Monday, July 14, 2008

On the trail of Leiba & Jenny

From left to right in the photo, are Leiba Gorsky (my great-grandfather), Eva Schwartz (his daughter and my grandmother), and Jenny Gorsky (my great-grandmother. We acquired the photo through my dad's cousin, Ted Gordon, to whom many thanks.

These are the first images of the great-grandparents I've ever seen. Leiba was born in 1871, Jenny in 1872, both in Odessa, Ukraine, our destination on this summer's trip. They came to New York in 1908, and there are some interesting questions about that trip.

First, they didn't sail from the Black Sea, where Odessa is, but from a port on the Baltic. That means that Leiba, Jenny, and their six kids (from 15 to baby) had to cross Central Europe. Now that trip puts into perspective the bike ride that Matt and I will be undertaking!

Second, the family story is that they left because they left because of anti-Jewish feeling after the unsuccessful Revolution of 1905 (think Battleship Potemkin, the Eisenstein silent movie, which is set in Odessa during that upheaval). But they didn't leave until 1908, three years later? Maybe it took that long to save up the money? Or to figure out how to get the heck out of Russia?

There's so much we don't know -- Jenny's maiden name, what sibling Leiba and Jenny had and whether any of them left Russia? Talking with another cousin of my father's, Linda Weiss, I learned for the first time that my grandmother (Eva, with the spectacles in the photo) corresponded with people back in Odessa. Linda remembers Eva giving her the postage stamps from Russia! Who were those people?
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