by richard L. baum
Over the years I would occasionally get an inquiry about the JewishGen KehilaLink webpage that I created for my mother’s hometown of Tarashcha, located about 100 kilometers south of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Typically, the inquirer wanted to add photographs of their relatives to the KehilaLink. In November of 2016 I found an email sitting in my AOL inbox with the following mysterious subject line: Reference to my and my sister research about our family. Who was “my and my sister”? How inclusive was “our family” meant to be? The email was sent by a Mark K., unknown to me, whose email address was built around the name Boguslav, a Ukrainian town 17 miles east of Tarashcha. “Boguslav” caught my attention because my mother’s family had a connection to Boguslav. This is what the email, time stamped 11 Nov 2016 at 11:55 am ET, stated:
My name is Mark K.
It was my pleasure to find your site on internet.
This site is related to Tarashcha, Ukraine.
But what is the most amazing that I had found the letter of my grand mom sister
to Faiga Sevransky who is another sister of my grand mom.
I did tons of researches for more than 10 years to find some information about
their life in America and I wasn’t much successful.
This year is more successful.
Your site is inspired me so much and in fact I also have more old pictures I
could share with you.
Please do not hesitate to start communication with me.
The memory of the family is so valuable.
Me and my family live in Brooklyn.
My best regards.
Indeed, there was a letter that I included on my KehilaLink that was addressed to Simochka, a nickname for my mother Sima. The letter, that I estimated to have been sent in or about 1928, was from a relative of my mother. In that letter, the writer, whose name was Fruma, declares how intensely she missed her American sister Feiga, who I well knew since childhood; Feiga was the wife of my great-uncle Kalman Sevransky. I knew next to nothing about Feiga, however — little more than her maiden name and her sister’s name (that I learned of from that very letter) and that Feiga and her husband Kalman lived in Brooklyn where they were the proprietors of a livery stable located in the courtyard behind their house (as a child, on visits, it was a thrill for me to see the giant horses in their stable).
Mark’s email made it clear that Feiga and Fruma had another sister; a sister that may have survived the Holocaust. I responded with my own email within an hour after receiving Mark’s email. In it I expressed surprise at this new family connection, a discovery made possible by the existence of my Tarashcha KehilaLink. In earlier years I had serendipitously found other members of my mother’s family who had survived the Holocaust; each time, it seemed unlikely that I would ever learn of others. Yet, discovery was happening again! Unsurprisingly, I was anxious to see Mark’s photos, and I also had questions about who, when, where, and how.
Later that same day, 8:16 pm ET:
Thank you very much for your response.
You are the person who saw Faiga Sevransky here in America. This is already WOW.
I wanted to get in touch with those people who saw here [sic].
I wanted to know much more that I know about her life in America.
and that was my mom request to get that information before she died.
About proves that Faiga on your website is that Faiga which photo I have is no hesitations.
Everything is matching perfectly
Feiga had correspondences with my grand mom on constant basis, that is why I have
those photos with me. I will send you those photos as soon as I do the electronic copy of them.
Also I have some Family picture where the whole “mishpucha” together and Faiga’s sister
Zelda on it. I have Fruma’s picture. with my mom and my aunt Busya.
Those pictures you will get shortly as attachments.
My best regards to you and your family
Mark and my sister Maya
Reading this latest of Mark’s emails, I very much wanted to know whether Fruma and the other family members survived the Nazi onslaught and, if they did, how this was accomplished. I was also curious about the use of the name “Zelda”, which is neither a Slavic nor a Yiddish name. I later learned from one of the photograph captions that “Zelda” was, in fact, Mark’s maternal grandmother Zhenya. I inferred Zhenya’s maiden name, Basovsky, by virtue of knowing that her American sister Feiga’s maiden surname was Basovsky; I did not entertain the possibility of different fathers.
By now, it was late evening, 10:12 pm ET, of that first exciting and unique day. The flurry of emails continued unabated.
My Family name from my grand mom side is Ivriy [sic]
My grand mom last name is Ivriy she married Meir Ivriy. I was called after him.
My real name is Meir as well.
My grand, grandfather name is Gershan. More about Gershan — He was legendary person in
City of Boguslav but this later.
My Grand Father participated in War II as a solder from the first days war started.
He was killed in 1942.
My family was evacuated to the Kazakhstan and spent 3 years there. Family had priority #1,
because of my grandfather-war participator.
This what I know from my mom. Fruma was there as well.
I never saw letters from Faiga Calman from America because parents were not shared
this information with kids, they were afraid of K G B.
But I remember someone was translated those letters from Hebrew [sic, Yiddish] to Russian.
After war all family return back to Boguslav.
It is tons to say.
In fact fill free to call on my cell.
I now knew that there were three sisters: my great-aunt (by marriage) Feiga; Fruma, of whose life I learned only that she had escaped the Nazi plague by evacuating to Kazakhstan; and Zhenya, who was Mark’s maternal grandmother. Zhenya had two daughters, Busya and Feiga (a.k.a. Fenia); the latter was Mark’s mother.
Mark ended his 8:16 pm ET email signing it “Mark and my sister Maya” — revealing another family member’s name. I learned that Mark’s maternal grandfather was killed in action early in the war and that because of the grandfather’s sacrifice, Mark’s family safely spent three war years in Kazakhstan, returning to Boguslav after the war.
Years ago, my mother told me that our family did receive a letter, sent from Moscow after The War by a distant relative who declared that she was the sole family survivor — clearly, she was mistaken; whether there were other letters, and whether my great-aunt Feiga ever learned of her family’s war-time odyssey, I cannot say. I did stay in touch with Mark, for a time, with emails and telephone conversations. I could not tell him very much about his great-aunt Feiga, knowledge of whose American life was his mother’s forlorn quest; all that I could offer was that Feiga and her husband Kalman were childless, that they were beloved, and that they had passed away in the 1960s.
Mark sent me copies of the photographs that he had in his possession. These included a photo of Fruma that allowed me to associate a face with her fascinating letter to my mother in which she provides a vignette of daily life in pre-war Ukraine, and in which she makes clear that her heart ached for being separated from her far-away sister. I placed Mark’s photos on both the Boguslav and Tarashcha Kehilalinks.
I, in return, sent Mark a copy of the Sevransky Family history together with a copy of my mother’s Tarashcha memoir. Unfortunately, Mark gave me an incorrect home address and the books were lost, swallowed up in the byzantine pathways of the Post Office despite the efforts of that august agency to trace the mis-addressed books. As a consequence, I made a “fatal” mistake for any family historian; I stopped communicating with Mark rather than just sighing and moving on and continuing to learn more about my extended family. I have since been unsuccessful in reconnecting with him. Nevertheless, despite my blunder, my Tarashcha KehilaLink did endow me with the blessing of an unanticipated, if truncated, gift. Mark, for his part, with persistence, succeeded in attaining his mother’s belated goal of locating her American family.
New York, New York, USA
Note: This article originally appeared in JewishGen’s Newsletter and Blog.
Research Notes and Hints
Richard Baum was contacted by Mark in response
to one of the KehilaLinks webpages Richard had created on JewishGen’s website
regarding his mother’s ancestral towns. As a result of this new connection,
Richard learned more about his mother’s family and Mark fulfilled his own
mother’s wish to find her American kin.
You can check to see if there is a KehilaLinks webpage regarding your own ancestral town here.
If there is no KehilaLinks page for your town, please consider creating one. Click here to learn how.
Richard was unable to reconnect with Mark because they did not keep in touch over the years and old email addresses no longer yielded a response. Once you make contact with previously unknown relatives, it’s advisable to maintain some level of connection in order to keep contact information current.