Cowen report (was Travel from Shtetll to Sea Port) #general

Family and DNA

In fact the link goes here, might be even easier for folks to access:

Juliana Berland (France)

On 28/05/2021 15:31, Susan&David wrote:
This is the site with the Cowen Report PDF. Scroll down to see it.


Alan Banov

Here's how my family went from their shtetl to Hamburg and then S.C.:
             My grandfather (born Leizer Banovitch) and his family lived in Kopcheve, Suwalki Gubernia (now Kapciamiestis, Lithuania).  My great grandfather Alexander immigrated to South Carolina in 1889.  He “sent” for his family in stages.  My grandfather, great grandmother Sonia, great aunt Rachel (Raye), and great uncle David followed in July 1895, when Leizer (later Leon Banov) was seven years old.

According to David Banov’s oral history, the four of them traveled from Kopcheve in a covered wagon for about thirty or forty miles, until night, when they stopped in Sejny with a relative. Later they went to Suwalki, the provincial capital, where they stayed for about ten days with Sonia’s brother Leon Danilovicz.

Leon, a prominent attorney, had a lot of influence, so he was able to take Sonia and Raye in a carriage and drove them over the border into Germany.  However, to avoid the Czar’s soldiers, David and Leizer had to sneak across the border.  They could not do that without help, so Uncle Leon Danilovicz arranged with a professional smuggler to take them across the border, probably for a sizable fee.  David and Leizer were taken to a house a mile or so from the border, where they were to spend the night.  They slept on straw in a barn in complete darkness and were told not to take their clothes off and to be ready when called in the morning.  They had no belongings of any kind; Sonia had taken everything along in her carriage.  Finally, about 5:00 in the morning, in pitch dark, the smuggler woke the boys up and told them to get up and follow him.  They followed the smuggler until they reached a point where they had to run.  The boys ran as fast as they could.  Leizer experienced difficulty.  The smuggler (aka “guide”), who had long legs, ran faster than the boys and kept on urging them to run faster and still faster.  When he said, “Run,” the boys ran.  David was almost completely exhausted, and Leizer reached the point where he could not go any further.  At the insistence of the smuggler, David picked up Leizer and put him on his shoulders and carried him for some distance, thus enabling him to rest a bit and recover from his exhaustion.  David later put him down, and they ran, and they walked.  David was about ready to give up when all of a sudden, they saw a village with a few lights.  (It was not long after 5 a.m. and there was just a little bit of light in the sky.)  They could see ahead of them a farmhouse.  As they approached, they noticed that the houses had beautiful tiled roofs.  They had never seen such houses before.  Pretty soon they saw cobble-stoned streets with beautiful houses.  Leizer was so tired that he lay down on the grass along the side of the road to rest a while. 

Apparently for his own safety, the guide tried not to be close to them.  After Leizer got up, the guide came near the boys and began walking with them.  He took them to a house that he pointed to and told them to go inside.  There they saw their mother, sister Raye, and Uncle Leon Danilovicz.  They slept in that house overnight.  The next day they put all their belongings in a carriage and went to the railroad station.  They had never seen a train before.  The woman who boarded them told them this was an eisenbohn, an iron horse.  As they waited outside the station, they saw this “iron monster” coming down the track, pulling many cars.  When the train reached the station, it came to a halt.  They boarded the train and, according to David, they were on the train a long time.  They spent the time dozing, sleeping, and looking at the scenery.  The train stopped in Hamburg.

In Hamburg Sonia arranged for a carriage to take them to a bunkhouse near the docks, where they were to board a steamer operated by the Hamburg-American Line. The place was fenced in with a sort of barbed wire extending high up.  They entered through a gate.  They were escorted to their sleeping quarters, which were arranged like barracks, with three tiers of bunks.  Sonia and Raye occupied one bunk while Leizer and David shared another one.  The third bunk was taken by a young man who came from Kopcheve and had been waiting for the ship for several days.  The Banovitches also had to wait 4 or 5 days for the ship.  Most of the people waiting for the ship were Jews from Poland.  Some were not Jewish.  Sonia spoke to them in Polish.  David could not speak Polish, but Raye knew a lot of Polish words and expressions.

Their ship was a steamship called The Palatia.  The ship also had sails.  They had to take a smaller boat to reach the steamship.  The Palatia left Hamburg on July 21, 1895; it arrived at Ellis Island on August 1, 1895.  The same afternoon, after receiving some refreshments from friends, they took another ship to Charleston, SC, where they settled.

Alan Banov
Kensington, MD