This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #yizkorbooks #JewishGenUpdates
“Letters from Dotnuva” in Lithuania is not a Yizkor book but is part of JewishGen’s Yizkor book collection. They provide a unique and very personal account of an extended family, some of whom remained in Dutnova, some who immigrated to New York and others that made Aliyah to Israel and recounted what they faced there.
The central character is Freida Shapira who went to live with a beloved aunt in Forest Hills, N.Y. in the mid-1930s. In 1998, after Freida's death in New-York, her son Norman Danzig found a collection of letters that had been sent to her; more than half were written in Yiddish and the rest in Hebrew. (If you follow the links on each letter, you will see photocopies of the originals). Most of the letters are from family members to Frieda, beseeching her to write more about how she is and what she’s doing, worrying about her health and grieving with her after her aunt died.
But I’ll start this excerpt with a letter Freida wrote two weeks after arriving with New York in 1935.
“Last Sunday we drove with our uncle many hours to see the city,” she wrote.” I lifted my head up to see the height of the tall buildings, but it's hard to see the end of them. There are long streets which belong to Rockefeller. One building, they say, has eighty stories. I started counting, but I couldn't hold my head up for so long.”
But she was also thinking of home and family.
“What about you? How do you feel? I can imagine you waking up at 5 in the morning where it's cold and dark, but what there is to do? Do you wear the warm coat? Do you have warm socks? What do you hear from the family at home? Write the truth to me about the home and family and everything that is happening to you. Oh how much I want to know about everything.”
Silver Spring, MD
Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel