My family in Vishki
As far I remember I have always been passionated by my paternal ancestors. This probably comes from the fact that my Grand father told me stories about his life in his shtetl home Vishki in Latvia.
I remember him telling that his father was a giant,but probably he was not as my Grandfather was short,telling that they skated on the lakes in the winter,telling that the Cossacks which smelt very strong the sheeps while horse riding on the frozen lakes,took away the Jewish girls.I don't know if it is true but it impressed me a lot when I was a child.I remember him preparing horseradish,eating geesenecks,Chicken Liver pate.I also remember,that he corresponded with his beloved brother Boris(Berka-Shmuila)who was in a gulag sent him parcels with medicaments.Later on he told me secretly that he engaged into the army during WWI because he was in love with a cousin and the both parents didn't accept the mariage.The girl poisoned herself and he joint the army.
My Grandfather Zalman-Eliokim Usdin,named after his Grandfather Yankel(also Eliokim)Khaimovich was born in Vishki,a shtetl about 15 miles north of Daugavpils(Latvia)in 1889 to Beines Yankelevich(also Eliokimovich),born in 1862 in Vishki and Sora Kusevna Alterman,born in 1862 in Vishki.He was the fourth of a family of 9 children,his oldest brother being born in 1884,which supposes that Beines and Sora got married in 1883 at the age of 21,his youngest brother Khaim being born on April 17,1902.I know a little about all the brothers and sisters except for Khana,born in 1885 and Khaim.May be they died while young.
At the end of the XIXth century and beginning of the XXth century Vishki was a prosperous shtetl consisting mainly of artisans and small shopkeepers.In 1897 the population was 959,in which 668 Jews(70%),in 1914, 1200 inhabitants in which 850 Jews(68%)and in 1935,750 inhabitants in which 423 Jews(68%).
My Great Grandfather Beines was one of these artisans.He was a watch/clock maker.I don't know if he was rich but my Grandfather said,that he was much richer than his brother Nachman Yankelevich,whose occupation was trinket store merchant.
They ,five men and four women,lived in a two-stored wooden house with a roof covered with shingles(Первая всеобщая перепись населения утвержденнаго положения 5 июня 1895 года)They didn't owned the house.It was the house of Danilevich on Peterburgskaya ulitsa,now called Aglona ulitsa and called Komsomolskaya ulitsa during USSR.This street is the main street of Vishki.It starts on Kraslava street which goes to Kraslava on the left and to Spogi on the right and end at the Jewish cemetery of Vishki situated at the end of the shtetl and on the banks of a beautiful lake.There were shops on the both sides of the street as the documents of shop owners in 1935 shows.In these years 50 of the 58 shops were owned by Jews,including all the clothing stores,shoe stores,iron merchandising,haberdashery,and neibourhood groceries,except for one.78 of the 158 inns in the municipality were jewishly owned.
I don't think that my family was very religious but no doubt that my Grandfther had his bar-mitzvah at the age of 13 in 1902 by Rabbi Moshe Palzinski,who was known as "the prodigy of Sovalk"and officiated there for over 40 years until his death in 1907 at the wooden synagogue,which was on Riga st(now called Bazarnaya st) and built in 1880.He also went to the Jewish school,close to the synagogue.I don't know if he attended college but he spoke and wrote perfectly Yiddish,Russian and German.They also went to the mikveh and ,concerning that point, my Grandfather continued to go to bath houses on Fridays when he lived in Paris,though they had a bathroom home.
So as I said before my Grandfather enlisted during WWI because of a grief of love.He told that he saw czar Nikolay II in Riga.
He has been taken prisoner at the first beginning of the war,in November 1914.My father said he was a prisoner in a farm in Germany ,then in Stiring-Wendel,a town north of France near Merlebach,which was German then.He worked in the charcoal mines and was also a " Dolmetschen"(interpreter ).At the armistice he was sent to Dalhain(Moselle)with some other Russian soldiers to rebuilt the village,which had been partly destroyed during the war.He met my Grandmother,who was an orphan and raised her three younger brothers.The other Russian soldiers returned to Russia.My Grandfather stayed in France,first in Dalhain where my uncle was born in 1920,then in Paris,where my father Serge was born in 1923 and never saw his family again,except his brother David-Abraham.If he had returned to Russia he probably had perished in the holocaust as about 15 of his relatives.
