Category Archives: Who Were You Dora?

SATURDAY’S MYSTERY: WHO WERE YOU, DORA? CROWDSOURCING Q. 7

This is Feige /Zipora, the other sister mentioned in part one of the letter. My grandmother immigrated in 1933
This is Feige /Zipora, the other sister mentioned in part one of the letter. My grandmother immigrated in 1933

Note: This is part eight of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

Note the text marked in blue. As an English teacher I can say I've never read an error that so broke my heart. We know her future...
This is part two of last week’s letter. There’s a word I can’t make out in English with a word in Yiddish above it. A kind soul online thinks it might mean”respected”. I can’t quite see how it fits in.

“…. I have not a dictionary and not using English I forget from time to time. My English is very bad now not true? That I can write you about me. I can add more, that my cousin from Kowel invited me to come to him for the Pesach. I could amuse myself for some days. But from known to you causes I can not come to him.

Perhaps have you good bews for us? Please don’t loook that I write not soon, write sooner answer. Understand, that I am younger and therefore all the troubles influence on me so strong. I must confess that I am not at all ??? Each little thing oldnesses me I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it will pass when all things will be better.

yiddish word 1

I write a little too more and such things that I have not to write. I hope that you will nit be angry, sometimes a man must tell something from the heart, it is very difficult to keep all in himself. Excuse for the letter full of blunders, I think you will understand it.

How do you do? Have you work? Let we hope that the bad will not be for ever, and there will come better times to our family. I shall finish now. My lovely regards to you and all our uncles and cousins.

Your loving sister,

Dora

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? Crowdsourcing Q. 6

This is Bluma, one of the half sisters mentioned. Photo taken sometime before 1935, when she immigrated. Bluma was the last sibling to leave. Very stylish!
This is Bluma, one of the half sisters mentioned. Photo taken sometime before 1935, when she immigrated. Bluma was the last sibling to leave. Very stylish!

Note: This is part seven of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

The answer to last week’s unknown subject at the University is stomathology, which means Dentistry. Thanks again to Beata & Sandy for the answer!

This week’s letter is clearly dated – March 18, 1939. Almost a half a year before the war.  Do you think the women really wore particularly fashionable dresses at that time ( “a great luxus”) or did it just seem that way to a 19 year old girl who couldn’t afford any?

Dear Lillian,

There passed a long time, that I did not write to you a letter. Believe me, that I am to occupied with the house work and troubles that I forgett even in myself. Many times I wish to sit and write to you some words, bit so it happens that I have nothing good to write you and I am also very lazy to write.  But in your letter to me I find so much warm words, I feel after reading it, that beside sickness and troubles I have even far from me an heart which loves me a little. Is it not true? Now is the Saturday at evening. All the day I set at house and I write you the letter.

Very good news I have not to write to you, the same as your letter does not bring them. You know, many times I fall in such a desperation that I think that over our family hangs such a fate, which directs our life. I see that all my school friends study farther, they dress themself according to the latest mode, they know from a life. None of them does not live in such troubles as I.  The same is with Bluma and Feige in Palestine and aslo with you in U.S.A. Bluma is a very beautiful girl (so she was when she goes to Palestine, now I do not know). Now she is in Palestine, she must work hard and care for herself and what has she there? The same is with you. But better not to speak.

No wonder Dora looks so sad in this photo - it was taken just before Bluma left. it says so on the back. They were close in age and must have been close.
No wonder Dora looks so sad in this photo – it was taken just before Bluma left. it says so on the back. They were close in age and must have been close.

I myself am also a little ill. I went to a physician and he said that it is aneme (wanting of blood). {obviously anemia,} He said that it comes from troubles et cetera. He said that I must leave the home for a month (because he cures my mother and the father, so that he knows all). But it is (not) possible, as it is (not) possible for me to come to America, But let I have such a trouble with my mother as with myself. All my time I spend at house, I does not go to any place, Many times I can not leave the house and the mother and sometimes when I can go or I have not fit clothes (there is is to day a great luxus in the country).

