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Clues from a Photo Album

Cousins Reunited after Nearly 100 Years

“During all his life Valentin thought that he didn’t have cousins, and suddenly he gained almost one hundred cousins in Brazil.”

Text of an email from Eliana Aizim,
gently edited by Meredith Hoffman

Daniel Freilikher about 1934
Valentin's father, Daniel Freilikher, ca. 1934

My story started in the beginning of 2004, when my cousin Mario Aizen (from my paternal family), who had inherited my grandmother’s photo album, told me that there were some photos in it of people he didn’t know. He said: “Maybe they are our grandmother’s friends from Russia.”

I was already searching for my mother’s family, and I knew JewishGen and I loved it. I told him I would like to take the photos to post them at ViewMate: first, for recognition of the people in it and, second, to ask JewishGenners for a translation from Russian of the inscription on the back of the photo. Nobody answered about the recognition, but many JewishGenners translated the inscription.

Tania, Vitya, and Dina Freilikher

Great-aunt Tania and her children
Vitya and Dina, ca. 1934

The photo showed a woman with her two daughters - a close-up of their faces. When I received the translations, I learned that the older woman was my grandmother’s sister and her daughters were my grandmother’s nieces; in other words, my great-aunt and my cousins. I learned their names (Tania, Vitya, and Dina) and surname (Freilikher) and the name of the city where they lived (Konstantinovka). My family had never heard those names and surname before, nor the name of that city. So I looked up in the map at ShtetlSeeker and it was not very far away from the city where my father was born (Lugansk, Yekaterinoslav Gubernia, Ukraine).

I called Mario to tell him the good news. He was very glad to know it, and for him, everything would have ended at that point. That was sufficient for him. But not for me, because I knew JewishGen’s site very well.

I looked for the surname Freilikher at FamilyFinder, and I found Linda Fischer, in United States, who was searching for Freilicher in Russia. I sent her a message with the photograph of the three Freilikhers, and she answered me that they were not from her family. [She said] that some years ago, she had exchanged emails with Vladimir Freilicher, from St. Petersburg, and she sent me his email address. I wrote Vladimir a message with the attached photo, and he answered me that they weren’t from his family, either; but a couple of years before, he had exchanged emails with Valentin Freilikher, whose family was from Konstantinovka, and who was now living in Israel. He sent me Valentin’s email address.

Verso of photo of Tania and her children

The translation of the inscription on the back of the picture,
made by JewishGenners, was "For memory, to dear
Lidochka and her family, from aunt Tanya, Dina and
Vitya Freilikher. 7/IV/34. Konstantinovka. Vitya upper,
Dina lower." Lidochka was Lidia, my dad’s sister.
It’s written from aunt Tanya, so Tanya was Lidia’s aunt.

I sent Valentin a message with the attached photo, and he recognized the names of his grandmother and his two aunts and the name of the city. He wrote me that it was the first time that he could see the faces of his grandmother and his two aunts, for they had died during the Nazism. Since then, nothing else remained - no family, no photos, no letters, nothing.

I had discovered a new branch of our family. Before, one had never known the existence of the other. I was thrilled! This discovery was very important for Valentin and for me. During all his life he thought that he didn’t have cousins, and suddenly he gained almost one hundred cousins in Brazil.

Some weeks later, my cousin Mario found a photo of an unknown young man, and on the back side there was an inscription, written with the same kind of letters and the same pen and ink as that other photo of Tanya, Vitya, and Dina. Although it was written in Russian, we could identify the name Daniel. This was a photo of Valentin’s father, who died only five months before our first correspondence.

Last October I went to Israel to meet Valentin and his family for the first time. There are no words to express all the happiness that we all had, all the time. At Valentin’s mother’s home I saw a photo of Daniel when he was young, and in this photo he resembled very much the photo that we had. Through Valentin, I learned new information that will help me as I continue my genealogy research.

My grandmother came from Ukraine to Brazil in 1912. After ninety-three years of separation, we are connected again. I found this lost branch of my family! I Thank God. I thank you, JewishGen.

May 2010
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You can follow the course of Eliana’s research through these emails. [The emails have been edited only for grammar and spelling and shortened without sacrificing relevant content.]

In early April, Eliana posted the front and back of her photo to ViewMate and several readers volunteered translations for the inscription on the back. With these newly found family names, Eliana then searched in the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) for anyone else researching similar-sounding names, where she found Linda Fisher.

April 23, 2004: Eliana sends a query email to Linda.
I found out at JewishGen that you’re searching for the Freilicher family. I’ll tell you my story, because maybe there might be a connection between our families.

