Tag Archives: Kataev

Malaya Arnautskaya and the revolution

Before launching into the links between Malaya Arnautskaya (Малая Арнаутская) Street, the revolutionaries and the pogrom, I will digress into the completely unrelated (I presume) inventive and beautiful metalwork gates on Malaya Arnautskaya.

Malaya Arnautskaya 109

Malaya Arnautskaya 94

Kataev uses 15 Malaya Arnautskaya in his children’s book, The lonely white sail, as a safe house used by Terenti, the revolutionary. When his little brother, Gavrick, finds there is an amnesty for prisoners after the 1905 manifesto by the Tzar, he goes to collect his grandfather from prison. Terenti says he cannot bring his grandfather to their house which is being watched by the police, so he should take him to 15 Malaya Arnautskaya where he should ask the janitor for Joseph Karlovich. When he finds the janitor he should say ‘How’d you do, Joseph Karlovich? Sofia Peterovna sent me to ask if you’ve received any letters from Nikolayev.’ Joseph should answer, ‘No, I haven’t had a letter for two months.’ Joseph lived in a dark cellar, with walls covered in mould.

Courtyard Malaya Arnautskaya 15

In 1905, the real 15 Malaya Arnautskaya was owned by  S Yurischich (С. Юришичъ) who also owned the house behind it on the parallel street, Novo Rybnaya, and the warren of buildings in between.

Malaya Arnautskaya 15

The numbers 15, 28 and 29 (discussed later) Malaya Arnautskaya have been marked on this 1888 Odessa map to show how central this area was.

15, 28 and 29 Malaya Arnautskaya

The jumble of tumbledown buildings in the courtyards of houses on Malaya Arnautskaya, and probably the sympathy of many Jews towards the revolutionary movement, made this street ideal for safe houses. According to the writer of the Odessa street website (http://obodesse.at.ua/publ/malaja_arnautskaja_ulica/1-1-0-254 ):

В 1902 году на Малой Арнаутской улице насчитывалось 1752 бедняка из числа еврейского населения. Это в среднем, примерно, 16 человек на каждый номер дома.

 In 1902, in Malaya Arnautskaya, there were 1752 poor among the Jewish population, an average of about 16 people per apartment.

But Malaya Arnautskaya was only the sixth of the streets with the most poor people. Gospitalnaya (Hospital Street) in Moldavanka had over 4000 people in about 65 houses. Many families affected by the pogrom lived on Gospitalnaya Street.

A 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 reports of the chief of the Odessa  Okhrana to the Department of Police – Odessa Okhrana Detachment March 1905-1906.  Several family names from the pogrom death records were listed. It also mentions a meeting of the Social Democratic Committee at 29 Malaya Arnautskaya.

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.

The fond for this list is “102,OO: Opis 6, delo 11/pt.1, p 15; Opis 1905, delo 5.pt 4LA, pp. 17-20).

Malaya Arnautskaya 29

The entry to the side of the building seems to lead to another warren of buildings. Mikhelovski did not own the property, but in the directory there is a second guild wood merchant, Movsha Aronovich Mikhelovski, probably his father, and fairly well off. Movsha Mikhelovski had his business at Privoznaya Square, the enormous market square a couple of streets away from Malaya Arnautskaya, at the bottom right of the map.

Privoz Market

It was often well educated young people who were political organisers and held meetings, recruiting workers to the socialist parties.

Across the road from 29 Malaya Arnautskaya, at 28 Malaya Arnautskaya, lived S. Rekhes (C. Рехес). It is not a common name and there were two Rekhes’ in the pogrom death records – Rasya Shifra Rekhis, age 8, from Vilna and Khana Nekhemya Rekhes, age 20, the wife of a Vilna citizen. Also in the Odessa death index is a Meer Rekhis who died 9 November 1905, a couple of weeks after the pogrom. There were not many children in the records (although reports mention the deaths of many children) and I wondered whether the children were connected with families targeted for particular reasons or in particular areas.

Rekhes (Рехес) 28 Malaya Arnautskaya (corner of Kanatnaya)

28 Malaya Arnautskaya (corner of Kanatnaya)

There is no other information about the Rekhes family in the directories. Using several spellings, there were several possible births – Sara Rekhes 1880, Solomon Rekhes 1881, Gitel Rekhes 1884, Ida Rekhis 1891, and Solomon Rekis 1896. The family who died in the pogrom had come more recently to Odessa from Vilna.

There were no Rekhes’ on the ships travelling to New York after 1905. There was one Morris Reichick, 15 years old, from Odessa, travelling from Southampton to a brother-in-law in New York at the end of December 1905, one month after the pogrom. He was marked down to be deported because of a medical problem, possibly spinal, but there was a chance to appeal. There is no Morris Reichick in the records. There is a William Rykis, born in 1886 (although according to his marriage record it was 1891), from Odessa, living in New York, who married Celia Kellner in 1915. He had come from Odessa in 1912. It is unknown whether he was related to the Rekhes who died in the pogrom, but I will follow his life in New York in another post as it had a few twists and turns uncommon in the usual Jewish immigrant story.

