Setting the Record Completely Straight re My Aunts
The idea behind this story comes from my son, Elisha, who suggested that, by giving a bit more detail on my two aunts, mentioned in my earlier story concerning my long lost family, we may, via the intricacies woven by the World Wide Web, learn something (more) about them or perhaps even locate some "new" relatives.
[I originally wrote piece this story in September, 2008, but I found out a little more information, so I am adding this seamlessly on 1st April, 2009]. The original is still on the web.]
I wrote in that story that my father was the only survivor of his family. This is not quite precise. My grandfather, Bela Baruch Kaufman, was married twice. I have no detail at all of his first wife. She disappeared from the picture (died? divorced? probably the former) many years before my father's birth in 1915. My father was the fourth [according to my dad's cousin -- but I remembering him saying he was fifth, but my memory may not be serving me well] and youngest child of grandfather's second marriage, to my grandmother, Fanny Feige Prager. Feige was the (second?) daughter of Rabbi Avrohom ha Levi Prager who served as a Town Rabbi and Av Beth Din (head of the rabbinic court) in the town of Topolcany in western Slovakia. He previously served as Rabbi to the Poalei Tzedek community in Pressburg (Bratislava) and was brought to Topolcany to assume the mantle of leadership of the Jewish community in 1883.
My grandfather is buried in Topolcany next to my grandmother, but that doesn't tell us much because it is our custom to be buried along side the wife with whom one had the greater number of children; and second, it was my father who buried his own father, so I think you would expect him to bury his father next to his mother in the absence of any other will or testament.
My father once mentioned that he had an older sister (from his father's first marriage) who had never married and was getting on in years. In 1928 or 1929 she left for America. I believe her name may have been Irene -- though she may have used another designation in her new home. My father was only twelve or thirteen years old at the time. She may have been twenty or more years older than my dad. One of my father's (younger) cousins told me she had some cloudy memories of this lady. But she (and all the other cousins I have located) are from my grandmother's side, hence not blood related. I am not aware of anyone from my grandfather's side. His story is a total blank other than the text on his grave. On the stone he is recorded as "the son-in-law of Rav Prager" (and the son af Ya'acov); no further detail. I assumed that my father had no communication with his sister after she left Europe. However, my cousin, Jana Prager Gottshall, told me that after the war my father used to joke that everyone was receiving care packages from the U.S. but he had to send money to his sister.
So I guess at least as of 1947, she was not doing to well in the "Promised Land" where the "streets were paved with gold".
So if someone out there in InternetLand can pick up a thread here, we would be happy to hear from you. Perhaps my aunt married in the United States and we have hundreds of descendant cousins over there.
I have previously mentioned my Aunt Elizabeth Boszi Lichtenstein whom we discovered in London in the sixties. My father had lost contact with her after the war. She wrote us very warm letters, was thrilled to have made contact again with "her" family, sad to have "lost" my father again so soon after having rediscovered him. Her correspondence continued after his death.
I visited her in London in 1974. She was very excited when I met her in the flesh. She told me her family history. She even apologised to me (now this was a bit weird -- after all I was 21, she probably had passed 80) for remarrying after the war. She loved my uncle, but when she was certain he wasn't going to return home, she was lonely and married for company. And now she was alone again. This wasn't an easy conversation for an immature university student.
I can't remember in which part of London she lived -- I think it was somewhere towards the north. It was on a main, four lane road which had a division between the two sides. I had to catch a bus to get there, so it could not have been too close to a tube station. (I must search though my old records but don't like my chances. A lot my personal records were thrown away when my worldly goods were moved in my absence when my mother remarried and moved house.)
My aunt lived in a two story house with four bedrooms upstairs. I remember that because I discussed with her the possibility of me coming to London to study Computer Science at Imperial College. She said that she was unable to get upstairs due her deteriorating health and would be happy for me to "live upstairs, undisturbed". It was certainly tempting offer.
My mother once said that when she goes on to the next world, she will "surely leave you two boys something. She doesn't have another living relative." I don't know if indeed she owned any material possessions in this world and whether there was something to leave; or perhaps she had a favourite charity that was very close to her heart.
One day, out of the blue, we received a letter from a neighbour of Aunt Elizabeth, informing us that she passed away three or four months earlier. Nothing else. One paragraph. No details. Not even where she was buried.
Were we silly not follow this up? Had someone cut us out of the picture? Or perhaps she really had no material possessions? Or she had a special, pet project to benefit?
We'll probably never know.
Menachem Kuchar, 17th September, 2008
And don't forget to look at my latest (and classic) photographs at www.menachem.co.il