about organising eight or nine chapters of the South Russian Workers’ Union in Odessa, which led to 28 members of the union being arrested in 1898:

If it had been possible for anyone to look at this with a sober eye, at this group of young people scurrying about in the half-darkness around a miserable hectograph, what a sorry, fantastic thing it would have seemed to imagine that they could, in this way, overthrow a mighty state that was centuries old. And yet this sorry fantasy became a reality within a single generation; and only eight years separated those nights from 1905, and not quite 20 from 1917.
(http://socialistworker.org/2010/09/02/legacy-of-leon-trotsky)

I hadn’t realised that Trotsky (the name apparently came from one of his prison guards in Odessa, which he used on a forged passport) had been brought up on a farm in Ukraine (in a nonreligious Jewish family) and had been sent to live with relations in Odessa when he was nine and then attended a German technical school (realschule), possibly the school attended by Viktor Rabinovich, which had a more practical curriculum than the gymnasium, including science and modern languages. It may have been that the more cosmopolitan atmosphere, integration of different ethnic groups and classes, and increased opportunity for Jewish children to learn Russian even in Jewish schools, helped the growth of radical politics in Odessa. The cousin that Trotsky lived with was a writer and publisher and sparked his love of print and printing presses. (https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trotsky/leon/my_life/contents.html)

After the diversion with the hectograph, I began to delve into the family names that were on the Peresyp letter and the police surveillance list.

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Cemetery portraits

As it is Holocaust Memorial Day, it seemed appropriate to continue with the theme of gravestones and remembering the dead. I did not think that, traditionally, Jews approved of depicting human figures and I thought this would be even more strictly censored in a cemetery, where complex beliefs about body and soul come into play. I remembered seeing Jewish mediaeval manuscripts with intricate patterns of plants and animals, but, after looking again at fantastic online collections like the British library’s, I found that humans were also portrayed.

Add. 14761 f.30v

Barcelona Haggadah

jewish life italy

Haggadah, Italy, late 16th century

haggadah 1460

Haggadah 1460

Online images of Jewish cemeteries and gravestones often focus on vandalism and destruction, although rarely are faces actually destroyed.

kiev defaced

Kiev defaced gravestone

Some gravestones, especially in Belarus, where most of the cemeteries were destroyed by the Nazis or the Soviets, appear to be the simplest of markers, rough stones with writing, although it is sometimes difficult to tell whether the stone has been broken. In some cases the writing seems to neatly fit into the shape of the rough stone. It is a Jewish tradition that gravestones should be very simple so that everyone is equal in death. Gravestones were seen primarily as a marker, before cemeteries were formalised, not as a memorial. One explanation of why Jews put pebbles on gravestones when they visit is that, originally, Jewish bodies were buried in an open plot or field without a casket or gravestone, and stones were put on the site as markers and to protect the site from animals. People would bring more stones when they visited to make sure the grave was still marked and, in that way, a larger stone might become a permanent marker. There is a website of over 300 images of gravestones being replaced in the Jewish cemetery in Novogrudok, where my grandmother was born, and many seem to be very simple rocks with writing (https://sites.google.com/site/jewishnovogrudok/ ).

novogrudok stone 2

novogrudok stone

Novogrudok, Belarus gravestones

The two Hebrew letters at the top of these gravestones mean ‘Here lies’, so it is clear that the tops of the stones have not been broken. Most Jewish gravestones, however, are cut into rounded or angled shapes and often have intricate carving of patterns and symbolic images, stars of David, menorahs, candlesticks, blessing hands, animals and broken trees (for those whose lives were cut short).

lesko-jewish-cemetery-045

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

There is a beautiful webpage on the gravestones of the Jewish cemetery in Lesko, southern Poland (http://riowang.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/lesko-jewish-cemetery.html), and, in fact, this entire travel blog which includes many Jewish sites in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Ukraine, including Odessa, is filled with magnificent photographs and stories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chernivsti gravestone

Wondering if the Feld family had been influenced by gravestones in Berdichev, I looked at images of old and new sections of the Berdichev cemetery, but it was difficult to tell at what point photographs had begun being used.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

berdichev

Berdichev Cemetery

I next turned to Jewish cemeteries in America to see when and how often they used photographs on gravestones and found that the idea had been brought to America by Eastern European Jews in the early 1900s and photographs were used mainly after 1915 when the technology for putting them on enamel or ceramic became more readily available. This cemetery in Los Angeles had many photographs on gravestones on the Find a grave website (http://www.findagrave.com/).

mont zion LA photo 1917  mont zion LA 1921

Mount Zion Cemetery, Los Angeles, 1917 and 1921

At one of the oldest Jewish cemetery in New York, Bayside Cemetery, where a great-aunt of mine was buried after her suicide in 1897, age 32, photographs on graves are not obvious but there are some.

bayside 3

bayside

bayside woman

Bayside Cemetery, Queens, New York

Studying the photographs that did appear on gravestones, I began to think that people might most feel the need of a photograph for a child or young adult, as there would have been so little time to build up memories of the person changing through time. This might be why, even though there were no portraits at the Riverview Cemetery, one was chosen for Norma Field. Many of those who died in the pogrom were also young people from the age of 15-25, who did not have a grave or marker, so this digression into photographs on gravestones is a small memorial to them.

jewish girl

young Jewish girl

In 2001, a photographer, John Yang produced a photographic exhibition and book of gravestone portraits from the largest Jewish cemetery in New York, Mount Zion Cemetery, concentrating on the photographs that had weathered away leaving only the ghosts of the graves. In a way, these young people grow older as their images break, crack or wear away.

Yang john mt zion queens  yang grave photo

yang photo

Immortal Portraits John Yang

I continued to puzzle over the hooks in the empty hole on Norma’s gravestone and tried to find other damaged gravestones that might have made their use clear. There were screws holding metal covers or metal frames for the photographs, but no hooks. I only found one gravestone with a similar but less deep gaping space.

norma field 1917 riverview cem dayton

Norma Field, Riverview Cemetery, Dayton 1917

bayside photo in metal  montefiore jewish cem metal

Bayside Cemetery, NY                                Montefiore Cemetery, NY

czernowitz chernivtsi

Chernivsti Cemetery

https://vanishedworld.wordpress.com/category/jewish-cemeteries/

lost picture

Hermann, Missouri

Most photographs were oval-shaped, unlike the large round circle on Norma Field’s gravestone, but this small, but haunting, photograph of a young woman in a Lutheran Cemetery in Minnesota, who died in 1918 possibly in the flu epidemic, was the first Protestant photograph I had seen, and the first round one.

_LUTHERAN_CHURCH_IN_GRYGLA_

Grygla, Minnesota

Possibly because I was brought up in a family where our Russian past or any past did not exist, cemeteries did not exist, I did not know about pebbles on graves, and I had no idea where family members were buried, whether in neat manicured cemeteries or mass graves, I am always trying to make up for this gap, endlessly putting metaphorical pebbles on graves. While searching through images of people immortalised by enamel photographs on gravestones, many of which have remained remarkably clear over time, I could not help perusing other striking images of graves and memorials online. Particularly, I came upon this marking of a mass grave from Stalingrad and was intrigued by the fence made from iron bedsteads, springs and other bits and pieces.

stalingrad grave 1942 georgii zelma

Stalingrad 1942 Georgii Zelma

I had noticed that some family plots in Russian cemeteries have metal fences marking their area, quite different from cemeteries designed as open fields dotted with stones, as they may have originally been. I then found this photograph of the Jewish section of the Bishkek Ala-Archa Cemetery in Kyrgyzstan, in which each plot has its own metal fencing, a striking image against the branches of the winter trees in the distance.

Bishkek jewish graves kyrgzstan

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

My first thought was that the fence was to delineate and protect a family plot, but then when I began searching for more images, I found many fenced plots in rural western America, in the desert or mountains, where the cemetery itself was not fenced and the fences may have been filling a need for some delineation or protection from animals. I remembered that in very unpopulated areas, like the Kentucky Appalachians, there were tiny family graveyards dotted on the hillsides and I did find photographs of iron fences there too.

child's grave utah  family cemetery kentucky

child’s grave, Utah                            family cemetery, Kentucky

VirginaCity-258

Virginia City, Nevada

ravens fence colorado

ravens, Colorado

The series of photographs at the Colorado cemetery included several images of brilliant orange lichen, one of which included this monument with a destroyed photograph, again quite different from the hole on Norma Field’s. Like many with photographs, this is the gravestone of a child, symbolised by the lamb (https://rprtphoto.wordpress.com/tag/headstone/).

lichen grave 1918

A few weeks before finding Norma Field’s gravestone with its missing photograph, I saved this image from a BBC television programme on the 1941 siege of Leningrad. I don’t know how organised this memorial was, but people made enamelled photographs of family members who died in the siege and were buried in mass graves, and attached them to trees in a forest near Leningrad as a very haunting and beautiful memorial.

leningrad woods

Leningrad siege memorial

It is not only during wars and genocide that there are unmarked mass graves. Quietly, silently, people have preferred not to think about Potters Fields, unmarked mass graves, supposedly for unknown people, but, at New York City’s Hart Island City Cemetery, there are mass graves and meticulous records for known paupers and newborn infants. Most or all other early Porters Fields in America have been built over or become parks. Only in the past 10 years have people begun to fight against the fact that there has been no way to find out where people were buried and no public access to the island. Hart Island, just over 100 acres, is run by the City Correction Department and maintained by prisoners from nearby Riker Island. It has been the resting place of about 800,000 paupers and infants from 1869 to the present. The tiny flat bleak island has only small white markers for each mass grave and a few derelict buildings which once housed military prisoners, Civil War POWs, World War II POWs, TB patients, psychiatric patients, a reformatory and drug addicts. Everything society has feared most has been hidden away at some point on this island. I discovered the island, in the way many people have recently, through the words ‘City Cemetery’ written on a death certificate, the death certificate of my eldest brother, born in New York City during the war, who died shortly after birth. There are no known resting places or photographs for the infants and many others on this island. Now there is a searchable database of Hart Island records from 1980 and a map of the related markers (https://www.hartisland.net/).

hart island ruin

Hart Island

hart infant coffins

Hart Island infant coffins

 

slug: FIELD 2 date of pub: destination: size: editor: CHUCK PHOTO BY: A.J. DATE TAKEN: CAPTION INFO (L TO R): Hart Island is a temporary resting area for this goose...and the final resting place for the city's indigent. Pictured are the gravsites for children. Each maker holds 1,000 graves

Hart Island infant grave markers: each marker represents 1000 graves

Returning to photographs, on the day of Auschwitz’s liberation, I came upon these images from the Okopowa St Cemetery in Warsaw of photographs and pebbles remembering children who died in the Holocaust. It seems incredible that this cemetery survived when most of Warsaw was destroyed.

Warsaw Okopowa St Cemetery

warsaw cem

warsaw okopowa st cemetery

warsaw okopowa cem

Warsaw Ghetto children 2

Warsaw Ghetto children 3

http://www.michael-moran.com/2013/04/warsaw-ghetto-uprising-70th-anniversary.html

And to end with a photograph which particularly symbolises the forgotten victims of the pogrom – on the Yad Vashem website is one of only two post-war online photographs of the Odessa monument to the 1905 pogrom victims in its original position which is labelled ‘Odessa, Ukraine, Postwar, The gate to the Jewish cemetery’. Yad Vashem, which memorialises victims of the Holocaust with its incredible database, research, education and exhibitions, is unaware that this photograph is a monument to 300 victims of the largest 1905 pogrom in Russia.

postwar gate odessa jewish cem yad vashem

Monument to the victims of the 1905 Odessa pogrom

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The Feld family revisited

The Feld family has so far been the only family that I have delved into extensively which has been researched and written about online by other family members. Paul Stitelman, a relation of Golda Stitelman Feld, commented on the blog and I was able to find out more stories about his cousins. That led to more research on my part, filling in a few more blanks here and there. Much of it is still supposition as it will always be. Over several emails, Paul wrote:

My grandfather was Jacob Stitelman who was Golda Field’s brother…The story of her immigration is almost as sad as the story of the 1905 pogrom. She came to America with all of her children to meet her husband, Nathan. At Ellis Island it was found that two of her children, Jacob and (perhaps) Pauline had trachoma. The oldest child, Esther, volunteered to go back with them, and they were treated for it in Odessa, and rejoined their parents a few years later.