There was also a literary presence on Malaya Arnautskaya at the time of the pogrom and later. At 9 Malaya Arnautskaya there lived the author and publisher Joshua Ravnitsky who worked with Ahad Ha’am in his Zionist group, sponsored by the tea merchant, Wissotzky. Ravnitsky originally published the poems of Chaim Bialik, who went to Kishinev in 1903 and wrote one of the most influential Hebrew poems on the pogrom there. Bialik later also lived at 9 Malaya Arnautskaya.

Another piece of literary history on Malaya Arnautskaya is from Soviet times but seems like a descendant of the Odessa Moldavanka stories of Isaac Babel about the criminal Benya Krik, set at the time of the pogrom but published in 1923 and 1924. A friend of Valentin Kataev, the poet Nathan Shor, who lived at 40 Malaya Arnautskaya, also became a friend of Kataev’s brother, Evgeny and his friend, Ilya Feinzilberg. They were inspired by Nathan’s brother, Osip Shor and his adventures crossing Russia in 1919, and wrote a very popular and influential comic novel together, Twelve Chairs, under the names Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, which was published in 1928.

Twelve Chairs

Osip Shor became Ostap Bender, an adventurer and conman, in the story, the hero of Malaya Arnautskaya . Twelve Chairs was made into a film in the Soviet Union in the 1970s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNZkUt0ePas ).

Ostap Bender

Osip Shor

And the last piece of fame for Malaya Arnautskaya was that Vladimir Jabotinsky, author of the novel that commemorated Odessa Jews at the time of the 1905 pogrom, The Five, was, according to Wikipedia, born at 33 Malaya Arnautskaya (№ 33 — здесь родился В. Жаботинский).

The Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Weitzmans and anti-Semitism

Odessa courtyard

When I was first reading the reports about the Odessa pogrom and came upon the Weitzman family, many of whose members were killed, and who featured in many reports and records in the archives, I looked up the names of some of the family members in both English and Russian, along with the keywords Odessa and 1905, to see if their story had been mentioned anywhere else. Strangely the name Chaim Weitzman, one of those who died in the pogrom, did come up in a different but related context. It was an article Одесса теряет лицо (Odessa loses face) on the Odessa Jewish community centre (Migdal) website (http://www.migdal.org.ua/antisemitism/6621/ ) in 2006 about an anti-Semitic attack in the centre of Odessa, on Malaya Arnautskaya St, against a young man called Chaim Weitzman. The article begins:

18 сентября около 10 часов вечера Хаим Вейцман проходил в районе улиц Малой Арнаутской и Белинского. На улице было много людей, возле дверей двух магазинов стояли охранники. Тут же стояла группа молодых людей, которые по дальнейшим показаниям свидетелей происшедшего, часто тусуются на этом месте. Один из них подошел к Хаиму сзади и со словами «Не люблю жидов!» нанес удар по голове. Сколько человек его избивали, Хаим не помнит. Но происходило это все не в темной подворотне, а на людной улице, совершенно безнаказанно. Хулиганы не испугались ни свидетелей, ни того, что кто-то заступится.

Милицию Хаим вызвал сам. Представители закона не рвались выяснять обстоятельства происшествия, хотя один из свидетелей даже назвал имя хулигана – Виталик.
В Приморском отделении милиции Хаима, окровавленного, с рассеченной губой и сотрясением мозга, продержали сорок минут, не очень-то желая принять заявление. «Вот если бы ему что-то сломали…» – был аргумент дежурного милиционера.

Chaim Weitzman

On September 18, at about 10 pm, Chaim Weitzmann was passing through the area of ​​Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskogo. On the street there were many people, and there were guards near the doors of two shops. There was also a group of young people who, according to further testimony of witnesses to the incident, often hang out there. One of them approached Chaim from behind and struck his head, with the words “I do not like Jews!”. Chaim does not remember how many people beat him, But it all happened not in a dark gateway, but in a crowded street, absolutely with impunity. Hooligans were not afraid of any witnesses, nor that someone might intercede.

He called the police himself. Representatives of the law did not dare to find out the circumstances of the incident, although one of the witnesses even knew the first name of the hooligan – Vitalik.
At the Primorski police station, Chaim, bloodied, with a split lip and concussion, was held for forty minutes, not really wishing to make a statement. “Now if he had broken something…” was the argument of the policeman on duty.

The article continues about anti-Semitism in Odessa in general, beginning with the observation that ‘Just among the staff and visitors of Migdal over the past two years, five people have been beaten with a certain severity of consequences. In none of the cases have the perpetrators been punished.’ Interestingly, Migdal, the Jewish community centre, is also on Malaya Arnautskaya, towards the middle of the street at 46a, in what was once a beautiful old synagogue from 1909. It was not easy finding Migdal on Malaya Arnautskaya as the facade of the old synagogue faces the street around the corner, and the entrance to 46a is simply a gate in a wall with the number, quite a secret entrance.

Migdal façade Leintenanta Shmidta St 10

Migdal entrance Malaya Arnautskaya 46a

The authors of the article then link current anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine and Russia to the 1905 pogrom – ‘The last pogrom in Odessa was in 1905. With the full connivance of the city authorities. But we can name a long list of worthy Odessa citizens who have defended their fellow citizens. And even during the days of occupation, the Odessites, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, saved the Jews.’ They go on to say that young people today do not really know Jews in the way that people did before World War II, when Odessa was truly a multicultural city.

