Monday, June 16, 2008

Who are these people? - An Introduction

On the left is (great)-grandmother Eve/Hava Schwartz (nee Gorsky) who immigrated to New York from Odessa, Ukraine, in 1905. That was an excellent time to skip town, as the latest round of anti-Semitic pogroms were underway and being Jewish in Odessa was kind of like being a Broncos fan at a Raiders game, except killing was largely acceptable in Odessa, even encouraged. Say what you will about our Oakland brethren (heard a funny and relevant analogy comparing the East Bay to Eastern Europe last week, but that's another story...) murder in the actual Coliseum itself is heavily frowned upon.

Our cycling voyage ends in Odessa because we'd like to learn something - anything - about Eve's life in the old country. We're not expecting to find much, as we have zero leads/contacts there, but just being there should jar loose a few emotional strings. And who knows? Maybe we'll bump into a long-lost cousin. If you have any recommended places to visit in Odessa, or know of someone who might help us out, please post a comment or let me know at mjfstewart AT gmail DOT com.

For those of you unfamiliar with Odessa, it was immortalized in Sergei Eisentein's Battleship Potemkin, which, among other cinematic accomplishments, pioneered the "baby carriage rolling down a flight of stairs" conceit which was famously ripped off the The Untouchables as well as classic comedy sensation Naked Gun 33 1/3. For a few centuries there, Odessa was a thriving cosmopolitan city, really the cultural and financial heavyweight in the region. Now most people relegate it to the pile of cities I like to call Eastern European Sovietized Dumps. We'll offer a full unbiased report when we get there.

And on the right in the picture? That's your co-host - David O. Stewart - about 40 years ago.
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