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.
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.
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.
French Blvd and Rabinovich dachas
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.
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.
1904-5 directory S S Rabinovich and A A Yasinovsky hydrotherapy treatment
Ул. Канатная, 19, водолечебница врачей С.С. Рабиновича и А.А. Ясиновского
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.