One thing that fascinates me about this article is that it mentions the 1905 Odessa pogrom, without knowing the story of the Weitzman family in the pogrom in the Odessa records. In Fond 634, prosecutor of Odessa District Court, 1870-1917, there are investigations of pogrom cases, including the case of Rosa Drutman:

She served at the house of a rich Jewish family of Veitzman-Varshavsky and became a witness of a cruel massacre…Soldiers sent by the local authorities to prevent crimes, in fact marked the beginning of the drama using fire-arms against the Jews. 6 out of 9 members of the family were killed. Rosa were wounded three times but survived after two months of treatment. Her witnesses, medicine card, materials of cross-examinations and protocols of court meetings let us reconstruct the events in details.

 One of the Weitzman victims in the pogrom was Chaim-Chaikel, a 35-year-old and possibly the father of the youngest Weitzman, 13-year-old Naum. It is an eerie coincidence that, in 2006, just one hundred years from the 1905 pogrom, another Chaim Weitzman was attacked by a nationalist, and ironic that no-one saw the connection.

Although the Weitzman-Varshavsky family affected by the pogrom lived in the suburb of Slobodka Romanovka, one Varshavsky family owned a house on Malaya Arnautskaya, Nebe house, number 111, at the end of the street nearer Moldavanka. A Weitzman family owned a house a couple of streets away from Malaya Arnautskaya on Pushkinskaya at 59. Although the pogrom reports focus on the areas worst affected by the pogrom, Moldavanka and other working class suburbs, the hooligans and right-wing marches went through the centre of the city. In the newspapers and the reports, there were stories of violence and looting in the centre at Pushkinskaya and Uspenskaya, a murder at the corner of Kanatnaya and Uspenskaya, pillaging at the corner of Ekaterinenskaya and Evreiskaya, and incidents at Preobrazhenskaya, Politseiskaya, and Pushkinskaya between Novorybnaya and Malaya Arnautskaya. This would have been near the centre of Malaya Arnautskaya.

corner of Kanatnaya and Uspenskaya (murders described in the 1906 report Odessa pogrom and self defence)

62 Pushkinskaya near Malaya Arnautskaya where pogrom incident occurred

But the incident with Chaim Weitzman occurred at Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskaya streets, which is at the beginning of Malaya Arnautskaya towards the sea and the French Boulevard. The street is called Belinskaya, although now its name is Leontovicha, apparently ignored by everyone. And it was not always Belinskaya. Until some time in the early 1900s, it was Portostarofrankskaya, Old French Port Rd.

Odessa 1917 (X at centre top at corner of Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskaya)

Odessa 1888 Portostarofrankskaya

While trying to find where this mysterious non-existent Belinskaya Street was, I came upon one of the historical websites of Odessa streets which uses the old name ( Малая Арнаутская улица. От улицы Белинского до улицы Вячеслава Черновола  (http://obodesse.at.ua/publ/malaja_arnautskaja_ulica/1-1-0-255 ), and discovered that it was not only the far end of the street near Moldavanka that was a Jewish area, but many of the houses and businesses at this end, where the street met the beginning of the wealthy houses along the French Boulevard, were also owned or run by Jews.

The building on the corner, Malaya Arnautskaya 1, has a pharmacy on the ground floor and according to the author of the website has been a pharmacy for over a hundred years.

Malaya Arnautskaya 1

The house was originally owned by M Levinson, and the Shapiro brothers were pharmacists there from about 1912. He quotes from Kataev’s memoir, A Mosaic of Life, about his visits as a young child to this pharmacy with his mother, but Kataev’s mother died when he was about six, probably around 1903-4, and his family were living on Bazarnaya Street near the corner with Portostarofrankskaya. Kataev mentions passing by their pharmacy on Bazarnaya on their way to his mother’s funeral. In his short chapter about visiting their pharmacy with his mother to pick up her migraine medicine, he mentions the frightened customers who came to collect oxygen-filled pillows and rushed back home, hoping to save someone’s life. Shortly afterwards it was his own mother who desperately needed the pillows as she was dying from pneumonia a few months after Kataev’s younger brother was born. In the 1904-5 directory there are several pharmacies along the length of Bazarnaya, the first at number 26 and another on the corner of Bazarnaya and Kanatnaya. Bazarnaya is on the 1888 map above although most of the name is missing. It is next to Boshaya Arnautskaya and runs from Portostarofrankskaya to the Old Market Square (Старый Базарь).

Reading about the history of the first few houses on Malaya Arnautskaya and their Jewish owners, I began to see that the pogromists may have worked their way down the entire street and then onto the wealthier Jewish houses of the French Boulevard as had the hooligans who had passed by Kataev’s house on Kanatnaya looking on to Kulikove Pole, where he was living in 1905. I will delve further into the role of Malaya Arnautskaya in revolutionary politics and the pogrom in another post.