I’m doing my search through JewishGen. This week I have posted a photograph, front and back side, at ViewMate. I didn’t know who the three women of the photo were. When I received the translation of the inscription at the back side, I learned their names: Tanya, Dina, and Vitya Frejlikher or Freilikher; their relationship: my father’s aunt and her two daughters; their origin: Konstantinovka (Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, Ukraine); date: April 7, 1934.

My family, the Aisens and the Gurevichs, were both from Lugansk, Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, Ukraine, not very far away from Konstantinovka. I don’t know if Tanya is my grandmother’s sister or if she’s my grandfather’s sister. But probably her Frejlikher surname comes from her husband.

Enclosed I send the photo of the Frejlikher family.
Does it say anything to you?

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Eliana Aizim
from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

April 24: Linda replies that there is no match with her Freilicher family, but there was someone from St. Petersburg who was searching for another Freilicher family.
Hello Eliana Aizim from Oklahoma, USA

Below you will find everything I know about my husband’s Great Grandmother Ida Freilicher and a report on her descendants. I am afraid I cannot be of help to you with my information.
I also have corresponded with a Freilicher in St. Petersburg, Russia but I need to search for his address.

I wish you luck in your search. Thank you for the wonderful picture. I will keep it in my files just in case we discover a family connection.

May 2: Linda forwards to Eliana a two-year-old message from this Russian Freilicher researcher.
...From my grandfather I know that his brother immigrated from
Russia. His name was Schlayme Frelicher. It is possible that
his name was written as Solomon Frelicher or Freilicher. He
went to his cousin Herman Levin, who lived... On the fourth
of December 1912 my uncle arrived to New York by a ship....
I know that he was married, and had two children: a son
and a daughter. [....] My best wishes. Vladimir Freilicher.

May 9: Eliana sends an email to Vladimir Freilicher.
I’m searching for the Freilicher family and have had some exchange of mails with Mrs. Linda F, who is also searching for her Freilicher family. She told me about you and suggested that I write to you, and she gave me your e-mail address.

I’m searching for the family of Tanya Freilicher / Frejlikher / Freilikher (and variations) who had two daughters, Dina and Vitya. Tanya was my father’s aunt, and they lived in Ekaterinoslav Gubernia. It’s clear for me that Freilicher was her husband’s surname, but I don’t know his first name. I’m sure that in 1932 Tanya, Dina, and Vitya were still living in Ukraine. This is all I know about them.
Is your Freilicher family the same as my Freilicher family?

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Eliana Aizim
from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

May 10: Vladimir responds the next day with the information on his Freilicher family, including the name of the town they came from and the neighboring large city.
... It was a surprise for me to receive your letter. It is possible that the Freilicher family you are searching for is the same as mine. Cause my grandfather lived in Ekaterinoslav Gubernia in small town Krivoj Rog not far from Ekaterinoslav. There my father was born in 1931. Then in 1932 they moved to Leningrad (Saint-Petersburg) Russia. I know that my grandfather had relatives, his brother Schlayme moved to the USA in 1912 and lived in Toledo OH. Unfortunately that’s all I know about my relatives.

Thank you very much for your letter, if you know any other information, please let me know.
Vladimir Freilicher
from Saint-Petersburg, Russia

May 11: Eliana replies and notes that her Freilikher family came from Konstantinovka, not very close to where Vladimir’s Freilichers came from.
I think that there might be a possibility of your family being related to my family due to the fact that both families lived in the same region of Ekaterinoslav Gubernia. Although the city where my Freilikhers lived was Konstantinovka, quite far away from yours. But I still think it’s possible.
I’ll keep your information in follow-up, just in case.
Please feel free to write to me.

May 12: Vladimir replies to Eliana that three years earlier he corresponded with yet another Freilikher, who happens to have family coming from Konstantinovka.
Hello Eliana,
It’s great that you have mentioned that the Freilikhers you are searching for lived in Konstantinovka. About three years ago I found an article signed by Valentin Freilikher. I sent a message to him, and here is his reply to me:

Dear Vladimir,
Thank you for the message. It looks like we are just namesakes. My father says he has never heard about any relatives in Krivoy Rog. His family was from Konstantinovka (Donbas), then they moved to Stavropol where his parents and brothers where killed by Germans. We lived in Kharkov from 1945 till 1991. Now I’m a Professor of Physics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

With best regards,
Valentin Freilikher
I hope that this letter will help you....
With best regards,

May 13, 2004: Eliana sends Valentin Freilikher a detailed query explaining what she’s looking for.
I was recommended to you by Mr. Vladimir Freilicher, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, who exchanged emails with you in 2001. He said that your family lived in Konstantinovka, Ukraine. I also had Freilikher family from Konstantinovka. For this reason I’ll tell you my story.

