Birthday Post for Elaine

If my mother, z”l (may her memory be blessed), were alive today she would be 84. So I decided to go up to my attic and bring down a few of the photos from her youth. The first one was taken in Russia, as I recognize my great-grandmother in the photo:
barskaya family
My mother is the little girl on the far left. My great-grandmother is sitting on a chair (I recognize her because she looks exactly like that in a different photo in a family album in which my mother identified her). My grandmother, my mother’s mother, is sitting on the far right. I am guessing the others are siblings of my grandmother (supposedly she had nine siblings) and their children.

This next one is definitely in New York City:
And the one at the right seems to be my mother as a young teen, probably about the age of my eldest child.

In the New York City photo, one can see my grandmother, my mother at about age 5 or 6, and my grandfather, whom I never met. In many of the photos he seems to be holding a cigarette in his hand. I’m sure that played a factor in his dying when my mother was only 14 years old. My grandmother used to smoke; it was what one did, back then. When it was reported in the early 1970s that smoking was bad for one’s health, my grandmother threw her cigarettes away. I remember finding chewing gum in her purse. I don’t believe my mother ever smoked.

All her life my mother made friends easily. Here is a photo of her with a friend whom I suspect is named Hilda, because I found the name “Hilda” written on the back of a different photo:
elaine and hilda
I think they were graduating from Smith College (thank you, Jendeis; see her comment #8), where my mother did a masters in physics.

Here’s a picture of my mother (far right) and grandmother (next to her) with two friends. I do not know the friends. Perhaps someday someone will read this post and say, hey, that’s *my* grandmother:

Years ago, someone told me that Jews don’t celebrate birthdays, we celebrate “death” days (the name for this in Yiddish is Yahrzeit). Well, in my family we *do* celebrate birthdays, but a yahrzeit does have extra special meaning, in a different sort of way. My mother’s yahrzeit (the anniversary of her death) is soon after the Jewish holidays. So in late October, I’ll do another post about my mom.

One of the photos I found was of Mariampole, which is the town in Lithuania from which my maternal grandfather came. That photo is now in a post called Greetings from Mariompole.

 My posts on my mother

41 thoughts on “Birthday Post for Elaine

  • Thank you Leora for sharing the photos and those little bits of your family history. Do you know where in Russia the first photo was taken?
    This post is a great tribute to your mother (may her memory be a blessing) but also to her family.

  • Thanks, MiI.
    Ilana-Davita, my mother was born in Leningrad (what is now once again St. Petersburg). My grandmother was originally from Odessa. No, I don’t know the location of that photo.

    I look at that photo, and I see the sadness on my grandmother’s face. I think she knows she will soon be leaving her family forever.

  • What wonderful photographs. I am imagining that in the bottom picture, the ladies were going somewhere together to draw and paint. Looks like the start of a lovely day. May your mother’s memory be a blessing, Leora.

  • I have lots of B&W photos of grandparents and siblings…and I am attempting to organize and scan for posterity. The past tends to get lost too easily.

    Likewise, Patti has received lots of her family in the early days in B&W photos. The past is really important, and pictures can make my memories come alive as I age…

  • Delurking to comment on these gorgeous photos! Also, just wanted to note that the graduation picture is likely for your mother’s master’s degree. See, the long sleeves with the loops at the bottom? Those are for master’s degrees; bachelor’s recipients just have regular sleeves on their robes.

  • Oh, thank you so much, Jendeis! I was really hoping someone could help me with these photos. You’ve made my day (as has everyone else who has commented thus far).

  • This post made me think, that I ought to post about my great-grandmother, I have a photo of her and even though I never met her, the stories I heard about her were too exiting to ignore. I’m curious about Mariampol (or Marijampole in Lithuanian) my great-grandmother came from Kaunas (a town about 20 km away from Marijampole), the thing is Lithuania was always full of Jews, because there were no laws prohibiting anything to them. The times have changed though, there are fewer and fewer Jews left here, though knowing the situation with anit-Semitic youths springing up like mushrooms, I suppose any other place but Lithuania sounds like a great place to live if you’re Jewish!

  • Robin, thank you for reading. And that was only a mere few of the many I have in this one album. My father has more, in boxes in his apartment, and I hope at some point I can go through those and scan them into post(s).

    Gail, yes, it does look like they were going to have an art day!
    Ralph, if you post some of your family, I would love to view.

  • Carra, now I’m getting shivers, good ones. You know about Marijampole? Or however one spells it? I’ve scanned it the postcard; it’s from the 1920’s, from my grandfather to great-grandmother in America. I’ll try to post it next week.