I am not sure,that my Grandfather has been ever happy in France.He was a foreman at his first cousin Ruvin Nachmanovich's factory.Ruvin succeeded in France,was very rich and my Grandfather was not.But he was a very good man,loved by everybody.He talked very little and has been complexed all his life by his accent and the fact he has had three fingers cut in a machine in the 1940ies.He died of cancer in 1971 at the age of 82.He is buried in Paris.
My uncle remembers having seen my Grandfather crying when he received a letter from his brother Berka-Shmuil telling him that his father Beines died..This was in about 1924.He is buried in the St Petersburg cemetery named"Preobrazhenskoe"(transfiguration).
Beines Yankelevich,my Great Grandfather died in Leningrad,where he lived.After his wife Sora's death he remarried with Sarah Levina and a daughter Moussia(also named Marina was born in 1919.I met her several times in Leningrad and Boston(USA)where she emigrated in the 1970 ies.In the Soviet Union she was married to a Taitzer and they had one son Boris,who lives in the USA.Mussia Beinessovna Usdina died in 2003 in Boston.
Concerning my Great Grandmother Sora Kusievna,born Alterman I know very little.My Grandfather said,that she had polish origins,but her father Kusel Gershenovich Alterman was born in Vishki in 1833 according to the Archivs of Riga.No photo,nothing except,according to my Grand aunt Mussia Beinessovna,she was sent to a workcamp in Solikamsk in Ural and died there between 1902 and 1918.When I asked Mussia »Why ?»she answered »Just because she was a Jew ».I write between 1902 and 1918 because her last son Khaim was born in Vishki on April17,1902 and Beines Yankelevich,her husband remarried in 1918.I wrote to Solikamsk but could not have any info.Nobody could tell me if there were deportations of Jews in Latvia at this time.
My Grandfather beloved brother was Berka-Shmuila and as far I know among his brothers he was the only one he corresponded with.Berka-Shmuil was generally named Wulf and I’ll name him this way.He was born in Vishki on May,18, 1893.Such as my Grandfather and according to the photos he was an handsome man,but also a women lover!I don’t know when he left Vishki to live in Leningrad.He married to Mira(also Maria)Usdin ,whose maiden name was Maria Davidovna Perel born on Jan 19, 1911.Her father was David Perel (born in Odessa).He was a furrier; blond, very kind, with a great sense of humor,loved his wife and children.Her mother was Sonia Verbitzkaya,born in Warshava, aristocratic origins,dark haired,very severe.
Two children were born to Wulf:Sarah(Sophia)in July 1930 and Boris in April 1937.Both emigrated to Toronto(Canada)in 1975.I met them several times in Leningrad and Toronto.
I don’t know when Wulf divorced but it was before 1956 as in that year he married to Liuba,who was much younger than he was.A girl was born to them,Bella in 1957(I met her and her mother in St Petersburg).
Bella was still young when her father was sent to gulag after a denunciation for gold and currencies dealing and a sensational trial in Leningrad.He was sent somewhere south of Leningrad and died in the camp officialy of an heart attack on December23,1965 at the age of 68.He is still loved and admired by his children.
Dobe-Elka Beinessovna who was known as Dora was three years older than my Grandfather.She married to a Gellerman.Her son Semien and Grandson Lev Gellerman emigrated to the USA after 1965(the fact Semien visited his uncle Wulf in the gulag allows me to say this),so I think,that Dora died a little before 1965.I am familiar to her face as I have two photos of her sent to my Grandfather.
Rosa Beinessovna was born in Vishki in 1895.She married to Bor Shub and lived in Poland in the 192iesTheir son Semien was born april 22, 1920 and their daughter Bella was born April 22, 1932. They lived in Poland until the beginning of WWII. During the War they escaped on horses deep into the USSR.
From 1946 to 1972 they lived in Vilnius(Lithuania)
In 1972 when Rosa was 79 her whole family moved to Israel, she died there November 23, 1982.
I used to correspond with Semien but now he has alzenheimer and is in an hospital in Tel Aviv.
The drama of the family is the following.David-Abraham Beinessovich was born in Vishki in 1896.After 1925 he emigrated to Palestinia("Between 1925 and 1935 over 6,000 Jews left Latvia the overwhelming majority of the Jews left for the land of Israel") .There he was supported by his lover but decided secretly to emigrate to Peru.On the way to Cherbourg(a french port on the atlantic ocean)he stopped in Paris to meet my grand parents and stayed there several days.This was in the 1930ies.My father and uncle remember him and my dad said that he stayed long moments on his kness during his stay in France.He was a very handsome man,who wished to make a fortune in Peru.Why in Peru?