After the suicide of Nathan in 1912 Olga/Golda became a practical nurse, and spent much time away from the family. The children had to be taken care of by others. My father told me that Eva stayed with his family in Brooklyn for quite a while, and they were in the same class together in school… Another story that I got either from my father or Eva is that during the 1905 pogrom my grandfather’s sisters left the shelter of their house and brought Jewish children to safety.

The story of Olga and Nathan is quite sad. My understanding is that theirs was an arranged marriage in Berdichev when Olga was quite young. My Great grandfather, Avrum, was quite wealthy at the time, and I would suspect that Nathan came from a fairly wealthy family… Nathan worked in Southeastern Ukraine, and Morris Field (who I spoke to once in the 1970s) said that his earliest memory was getting lost in a pogrom…and being rescued by a kindly Christian.

In any case, Nathan joined his brother in law, Max Skilken in Dayton, Ohio, and I imagine that selling fruit off a pushcart was quite a comedown for him. That as well as the stress of trying to support a family with seven children must have broken his spirit. In the early part of the Twentieth Century my grandfather joined Max in Dayton, and very soon decided that he didn’t want to have a pushcart. He and my grandmother returned to New York where he had a series of businesses, mostly laundries.

Morris became a union organizer, and was quite prominent in Detroit. He was active during the 1930s in the union activities connected with the unionizing of the automobile industry.

The cousin I actually met face to face was Esther Romm. She was married to Robert Romm who worked in the Washington Navy Yard. He was an expansive man who was always friendly and kind. Esther was more reserved, almost depressed I might say. She was the oldest daughter, and must have had a good deal of the responsibility for caring for her siblings once her father died…It was Esther who told me about her uncles and aunts. She did this rather reluctantly, but I was able to build on what she told me, and the information grew substantially after the internet. It was through the internet that I met Jacques Stitelmann of Geneva. It turned out that his great grandfather, Petakia (Peter) had died in a pogrom, and that Petakia had been my grandfather’s brother.

Esther told me about a Peter who had beaten a policeman and was dragged to the police station and beaten to death. Jacques heard the story that there was a large pogrom in which the family was terrorized and at least one of Petakia’s daughters was violated. Evidently, this terrorism lasted for quite some time. Petakia was murdered at this time. Jacques placed the pogrom between 1903-1905, and thought it occurred at Yanoushpol. I suspect that it was actually in Odessa.

I hadn’t realized that Nathan was a shoemaker. I had thought he did some kind of high level clerical work in Czarist times. I know nothing of Nechame/Nathaniel. I know there was a daughter Naomi, and I thought Nechame might be she.

Most of the stories do add up, with a few discrepancies, to a coherent picture of an adventurous, well off, political and liberal family trying to make their way in early 1900s Russia. Avrum may have moved to Odessa in the 1890s or early 1900s, well before the pogrom, but his son Peter may have been killed in a pogrom in Berdichev or Odessa. Berdichev did have a pogrom in August 1905 and according to a list of 1903-6 pogroms on the website Museum of Family History (museumoffamilyhistory.com), Berdichev had a population of 62,000 and over 50,000 were Jews. There is no mention on the list of how many were wounded or killed in Berdichev. However, the Feld family had a child in Yanuspol near Berdichev in 1905, so could not have moved to Odessa before then, and may have moved after the August Berdichev pogrom. Of course, they may not have moved to Odessa at all as it was probably Nathan’s mother who died in the Odessa pogrom, and it may have been the pogrom in Berdichev or Yanuspol that Morris experienced, and the reason the family left the area for Batum.

It is intriguing that the family story is that Golda travelled to New York with all her children, but that two, Jacob and Pauline, were not allowed entry because they had trachoma, and their older sister, Esther, volunteered to return with them until they recovered. However, Esther, Jacob and Pauline are not on the original ship’s list for 1908, so possibly the family realised the children would not be allowed to enter America and were kept in Odessa until they had recovered. They travelled with Esther just over a year later.

feld golde 1908 close

Golda Feld and children SS Noordam, December 1908

It is difficult to gauge whether Nathan’s family was wealthy in Berdichev or Odessa. They did not own property in Odessa or have a business large enough to enter the 1904-5 directory, but if the Felds in Odessa were the same family they seem to have been relatively well-off. Nathan probably had a brother, Ios Zusevich, at 46 Kuznechnaya St in Moldavanka, on the Jewish business list in 1893, and in 1911, he had a fish business at 18 Primorskaya, the road that runs along the docks. Another Feld had a flour business in 1911. On Nathan’s death certificate, his father’s name is Zesia, which may have been another form of Zus.

18 primorskaya feld fish

18 Primorskaya

A mistake in the US records was made over the second daughter, Nechame, who appears in the 1910 census as a son, Niciomi. Possibly the census taker had forgotten to ask and had no idea whether the mistaken name Niciomi was male or female. Nechame became Naomi, which was spelt ‘Neoma’ on her 1917 death certificate. She died on 11 August at Dayton State Hospital from pulmonary tuberculosis complicated by dementia praecox (schizophrenia), which had developed five years and seven months previously, the time of her father’s death. The only other information about her on the death certificate was that she was Russian. Her parents’ names and the length of time she had been in Ohio were unknown, so none of her family seem to have been present. Her last name is also spelt incorrectly as ‘Fields’. I doubt that psychiatric diagnoses had a great deal of meaning in those days, and I feel sure that, although the Field family seem to have had a genetic predisposition to psychiatric illnesses, the difficulties in their lives over several years would have been more than many people could have withstood. Dayton State Hospital was the local psychiatric institution at 2335 Wayne Avenue, along the road from the house where Nathan died at 1335 Wayne Avenue. At first I read the two numbers as the same, and had a moment of imagining a prophetic mistake. It was a huge institution in magnificent grounds, now the site of a retirement community.