  • Leora, yes I know about Marijampole and how to spell it. In fact if there is any information you want me to find I can. I can even go there sometime and have a look into the archives for you. I’m fascinated about finding information about people, unfortunately most of my family records are too vague to trace, pity but neither of my parents liked answering my questions.

  • Carra, now I see from your blog that you are currently living in Lithuania. Wow, blogging is wild. What a connection. OK, I’ll have to do more exploration on the Friede side of the family…my maternal grandfather was Solon Friede, and he came to America as a teen.

  • That is a rare surname for Lithuania, it would be quite easy to find information on him in the archives if there is any.
    Yes I am living in Lithuania, I was born here too, not by choice but what can I do ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes blogging is very wild but that is the fun of it!

  • I am wondering about spelling…I know my Lithuanian-descended friend refers to Vilnius, and my Jewish resources talk about Vilna. The postcard spells it Mariampole (no “j”), as does my grandfather in his writing on the other side.

  • Mariampole is the old way to spell it, now it is Marijampole. Vilnius is often referred to as Vilna, as it was occupied by the Polish who translated the name as Vilna (they still claim that it is their land). Lithuanian language has developed a little through the last eighty years or so, there have been many changes made with the names of places.

  • Leora, this summer because of Menahem’s brother’s petirah I was in a very contemplative mood, thinking about life and the mearning of life and I thought about your mother z”l,..she kept coming back to my mind…

    I thank you for these lovely pictures of her..I especially appreciate seeing her warm smile… brings back memories….

    yehi zichra baruch

  • wow leora……what amazing photos!! You are so lucky to have photos of your great grandparents….I don’t have any. they really are so precious.Especially when you have kids, it’s so important to have these little pieces of history connected to them.

  • That really was a beautiful post and tribute to your mother, Z”L.

    I love old photographs. We also have many, including pictures of my grandparents in Poland and Germany. I see so much history in them. What a great idea–to post about them. I’ll put that on my list of potential posts for the future.

    Shavua Tov!

  • great pictures
    what did your mom do with the MA in physics
    did i ever comment about the fires of hell that surrounded odessa (the rabbinic establishment was not fond of the city and its inhabitants)

    “we celebrate โ€œdeathโ€ days”

    my grandmother refused to make a kiddush in shul for my grandfather’s jahrzeit. she sees no reason to mark the day with anything that smacks of festivity

    ืฉื‘ื•ืข ื˜ื•ื‘

  • LoZ,
    “what did your mom do with the MA in physics”
    Not much. She studied color, and her first job was working for some rug company on Long Island, making sure colors were right? After that she went into computers, which were brand-new and taking any math or science graduates. That’s how she met my father.

    It is a bit weird, the kiddush in memory tradition. I’ve never done that (for me, it’s more of the public thing: no one here knew my mom). In late October, I’ll post about my own little memorial tradition.

  • Regarding Lithuania genealogy: My paternal side is from a small Shtetl in Lithuania, and I have been doing genealogical research for about 20 years. Many records were burned during the Holocaust. Vilnius holds most of the remaining records. One can hire a researcher, but they are so backlogged that it is now taking at least one year for some information to be gained. The cost can be expensive.

    I have not hired anyone, and am trying to find information on my own, to no avail, so far.

  • Lori, thanks so much for writing about the Lithuanian research. I’m planning to post at least one of the postcards later this week. I also have a book about Lithuanian Jewish history by Marsha Greenbaum.

    It’s great that you do research; I find emotionally it’s difficult for me to look too much into the past.

  • ” Perhaps someday someone will read this post and say, hey, thatโ€™s *my* grandmother:”

    i have a collection of turn-of-the-century studio portraits from the lower east side. one day i’ll post some in the unlikely chance a reader recognizes someone

  • Leora…I have a few Lithuanian Jewish history books, myself.

    Research is emotional, for sure. I find myself very teary-eyed when finding new facts about individuals. The past can be haunting…very haunting…

    I’m trying to trace my genealogy as far back as possible, for my children…part of their Jewish legacy.

  • Thank you for this post which is detailed. I learnt too much and I spent a good lesson of English with your blog post.
    Good luck with your blog !

  • it’s an interesting post because there is lots of truth.
    the story that you tell is very thorough.
    more over you speak of the soviet because there are lots of people who forget to speak about of them. Thank you and goodbye
    PS : i’m a french studient who had learn your post

  • Such a touching post. My relatives also came from Russia and Lithuania and…I’m struck by how much your mother looks like someone I know well. I don’t have good records of our ancestors…and wish I did to track down relatives.

    Your mom is to be commended for a Masters degree in her time. What you say about smoking back then is sadly so true. I know of many who died from cancer because of the social pressure and thank goodness, also know of others who threw out those cigarettes. I’m glad I found your blog.

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