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[Pages 397-399]

My Grandmother's House was Destroyed

By Rachel Friedman

Translated by Judy Grossman

I am originally from Dvinsk [Daugavpils, Latvia]. My parents were Yosef Friedman and Esther, the daughter of Chaim-Leib and Chana-Geile Adelman from Dusiat.

Lillian Adelman: Esther was my Papa's favorite sister. She was the eldest and Papa (Yosef) came after her.

I knew my grandmother Chana-Geile's (nee Slep) two brothers: Shmuel-Itzik, who lived in Dvinsk, and Emanuel, who lived in Dusiat. I didn't know her sister Riva- Leah Toder.

Before the WWII we used to travel frequently from Dvinsk to Dusiat with my mother, to visit our grandparents. My mother had a passport so that she could cross the border between Latvia and Lithuania. We used to take the train to Abel [Obeliai] and from there we continued on to Dusiat in a farmer's cart.

I once had an emotional meeting on the train with our relative, my mother's cousin, the teacher Yudel Slep, and he invited us to the dining car. This was a real experience for me… I remember the way as in a dream, and especially the estate, which to me seemed very beautiful, and the forest with walnut trees. Beautiful houses that were rented out to vacationers stood in it. I remember the meetings with our relatives there in Dusiat during the vacation.

Both my grandfathers, Grandfather Friedman and Grandfather Chaim-Leib Adelman had been students at the Volozhyn Yeshiva, and I remember their discussions in our house.

Yosef Yavnai (Slep): We used to speak Yiddish at home, but my uncle Chaim-Leib, who was a Zionist, influenced us to use the Hebrew language. We corresponded when I left the shtetl.

Yoel Zeif: Chaim-Leib was a wise man. People used to come and ask his advice, and it was pleasant to speak with him. He used to say: “You need to be a Jew with the heart and not with religion.” To this day I recall how sad I was when he passed away.[1] I saw him in my dreams many nights.

Batya Aviel (Levitt): The Adelman family had a paint shop, and they allocated a room on the second floor of their house for learning, and that is where I studied before the Hebrew school in the shtetl was opened.

I think that the last time that I saw my grandmother Chana-Geile was in 1938. Almost fifty years have gone by, but I still remember her. My grandmother was certainly over 70 years old at that time, but she didn't have a single white hair! She was a thin and nimble woman, and when the three of us – my sister, my grandmother and I – went somewhere together, people used to think that we were sisters.

I was in Dvinsk when the war between Germany and Russia broke out. I had just graduated from the Hebrew gymnasia. I managed to escape from the Dvinsk ghetto, and after many trials and tribulations I reached Russia, and I think that I was the first one to tell about the atrocities in Lithuania and Latvia there. My biography appears in the memorial book for the Jews of Latvia.

None of my family survived. After the war I learned about the fate of several of my relatives. My uncle Matityahu (Mathias) – my mother's brother – lived in Abel with his family. He leased apple orchards and sent the fruit to Memel [Klaipeda]. His wife ran an inn. I discovered that when the war broke out, Mathias managed to flee from the shtetl and cross the Russian border with the help of the horses he owned. He served in the Lithuanian Division and fell in the battles over Oriel.

Shayke Glick: Matke – which was our nickname for Matityahu – and my brother Leibchik were business partners and used to go from village to village in a wagon. They were once chased in the forest by Gentiles, and shot at, but they escaped death by a miracle. In 1927 they served together in the Lithuanian army, along with Ansel Krut.

Lillian Adelman: I learned about the fate of my uncle Matityahu, my father's brother, and named my son after him.

After the war, I encountered Meir-Leib Mordechowitz, the son of my aunt Rachel-Leah and Yitzchak, in Russia. He told me that he had succeeded in escaping from Dusiat, being a fifth-grade student at the time. He reached the city of Chelyabinsk[2], working on the railroad. I managed to meet his wife and children. I parted from him before I made aliya to Israel, and gave him a lottery ticket that I had bought with all my remaining money.

