Tag Archives: relatives

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/

The Shoah Impacts My DNA Relatives

24 Apr

Today I went on my 23 and Me account to access some information.  I manage both my account and that of my now deceased father, since I am the one who had him provide a sample about six months before he passed away.  I am so glad I did that.  It has provided me with my father’s Y chromosome information, which I otherwise would not have had.

I have over 1100 relatives on 23 and Me.  Most are third or distant cousins.  But today I had a revelation.  An unhappy one I must say.  There are 49 pages of relatives.  I just started scanning them.  And page after page after page, I kept seeing the same words, “on your father’s side,” after every entry.  Over and over again, not a single relative from my mother’s side. NO close relatives.  No distant relatives.

I started to cry.

Then I finally found ONE.  One distant relative. One.  I know that there were cousins who survived the Shoah. Not many.  And there were a few relatives already here in the USA. But I guess they are not on 23 and Me.  But in reality, most of my mother’s relatives perished.  She had one aunt and two uncles who survived. But among them, they only had two living children.  I know them well.   They also had descendants, I am happy to report.  Some live here in the USA, others in Israel.

But all those distant relatives are GONE.  Those distant relatives who share bits of my Dad’s and my DNA are welcome. But the missing ones from my mother’s side are so obviously a result of the Shoah that it reminds me of the horror of the loss.  I should have an equal number of distant relatives from my mother.  Instead of 1100 people, there should be 2200 people who share a bit of my DNA.

I am feeling a sense of loss I have not felt before.  Maybe because I am working on an article about my grandparents’ survival story.  So I am already feeling the dread of reliving their sorrow over their family’s loss.  But this was a blatant reminder that my family really is not like every other.

My Familiar Ancestor, Who We Cannot Identify

19 Dec

My cousin posted photos yesterday in the hope I could help identify them. None of them had any identifying information.  Several we could figure out, they were mainly our great grandparents and one great uncle. Several are children I has never seen before, perhaps they were from her Mother’s side.  And then there was this photo. A young women who looks much as I did as a young woman. She could be me.

Mystery woman, a relative?

Joan Steiner and me graduation

My college graduation.

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A mystery couple; is it the same woman?

I see so many similarities: our hair, our eyebrows, our noses, our resting face, our lips.  My glasses hide my eyes, but believe me they are similar. When I first saw the photo, I was startled.  Under it my cousin had written: You resemble this woman.  And I do.

I am now haunted by her. Who is she? Is she a great aunt? A cousin?  I am relatively sure she is NOT a grandmother of some generation.  But if I was a time traveler, I think I would be her.

I also love her dress.  There is a bit of sparkle on the collar.  All who know me, know that I love sparkle. I could wear a dress like that.  Perhaps not the high collar.  I do not like turtle neck shirts or high collars of any sort.  The dress itself, is something I would wear.  I imagine that it is blue, my favorite color.

I think she is my doppelganger.  I cannot quite get her out of my mind now.  She also looks a bit like some of my cousin’s daughters.  The family genes are strong. I really want to know who she is? Where she ended up?

This photo was taken in the USA at a photo studio on Grand Street, NYC.  So I at least do not have to worry about her dying in the Shoah.  I think she might be one of my grandfather’s five or six sisters.  I only ever met one as a child.  There were four or five we never knew.

We have another photo taken at the same studio.  Is this her as well?  Or a sister?  I am similar to her as well.  I think it might be her a few years older, with her husband.  She has rings on her fingers now.  But she is still wearing a top with a little drama to it, with all that lace!

Then there is the location of Grand Street, in lower Manhattan.  It runs parallel and a bit to the south of Delancey Street.  My grandfather and great grandfather had a tailor shop on Delancey Street. Also the Bialystoker Synagogue is on Grand Street!  Well we are all Bialystokers!  The synagogue started life as a Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1826.  In 1905 it was purchased to be a synagogue.  But more important it was started by the Chevra Anshei Chessed of Bialystok, and our great grandfather was extremely active in all Bialystoke communal organizations. The synagogue is an historic landmark. I think I need to go and see this synagogue!!!

I am sure she is related somehow.  There are so many connections. I just wish I knew how! I do not think I ever will unless another photo turns up with a name!

In my heart, I wish that my ancestors had put names on the back of all the photos.  The ones with names in Yiddish, or Hebrew, or Polish or German are so wonderful because we actually have a name.  But the many photos that remain forever nameless sit in albums and wait for a name that will probably never come. This lack of identification concerns me as we go on to web-based photo collections.  We need to keep some sort of identification for generations to come.

But for now, I will look at this photo of my familiar but unknown relative and truly wish I knew who this woman is, and how she might be related to me.

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

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

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Bialystoker+Synagogue+on+Grand+Street+image