My name is Eliana Aizim, ... and I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My grandparents were Pavel/Pincus/Paulo Aisen and Sophia/Sonia/Sheva (née Gurevich) Aisen. They lived in Lugansk, Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, Ukraine, leaving for Brazil in approx. 1912 with their 8 children: Nahum, Miguel/Misha, Tania, Lydia, David, Mery/Mania, Adolfo/Abram, Arnaldo/Aron.

My grandmother had a photography album that was untouched since her death in 1956 until now. Two months ago, my family was organizing the photos and one of them was unknown to all of us. It had an inscription on its back, in Russian language, but none of us was able to read Russian. Finally I got a translation through JewishGen, a genealogy site. It was written: “For memory to dear Lidochka and her family from aunt Tanya, Dina and Vitya Freilikher. 7 April 1934. Konstantinovka.” You can find the photo with its inscription attached to this email.
We know that Lidochka was Lydia, my father’s sister. And we learned that we gained a new family whom we had never heard of, the Freilikhers. As I’m involved with genealogy, I decided to search for our new family and their descendants. Do you belong to my family?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes,
Eliana Aizim

Eliana and Valentin meet in Israel

I visit the Freilikhers in Tel Aviv, Israel (Valentin, Nelia, and I)

May 18: Valentin writes back, confirming that he is Eliana’s second cousin.
Dear Eliana,
Thank you very much for your message. I was absolutely stunned reading it and looking at the attached picture. You would not believe it, but it was the first time in my life that I was looking at the faces of my so close relatives. But let me first to introduce myself. My name is Valentin Freilikher. I’m ... Professor of Physics in Bar-Ilan University in Israel. ... My mother Tamara is 84 years old. We immigrated to Israel from Ukraine in 1991. My father Daniel Freilikher passed away 5 months ago at the age of 88. His mother’s name was Tatiana (Tanya). They lived in Konstantinovka.

At the beginning of the War II they fled to Melitopl', where the WHOLE FAMILY (father, mother, brothers, and sisters) was captured and killed by Fascists. Only my father survived because as an officer of the Soviet Army he was at the front at that time. He was badly wounded in 1941, spent more than two years in hospitals all over the country, and when he got back to normal life, not only all his family was gone, but no mementos (letters, photos, family souvenirs, just nothing) left. For Daniel it was the tragedy of his life that tortured him to his very last day. He cried each time when his relatives were mentioned.

That is why we never talked about his family and I knew practically nothing about my relatives from father’s side. There are no doubts that people in the picture you have sent are my grandmother Tatiana, and my aunts (father’s sisters) Dina and Victoria Freilikher. All of them have been buried in a communal grave in Stavropol' in August 1942.

Thank you once again for writing to me. Please tell me more about yourself and your roots. What are our family connections? I hope our contacts will be close from now on.
With best regards,
Valentin Freilikher

Archives · Current Stories

Research Notes and Hints

See how important it is to include all possible relevant information—since even “negative” information can turn out to be the critical fact.

In this case, both Eliana and Valentin mentioned where (Konstantinovka) their families were from, in addition to the family names; if either Eliana or Valentin had not mentioned the place, Vladimir might not have thought to pass on the email that he had gotten from Valentin—to complete the links in the chain.

Also notice that making these connections takes time (and thus, patience), the process is not always direct, and it sometimes involves helping hands. Two conversations, one from two years before and one from three years before, failed to find any links. But finally the conversations converged, and Eliana’s and Valentin’s families were reunited.
- - - - - -
When you’re doing your own research, it’s very important to keep in mind that spelling doesn’t count.

Notice that the names in Eliana’s story have lots of variations. This is natural and common in Jewish genealogy. Be open to seeing a name spelled a bit differently—or even a lot differently. Sometimes researchers too quickly discard variant names and risk losing links to new parts of their families.

Note that Eliana AIZIM is working with her cousin Mario AIZEN. She refers to her ancestral family as AISEN, because this was approximately how their name would have been pronounced in the old country. Some descendants of the AISEN family in Ukraine became AIZIM and some became AIZEN.

The name on the back of Eliana’s photograph was transliterated from the Russian as FREJLIKHER or FREILIKHER. Eliana was smart to contact another researcher who was researching FREILICHER, even though the name was spelled slightly differently. That researcher passed on an email from Vladimir FREILICHER whose ancestor’s name was spelled FRELICHER.
- - - - - -
Eliana posted the front and back of an old family photograph to JewishGen's ViewMate, where she asked other JewishGenners to identify the people in the photo and translate the Russian written on the photo's back. She used JewishGen's ShtetlSeeker to locate her ancestors' town, Konstantinovka; she searched for and found other people who were researching the new-found family name, Freilikher, on the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF). You too can post emails asking for help in finding your ancestors and possible living relatives, by subscribing to the JewishGen Discussion Group mailing list, and to more than thirty Special Interest Group (SIG) mailing lists, here.

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Updated by MH on Monday, May 24, 2010 .

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