David-Abraham went on a ship to Peru, but his lover followed him and shot him. Of course an investigation has been made.Is he buried in Peru or his corpse thrown to the sea or repatriated to Latvia,only god knows and all my searchs have lead nowhere.I don't have anymore information as I couldn't find the name of the ship. This story was in the newspapers in France but I can’t find any info.In the 1897 Census David Abraham was the last son. After him a son was born in 1902,Khaim.
Kusel(also Konstantin) Beinessovich was named after his maternal Grandfather Kusel Gershenovich and born in 1884.He was the eldest child of the family.He was married to Revekka Aronovna,born in 1890 and he died in 1965.During the war he was evacuated far deep in USSR,in Barnaul where he died in 1947.His wife returned to Leningrad.They had one son David(also Dodik)born in 1913 and died at the age of 70.David’s wife was Fana Moissevna Kopilova,born in 1913,died in 1997.I often met with their son Micha Davidovich Usdin in St Petersburg.By the way my father and his father were first cousins.
That’s about all about my direct ascendants born in Vishki.
One of my Great Grandfather’s brother was Nachman Yankelevich.He was born in Vishki in 1857.In 1878 he married to Sora-Piesha Moshevna.,born in 1859.In 1897 four boys and two girls were born to them.Avsei,born in 1879,Ytzik,born in 1882,Ruvin,born in 1886,Berka,born in 1891,Ester-Rivka ,born on December28,1893 and Khaika,born in 1896.
Nachman’s occupation was trinket store merchant.They lived on Peterburgskaya ul. in the wooden house of Moll(a graf in Vishki)My Grandfather said,that he was poorest than his father Beines.His wife Sora-Piesha died in 1900 at the age of 41.Her tombstone remains in the Jewish cemetery of Vishki and the epitath is « Here lies
woman, good lady
daughter of Reb Moses, of blessed memory,
died 12th Kislev,
Let her soul be bound in the bundle of life. »
I put a stone on her tombstone during my last trip to Vishki in May 2008.
After his wife’s death Nachman married to a widow,Khana-Petia(also Gita)Yoffe (from a first marriage),who already had two children with Khaim Yoffe:Evguenia,born in Vishki in 1900 and Rakhmuil ,born in 1905 in Vishki.
A boy was born to them:Izrail in 1908 and killed during WWII on april 20,1945.His wife was Bernia Mikhailovna Berun.They lived in Sumi.Mark, their son was born in 1939.Mark lives in Israel.
Nachman Yankelevich died in 1915.Meanwhile his daughter Haya died on October 15,1909 at the age of 13.Both tombstones remain in the Jewish cemetery.Nachman’s epitath is:
« Here Lies Buried
A respected man The Saint Nachman
The son of Eliakum Usdin
Died on the 15th of Tevet 5676
(December 21/22, 1915)
May His Soul Be Bound Up in the Bundle of Life »
His wife Gita was killed by the nazis near Rezekne.I meet with her Granddaughter Galina Koltune when I am in Latvia.
Nachman Yankelevich and Sora-Piesha Moshevna’s second son was Ytzik,born in 1882 in Vishki.
Ytzik Nachmanovich married to Ida in 1909.They ran a leather and shoe shop on Aglona st.50.Their phone Number was 31.
They had three children: Sonia,born in 1910,Khaim(Fim)born on February10,1914 and Nachman,born in 1920.
Ytzik came to visit his brother Ruvin in France in about 1933.He should have staid there as:
On July 1941, local commanding centre started to recruit locals to identify and eventually bring together all Jews.
Ostrov Wood by the Vishki Lake was being prepared for the bloody operation, it was announced to the locals that Jews will be shot there, machine-guns were being installed.
Vishki District became a closed zone, all the Jews,in which Ytzik and Ida,their sister-in-law Genia Mordekhovna Usdin,born Notkina and her children Mira,born in 1924,Khaya-Bella born in 1925,Nachman,born in 1927 and Sara,born in 1933 were taken to Ostrov.Suddenly, an order came to call off the operation. Jews came back to their homes to prepare for transfer to Daugavpils Ghetto, where all the Jews had to arrive by July 26 1941.