While studying a series of old maps for the missing Belinskaya Street, I noticed another symbol of the anti-Semitism around the time of the pogrom – that Evreiskaya St (Hebrew or Jewish St), a major street in the centre, had several name changes after 1905. Many of the streets in the centre were named after the nationalities that originally built Odessa – there was Greek Street, French Boulevard, Jewish Street and Malaya Arnautskaya means Little Greek-Albanian Street. In Soviet times most of the streets were given new names but in 1908 Evreiskaya St changed and became Skobelevskoi or Skobeleva (Скобелева) after a Russian commander and general who liberated Bulgaria from the Turks.

Odessa 1894 Evreiskaya St

1904 Evreiskaya St (second street from top)

1912 Skobeleva St (second street from top)

1917 Sobolevskaya St

In 1920 Evreiskaya Street became Bebel Street in honour of a German Social Democrat, and during the occupation it became Mussolini Street. After the occupation it became Badaeva Street after the head of Soviet security, and finally in 1994, in a return to the past, it became Evreiskaya again. What Odessa actually feels about its Jewish history is probably another story.

 

Bebel Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How they lived – homes and everyday objects in 1905

I was still puzzling over how people, whether rich, poor or somewhere in the middle, lived in Odessa in 1905. Which modern inventions were filtering down to people’s houses? They may have had bathrooms in middle-class houses but was there piped water to the bath? The 1902-3 Odessa directory was filled with illustrated ads for baths and toilets. There were none in the 1900 directory or later on, so these very early years of the new century must have been the moment when indoor plumbing became affordable and the idea needed getting across to people.

1902-3 dir bath
Odessa directory 1902-3

But what about decor? Were art nouveau ideas, common in advertisements and posters, entering homes in other ways? There were very few photographs of interiors at that time as the lighting was difficult, and the interiors portrayed by painters, many of their friends’ or patrons’ houses, may have been more modern, simpler, bohemian or avant-garde than ordinary people’s houses. When I recently first saw the painting by Ilya Repin ‘Unexpected visitors’ (in Russian ‘Не жда́ли’ ‘they did not expect anyone’) in a TV programme on perception (the painting was used by a Russian psychologist in the 1960s to research ideas about how the eyes track images), I thought it had been painted in the early 1900s but the date is 1883-1888 (there were several versions and reworkings) and the room in the painting is the artist’s country house sitting room.

repin 1888 unexpected guest

Repin Unexpected visitors 1888

The painting is about the return of a political exile from Siberia. I love the way he has created this story around the incongruous figure in such a light, summery cheerful room. Possibly because it is a country house used in good weather, there are bare floorboards and the windows do not have heavy drapery. It has a feeling more of Swedish design than an overcrowded Victorian sitting room.

Carl Larsson: När barnen lagt sig. Ur Ett hem. NMB 266

Carl Larsson c1890s

And so I went back to my search of how people might have lived in Odessa in 1905, such as the artisans and shopkeepers who were probably in the forefront of those whose businesses, homes and lives were destroyed in the pogrom. First I looked through a film I had recently found online of Kataev’s The cottage on the steppe (Хуторок в степи) for images of the family’s apartment in Odessa and the smallholding they later rented at Bolshoi Fontan. The story begins with the news of Tolstoy’s death in 1910 and, soon after, the Bachei father loses his teaching job after making a speech about the greatness of Tolstoy, who had been excommunicated by the Orthodox Church. After trying various unsuccessful ways to make ends meet, the aunt, who has brought the two Bachei children up, decides on a move to a rented smallholding with several acres of fruit trees in Bolshoi Fontan.

cottage steppe 1

cottage steppe 3

The Bachei apartment on Kanatnaya

I was also able to find a couple of catalogues of household objects sold in Russia at that time.

r kent candlesticks

Robert Kent Moscow 1903

img5003_10098

Thonet Brothers

When the family begins their move to the smallholding, Petya stays with his working-class friend in Near Mills until his exams are over. There are a few outdoor shots of the cottage in Near Mills, a rare view of the little farmhouse on the smallholding, and a few scenes showing the interior.

 cottage steppe 5

Near Mills

cottage steppe 4

The smallholding

kataev steppe rocker

The cottage on the steppe

Bentwood rocking chairs and dining chairs were very common at the time. There is an ad in the Odessa 1908 directory for the Austrian-German company that originally made bentwood furniture in the mid 19th century. The company was set up by the cabinetmaker Michael Thonet (1796-1871) whose work was carried on by his sons and their factories and showrooms spread across the world.

тонет 1908 вся одесса

Thonet Brothers 1908 Odessa directory

tonet furniture

Thonet Brothers catalogue

chagall window-over-a-garden

Chagall interior 1917

The few Russian photographs of interiors from around 1900 that exist show rooms very similar to those in the Kataev film, which must have been the common style for anyone who could afford to buy furniture, either new or second-hand, and gives an idea of the everyday lives of people around 1905.

interior 1900

Interior 1900

officer's lunch st petersburg 1900

Officers St Petersburg 1900

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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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Rabinovich families: part two – birth records and the pogrom