Dayton State_Hospital_01

dayton state hospital lake

Dayton State Hospital

dayton state hospital 2335 wayne ave

Dayton State Hospital ruins

Large mental hospitals have been closed worldwide over the past 20 or 30 years, and people may be drawn to photograph the ruins because they seem to symbolise what we imagine was happening inside many of the inmates and their lost lives – the worn and broken but subtly variegated colours of the bricks and stones, rusty metal, the torn wallpaper and the scraps left behind in a heap on the floor, a shoe, a belt, a damp, stained report of a person who was once someone’s child.

Although the death certificate stated that Nathan had died from an accident, he had apparently committed suicide and this must have been the final blow for Naomi. The children may have begun to develop their psychiatric problems at the time of the pogrom, after their father’s death or after Naomi’s. There was no end of tragedy in this family. Death certificates often do not mention suicide for various reasons to do with the family’s religion, the burial, the illegality at the time, or the feelings of the family.

After writing about Slobodka Romanovka, I returned to some books I had found online written by travellers to Odessa in the 19th and early 20th century, and found that a description of the pogrom in the working class suburbs of Odessa also mentions that the Odessa psychiatric hospital was in Slobodka and how it was filled, after the pogrom, not with the rabid hooligans, but with the Jews. People may not have realised then how the brutality of the pogrom might even have more effect on small children and those not yet born. From The Dawn In Russia Or Scenes In The Russian Revolution (Henry W. Nevinson 1906):

The Jews of Odessa
And in the northern and north-west districts, where the Jews and some workpeople live, whole rows of houses stood desolate. The marks of bullets were thick upon the walls. The empty sockets of the windows were roughly boarded over. The roofs had been broken in or sometimes burnt away, and even on the main streets people pointed out the windows, three storeys high, from which babies, girls, and women had been pitched sheer upon the stony pavement below.

But passing beyond this quarter, I crossed a deep watercourse, and came out upon the kind of land which serves for country at the backdoor of Odessa. It is part of the wild and almost uninhabited steppe which stretches for mile on mile round the basin of the Dniester…

On the edge of this steppe stands a semi-detached town or large village, called Slobodka Romanovka, conspicuous for its madhouse and its hospital. Providence itself must have ordained the site of these buildings, for nowhere else upon earth’s surface could they have been more wanted. And, indeed, it was the Chosen People of Providence who wanted them most, for none of the rabid Christians who there hunted them down were afterwards confined in the asylum for mania. The village numbered about 26,000 souls, and there was hardly a house which did not still show the marks of wrecking and murder.

odessa slobodka madhouse close

Slobodka Romanovka, New City Hospital and Hospital of ‘souls’

psych hospital slobodka

hospital slobodka

Slobodka psychiatric hospital

On Neoma’s death certificate, there is the name of the cemetery – Riverview. On Nathan’s certificate the cemetery is called Riverside, and I found that Riverview Cemetery belongs to Temple Israel which is on Riverside Drive, so father and daughter were probably at the same cemetery. Searching for Naomi, I came upon the Find a grave website (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi ) with 15 people called Field in Dayton cemeteries, three at Riverview. One was an 18 year old girl who died in 1917 called Norma Field. There are no other Fields in the cemetery in the early 1900s. Naomi was 21 on her death certificate, which more or less fit with her age of 11 when she travelled to America in December 1908. It is difficult to know whether there are reasons for people to change someone’s age on a form. Could Norma have been Neoma? Checking the records, there was no Norma Field living in Dayton at that time. It is not likely that there would have been two young girls, Norma Field and Neoma Field, dying in the same year, buried in the same Jewish cemetery. Many of the gravestones at Riverview Cemetery have been photographed. On Norma’s gravestone, there is a large hollowed circular shape above the writing which looks like it may have held a photograph. It seemed a poignant and appropriate symbol for Norma/Neoma and the people who died in the pogrom, people who seem to have no images and no stories – a gravestone with a gaping hole where a photograph had once been placed to keep her memory alive.

norma field 1917 riverview cem dayton

Riverview Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio

There are two metal hooks which may have had something to do with holding the enamelled or ceramic photograph in place, unless there is something else that might have fit there. There are no other photographs on the graves at Riverview Cemetery. I had thought that Jews did not generally use images of people in their art or on graves, or at least I thought this until a cousin told me that an oval picture she had of our uncle who drowned at age 23 had once been on his gravestone. I had never seen a photograph of him and was shocked that one existed. I had noticed that there were photographs on modern gravestones at the Jewish cemetery in Odessa and began to look and see when this idea took root and whether it derived from Russian Orthodox gravestones.

odessa jewish graves

Odessa Jewish Cemetery

moscow cemetery

cemetery near Moscow

Photographs are used in Russian cemeteries so the practice among Jews may have begun in Russia. I had first seen enamel or ceramic photographs on Catholic gravestones at the Verano Cemetery in Rome, where painted portraits were used until the technology was developed for using photographs. I had not noticed photographs at the Verano Jewish Cemetery, where my mother is buried, although there are some.

campo-verano rome

rome cem

Verano Cemetery, Rome

rome jewish photos

rome jewish cem close

Verano Jewish Cemetery

Roma 17 Luglio 2002 Cimitero monumentale del Verano Profanate 50 tombe al cimitero ebraico. Rome, July 17, 2002 Verano monumental cemetery Desecrated 50 graves at Jewish cemetery.

Painted portraits, Verano Jewish Cemetery

I first photographed a grave with a picture of a young woman at the old cemetery at Todi, Umbria, where my father was buried 20 years after my mother died.

todi old cemetery 2008

Todi Cemetery, Umbria, Italy

Putting photographs on gravestones seemed particularly suited to remembering or immortalising children or young people, like Norma Field or the young people in the pogrom records, whose parents would be thinking of them every day of their lives. But I wanted to understand more about how, when and where this strangely haunting practice had begun.

