Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Grandfather Might have Benefited from the Generosity of Mike Nichols' Grandmother

Periodically, I look for descendants of people that my grandfather wrote about in his diaries. I *think* I found Glasnik's grandson, in Israel -- his grandfather was Glasnik and was from Vishigrod and in the Russo-Japanese War, but he didn't much about him. I sent him portions of the book in which his grandfather appeared, but haven't heard back from him.

Mike Nichols' Untold Family History

Then, looking for Divanovsky (which probably is a pseudonym), the Jewish department store magnate in Irkutsk, Siberia, circa 1906-1907, I came across an excerpt from Faces of American by Henry Louis Gates, who wrote about Mike Nichols' search for information on his grandparents, who were from Irkutsk. What was most interesting to me was learning that Nicols' grandmother, Anna Distler Peschowsky, was a benefactress of the Irkutsk Charitable Society for the Assistance of Poor Jews. I didn't know the real name of what my grandfather referred to as "the Jewish Community Guest House" in Irkutsk where my grandfather stayed when he got to Irkutsk,hoping to find the apocryphal forgerer who might create the false papers that would allow my grandfather and Pyvka to return to Warsaw by train more-or-less unmolested, but it seems that was the place. I sent the information to Mr. Nichols care of his agent, who may or may not have passed it on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For Those of You Interested in a Glimpse of My Grandfather's Life in the U.S.

My mother wrote the following about the dog that kept following her father home:

        People choose pet dogs in many ways, but our dog chose us. He belonged to neighbors who lived upstairs in our apartment building. He was allowed free range, and spent much time outdoors. One Saturday, he happened to meet our father , who was coming home from synagogue services. The dog followed him, and managed to sneak into our apartment behind him. We would pick him up (not without regret) and return him to his owner. This went on week after week until our neighbor finally said, "Look, you might as well keep him. He obviously knows where he wants to live."
        We three girls were ecstatic, but our mother said, "There is absolutely no way I will have a dog in this house!" But he outsmarted her, by making it clear that he was her devoted fan, following her around and gazing at her adoringly until even she could not resist him.
        He really did adore her and wanted to protect her. She had a serious heart condition and was often bedridden. At those times, he would not leave her side. We had to keep him from growling and attacking the doctor when he came. (In those days, doctors still make house calls...)
        But even after Momma accepted him and grew fond of him, there was still a religious issue. We were taught that you cannot have a dog in the room when you make a blessing over wine or bread, or recite the Grace after meals. I don't know how Poppa managed it, but all he had to do was hold up the Kiddush cup, and Whitey would saunter out of the room. Or Poppa would say in Hebrew, "Go!" and Whitey would calmly obey, and didn't seem to bear a grudge. Of course, we praised him lavishly.
        People often admired Whitey and offered to buy him. He was probably a mix of poodle and terrier and who-knows-what-else, and looked like a lamb. Once, he disappeared. Heartbroken, we roamed the streets searching for him to no avail. Then one day, he suddenly reappeared, with a torn-off rope around his neck, which spoke for itself.
        He lived with us for years. As a teenager, I was an insomniac. So I would get up in the middle of the night and, taking Whitey with me, go for long walks until I was relaxed and sleepy again. The streets were empty and serene. Imagine taking such walks today. By the way, my family never found out.
        Whitey was exceptionally intelligent, as well. He always seemed to sense when we were going to bathe him. He would hide under a bed, and we had to drag him out. I remember that we bathed him in the washtub, adding what was called "bluing" to the rinse water. It was used to keep white laundry pristine.
        We thought that Whitey would be with us forever. But World War II intervened. My sister, Edith, had married Harry, and she was pregnant. They could not find an apartment that would accept children. So they moved in with us, and were warmly welcomed. There were seven of us, and two bedrooms.
        The baby was the first grandchild, and our first nephew. We all doted on the new arrival, except Whitey. After sulking for some time, one day he just disappeared, never to be seen again.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Anarchy Prevails at Awards Competitions

SAN DIEGO, CA — June 5, 2012 — Crosswalk Press, a San Diego-based independent publisher, announced that The Accidental Anarchist by Bryna Kranzler, has been named Winner of The Sixth Annual National Indie Excellence Award in the category of Biography: Historical. The competition is judged by independent experts from all aspects of the indie book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters, who selected the award winners for “Overall excellence of presentation.” The announcement is timed to coincide with Book Expo America, the largest publishing event in North America, which is taking place in New York this week.
About the Award Recipient
The Accidental Anarchist is the true story of Jacob Marateck, an Orthodox Jew who was sentenced to death 3 times in the early 1900s in Russia -- and lived to tell about it. He was author Bryna Kranzler’s grandfather, and the book is based on the diaries he began keeping in 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War. The book is written in Marateck’s voice, which is unique for its humor and optimism that contrasted with the circumstances. Elie Wiesel called the book, which was recently named a Winner of the International Book Award in the same category, “…A profound testament to the power of faith and to the continued survival of the Jewish people.” Further information about the book can be found at: www.TheAccidentalAnarchist.com.
About Crosswalk Press
Crosswalk Press is an independent publisher whose business model bridges the gap between traditional and self-publishing. This allows authors to retain creative and content control over their work, while receiving consultative guidance from experienced publishing professionals.

Monday, June 4, 2012

You Always Find What You Don't Know You're Looking For

Every once in a while, I return to an occasional project of looking for descendants of people my grandfather wrote about in his diaries. Jewish Gen is a great source for one looking for Jewish relatives (and none of mine appear in the Mormon database, where almost everyone else, it seems, can be found), and I discovered a number of other people looking for relatives who lived in or were from Irkutsk, Siberia. (Lots of Jews were either sent to or, like my grandfather, came through, Siberia, which will be the subject of a future post.)

Although I couldn't find anyone else looking for the same people I was looking for (largely because they have only pseudonyms in my grandfather's diaries -- in one case because he didn't know the woman's real name, and in the other case to protect the man's descendants from embarrassment -- though I hope that with the passage of more that 100 years, any such embarrassment would be irrelevant).

But I did find one person looking for someone else I sought. I wasn't sure if it was his real name in the diary, but it looks like it not only might have been the correct name but I might just have found his grandson.

Those of you who read The Accidental Anarchist will remember Glasnik, a friend of Jacob Marateck's from Vishigrod with whom he was conscripted in 1902. I found one person searching for Glasnik, and it took several months to find a current email address, but I did finally hear back from Glasnik's grandson, now a real estate professional in Israel. He didn't know much about his grandfather (though he gave me his full name) and was going to look for information. In the meantime, I sent him the first half of my book, those chapters in which Glasnik appears, and I look forward to receiving confirmation that I have found the real Glasnik's real grandson, and learning what happened to him after the end of the Russo-Japanese War. I will share that information here when I hear back.

In the meantime, I continued, when I was bored or wasn't able to focus my mind on the work I needed to do,  looking for descendants of other individuals in the book. Much to my frustration, I feel it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to identify the real Pyavka, notably since his nickname, "The King of Thieves," is not likely to be the term through which any descendant might seek information about him, but you never know. I'll go back to Jewish Gen and maybe post the question myself.

I am also trying to identify the real Divanovsky, department store magnate in Irkutsk, but have had no luck googling variations of "Jewish," "department store," "rich or wealthy," "business," "Irkutsk," though I will keep trying.

But last night my search turned up something completely different but also intriguing, and will shortly post the article that is sending me in a new direction.