When I began this research, I did not know whether my uncle Michel was born before or after the pogrom, as his date of birth is not on his death record or anywhere else. But there was one more clue which helped me to put the pieces of this story together. One of my cousins told me a story about the oldest son, Aron, who was seven when they left Russia, and who had nightmares all his life from having seen ‘Cossacks spearing Jewish babies’. He never spoke of the past or his childhood, but did explain about his nightmares to his wife, saying that when there were raids in his village, their Ukrainian maid, who had a Cossack boyfriend, would warn them, and the children would be hidden. What did he mean by village? Where might they have lived? How many raids might they have experienced? Where were they hidden?

mali fontan

Malyi Fontan

In his memoir, Mosaic of Life, Kataev also uses the word ‘village’ when his family moved just a few streets from their home on Kanatnaya to Otrada, a group of four short streets which had originally been a fishing village on the edge of the steep lanes down to the coast. I began to think about my grandparents living on one of the small lanes running down towards the sea or at one of the fishing villages used as local resorts, the Malyi, Srednyi, or Bolshoi Fontan, and I wandered along Google Streetview, looking at the old houses that remained.

gospitalni lane

Gospitalnyi Lane (lane off French Blvd towards the sea)

gospitalnaya 1916

Gospitalnyi (Госпиталный) below first Rabinovich (Рабиновиичa) dacha

If Michel was not born until after the pogrom, the two nameless boys would have been the youngest, possibly under 1 and 2 years old in 1905, and it would not have been possible to hide them away with the older children. They would have been in their mother’s arms, easily grabbed away by soldiers. If Michel had been born before the pogrom, this story falls to pieces. But recently I asked a researcher in the Ukraine to look up three Odessa birth records for me: the two Mikhails born in 1905 (there were no Mikhels), both born after the pogrom, to see if any were my uncle Michel, and one Nakhman born in 1904, as that was a family name, and might have been one of the other boys. I found that Michel was not born in Odessa, unless it was during or immediately after the pogrom and the family did not have a chance to register the birth. The real children of the Odessa birth records I received were one Mikhail, son of an Odessan businessman Abram-Ide Khaskelecich, Nezhinskaya St 14, born 18 November 1905, another Mikhail, born 30 November 1905, son of Hersh Leibovich and Ester from Satanov, and Nakhman, son of Abram Shimonov and Zislia from Kherson, born 14 December 1904.

13 literaturna st

13 Literaturna St

literaturnaya modern map

Literaturnaya (Литературная) running down to park by sea

odessa plan 1894 literaturnaya

Literaturnaya, Srednyi Fontan 1894 – track running north from main road to sea

The stories about my uncle Aron also say the nightmares were the result of witnessing a baby being tossed into the air and stabbed with a sabre. A slightly different version of this story was that he had seen Cossacks riding into their village, taking small babies out of their mother’s arms, tossing them into the air and spearing them on their swords. This made me wonder where Aron and his sister had been hidden that he could see this scene. At first I had imagined he was looking out an attic window at some distant scene down a street, but of course it is more likely he could only see in front of his own house. Later, I began to think that they might have been in a shed looking into their own yard, or a cupboard in their house looking through a keyhole. Both stories mention babies, as do many others newspaper stories about the pogrom, but there are no babies in the pogrom death records and only 3 children under three years old.

If the two brothers had not died in the pogrom, why would my grandparents have gone to so much trouble to hide any evidence of them, to hide the birthdate of their youngest son, and everything else about their lives in Odessa? It was a very elaborate lie to keep going for the rest of their lives. The 1910 US Census has a question about the number of children a woman has had and whether they are alive or dead. In 1910, four years after they arrived in New York, my grandmother had had her first child born in the US, and she said she had had four children, and four were alive, the three that had come from Russia and the new baby. Why had she not said she had had six children, as she did on my mother’s birth certificate? I wondered if the census was done orally with the whole family around, and my grandparents did not want to mention the two missing children in front of the others. Michel was then 5, old enough to understand everything, and may not have known about the missing brothers, or anything about the circumstances of his birth and why the family left Russia. This might have been a lesson for the children that the past was not to be spoken about. And a problem for them later.

I went back to Michael Ignatieff’s Russian Album to help me think about how my grandparents might have felt after leaving Russia without their two young boys. His grandmother also lost a two-year-old son in Russia and he writes:

There was typhoid at the resort, in the water supply, in the water ices the children ate on the terrace overlooking the sea, in the milk for the littlest one’s formula. In two frightful hours, Natasha watched Vladimir come down with the disease, and she saw the life of her youngest – Paul – ebb away before her eyes. In time she managed to speak of all her losses, all her dispossessions, but never this one, never the snuffing out of baby Paul’s little life. How many times, in her most secret hours, must she have stalked that accursed ground in her memory wondering what else she might have done, how she might have deflected the falling sword. She never returned to the Crimea again, to those blessed estates of her childhood with the beautiful names – Koreis, Gaspra – but her memory must have marched back again and again to that hotel bedroom in Eupatoria, to that empty cot. When the time finally came at the end of her life to put down what happened that summer of 1909, she did not write about it at all…Through all the waystations of the life to come, she kept just one little picture in a round silver frame on her night table: the smiling image of her dead child. (p85)

I have a photo of the two eldest children, Aron and Sara, when they were nearly 2 and 4, as Aron was born in December 1898 and little boys began to wear trousers by 4. It might have been taken shortly before the third child was born in Odessa, or before they left Baranovichi.