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Rabinovich families: part one

Although there is still one more area of Odessa where there was major pogrom destruction, Peresyp, near the docks, first I would like to return to the city in general and focus on one family name, Rabinovich, one of the commonest Jewish names, a Jewish Everyman. Rabinovich families were probably spread across Odessa from the very richest guild merchants to the poorest of the working class and casual labourers. The extremely well-off first guild merchant and tea importer, Leon Jacob Rabinovich, had two sons and, in the directories, much of their property is in the name of Rabinovich brothers.

rabinovich leon ad 1911

leon rabinovich teapot 2

Teapot Leon Rabinovich tea importer

A dacha with large grounds at 27 French Boulevard, which was used as a landmark in the Odessa directories, was in the name of the elder son, Jacob Leon. Most of the dachas on Frantsuzky Blvd became public buildings after the revolution. The Rabinovich dacha is now an afterthought in the grounds of the Dynamo football stadium and unfortunately there are no old photographs.

gate dacha rabinovich

dacha rabinovich 2

Dacha Rabinovich 27 French Blvd

On this 1917 map, there are two Rabinovich (Рабинович) properties on the French Boulevard. The property on the left, number 11, in the name of A Rabinovich, possibly the second son of Leon, appeared to have been a group of dachas down by the coast, but around 1912 a luxurious art deco apartment building with up-to-date facilities was built on the road, and number 27 is the property on the right.
http://www.citymap.odessa.ua/?30

odessa plan 1917 french blvd close

French Blvd and Rabinovich dachas

french blvd 11

11 French Blvd

To see how common the name Rabinovich was in Odessa at that time, I compared the entries in the 1902-3 directories for Rabinovich (Рабинович) and Kogan (Коган, Cohen), and found that Rabinovich was the more common.

kogan 1902 dir1902 index R

The 1904-5 directory does not have an index like that the 1902-3 directory, but using a search the names and addresses are similar to those of 1902-3, although various house numbers have changed. In the street section of the directory there are approximately 32 Rabinovich properties, although quite a few landlords own several houses, including dachas. There are also about 15 Rabinoviches in the professional sections, several of whom were first and second guild members, and four were doctors. One of the doctors, Simon Rabinovich ran a hydrotherapy practice with a partner with a large establishment at 27 Kanatnaya St, now a modern neurology clinic. An old photograph online lists the building as 19 Kanatnaya St.

odessa dir 1904 ss rabinovich dr ad

1904-5 directory S S Rabinovich and A A Yasinovsky hydrotherapy treatment

rabinovich drs 19 kanatnia

Ул. Канатная, 19, водолечебница врачей С.С. Рабиновича и А.А. Ясиновского
http://viknaodessa.od.ua/old-photo/?ulitsa_kanatnaya

Across the road at 28 Kanatnaya, a beautiful ornate building, lived Sholem Aleichem, another Odessan Rabinovich (Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich), who wrote the stories on which ‘Fiddler on the roof’ is based.

kanatnaya 28 sholem aleichem

28 Kanatnaya

On the Jewish small business list there are 19 Rabinoviches, and on the ‘All Russia’ Odessa business directory (searchable on the Jewishgen website) there are 12 names for 1903 with their types of business.

1903
RABINOVICH Iosif Abram lawyer’s assistant
Mendel Samuil lawyer’s assistant
Moisei Iakov bank office Nadezhdinskaya
Lazar printing and lithography Troitskaya 52
Srul Volf leather goods Baltovskaya rd 1
Leon colonial goods Evreiskaya private residence Pushkinskaia 31
Nukhim Iosif broker/middleman agency Evreiskaya 8
Khopel-Iankel Borukh fabrics and drapery Stepovaya
Iakov Abram machines for grain mills M Arnautskaya 109
Srul Leiba-David broker stock exchange Lanzheronovskaia 12
Aleksandr Mikhail wine (grapes) Evreiskaya 11
Samuil Berko sacks and bags Evreiskaya 43

In the pogrom death records, there was one visitor to Odessa, Solomon Rabinovich, about 30, from Riga, and a couple, Avrum Nukhimov, 60, from Uman, and his wife, Freida. On the Jewish small business list there are 2 Nukhims:
Рабинович Нухим ул.Тираспольская 12 1893 (Rabinovich Nukhim Tiraspolskaya 12)
Рабинович Нухим Иосифович ул.Кондратьевская 13 1912 (Rabinovich Nukhim Iosifovich Kondratevskaya 13)

The second name is also in the Odessa business directory for 1903, but the first one, without a patronymic, is not mentioned. It is strange that he is the only one on this list without a patronymic and could be the son of Avrum. There is also no listing of what his business was, but his home or business was in Moldavanka on the street where Isaac Babel lived for a year as a teenager, Tiraspolskaya.

12 tiraspolskaya rabinovich hukhim

12 Tiraspolskaya

In the Semenov 1921 report of the pogrom, two wounded men at the Jewish hospital, X and F Rabinovich, are mentioned as being asked to sign a statement saying that the police were not to blame for the pogrom. Others at the hospital had been intimidated into signing statements. This came after a paragraph in which it said that the figures for the dead and wounded only included those taken to public hospitals, not those in private clinics or at home. F Rabinovich is in the 1904-5 directory at 12 Kartamishevskaya Street, in the heart of Moldavanka.

10-12 Kartamishevskaya

12 Kartamishevskaya

During the pogrom, 29 Jews had been killed at 7 Kartamishevskyi Lane and 35 at 5 Kartamishevskaya Street. 7 Kartamishevskaya Street had also been attacked. Golda Feld had been living with her father, Avrum Stitelman, at 10 Kartamishevskyi Street. Number 12 Kartamishevskaya Street is on the left in the photo.

Among the property owners in the directories were two Rabinoviches with exactly the same name as my grandfather, Jacob (Yakov, Yankel) Leon (Leib). One was the son of the tea importer, and the family lived at Pushkinskaya 31 and had the dacha on French Boulevard.

