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Boleslawiec Pottery Pieces Create a Feeling of Despondency

15 Jul

Lately I have been seeing the name of the city, Boleslawiec, quite a bit because of the beautiful Polish ceramic pottery that is created there and sold throughout the world.   As I walked through the historic section of St. Charles, Missouri, I saw a store dedicated to this pottery.  My sister in law and I walked through and admired all the lovely blue-toned, designed pottery.

Later that month, I was in Tuesday Morning, a discount store, that had a selection of this pottery as well.  Here, I actually purchased a piece of the pottery in the shape of a heart as a memory of my grandmother who grew up in Boleslawiec.  But my remembrance of my Grandmother is not her love of her home town, but rather to remember how much my grandmother hated Boleslawiec.  How excited she was when she was 16 to get her exit visa to the USA.  Leaving Boleslawiec was the best thing that happened to my Grandma.  It really was not a friendly spot for Jewish inhabitants.

In 1925 there were 103 Jewish people in Boleslaweic.  In 1933 the town of Boleslawiec had over 19,500 people, but only just over 100 Jewish residents.  By 1938 there were just 64 remained. My family was among those who lived there.  And after World War 2, there were no Jews left in the city.

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The special visa for 1931 visit to Boleslawiec.

My Grandma left Boleslawiec in 1922 to escape to the United States.  In 1931 she returned to Boleslawiec with my mother and uncle.  They stayed for several months.  We even have a special visa in the passport used by my Mom and Uncle that gives them permission to be in Boleslawiec.

It was during this visit that Grandma became aware of how bad it was for Jews in Europe.  Upon her return to the USA, she immediately began to work to get family members out.  She was able to rescue her father and her sister, who she brought to the United States. She could not rescue her two brothers and their spouses, but they did survive. Her mother, my great grandmother, Sara Manes Szenk,  died in 1919 as did a younger sister. (See blogs below.)

She was right to worry.  On Krystalnacht, November 9-10, 1938, Jewish business and the synagogue were set on fire.  They were destroyed.  Now just an empty lot is left.  The cemetery was also destroyed.  The few tombstones or matzevot left are at The Museum of Ceramics.   So my Great Grandma Sara’s grave — Sara, who I am also named for — is now unmarked, as are the other relatives who died before the Shoah.  An empty field marks the spot of the Jewish cemetery.  Luckily my great grandfather and aunt were already in the USA by then.   And my great uncles had fled.

Members  of Grandma’s family were murdered in the war. (See Blog about Speaking Yiddish below.).  I have not been able to find everyone.  But since the names Manes and Szenk were the surnames of her parents, I will claim all the Jewish people who lived in Boleslawiec who perished and had those surnames or maiden names.  I cannot claim for sure that they are related to me.  But in a town with just 100 Jewish members, I feel a strong level of confidence that they are my family.

Moshe Schenk and his wife, Yenta Fridel Schenk, from Boleslawiec died in the Chelmo Death Camp in Poland in 1942.  Moshe’ siblings died as well:  Hana Leah and Bluma, also Bluma’s daughter Sara.  Two people wrote testimony for Moshe Schenk/Mosze Szenk: an uncle and a cousin.  That cousin also left testimony for Hana Leah, while the daughter/sister of Bluma and Sara, left testimony of their murders.

Many people who died in Chelmo were transferred there from the Lodz Ghetto in 1942.  So I will assume that these relatives were taken from Boleslawiec, to the Lodz Ghetto before their murders at Chelmo.  The Lodz Ghetto was the second largest ghetto in Poland.  Later, when the ghetto was destroyed in August 1944, many were taken to Auschwitz as well. Of the 68,000 Jews who were imprisoned there, 877 Jews remained hidden and were liberated by the Russians. When the war was over, only 10,000 Jews of Lodz Province remained alive. (Wikipedia).

Besides my Szenk/Schenk family who were murdered, there were at least four members of the Manes family killed: Franka Manes and three of her adult children: Sara, Eli and Reize.  Their sister entered the testimony in Yad VaShem.