Archie Sarah_0002

Odessa 1902?

Studio portraits of children leaning on props such as walls were very common in Odessa at that time. It looks as if someone has made a copy of this photograph cutting out the name of the photographer and town at the bottom.

odessa boy pillar wall Gotlib

Odessan boy 1900s?

When I was 6 or 7, I remember finding an old children’s book, Tige, among my parents’ books. I assumed it had belonged to my mother when she was little, although it was never mentioned and I never thought to ask. It is the story of a dog who moves from the country to live with a little boy and his family in New York City until the family finally moves out of town to a house with a garden, much to the dog’ s delight. In one of the first pictures, the little boy is dressed in a dress, as my uncle was in the photograph. It was not until recently that I thought to look at when the book was published – the date inside is 1905, and I realised that the book must have been for Aron, who was seven when the family arrived in 1906. The story mirrors my grandparents’ lives at that time, as they settled first in Manhattan and then moved out to New Rochelle. Had he been given it for his first birthday in America around Christmas 1906?

tige 1   tige 2_0002

Tige by Richard F. Outault 1905

I am quite sure that my grandparents would not have bought a book in English, a language they never learned to read or write properly. They would not have known that this story was a spin-off from a popular cartoon called Buster Brown. Was it bought by one of my grandmother’s brothers, the successful one who had had several businesses and was always helping out other family members? I doubt that there were many other books or other things in the house at first, so this is a rare reminder of their first months in the US.

This is the only photograph of my grandparents’ children in Russia. When I read Ignatieff’s description of the death of little Paul, it makes me wonder how my grandparents might have felt losing two little boys, possibly from an illness like typhoid, but possibly brutally during the pogrom. That these two boys remained nameless and no photographs were kept probably says more than any number of words. The first family photograph taken in the US was of my grandmother and the three children about two years later, when the baby, Michel, was about 3, wearing a dress as had his brother before him. The children are not as smartly turned out as six years earlier, or as most children are in studio portraits. Their clothes are rumpled and not tucked in. The little touches of a mother wanting her children to look their best are not there, although everyone, except the youngest who looks up quizzically at the photographer, is smiling.

From the little I have heard about my grandmother, I felt that something had been broken in her by the time she reached America. I gathered that she rarely went out anywhere, whether to the shops, into New York City, on a holiday, or to visit relations. My grandfather mainly worked from home or very early in the morning so that he could be at home for lunch with my grandmother, and once settled, she did not want to move or change their life in any way. And even though my grandfather was often around, when my mother, the youngest child, went to college in New York City, she felt she had to come home for lunch as often as possible because her mother was now alone. My cousin also mentioned that, in the summers, my mother would come from work to her mother’s for lunch, and then take her and my cousins to the beach, where my grandmother would sit by herself rather than talk to the other old women gossiping together.

My grandparents always lived on the same two adjoining streets in New Rochelle but none of the houses they lived in remain. Many of the houses around there do not look that different from Russian houses with their gable ends to the road, picket fences and tree lined streets.

acorn terr new rochelle

Acorn Terrace, New Rochelle

new rochelle picket fence

New Rochelle street

vershynna st bolshoi fontan

Vershynna St, Bolshoi Fontan

nedjelina st trees

Nedjelina St, Srednyi Fontan

There was one more clue to where all the children were born. In the US 1920 census, the Russian districts where people were born were recorded. My grandparents and the two elder children were said to have been born in the Minsk district, and for Michel it said Kiev. My grandfather also wrote on his naturalisation form that his last residence in Russia was Kiev. It is possible that they had left Odessa and stayed initially in Kiev to have the baby and wait until he was old enough to travel on to Minsk and then America. But it is also possible that, not wanting to speak of why they had left Odessa, they invented the story that they had lived in Kiev. When my eldest uncle applied for his first US passport around 1960 he wrote that he was born in Kiev. Was he not born in the Minsk district or had he simply decided to repeat the Kiev story?

Rabinowitz Jacob 1920e

1920 US census

I was still not sure where Michel had been born, and no closer to finding the other two uncles. Eventually, as more records come online, possibly even added to this blog from people who have retrieved records from the Odessa archive, this list will be wheedled down to a point where it might be feasible to find my uncles. Below is a list of the Odessa Rabinovich births for 1902-1904, among which are possibly the two missing boys.
1902 births
44   RABINOVICH Beila
108 RABINOVICH Rivka
293 RABINOVICH Ester
299 RABINOVICH Dina
5??  RABINOVICH Gersh
503 RABINOVICH Gersh
606 RABINOVICH Leib
535 RABINOVICH Elasha
557 RABINOVICH Pesya
576 RABINOVICH Alisa
790 RABINOVICH Gersh
858 RABINOVICH Esya
892 RABINOVICH Mal?
1177 RABINOVICH Aaron
1438 RABINOVICH Shmil
1743 RABINOVICH Khaim Mendel
1883 RABINOVICH Gersh
1942 RABINOVICH Ilya
1749 RABINOVICH Mesiya
2089 RABINOVICH Evce
1835 RABINOVICH Vitali
2232 RABINOVICH Rudolif
1991 RABINOVICH Braina
2327 RABINOVICH Iosif
2071 RABINOVICH Etel
2591 RABINOVICH Ruvin
2601 RABINOVICH Moise
2367 RABINOVICH Tsipora
2373 RABINOVICH Feiga
2415 RABINOVICH Khana

