Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tales from the Old Country III - The pogrom

In 1918, my paternal grandfather's father was forcibly drafted into the Red Army by the Communists. When he came back a few years later, the only thing left of his family were my grandfather and his sister who were living in a local orphanage. A pogrom that happened while he was away devastated his village.

Sixty two years later, my father received a strange phone call from someone who wanted to know whether his grandfather was named Wulf and whether his family came from the shtetl of Tetiev. The man on the phone said he thought that we were his relatives.

My father answered "yes" to both questions but he was very confused. He was sure that he had no relatives from that side of the family because they were all killed in the pogrom. It was at that point that the man on the phone told him the rest of the story which nobody in my family could have imagined.

It was the case that as the adults were being killed by the peasants and the soldiers, some of the kids in our family, other than my grandfather and his sister, managed to hide in the cellar and were not discovered. When the killing was over, the oldest girl, Manya, who was about 15, gathered her cousins and decided that they were going to Odessa, about 300 miles away. Somehow they made it to Odessa and boarded a ship to London. In London, Manya worked as a maid, and saved up money to buy tickets for everyone to go to America. In America, the family prospered and grew.

Sixty two years, when Manya, now in her late seventies, saw my name printed in the local paper, she called her nephew. Our name is very unusual; she wanted him to find out if there is any chance that these people were related to us. And sure enough that was the case and this ends the story of how my father found a big branch of his family, a family he never knew he had.


Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

That's simply incredible! Wow! It must have been difficult for your families to meet after all this time...

February 06, 2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

In many ways the interaction between the two sides of the family mimicked the general relationship between the American Jewish community and the wave of Russian immigration that came in the late seventies through the nineties.

There is a feeling like we should be close, but culturally there is quite a gap. But I can't complain, because overall they were very welcoming and sincere.

February 06, 2006 9:17 AM  

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