I know that others perished as well because I met some of the survivors of Boleslawiec. I still cannot find their names, and that truly disturbs me. But the Manes family was from another small town nearby.  I have not yet completed my research about what happened in that village, but it was also in Lodz.  So I would assume the same route, Lodz Ghetto then Chelmo or Auschwitz.

When people think of the Polish city of Boleslawiec, they think of the beautiful pottery.   And only that.  I wish I could think that way as well.  Blue is my favorite color, and the pottery truly is lovey.  I know people who collect it.

I look at the lovely ceramic heart on my kitchen counter, and I think that it is amazing how a piece of lovely pottery that brings joy to so many people, brings me a feeling of despondency.   It is a symbol to me that people can create beautiful objects,  but carry biased hatred in their hearts. Even allowing that hatred to contribute to the deaths of others.  Unfortunately, I see that hatred rising again and happening today. So I look at the heart and I hope that kindness overcomes hatred.

Three websites, besides Wikipedia,  have helped me in the search about my Grandmother’s family who lived in Boleslawiec, Poland, located in the Province of Lodz.   Thank you to Jewish Gen; Vtrual Shtel; and my obsession, the Yad VaShem Database.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/04/the-us-passport-a-matter-of-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/10/01/the-rosh-hashannah-card-has-a-story/

My Grandma Was One Determined Lady!

9 Jul
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My elegant grandmother.

This is my favorite photo of my paternal Grandmother.  Every time I look at it, I just have a moment of joy.

Grandma was born in November 1898 in New York City.  I am thinking that this photo was taken in the about 1918 – 1921.  It is definitely before my grandparents married, as I do not see a wedding ring on her finger, and they married on February 26, 1922.

I love this pose!   The message I always got from this photo is that Grandma is ready to go and conquer the world.    She is elegant.  I love all aspects of this outfit from the hat, to the fox stole, to the beaded purse.  I especially love the high heeled shoes. Grandma had a long history with shoes!

Grandma was a force to be reckoned with on any topic.  And this photo makes me think she was that way as a young woman as well.  She is not facing forward like 95 percent of the other photos I have seen.  No! She is posed ready to move… elegantly of course.

She married the tailor who worked with her father.  She had three children.  She worked for years as an executive secretary for a shoe company, which had its offices across the street from Macy’s.  (See blog below.)

Grandma worked until she was 77.  The only reason she quit was because of a subway accident.  She was pushed/shoved on the steps to the subway.  She might have been mugged.  I believe her purse disappeared that day.  She broke her arm in the fall.   After that incident, her three, now adult, children said, “Enough!  She had to quit her job!”  They did not want her taking the subway anymore.

Grandma did not want to quit.  But she did in 1975.  Part of her willingness to quit might have been the timing. The shoe industry was no longer flourishing, in fact it was dying anyway due to the cheap imports coming from overseas.

When I saw the play Kinky Boots, I thought of my Grandma. I had so much empathy for Charlie and his efforts to save the shoe factory! I remembered how difficult it was for my Grandma as the shoe business disappeared.  You would have thought she owned the company!

After she retired Grandma spent much more time knitting sweaters and afghans for her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was a wonderful baker. And always made us great treats.  When I was away at college grandma would send me care packages of baked goods.  She was an inspiration to me. (See blog below.)

To me this photo is the essence of my Grandma. Perhaps others will see something else in this photo, but to me it is a young woman doing something a bit differently.  This photo also reminds me of one of my cousins.  She also likes to do everything her own way.  And in this profile, I see them having the same face.

I try to imagine what Grandma was thinking when this photo was taken.   But more important, I think about who she became and the impact she had on those who loved and cherished her.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/11/22/i-love-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

 

 

 

My Grandma’s Favorite Photo

7 Jul

Grandma's Favorite photo

This is my Grandma’s favorite photo of herself.  She loved it so much that she took another photo taken the same day and cut her head out to put on an membership card. It caused a major fuss that summer in the Catskills! A fuss that lasted several days!