Some Jews were shot in the village, on the Jewish cemetery. Most of the Jewish families from Vishki District (over a hundred in number), took their valuables in the bags and by the Kalnavishki road went in Daugavpils direction, both on foot and in horse carts. They all were shot near Vishki on the way to Daugavpils.Doctor Gurevich,an eye-witness said : “I saw everything. I heard shouts and moans of the poor desperate people. Some of them were fighting the murderers like lions. I saw how betrayed Jews, even wounded and bleeding to death, were attacking the executioners with their bare hands, some with stones, and were fighting till their last breath. These were strong, courageous people. About 20 shooters were wounded, and a few were strangled and taken with them to the pit”
Fim,during the war was in France and hidden near Montpellier.I think,that Sonia and Nachman had been evacuated in USSR.
Nachman Yankelevich and Sora-Piesha Moshevna’s fourth son was Bierka(named Boris)He is still known in Vishki for having been the richest man of the town.He was born in 1891.He married to Genia Mordekhaivna Notkina,who was born in Vishki in 1894.They had four children:Mira,born n 1924,Khaya-Bella born in 1925,Nachman,born in 1927 and Sara,born in 1933.They lived on Aglona st 64 and ran a leather shop.They were the first ones in vishki to have telephone.Phone Nbr.1 ( phone book of Vishki for year 1941) Boris was sent to gulag and when he came back his wife and children had been killed by the nazis.
In 1946 he met a widow Dina Abovna Glezerova and they got married.Dina had two sons Arkady and Samuel from a first marriage.I meet with Samuel when I am in Daugavpils.
Boris and Dina lived together in Dvinsk until Boris's death in 1964.He is buried in Riga.Dina died in 1969.
Nachman Yankelevich's third son was Ruvin,born in 1886.He emigrated to France before my grandfather and such as him lived in Paris all his life and never returned to Russia.He was naturalized in 1928,married twice,had three children and died of cancer a little after my Grandfather in Paris in 1971.He owned a factory and made a fortune in France.During WWI he was in the foreign legion.
Ester-Rivka Nachmanovna emigrated to the USA before 1940 but I don't know anything about her,except she was born on December28,1893(old style).
Kusel Gershenovich Alterman was born in Vishki in 1833.He was my Great Great Grandfather on my Granfather's mother's side.
He had children
-Sarah,born in 1862 in Vishki
-Bierko,born in 1862/63
-Leib,born in 1867 in Vishki
-Riva(Rivka)born in 1876 in Vishki
I already wrote about my Great Grand mother Sarah Kusievna Usdin,born Alterman.
Rivka Kusievna,born in 1876, married to Vishki petty bourgeois Morduch, son of Oscher Gram, born in 1873,on August 4 of 1901 .They had children:
· daughter Sora-Jocha Gram, born on July 12 (julian calendar) of 1903 in Vishki,
· daughter Esphir Gram, born on July 28 of 1916 in Vishki.
· son Kusiel Gram,born in March 8, 1905 in Vishki.
He lived at 8,Zvaigzhnu Street in Talsi and the 1935 census for Talsi record that Kushiel Gram was a seller in the firm of J. Jeruchmanov & Sons in Talsi.His wife was Haja-Schiffre Kramer.
Rivka ran a Colonial products shops on Aglona st 38 and 147.Her daughter Esphir Morduchovna lived with her in a house,that they owned on Aglona st(N° not stated)in 1935.
Rivka Gram was killed by the nazis at the age of 65.
Morduch and Rivka Gram's daughter Sora-Jocha married to Aron Pogil, born February 15 of 1896 in Vishki. They had at least one son Schloma Pogil, born on November 11 of 1929 in Vishki. According to the census for 1935 the family of Aron Pogil lived in Vishki at Rigas Street 112. They ran a drapers shop on Aglona st 41 and owned a house on Riga st 112.
Aron and Sora-Jocha Pogil wer killed by the nazis.
Morduch and Rivka Gram's daughter's Judasha married to Rezekne petty bourgeois Abram, son of Itzik Miransky, born in ca 1865 .They had children:
-son Itzik Miransky, born on August 18 of 1895
-son David Miransky, born on February 17 of 1899 in Dvinsk,
-daughter Hasia-Feiga Miransky, born in 1900
-daughter Scheina Miransky, born in ca 1901
- twins – daughter Basschewa Miransky, born on November 8 of 1903 in Dvinsk,
- daughter Michla Miransky, born on November 8 of 1903 in Dvinsk.
I don't know anything about their fate.
Morduch and Rivka Gram's son Leib married to Sora-Iska, daughter of Salman, nèe Seltzer, had children:
-son Gerschon-David Alterman, born on June 16 of 1890 in Dvinsk,
-daughter Dweira Alterman, born on May 14 of 1898 in Dvinsk.