1903 births
11    RABINOVICH Gersh
122 RABINOVICH Breita-Riva
240 RABINOVICH Khvelya
620 RABINOVICH Borukh
799 RABINOVICH Manus
1079 RABINOVICH Isidor
1200 RABINOVICH Moisei
1059 RABINOVICH Beila
1253 RABINOVICH Ber
1255 RABINOVICH Yakov
1370 RABINOVICH Iosif
1585 RABINOVICH Iosel
1891 RABINOVICH Sergei
2301 RABINOVICH Menasha
2341 RABINOVICH Shimon
2422 RABINOVICH Yakov
2225 RABINOVICH Evgeniya
2430 RABINOVICH Pesya

1904 births
58   RABINOVICH Leya
110 RABINOVICH Aron
220 RABINOVICH Beilya
413 RABINOVICH Ekhatsniesh
538 RABINOVICH Usher- Ruvin
549 RABINOVICH Boris
841 RABINOVICH Avram
695 RABINOVICH Mirel
702 RABINOVICH Beila
1365 RABINOVICH Mariem
1634 RABINOVICH Falin
1480 RABINOVICH Feiga
1662 RABINOVICH Pesya
1672 RABINOVICH Sarra
2082 RABINOVICH Mordel
1885 RABINOVICH Etya
1985 RABINOVICH Leya Reidya
2011 RABINOVICH Ester
2012 RABINOVICH Etya twins
2441 RABINOVICH Mikheal
2509 RABINOVICH Nakhman
2666 RABINOVICH Iegoshia
2682 RABINOVICH Gersh Volf
2741 RABINOVICH Nakhman

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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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Introducing Moldavanka: Dalnitskaya and the beginning of the pogrom

Having read that Isaac Babel’s The Story of my Dovecote was semi-autobiographical, I thought he had seen the events of the 1905 pogrom in Nikolaev and that his grandfather had been killed. However, he was writing fiction and much of his biography has remained a mystery. There was very little of himself in the little boy of the story, although his family did have a dovecot in Nikolaev. Though he passed the gymnasium examination like the boy in the story, he did not get a place because of the Jewish quota, and was sent to Odessa to a commercial school for the sons of merchants of the first and second guilds where he lived for the first year with two aunts, one a midwife and the other a dentist, who lived on Tiraspolskaya Street.

tyraspolskaya st

Tiraspolskaya Street

The next year, his parents returned to Odessa, moving into an apartment on Rishelievskaya Street, an elegant street in the centre. Babel did not write much about his own family although the parents in Nikolaev had some resemblance to his own. His father was not a shopkeeper but a dealer in farm machinery who worked his way up and became quite wealthy. Closer to his life was At Grandmother’s, the story of a strict grandmother beadily watching her grandson doing hours of homework in silence in a gloomy, stuffy room behind the kitchen of the family apartment.

babel 13

Isaac Babel, 13

Unfortunately, the story of his two independent aunts who possibly never married or had children remained untold, and it is these independent, unassuming, hard-working women who fascinate me the most.
Babel is most famous for The Odessa Stories, which took place in the poor Jewish area of Moldavanka, an area where he was thought to have been born and which fascinated him when he returned to Odessa as a schoolboy. His stories seemed to be a way into seeing Moldavanka, the streets, the courtyards and the alleyways, their colours, sounds and smells, the area of Odessa where the pogrom began, was most violent, and where most of the people in the pogrom death records probably lived.

moldavanka babel character home

Moldavanka

The larger-than-life, exuberant, violent, and often grotesque Moldavankan thieves, shady characters and prostitutes Babel created probably would never have been killed in the pogrom, as they had connections to all the warring factions, and, if anything, helped save many Jewish lives. Maybe this was why he wanted to create them. Many of those who did die were simply getting on with their jobs and looking after their children, muddling through their daily lives. There are no iconic stories of the Odessa pogrom in Moldavanka, like the story of Elena Weingurt and the Weitzman family. Instead there are scraps and fragments, street names and numbers of buildings where all the inhabitants were killed. This colourful, noisy area of Odessa with its exciting life of passion, desire, deception and trickery turned out to have no words for the excesses of the pogrom and the deaths of so many ordinary citizens.

moldavanka flea market 2

Moldavanka flea market

The official boundary of Moldavanka is the wide street running from north to south on this 1905 German Baedeker map of Odessa, the Staroportofrankovskaya (the Old French Port Street) with Moldavanka to the west, but the area of angled streets between Moldovanka and the centre was also the home to many Jews, including Babel’s two aunts, and he considered the area part of Moldavanka.