I encountered Grisha in Temirtau in Kazakhstan. I know that he is related to the Adelman family. An intelligent man, he gained high ranks under the Soviet regime. He was arrested and imprisoned in Kazakhstan. During the Khrushchev period, he was acquitted. It was then that I met him.

 

 
Rachel Friedman and Grishka

 

The names of our aunts and uncles overseas were often mentioned at home: my mother's brothers, Hirshke, Benjamin and Yosef, who had immigrated to America, and her sister Dvora Korb who lived in Montevideo. I remembered that my mother corresponded with her. I succeeded in locating her after the war thanks to a note with personal details that was circulated in the Jewish communities of South America and reached her exactly on her daughter Clarissa's wedding day. My aunt then sent me an emotional letter and stated that I was now dearer to her than a daughter, after all that I had suffered.

 

 
Top: Dvora (Adelman), her husband Moshe Korb and their children: Chaim
(standing in the middle), Clarissa and her husband Vassilisky and their children:
Chana'le-Anna and Mario. Uruguay – May 14, 1957
  Benjamin Adelman Israel, August 1982

 

Lillian Adelman: Papa told me that his mother Chana-Geile had run out of names (until then she had given birth to nine children) so she gave her youngest child the name of Benjamin, the youngest and favorite son of our forefather Yaacov …[4]

I helped my uncle Benjamin make aliya to Israel from Uruguay. I so much wanted family around me.

From among my mother's family in Dvinsk I knew my cousin Vichka Gurwitz (the daughter of Riva-Leah Toder), who was a midwife and took advantage of every opportunity to visit us.

Uncle Shmuel-Itzik Slep and his wife Feige had eight children: Breine-Berta, Lesl-Laska, Nechama-Anna, Miryam-Merke, Geula, Hirshke, Yudel and Yosef.

I knew that his children were scattered, some in Russia and some in the United States. His wife Feige passed away when I was a little girl, and only his youngest daughter Gelke-Geula, who was married to Ribak, remained with her father in Dvinsk.

His son Hirshke Slep came to Dvinsk from Russia, ten days before the war broke out. At that time I had planned to go to Leningrad to study in a textile institute, and Hirshke suggested that I live in his home, which was close to the institute. A long time later I learned that Hirshke had managed to flee from Dvinsk in time, and returned to Russia.

I saw Gelke for the last time in the Dvinsk ghetto, sitting in a corner with her baby daughter. I didn't see uncle Shmuel-Itzik then, and concluded that he had perished in the slaughter that was carried out in the synagogue.

 

 
Feige (daughter of Reb Shmuel)
wife of Shmuel-Itzik Slep
[3]
  Shmuel-Itzik Slep with his wife Feige
and Geula, their youngest daughter
[3]

 

Our Dear Mother

The modest and respected woman

FEIGE SLEP daughter of Reb Shmuel

Died 26 Tamuz 1935

 
Lesl-Laska by her mother's gravestone in the Jewish cemetery in Dvinsk [3]


Footnotes

  1. Chaim-Leib Adelman was born in 1864. He died on August 22, 1923. Return

  2. Situated on the southeastern tip of the Ural mountain range. Chelyabinsk province of Russia was closed to all foreigners until January of 1992. Return

  3. Sara Weiss (Slep): Jenia, daughter of Arkadi-Avraham and Rita (Slep) gave me some pictures of the family (Leningrad, 1991). Return

  4. Names of the children of Chaim-Leib Adelman and Chana-Geile (Slep): Esther Friedman, Yosef (Joe), Rachel-Leah Mordochowitz, Dvora Korb, Hirsh, Chava Pores, Lusia, Matityahu, Menashe, Benjamin. The birth records of the Vilnius Archive, “Dusetos”, contain an entry of a baby girl, Ite-Hene, born to Menashe and his wife Sarah (nee Paltin, from Obeliai) in 1938. It is not known whether they had any more children. Return

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