To be continued (it’s a long letter)…

 

 

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? Crowdsourcing Q.5

This is Libby, the half sister Dora was writing to in the U.S.A. She could not have had real memories of Libby. The photo is dated April 27, 1925 stamped by a US photographer's studio. Dora was only born in 1920...
This is Libby, the half sister Dora was writing to in the U.S.A. She could not have had real memories of Libby. The photo is dated April 27, 1925 stamped by a US photographer’s studio. Dora was only born in 1920…

Note: This is part six of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

There's only one word that isn't clear in this letter. It is clear that Dora's life is unravelling...
It's not dated but I believe it's from September 1938.

*** Beata Gulati has supplied some very interesting suggestions to explain the problematic bits of Dora’s previous letter. You can find them at the bottom of the previous post.

“Dear Sister,

Really there passed a long time since I got from you a letter and a post cart but till today I had not find time to answer you. When a man has troubles and is not contented from the circumstances he forgets from all. Now when the father writes you a letter I wish also to answer you.

Thank you very much for the pictures, I was very happy with them. I showed them to my friends and they did not believe I have such beautiful sister. You look very fine and young. Your cart from your vacation I got also and thank you a second time.
About me I have none interesting things to write. My vacation I spent in Brest. I can not leave the house because my mother is ill. All my friends went to Warsaw to study farther in the university. They study all English because here in Warsaw you are not accepted in medicine, stuiathology (??? see below) or other, only in humanistic  it means to learn languages. I remain here and till today I do nothing because they are not yet accept to Jews and I am without working.
The wintertime is nearand there comes new troubles. Till the time that I was a pupil in school I did not need much money for dresses et cetera… But now I must dress myself better and in my present conditions it is difficult because I can not take all from the father. My mother is ill so what we must spend money on physicians and medicine. That’s about me.

unknown subject at Univ
unknown subject at Univ

From Palestine we have none letter. We hear very bad news from here (there?), this also brings new troubles.

I write you enough not necessary things, excuse me for this, but sometimes a man must tell a little to the other.

Perhaps have you better news?”

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? Crowdsourcing Q.4

We can only see reflections of the girl who once was... (Naomi's Photos)
We can only see reflections of the girl who once was…
(Naomi’s Photos)

Note: This is part five of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

Today’s letter is not dated, but it must have been written in November 1937, since Dora writes that she will graduate in six months. We know from the first letter that I posted that she graduated in May 1938.

In this letter it is clear that Dora was not very impressed with the manners of an American visitor, an American who was once a townsman… The letter is torn in places. Any thoughts as to what the missing words may have been are appreciated. There are also two words I cannot make out. As always, I have not changed grammar or spelling.

“Dear Libby,

There passed already a long time that did not write to you anything. I am very busy, many times I sit till twelve and one o’clock in the night and learn. I finish this year the school and I must get a maturity test (called here matura). It is very difficult, because I shall be asked __________ (missing word) a ???? ( word I can’t make out) which consisted of not y________ (only the first letter of missing word remains) so that it is difficult to get such _______________ (missing).

rude american 1

 

You asked me in your letter if I wish really come to America. I can say that this American who was with us summer is a very silly man if he thought about this seriously. He saw that my mother is a sick woman, so that I can not leave the house. I am not yet in such bad conditions here in Poland.

Missing piece

…as beggars. We accepted him as a friend who came after 24 years from America. I don’t know if he did not see a more beautiful house in America, he thought that we are very rich. He is a great “sow” called commonly, for instance, he was ___________ (torn) with us and not leave for our house girl who served him a  ????? (can’t make out). The Europians are more cultured and with better characters than in America. I cannot imagine that a man who was 24 years in America can behave himself so that he did.  He does not write even to us. It will be enough about him. It will be very tedious ________________ (torn bit) you will certainly think  _______________ (torn bit) myself a great “sow”, perhaps the American understand such the thing.

rude american 2

Write me more, not so as I to you because you must understand that I have not free time on the second year. After 6 months I shall write to  you more, it will be after the examine.

Good by,

Yours sincerely.

Dvora”

Here are possible explanations, thank to Beata Gulati!