31 pushkin rabinovich warehouse

31 Pushkinskaya

There was another Jacob Leon at Preobrazhenskaya 3, who, with his wife, was involved with a Jewish orphanage. At first, on seeing the same initials, I thought for a moment that one of them might have been my grandfather. When I saw their houses, I wondered if they were divided into flats and my family might lived in one of them. The house on Preobrazhenskaya was a beautiful, ornate, long, narrow pink building, covered in balconies. Odessa is a city of balconies but this Rabinovich house took the idea of balconies and architraves to wonderful extremes.

3 preobrazhenskaya rabinovich

3 Preobrazhenskaya

I then found the full names in the business sections of the directory, and saw that the businesses were different. I realised that these were wealthy business and property owners, whereas most people in Odessa probably rented. I had had my small moment of dreaming that I had found my grandparents. Then I came down to earth and realised that my family more likely lived in a small house on the edges of the city with a garden, a grape vine and fruit trees, the type of home they tried to recreate outside New York.

The lists of businessman and property owners is far removed from the mass of ordinary Rabinovich families in Odessa in 1905, those who rented property, and who may have had small workshops or jobs working for others. I tried googling ‘Rabinovich family Odessa’ to see if anyone had written about their Rabinovich family online and discovered an interesting Googlebook of pre-World War I Russian first-hand accounts of the lives of workers, one of which describes a clerical worker’s apartment in Odessa.

Some of the rented apartments that I observed were below street level. In order to get to them, you had to descend a slippery wooden staircase that had no railings. One needed the agility of an acrobat to get down the stairs without breaking one’s neck. These basement apartments got no light at all. Little oil lamps burned night and day, spreading a thick black soot and stench over everything. Water streamed down the mildewed walls.

One apartment on Meshchanskaia Street (three rooms and a kitchen) was rented by Dain, a hardware store clerk in Odessa. Each room measured 7 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 8 ½ feet long and was heated by one small brazier. Dain and his family occupied one of the rooms and the kitchen. Two sales clerks and their families occupied the remaining rooms: Rabinovich, who worked in a dry goods store, and Tsypin, who worked in a wholesale warehouse. There were eight people in the Dain family, five in the Rabinovich’s, and 11 in Tsypin’s. In addition, the apartment accommodated a paralytic co-worker who had been fired when he became ill, together with his sister and her family. The sister’s husband, a shoemaker, worked at home.

The preceding description of an apartment on Meshchanskaia Street applies also to dwellings on Staroreznichnaia Street and other streets in Odessa, with the difference that on Staroreznichnaia Street the apartments had floors made of clay rather than dirt and some of the basement apartments received a little light through glass doors opening onto the half-dark corridors. In every other respect, however, these apartments were just as damp, mouldy, dark, and rank as the one described above. None of these dwellings had any furniture to speak of and a family of 7 to 12 people would have one table, a few stools and a double bed. 

Gudyan AM ‘Essays on the history of the movement of sales-clerical workers in Russia’. The Russian Worker: Life and Labor Under the Tsarist Regime Victoria Bonnell (ed) 1983; p204

Meshchanskaia (Мещанская) Street crosses Malaya Arnautskaya (Малая Арнаутская ) at the end towards Moldavanka and Staroreznichnaya runs parallel to it. Although this is the edge of the wealthier central Odessa, it seems to have been quite a poor Jewish area and some of the old houses on the street are still in bad or derelict condition, although gradually new apartment buildings are replacing them.

kuibysheva

Staroreznichnaya Street

Wandering along Google Streetview, I had never before noticed cellars below ground level. I don’t think it was simply because I was not looking out for them. It seemed to be a peculiarity of this area between Malaya Arnautskaya and Moldavanka, that the pavement ended abruptly a foot or two before buildings, leaving a gap for glimmers of light to filter through to underground windows. The gaps were sometimes surrounded by metal railings or covered with metal sheet. More recently glass verandahs have been built around the openings.

meschanskaya knyzhkovyi

Meshchanskaya cellars

meschanskaya cellars

Meshchanskaya cellar with narrow gap

According to an Odessa website which traces the history of the houses on several Odessan streets including Malaya Arnautskaya, in 1902, there were 1752 poor Jewish people living at a density of 16 people per home on Malaya Arnautskaya, and on the much shorter street, Gospitalnaya in Moldavanka, there were over 4000 poor Jews living in 65 houses. Some of these people had not always been poor, but may have been businessman or professionals who had had run into bad luck – illness, injury, unemployment or a failed business. http://obodesse.at.ua/publ/malaja_arnautskaja_ulica/1-1-0-254

meschanskaya 1888 numbers

Odessa 1888

I have numbered the relevant streets on the above map, 1. Malaya Arnautskaya 2. Meshchanskaya 3. Staroreznichnaya 4. Gospitalnaya, and for context, 5. Jewish cemetery and 6. Kulikovo Field, beyond which lived Valentin Kataev, who wrote in his memoir, A mosaic of life, about visiting a Jewish seamstress with his mother on Malaya Arnautskaya, which I quoted at more length previously.

There was a street called Malaya Arnautskaya, which seemed to me at the time to be a long way away, but was, in fact, quite close to where we lived. When we went there, we were immediately engulfed in the world of Jewish poverty, with all its confused colours and sour-sweet smells. We entered a wooden, glass-roofed arcade that surrounded the yard. Here, mamma had to keep her head bent the whole time to avoid breaking the eagle’s feathers in her hat on some protruding object or other – garments suspended on a close line, or a low cross-beam supporting the arcade’s rickety, boarded walls, half-destroyed by death-watch beetles. The arcade possessed innumerable windows and doors. All the windows were dirty and half of them broken. Most of the doors were open and, in the darkness beyond them, nested families of Jewish shopkeepers and craftsmen: tailors, shoemakers, watchmakers, ironmongers, dressmakers.…

I was filled at one and the same time with repulsion and a tormenting pity for that poor race, condemned to live in such crowded and ugly conditions among the two wheeled carts with curved handles and the shops selling evil-smelling kerosene in barrels, small sacks of coal, rust-coloured salted herrings, bottles of olives, glass jars of cucumbers in clouded, milky water, bunches of dill, and halva that looked like blocks of window putty (p386).