We (my Mom, sister and I) asked why she had cut up that photo of her at 17 or 18, when she was already in her 60s when she used it.  Her answer:  It was her favorite photo and she wanted to use it!

Grandma Thelma

Here it is!  You can even see the staple holes in the photo where she stapled it on to the membership card!  I am not sure what the card was for.  It was not an official government ID.  It must have been for some local group.  I honestly do not remember. (My sister reminded me that the card was for a local senior center.)

I do remember that my Mom was so angry when she saw that Grandma had used this photo and destroyed the original!   I believe it was also my Mom’s favorite photo of her mother as a young woman.  My Mom and Grandma actually got into a major discussion, read that as argument, over this.  But it was too late, the photo was already destroyed. Grandma had thrown away the pieces.

My Mom never knew, because I guess Grandma never told her, that there were several other photos from the same day upstairs in an album the attic.  Unfortunately they both had died before we found the album that had these photos taken of my Grandma and her first cousin, Katie.

If you look at it carefully, you can see in the image we have, Grandma is not wearing the pearls. I assume that the pearls belong to my Aunt Gussie, Katie’s mom.  In the photo that Grandma truly loved, she is wearing the pearls.  A telling gesture. As an adult, pearls played an important role in my Grandma’s life.  Eventually she had many strands of real pearls!

Grandma favorite photo

I think my Mom would have been much happier if she knew that other photos existed.

I understand why Grandma used this photo.  I do not think she ever felt pretty.  She told me many times that growing up they called her Luchen, or noodle or string bean, because her arms and legs were too long for her body. She hated being called that nick name.

My Grandfather, on an audio tape we have from November 1981, a few months after Grandma died, even said that Grandma was not pretty, but she had something special about her.  And so he fell in love with her.

Grandma was bright, intelligent, spoke, read and wrote in several languages.  I thought she was lovely.

Now as a woman in my 60s, I think I understand why she used this photo.  When I look in the mirror, I do not always see someone my age.  I expect to see a much younger person. Sometimes I am surprised.  Recently I said something about it to my husband.  And his response made me think of this photo, as he said,  “You will never look 25 again.”  Sigh.  That was the age I was when we married.

This photo of Grandma was taken a year or two before she married my Grandfather. Perhaps she felt as I, and was remembering the young Thelma. That is how she saw herself, and so that is the photo she used.

(I am thinking about Grandma now, as her birthday was in July.  We will soon mark what would be her 112 birthday.  Although she is gone, her memory continues as a blessing.)

A 1920’s Car Ride

30 Jun
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My grandparents are the couple sitting together in the back seat.

A few months ago my cousin searched through her mother’s trove of photos and found several that she sent on to me.   One of the most intriguing ones for me was the photo of my grandparents in the back seat of a car, in front is another couple and in the back seat, a third man.

What were they doing?  Where were they going?  Who were the other three people?  I have no idea.  But that photo of my grandparents in the car has to be from when they were engaged or just married in the early 1920s.

My grandmother used to tell be stories about growing up in the New York City of the early 1900s.  She was born in 1898, before the day of cars.  It was not until 1913 with the advent of the Model T that cars were mass produced and easily seen on the streets.

Grandma told me that the first time she ever saw a car it caused a ruckus. All the horses were startled and tried to run.  At the time there were no traffic laws for cars, which added to the chaos.  But change came, and the cars eventually took over from the horses.

Although Grandma told me wonderful stories during our summers in the Catskills, she never told me about her first time in a car.  I do know that Grandma never learned to drive a car.  She had her children and eventually her grandchildren to drive her to and from the Catskills and to the store.  And when she was in the City, she always took buses or the subway.

