Ruth Wilnai <ruth@...>
While participating in a creative writing class I wrote a story about
my SZCZEKACZ family. I would like to share the story with you.
As you will see in my story, I could not find the important facts about
my family without the help of JRI-Poland and CRARG -
Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group.
Thursday, February 10, 2005. The subject of one of the messages
catches my attention "Szczekacz family >from Czestochowa." My passion to
detect new relatives is fully awaken. I click on the screen, open the
message and browse through it. No, I have to delve into it. I have to
understand each word, each connection. I have to believe the words.
Trying to relax, to calm my excitement I read:
"I am researching the Szczekacz family >from Czestochowa, Poland, and I
found your name in the JewishGen Family Finder, which said that you are
researching Szczekacz also.
The surname of my wife is Secaz. Her father changed the surname. The
original surname was Szczekacz. Her father was Szczkacz Joseph born in
1919 Czestochowa, Poland, but he was a baby when he came to France…"
The letter continues to detail Joseph Szczekacz immediate ancestors.
Without a delay I lay out my family tree on the computer screen. I
view the index of the hundreds of Szczekacz family members in my tree
but I cannot find a link to the newly discovered Szczekacz Family.
Generation upon generation, the Szczekacz in Czestochow were one big
family, but I cannot attach the new family to my tree. Did I make a
mistake? Did I miss some information? Is my family tree inaccurate?
My forbearance is short. I must find the link and immediately. I
consult my friend Daniel Kazez, who is in charge of the
Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group (crarg.org). I request help
from my friend Michael in Israel. I call Stephane in France and we allstart exploring the records. Did we skip a record in our initial
Czestochowa's research? I decide that the next day I will revisit the
Mormon library in Santa Clara to get all the Szczekacz records.
The meaning of the word Szczekacz in Polish is "barking dog". I
discovered the word 'Szczekacz' only a couple of years ago. I first
heard the surname when I jumped into the ocean of researching my
In my grandparents' bedroom, on the left corner above their bed, two
large framed, old and faded photos decorated the wall. A man and a
woman depicted in the two separate photos.
One photo was of a good-looking man maybe in his sixties, his white
suit and tie expressed elegance and nobility. Abraham Kaluzynski, the
womanizer, was a man deep in poverty. He looked at us carefully from
inside the frame. We all heard about him some nasty stories. He was my
great grandfather >from Czestochowa, the father of my beloved grand
father Josef Kaluzynski.
In the second photo, a very young beautiful woman, her long hair
wrapped around her head, her gaze goes far away. No one ever mentioned
her name. We were young and we did not express interest in those
ancient photos up on the wall. We did not question who she was, yet the
young woman in the photo was our great grandmother..
Step by step with help >from JRI-Poland and with help >from the
Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group, I weaved together facts and
built a family tree.
>from one of the family tree's branches Abraham Kaluzynski stood out as
a man who was married three times. The records told us that Fraydle
Szczekacz, the melancholy looking young woman in the photo, was his
first wife, the mother of my grandfather. The records also continued
and told us that Abraham divorced Fraydle, an unheard of event in those
old days, and shortly after the shameful divorce, she passed away. She
was twenty-nine years old.
Fraydle Szczekacz, was >from a very large Szczekacz family in
Czestochowa. Hundreds of the Szczekacz people populate my family tree.
Where were they all? How many Szczekacz people survived the Holocaust?
Was my grandfather the only one to reach Israel before the Holocaust?
Deep in my thoughts, I looked through an Israeli phone book. Here, I
called loudly, I found an entry for a woman name Szczekacz Malka.
A young voice answered the phone, I told my story, the reaction was
suspicion and the conversation came quickly to a dead end.
I waited a few days and called again.
Suspicion was again in the background of the new conversation, but I
got an invitation to visit Malka Szczekacz at her humble home in Bnei
Brak, one of the most orthodox communities in Israel.
Malka, with her generous heart and kindness invited me in, even though
I was not dressed properly for a visit in an orthodox home, wearing
pants instead of a dress. The conversation was intimate, as though we
knew each other for a long time. We exchanged stories and experiences.
Through Malka I got to know Tova Ben Zvi and Zarach Shaket, both
descendants of the Szczekacz family. I was sure that the three of them
were my relatives, even though I was still searching among the family
tree's leaves where to link their branches.
A few amiable, quiet meetings, a few conversations about this and that
brought Malka and me closer. One sunny day the two of us were sitting
in Malka's small living room next to the dining table. She sat at the
head of the table, I sat next to her like one of her students. I had a
new unbelievable story:
"A stranger, >from a small settlement, called my ninety years old
uncle, my father's brother, on the phone, introduced himself and told
him that he found a book in the town's library that once belonged to
the Kaluzynski family. On the first page, there was an inscription and
he read it over the phone. As my uncle listened to the story, memories
came back to him. He remembered that my grandfather presented the book
to him on his Bar Mitzvah day. He recalled days of poverty that forced
the Kaluzynski family to sell their library. My uncle was excited and
the stranger sent him the book."
As I was telling Malka the story, she, suddenly, got up, opened the
glass doors of her family's religious library and pulled out a book.
An inscription in one of the book's pages, a dedication to Malka's
father by his father revealed the family dynasty, the missing link.
After a year's long detective path, I could connect Malka's family tree
with my family tree.