Ever since I was a teenager I have been dreaming of visiting the birthplaces of my paternal grandparents. Why not also being interested in visiting the birth sites on my maternal family too? you might ask yourself. Well, it is because I knew where they come from. As simple as that. These places were no mystery to me. I think it might also be because my Oma always answered my millions of questions and therefore my curiosity was simply satisfied (my Opa Walter Gans passed away before I was born in 1959 and my Oma Erika Benjamin passed away when I was forty-two years old in 2006). I considered myself lucky to be able to have listened through the years to many of the old stories, learned all about their life back in Germany, recorded the names of their parents and relatives, and seen and discussed all the black and white photos they brought back from Europe before WWII. My biggest treasure from this side of the family is a diary that my grandfather Walter wrote during their emigration journey from Hamburg to Lima in 1938. Imagine my surprise when I got it. It was given to me as a present about four years ago. This report was part of a letter that my grandfather sent to his sister Grete in Switzerland and only more than sixty years later it was given to me by Margrit Krommes, the wife of Gerhard, Grete´s son. She saved this document especially for me. All the other letters were destroyed after Grete’s death. I am really sorry that I will never be able to know what was written in there, especially when I am sure that my grandfather must have told Grete how life back then in Lima was.
But this is not the same situation that I encountered on the other side of my family. I got only silence and no words to tell a thing. But even though I have tried really hard to know all of this information as well, I was not succesful enough in finding it. It is because of many reasons, I guess. This urge of revealing the impossible is what has driven me for more than forty years in trying to rediscover and disclose the names of their birthplaces and to give my best shot to retrace their emigration process and life back in Bessarabia.
Let me tell you, that it is not so long ago since I know that it is Yedenets (in Yiddish, written as pronounced in Spanish) the name of the village, city or shtetl where my grandmother Lise (Liza, Luisa) Kaufman was born. I have waited for more than half of my life to know this basic detail in my family search and I was only able to descipher it through the help of tia Berta Cogan, a friend of my parents and the mother of my school friend Benny. If tia Berta, on October 1, 2010, would have not written to me a message on Facebook wishing us Shana Tova, a good year, and telling me that she will help me investigate my family history, I would be until today in the darkness and would probably not been able to visit one of my ancestral family places yet. In her next email, though, she mentioned that she knew that my grandmother was born in Yedenets because her mother and my grandmother were neighbors back then, that my grandparents were friends of her uncle and aunt and that these facts were what created the long friendship she had with my father. Of course I was so happy to know about this potential clue being resolved but I needed a proof to confirm it. Around two weeks later, I got this mystery cleared up when she informed me about a document that her researcher have found confirming not only that my grandmother was officially from Yedenets (Ediniti) but also that her date of birth was November 6, 1906. This was a revelation to me because we never knew exactly her date of birth (according to my cousin Denise, she celebrated it in December and it is also the day when her father celebrated his birthday. My mother, on the other hand, always said that nobody in the family ever knew her exact birthday because she must have been older than my grandfather). I have read, though, that birthdays were not celebrated back then in Bessarabia and that they were registered long after they were born. So who knows? Tia Berta´s researcher also was able to find the arrival passengers list at the Port of Callao, stating in it the name of their steamship, date of arrival, and country of origin. Through this new information I have been able to discover new clues but I will tell you more about it in another post.
To be continued….
Road to Yedenets: October 31, 2016. Photos by Yvette Merzbacher.
My maternal grandmother, Erika Gans. Constance, 2005.
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