In this photo, my grandparents look comfortable.  The man in the driver’s seat looks older than the others.  Perhaps he is driving the two couples somewhere for a date night?  I wish I knew because my grandfather is almost smiling, and to be honest he did not smile very much at all.

Whatever was happening, it must have had some significance because they took a photo.  But the best part is that they look happy.     I am so glad my cousin shared this photo with me.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

Amazing What Information Two Photos Can Provide

26 Jun

It is a wonder how two photos that I did not know were related could help find a branch of the family that I had no information about.

I have a family album that we found hidden in the bottom of a closet in the attic of what had been my grandparent’s and then my parent’s home in Kauneonga Lake, NY.  We found it when we cleaned the house out about four years ago.  Most of the photos are from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  Many of the photos are unidentified.  But some have comments on the back written in one of many languages including, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German. (See blog below.)

Every few months I open the book and focus on a few of the photos.  It is an emotional task, as I find that many of these photos lead me back to the Shoah.  And often the people in the photos perished in concentration camps or were murdered near their homes.  I find it a bit terrifying.

About a year ago I posted a photo of two young girls on the Tracing the Tribe website.  No one translated that one for me.  I am not sure why.  It probably got posted on a busy day. As usually these short messages are translated in a few hours.

Then about a month ago I posted two identical photos of a young man, but each had a slightly different note on the back, written in German.  I wondered why German, although I knew that my grandmother could read and write German along with three other languages.

I knew that one of the photos of the young man and the photo of the two girls were sent to my grandmother, Tova/Thelma.  And I that the other one of the young man was sent to her aunt, my great aunt Gussie.  This lead me to write about the young man Abraham Prentki/Prantki.  (See blog post below.)

I assumed he had to be the son of one my great grandfather’s three sisters , Esther, Sura or Leba, who we really had no information about.

By some serendipitous decision, I was looking for another post on the Tracing the Tribe Group when I stumbled upon this photo of the young girls who had never been identified.  So I reposted it on Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestoy in Poland.   With in a few hours, I had a translation.  It was to my grandmother, their cousin.  There were names including the last name Granek. This postcard was also written in German.

My Tracing the Tribe friend, Amy, decided to search some more.  Thank you, Amy.  She found a Yad V’Shem testimony written by a Martha Granek Wynn, who wrote a page of testimony for her mother Cella Prentki Granek.   Cella’s parents were Esther Schenk and Pinkus Prentki and they lived in Breslau, Germany.  But originally came from Boleslaviec, Poland, where my grandmother grew up. Cella was murdered in Mauthausen.  The testimony is chilling.  In Place of death: it is written Mauthausen.  In circumstance of death, it is written: Oven.

The pieces were now coming together.  And although I cannot be one hundred percent certain.  This is what I know.  My great grandfather Shlomo Abraham had several sisters.  Gussie moved to the United States, where she married and had four children.  My grandmother moved in with Gussie and her family when she moved to the USA. (See two blogs below.). The postcards from the young man, Abraham Prentki were to his cousin Tova and his Aunt Gussie.  I assumed he had to be the son of Esther, Sura or Leba, my great grandfather’s sisters who we had no information on.  This leads me to believe that Abraham was the brother of Cella Prentki Granek who died at Mauthausen.  And that he was also the son of Esther Schenk Prentki.

Grandma Thelam, Carlsbad

My grandmother is sitting on the right.  Who are the other two women?

More information, we (my sister helps me with my research) know that my grandmother went back to Europe in 1931 with my mother and uncle. (see blog below.). We also know that she left the children behind with her father and then her in laws and went to Breslau to visit her family, her aunt, and go to the waters of Carlsbard/Karlsbard to heal.  The Prentki family lived in Breslau.

My sister says she agrees that this looks right. But we are not totally sure. On the page of testimony there is an address in Melbourne, Australia.  I found this address on line, in Australia.  I sent a letter to the woman who submitted the testimony about her mother, but not sure the family still lives there.  It was written in 1999, and Martha would be in her 90s now. She is probably one of the young girls in the photo.  I am hoping that some family members live there.