1905-Odessa-Map

1905 Baedeker map of Odessa

Possibly this area was a step up for Jews who were moving from the working to middle-class. Another predominantly Jewish Street was Malaya Arnautskaya which runs from Moldavanka through the southern part of the centre. In his memoir, A mosaic of life: memoirs of a Russian child, Kataev describes an early memory of a trip with his mother to her dressmaker, Fanny Markovna, on Malaya Arnautskaya, and his horror at the poverty and the dingy rooms filled with families. But unlike Babel, it is the machines not the people who create the din.

moldavanka

Moldavanka courtyard

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 arcades 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. Mingled together were the sounds of hammering, the squeak of cutters’ huge scissors, the sharp protest of torn calico, the screech of unoiled treadles on the sewing-machines. Pungent kitchen smells were blended with the smoke from kerosene lamps with little mica windows, which lit up the apartments so that they looked like a scene in a toy theatre, representing a town on fire with corrugated card-board tongues of flame. …A chest of drawers, the colour of a beetle, stood out in the semi-darkness; it was covered with a canvas cloth, on which a small plaster vase filled with paper roses was reflected in a frameless mirror on an ashwood stand… 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.

And here is a description by Babel, from his story, The Father, of life on Dalnitskaya Street in Moldavanka, the street where the pogrom began.

The old man drank vodka out of an enamelled teapot and ate his meatball, which smelled of happy childhood. Then he picked up his whip and walked out the gates. Basya came out after him. She had put on a pair of men’s boots, an orange dress, and a hat covered with birds, and sat down next to him on the bench. The evening slouched past the bench; the shining eye of the sunset fell into the sea beyond Perecyp and the sky was red, like a red letter day on a calendar. All trading had ended on Dalnitskaya Street, and the gangsters drove by on the shadowy street to Ioska Samuelson’s brothel. They rode in the lacquered carriages and were dressed up in colourful jackets, like hummingbirds…Old Jewish women in bonnets lazily watched the flow of this everyday procession – they were indifferent to everything, these old Jewish women, it was only the sons of shopkeepers and dockworkers who envied the Kings of the Moldavanka.

dalnytska st

Dalnitskaya Street

The Odessa pogrom and self defence has a chapter called ‘The beginning of the pogrom – the pogrom at Dalnitsa, a girl’s story’. When I first began translating the story the girl tells of Krugliak, I could see the story was not going in a way that was going to be comfortable. If a death is violent, we would rather it had been inevitable, and that preferably the victim had fought heroically, tried to save himself and others, or attempted to escape, but Krugliak, a well-off man in his 40s, whose family was in the centre of town, was hiding with Russians on Dalnitsskaya Street. Whether he lived or worked there is not clear. As the hooligans marched down the street, he panicked, running out of the house in terror, shouting ‘Save me!’ Among the ruffians, two blacksmiths set at him with sharp iron implements, beating him on the head. They finished him off with bottles and sticks. Then one of the blacksmiths lept to his feet and danced on the chest of the corpse which lay on the street for the next two days. A Jewish woman witnessed the scene as she scurried out to find bread for the neighbours she was hiding with. She fainted at what she saw. I try to imagine what Krugliak’s family must have been thinking when they could not find him after the pogrom and how they found out what had happened. In the pogrom death records, there is a Shaya Itskov Krugliak, 48, from Boguslav.
In his chapter “The Pogrom of 1905 in Odessa: A Case Study” in Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, 1992, Robert Weinberg describes the first clashes between Jews and Russians the day before the pogrom began.
Armed confrontations between Jews and Russians originated near the Jewish district of Moldavanka in the afternoon and early evening of 18 October. The clashes apparently started when a group of Jews carrying red flags to celebrate the October Manifesto attempted to convince a group of Russian workers to doff their caps to the flags. Harsh words were exchanged, a scuffle ensued and then shots rang out. Both groups scattered, but quickly reassembled in nearby streets and resumed fighting. The clashes soon turned into an anti-Jewish riot, as Russians indiscriminately attacked Jews and began to vandalize and loot Jewish homes, apartments, and stores in the neighborhood. The rioters also turned on policemen and troops summoned to quell the disorders, actions suggesting that pogromists were not yet fully focused on Jews in their attacks. The military on October 18 was equally vigilant in its efforts to restrain both Russian and Jewish rioters, vigorously suppressing these disturbances and restoring order by early evening. Four Russians were killed, dozens of Russians wounded – including policemen – and twelve Russians arrested as a result of the unrest. The number of Jews who were injured or arrested is unknown.
The newspapers add their own take on that first day.
New York Times 26 November
Southwest of Odessa in the Dalnitskaya Street, leading to the village of Dalnik, where many poor Jews are living. The news of the Tzar having granted a constitution caused great exhortation among these Jews also, whereas the Russian population was made jealous and got irritated by the provocative behaviour of some fanatics who carried red flags and declared that now they would have the same rights as the Russians, and soon would get the better of them. At night already a Russian mob commenced to destroy and loot Jewish shops and houses. When the students heard of the disorder in the Dalnitskaya, part of them hurried their armed with sticks and revolvers to defend the Jews, but were fired at by Cossacks and infantry, and many of them killed and wounded. This was the signal for the outbreak of the Civil War and indescribable anarchy which rained Odessa for the following three days.

 

The Times 8 November
The suburb of Dalnik has been the scene of great carnage. All the Jewish houses and shops have been plundered and burnt.

 

privos moldavanka

Privoz Market late 1800s

The pogrom then moved on into Moldavanka.

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