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1910 - A Family's History in the Context of World History

Two Articles from:

The New York Times
Sunday, April 24, 1910

Man in the Arena article Expulsion article - Stolypin

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Ivy Sprig

May 2, 1968

Dear... [Grandchildren and Great Grandchild]

grandparents We received your letter just now and also the picture of little Sandy. Believe us, you have prolonged our lives for ten years with that little picture, and your writing to us makes us very happy. Believe us when we say that we miss the three of you.

You want to know what we remember from Russia when we lived there. Well, now we will tell you. We can tell you one thing - that under the Czar's rule we had it better than the Jews have it there now. Of course, we lived in a small town where there were ten or twelve Jewish families; and if you wanted to buy a small piece of land to build a house and farm, you weren't allowed to, but had to rent from the Gentile people.

The fact is that I had my aunt's son there; and he went to college, as his parents were wealthy, and they gave money under the table to the proper authorities. He worked for the government and issued marriage licenses, etc., equivalent to working in the county court in the U.S. When they found out he was a Jew, they refused to give him his college diploma that he well deserved. His parents were forced to sell everything and move to Turkey. There they bought some land and had a large farm. They moved away in 1908.

In 1909, war broke out between Turkey and Greece. The soldiers on both sides set all the buildings on fire. My father's mother had 60,000 rubles in a safe there, and one of their sons ran in to retrieve the money and almost half of his face was burned - and he didn't get the money. When he returned to our little town in Russia, he wore underwear and a black coat. When he died, he was buried in clothes given by charity.

My uncle passed away, and she was left alone with one daughter, and they lived with an elderly Jewish man who used to work on their farm; as her sons left the country. My aunt was compelled to pick feathers to make pillows. This happened in the year 1910, when I brought Grandma to this country.

We lived in a basement apartment in New York City, and paid $3.00 a month rent. I received a letter from my aunt in the old country. I brought home $7.00 a week salary, so Grandma sent $3.00 to her - which was 6 rubles - every now and then.

So that is our life story about Russia. I will tell you one thing though - we weren't afraid to go out at night, as no one bothered us like it is in this country now. Of course, there was a big pogrom in 1905 in Besserabia (Romania). It was a big town. But in the small towns, the Jewish people, as a whole, had peace. They used to give a ruble to a policeman, and the Jewish people used to sell tobacco.

Conditions with the Jews in Russia, I understand, are no better now than when we lived in Europe; and perhaps even worse.

I think that I have given you a thorough outline of what went on back in the old days when we were in Russia. If you are having peace there now, stay there and enjoy yourselves while you can, even though we miss you. Give Sandy a big hug and kiss for us. We love you all.

Hershel and Zesil

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