However, another connection.  After the war, my grandmother’s two brothers and their wives moved to Australia.  They were waiting for visas to get out of Europe and went when the first visa to Australia arrived.  They lived in Melbourne.  Coincidence?  Or did they move to be with other family who had escaped.  My mother’s first cousin is still alive. She was born in Melbourne in 1955 and now lives in Israel.  I have asked her if she knew this family. But she was a child when she left Australia.

We might never know the truth.  My sister is right,  we cannot be 100 percent sure.  But in my heart, I think these were the children of my great aunt Esther.  In my heart I believe that this was the family my grandmother visited in Breslau.  In my heart I think the mystery of these two photos is solved.  Still not sure about the photo from Karlsbard.

It is amazing what information two photos can lead to.  And that is why I keep going back to this album and searching.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/04/the-mystery-of-abraham-prantki/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

Working on An Ancestor Mystery

20 Jun

You would think that with my niece’s wedding in two days my sister (the mother of the bride) and I would focus on the wedding. But not us. After a day of running wedding related errands, my sister and niece were putting together a display about our family weddings, when my sister and I got into a mini dispute over a wedding date.

This lead to my sister logging into her ancestory account to check the date, which of course led us into a lengthy look into our family mystery: our paternal grandfather’s family.

Once again we started searching for his family on the census documents and in other areas. We know his birthdate and the names of some of his siblings. And we think we found his family. We knew of six siblings in his family. We are now up to eight in the 1905 census. But there is one brother not yet listed. And we cannot find another census with the family listed. So we honestly do not think this is our family. We need to investigate more.

But that is not our only mystery. Sometimes the documents have all but one child born in the USA. Others show all but one born in a Russia. Some say the father, our great grandfather came in 1880 or earlier. Others say 1890. We know he was born in 1859 and his wife in 1865 we know they married in 1883 and started having children in 1885. The biggest problem is their very common names. If only we could find documents with the original last name of Grau instead of looking for Rosenberg.

We know our great grandfather abandoned the family when our grandpa was about 13. It is now looking as if grandpa might have been a bit older.

The names are so common that we have to be careful we are staying with the right family when we search. And it is difficult and confusing.

In the midst of this research, while I was looking for a post relating to my paternal grandfather’s family, I found a post I put up a while ago of two young girls which was never translated. This lead us down another path and, thanks to a Tracing The Tribe member, connected us to a relative on my maternal grandmother’s family. I need to do a bit more research before I can write about this photo.

But we have found a photo of my grandmother and what looks to be this woman. We know my grandmother visited family in Breslau in 1931, where this woman lived. And we know her mother has the same name of our great grandfather’s sister. So we are pretty sure she, this women murdered in The Shoah, is grandma’s first cousin.

My sister and I love mysteries and searching for our family in Europe. Identifying our family who perished in the Shoah is important to us. We want their names to stay in our memories.

So at my niece’s wedding, I sat with my mother’s first cousin and showed her some of the information. Sometimes she remembers a name or knew someone that my siblings and I never met.

My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 in 1922, while my great aunt stayed until 1936, when she was 22. So she had stronger connections with the extended family in Poland right before the war.

However, with this family member, my cousin had no memory to share. In fact she did not seem to know about the cousins my grandmother visited in Breslau in 1931. However she reminded me that my grandma was 8 years older than her mother.

We have one last link. The Yad Vshem testimony was submitted in 1999. I have a contact name and address. I know the person who submitted it would probably be in her 80s now. But I plan to send her a letter with our information and copies of the three photos I have. Perhaps we can make a connection.

Dragons Must Exist…Well for me

11 Jun

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When I was a teen I became entranced with the series of books by Anne McCaffrey, the Dragonriders of Pern.  I have every single Dragonrider book she wrote, and I have read them more than once.  They delighted me. They made me want to believe that dragons existed in this universe; that they were good; that we could fly on them; and with dragons we could save the world!