I was particularly interested in narrowing down the list of children born to the many ordinary and less ordinary Rabinovich families in the years 1902-1905, in order to find my two nameless uncles. Some of these children may have belonged to the wealthy families of Odessa but many more would have come from working-class families in Moldavanka and other suburbs. There were 30 Jewish Rabinovich children born in 1902, 18 in 1903, 24 in 1904, and 26 in 1905. How many families might this have represented and how many more were families who did not have children or had older children?

When I first began this research on Odessa and the pogrom, knowing that two of my mother’s brothers had died before the family left Russia in 1906, I wrote down, for the first time, a list of my mother’s siblings with their dates of birth, Aron 1898, Sara 1901, Michel 1905. I had only known how much older my mother’s brothers and sisters were than her, not the dates. I then checked with the passport and saw that the ages fit.

Rabinowitz passport 1

1906 passport: Aron 7, Michel 1, Sara 5

As children, we accept the bits of information we are given without questioning or looking at them in different ways. Seeing the list and the dates in front of me made it obvious the two brothers had been born in the space between 1902 and 1904, the years the family were living in Odessa. As the thoughts and ideas are put down on paper, or on screen, sometimes what seemed to be disparate fragments of information come together and take on new meaning. And so I began to look for online Odessa records which included dates of birth or addresses during the years 1902-1905 but my family remained as elusive as ever.

 

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The Bubis family: from Moldavanka to the Lower East Side

Rifke Bubis was a widow of 43 when she travelled from Odessa to New York with her two daughters Malke, 17 and Ruchel, 15. They left from Hamburg on the SS Blucher on 31 October 1910. Her son, Michel, a tailor, had left earlier for New York in 1907, when he was 17, although stating he was 20. Michel had originally stayed with his sister and brother-in-law, Eli and Hanna Boxenbaum, and their little son Harry, in Brooklyn, who had come in 1906 and 1907. Later, when the Bubis’ were together, they settled in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I noted the Bubis family because Rifke was a widow of 43 and in the Odessa pogrom death records was a Gersh Peisakhovich Bubis, 46, from Uman. Probably not a very common name, there was a chance that Rifke was his widow. On the ship’s manifest, Rifke had listed her father, Abram Goldstein, 36 Gospitalnaya in Moldavanka, as her close contact and possibly her home before leaving Odessa. Gospitalnaya (now Bohdana Khmelnytskovo), centrally placed in Moldavanka, and in the heart of the pogrom area, was named after the Jewish hospital which takes up much of the street.

36 Gospitalnaya

36 Gospitalnaya (now Bohdana Khmelnytskovo), left

jewish hospital

Jewish hospital

She was on her way to her daughter, Hanna Boxenbaum, who lived at 85 Hopkins Street, Brooklyn. Hanna’s husband, Elias, was a truck driver. There was one Boxenbaum, Ios Berkovich, on the Jewish business list for 1895 at Bazarnaya St, but not in the 1904-5 directory. There were two Bubis families with Odessa businesses in 1911, one at Preobrazhenskaia 86 and one at Vneshniaia 92.

I did not find any of the Boxenbaum family on the ships’ lists so I looked again using the name closer to the Russian spelling, Boksenbaum, and I discovered Henie, age 20. She was travelling in June 1907, four months after her brother emigrated, to her husband Elias, with her baby daughter, Rive, four months old. Elias was living in Cherry Street in the heart of the Lower East Side. On the 1910 census, when Hanna, now Anna, Elias and Max were living in Brooklyn, there was only one baby, Harry, so I looked up the New York death records and found the death of a one-year-old boy called Reifert Bascenbaum, and realised this must have been the little girl, Rive or Rifke Boxenbaum. Their English must not have been understood by the person completing the death certificate. The Boxenbaums must have decided to move away from the crowded Lower East Side when they were expecting their next child, Harry. They then had another son and two daughters.

On the next census, in 1915, Rifke and the three children were living at 22 Mangin Street, a street overshadowed by the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which now barely exists. It was known as a street of rough tenements, a street of crime and prostitution, like several adjoining streets in the area. Headlines from the New York Times mentioning the Mangin St area include LOST GIRL STRANGLED, BURNED BODY HIDDEN, BROKEN LIMBS IN FIREPLACE (1910) and CAFE OWNER SLAIN IN RAID BY ROBBERS, KNOCKS DOWN GUNMAN AS HE REACHES FOR DIAMOND AND IS SHOT TWICE (1923) and FIND TRUNKMAKER IN SACHS MURDER (1910).

From a memoir by Bella Spewack, a journalist brought up on nearby Goerck Street, who described her childhood in the Lower East Side as one where roaches and rats infested her home and the disturbance from the constant sounds of ferryboats and ships was relentless. (http://bedfordandbowery.com/2014/12/beneath-baruch-houses-a-rough-block-wiped-off-the-map/):

There was a constant going and coming of moving vans and pushcarts – one family moved into one house and another moved out of the next. The houses formed a drably indifferent village that on rainy days looked like a row of washed-out, badly patched petticoats. They shared their submerging sorrows, small sufficient joys, and frequent fights. The majority of the families sprang from Galician sources; the rest were Hungarian and German Jews and a few Russians. The first half of the block was Jewish and the rest of it was Italian, with an invisible but definite line of demarcation.

mangin st 1946

Mangin Street 1946

orchard st 1926

Orchard Street 1926

tenements 1890s

Lower East Side tenements

Max and Mollie were working in clothing factories making men’s coats and Rose was making paper boxes, typical Lower East Side work. The noisy crowded streets and houses, the peddlers and markets, the nearby busy docks, the complex mix of nationalities and religions, must have seemed not much different from Moldavanka. Too old maps show incredible detail of the houses, businesses, schools, churches and synagogues in the area.