My dreams of dragons take me away from the everyday stress and evils.  When politics make me crazy, I think of flying away on a dragon from Pern, saving the world from the threads falling from the red planet.  Communicating solely with my dragon.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

My favorite of her books is “The Girl Who Heard Dragons.”  I so wished that was me!  She could speak and hear all the dragons.  Everyone else could only speak to their specific bonded dragon! The girl who heard dragons was special!  (When Anne McCaffrey passed away in November 2011, I was so sad that the world lost her imagination.)

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Computer Catsastrophies by R. Spangler

Because I love the idea of dragons, I am attracted to art with friendly dragons.  Two local Missouri artists’ works exemplify friendly dragon art.  And their works adorn my home.  Perhaps too much, but their art makes me happy.   The two-dimensional, lithograph works by Randal Spangler can be found on walls in almost every room of my home.  For years, I would buy my husband a Randal Spangler print for his birthday. I know I buy them for my husband, but I love them.  Kind of self-serving!  But he does not mind.

At first, I focused on the series with the astronomer and the libraries.  But over time, I just went for the dragons.  And if there were dragons and cats, even more delectable to me.

His art is fun, delightful and never upsetting.  I always find something new to see in his more intricate and larger works.   Some of my favorites have dragons and fireflies!  So joyful.

When I want to ‘feel’ a dragon, I switch to the clay three-dimensional work by Clay Images artists Melissa and Jim Hogenson.  They call their works, “whimisical designs in stoneware.” Which they are.  I purchased my first one in 1984 at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  And I have been buying at least one piece almost every year since then.  Even when I do not go to the festival, my children will take photos of pieces they think I would like. And then they buy them!  They know that we have to make a stop at their booth so that I can look at dragons!

I have also found it possible to contact Clay Images on line and order exactly what I want.  (Yes, I did Like their Facebook page.) It works for me.   In fact, I recently saw two pieces that I must have!

My sculptured dragons stay in the family room, kitchen and front hall of my home.  They stand guard against invaders.  And they cheer me up.  I loved the one I got last summer.  My children went to the Renaissance festival and brought home: Eclipse, a dragon wearing special eclipse sunglasses.  I saw the eclipse in Wyoming.  It would have been fantastic to have a dragon with me! Can you imagine flying over the tops of the Grand Tetons as the eclipse began to cover the world in darkness.  It would be like a scene out of a Dragonrider of Pern novel!  WOW!

Among my favorite pieces are a dragon cookie jar, two lamps and my wizards. Because I crochet and knit, my children also made sure I had dragon yarn holders.  I have two different ones that I keep together when I am not using them.  I have useful pieces like mugs and the cookie jar, but I also have ones that are just fun to look at!

Over the years I have watched a few dragon related movies and read other dragon books.  Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is fun.  While Smaug, the dragon, in the Lord of the Rings is quite scary and mean.  I loved the somewhat helpful dragon, Mushu, in Mulan.  Of course, the lovesick Dragon in Shrek saved the day, as do my imaginary dragons. And I sort of smiled through the How to Train Your Dragon books. I was scared by the dragons in the Harry Potter series and petrified of the two-headed dragon in Willow (one of my favorite movies!).  I know I need to see the animated movie Spirited Away, to see Haku, the river spirit. My son is a great fan of the animation artist, Hayao Miyazaki.

In my work space, above my computer, is a Spangler print called “Computer Catastrophies.”  Although my desk does not look exactly like that, the print gives me inspiration and joy. As do all my dragons.  On the wall to the right of my desk is Spangler’s “Science Fiction Shelf,” which depicts dragons and science fiction books.  Some of my favorite books are listed, but unfortunately, he did not put any Dragonrider books on this imaginary shelf.  That would have made it perfect.

I believe you are only as old as you feel. And with my dragon art and books in my home, I still feel quite young!  Because with them here, I can believe that dragons must exist!

Clay Images

Randal Spangler