Manhatten 1903
http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/search/index?filters[title_uuid_s][]=Atlas%20108.%20Vol.%201,%20[1903?].||2f737a70-c5ff-012f-815c-58d385a7bc34&keywords=&layout=false#/?scroll=25

Manhatten 1922
http://www.wardmaps.com/viewasset.php?aid=122

mangin 1903

 Mangin St and the East River 1903

22 mangin 1922

Mangin St crossing Broome St 1922

By 1920 the family had moved a few streets over to 3 Willett Street, famous for the Bialystoker Synagogue at 7 Willett Street converted from a Methodist Church in 1905 when the huge influx of Jewish immigrants arrived in New York. Most families I have looked at began their life in America in the Lower East Side but eventually moved to other parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx or New Jersey.

bialystoker synagogue

Bialystoker Synagogue

3 willett st 1922

3 Willett Street 1922

There were many distinct areas that were predominantly Jewish in various parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as shown on these 1919 ethnic maps. These maps were designed by the police department to target groups of immigrants who might not be loyal to America and might have socialist, communist or anarchist beliefs. This was just after the Russian Revolution and Civil War. Russian Jews were bright red and scattered across both Manhattan and Brooklyn. There is nothing new in government surveillance of ethnic groups.
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/police-demographics-unit-casts-shadows-from-past/?_r=0

1919 manhatten ethnic

Manhatten ethnic map 1919

For some reason, possibly the Yiddish culture of the area, with its theatres, newspapers and markets, they stayed. By 1930, one of the younger daughters, Rose, had married and moved to the Bronx, but the other, Mollie, remained in the Lower East Side, on Henry Street, with her husband, a printer, their children, their mother as head of the family, and Max. Possibly her husband’s work kept them there.

150 henry st

150 Henry Street Lower East Side

Probably due to the Depression, Max was only working occasionally in a men’s clothing factory. In 1940, when Max and his sister’s family were living on Ludlow Street, there is no job listed for Max but it says that he worked for 30 weeks in the year and earned $450. His brother-in-law, the printer, had worked 50 weeks and made $520, so Max had not done badly from his unlisted job. But, in his 1942 World War II registration form, Max is categorised as unemployed.

140 ludlow st

Ludlow Street Lower East Side

In 1940, Rifke, or later Rebecca or Beckie, was living in Brooklyn with her elder daughter Anna, who is listed as a widow. In 1930 Anna , Elias and their children were living in Coney Island on West 25th Street, at the very bottom of the 1919 Brooklyn map.

1919 brooklyn ethnic

Brooklyn ethnic map 1919

coney island

Coney Island boardwalk

Elias, who owned a truck company, had had his driving licence briefly suspended for driving intoxicated, and in 1931, according to the Brooklyn Eagle, the business was in Annie’s name and one of their drivers was charged with homicide after killing a woman in the street. Their older son Harry married that year. In December 1932, Anna’s younger son, Abraham, then 20, appears in a newspaper article about a burglary – BAIL HOLDS SUSPECT ON BURGLARY CHARGE. He was caught running away from a house where jewellery was stolen. Her two daughters, Bessie and Esther, married in the mid-1930s. In the 1940 census, when Anna was living with her mother in Brownsville, Brooklyn (north of Coney Island, south of their original Brooklyn home, all Jewish areas), her husband, Elias, appears as a lodger with a woman, Ida, and her teenage children in Coney Island. Ida appears as Elias’ wife on his 1942 World War II registration. By 1940, Abraham had settled down, was living around the corner from his mother and grandmother, was married, had a small child and was working as a plumber’s helper. His older brother, Harry, was a licensed plumber. But on his 1942 World War II enlistment form, Abraham is listed as single with dependents. There is also a 1951 California death certificate for an Abraham Boxenbaum born in New York in January 1911, who must have only been 40. The informant did not know Abraham mother’s name so it is possible it is someone else. The World War II enlistment form does not have a birthdate, only the year, 1910. Elias died in 1946, age 60, in Coney Island, a junk collector rather than a truck driver, and his wife on the form is called Frieda.

Coney Island, 1940s, as it looked in my grandparent's time

Coney Island 1940s

Although most of the members of this family – Rebecca’s two daughters, Mollie and Rose, and Anna’s son Harry and her two daughters, Esther and Bessie – seemed to have done well in their new lives in America, others, like Max, Elias and Abraham had a harder time. It will never be known why Max remained unemployed, why Anna and Elias’ marriage broke down, or why Abraham died so young, if he did. How the mother and her eldest daughter, Rebecca and Anna, actually fared through all of this will also remain unknown. Was Rebecca being helped by her children or was she the rock they depended on? Had Elias been drinking for a long time or was it recent? Had he or Anna, having emigrated shortly after the Odessa pogrom, never felt comfortable in their new home, and were they unable to support each other? Having been through so much together what had finally broken the bonds in the 1930s? Looking through the New York Times archive, it is Harry’s family that produced a dynasty recorded in the New York Times obituaries. Some children seem to inherit their family’s problems and past traumas while others break free and are able to go their own way.

 w 19th st coney island

West 19th Street Coney Island

I followed the Bubis family in the records to find out if they were related to the Hersh Bubis in the Odessa pogrom death records, and, whether they were or not, how a widow and her children leaving Odessa from 1906-1910 for New York. The two younger daughters married in New York (one to an Odessan) and had families. One moved to the Bronx and the other stayed in the Lower East Side. The son, Max (Michel), who had arrived by himself in 1907, worked as a tailor but never married, living with one of his younger sisters. It was through the younger sisters’ marriage records that I discovered that they listed their father’s name as Abraham. If their father was Abraham, was he a brother of the Hersh who died in the pogrom? Could both men have died in the pogrom while only one was in the records? Could Abraham have simply died naturally, possibly sometime earlier? What was there no Abraham, only Hersh? Rifke Bubis was born in Odessa as were all of the children except the eldest , Anna, who, according to the ship’s list, was born in Uman, like Hersh Bubis, making it likely they were part of the same family. Another possibility, judging by the way the Feld family omitted writing the name of Nathan Feld’s mother’s name on his death certificate, could be that the Bubis family decided not to write the father’s name in the marriage records. Could they have chosen the name Abraham as it was Rifke’s father’s name? I thought again about the Scheindless brothers naming their first sons after their dead father and I looked at the names the Bubis children had used for their children. The eldest daughter, Anna Boxenbaum, had two sons, Harry and Abraham, born in New York in 1909 and 1911. Could Harry have been named after his father, Hersh, and Abraham, after his grandfather?

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