I think that in the first part I shall be asked by a commision (the board of examiners) which consisted of not (probably) your teachers??? usually Matura exam cant be taken in a presence of teachers who taught you but independent teachers ( from other classes who do not know you) the examiner has to be neutral

and in the second part we usually call someone who is not kind to us who behaves rudely and sometimes unfairly we call such a person “Świnia” which means “pig” (I believe that she found the name sow for a female pig and he didn’t give to a house girl (house maid) who served him a penny. It is a kind of grattude to the “servants” to give them tips, but he didn’t give a penny

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? A Few Answers

Dora 1935
Dora 1935

Note: This is part four of a new Saturday series, in which I, with croudsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unkown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

In the first three posts I asked the readers several questions that have come up so far when closely reading Dora’s lettters. I’m delighted to report that I received answers! Many thanks to Laura Green, Sandy Millin, Dorit Renov and Beata Gulati for their help. Special thanks to Beata who has wholeheartedly taken up this project!

First of all, I realize I should clarify exactly where Dora lived. I understand that there are places with similar names and spellings, not to mention the borders that were redrawn. The letters quoted in this post were sent from Brest in what used to be Poland. Today it is in Belarus (see map). This much information  I have known since childhoold, since that is where my own grandmother grew up. The letters I have are without envelopes, so I have no address. However, it seems that Dora wrote some of the letters on stationery from her father’s workplace. Their logo includes an address. Beata looked into locating this address. Street names have changed and Google maps does not help here. However, Beata’s following explanation has led to a little story I had never heard:

 

“Brześć n/B is on the river Bug in Polish n-for “nad” and “B” Bug the name of the river where Brest is situated :)))”

I asked my mother if her mother had ever mentioned a river in her tales. “Oh yes!” my mother said. “The river Pok. She grew up by the river Pok. She used to say that the reason they ate so much carp fish in those days was because the river was full of the fish and it was cheap”! I had never heard this story before!

Dora wrote that she took her matriculation examinations (“Matura” exams) in May 1938. I asked if it was safe to assume that Dora was born in 1920 in light of that information. Beata has located an example of a graduation certificate from the same year awarded to someone who was born in 1920 and heard from people that in those days people graduated at 18, so I believe this is a very reasonable assumption.

I was unable to make out the letters of the name of the “healthing place” Dora went to on her summer vacation. Everyone has agreed that she must have gone to the spa town Busko-Zdrój .

I also was unable to figure out what word Dora had written because it never occured to me that she might have begun a sentence with the word “much”. Beata explains:  “…those letters are written straight from the heart of Polish girl and just translated into English but the way of thinking is Polish. So it is not Blush or Hush it is “Much I can not write you” in the meaning I can not write too much because I am busy with my Matura exam.”

This post is quite long so I will begin the next letter next week. I will just tell you that it is undated but seems to be from late 1937 or early 1938.  A visitor from America makes an appearance and the letter is torn in places, resulting in missing words…

 

 

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You Dora? Crowdsourcing Q. 3

The younger days were happier...
The younger days were happier…

Note: This is part three of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

I began my journey into Dora’s letters with one that was clearly dated and was easy to read. However, it has become clear to me that it isn’t the earliest letter. I believe this one is, based on the content. The date isn’t completely clear and there are some words I can’t make out. I’m looking forward to your suggestions as to what the missing words may be.

But first, regarding the date. It is obviously Dec. 28 and not the year 1928. As you will see in the quote letter below, it sounds like it was written in the winter of Dora’s 11th grade. For years it was common here to use the European terminology and refer to 11th and 12th graders as seventh and eighth formers. Since in the previous letter we clearly saw that Dora graduated in May 1938, I believe this letter was written in Dec. 1936.
The first question is what then is written after the name of the town, which is the Polish spelling of Brest?
The second question is do you think the word in red is really “blush”?
Finally, can you make out where Dora went on holiday?

In the letter Dora writes ( as always, quotes include original errors in English):

date 1937
“I beg your pardon for my long not writing. So it is, each man is occupied by his own work, and sometimes forgott even about sister. But when I recollected about you I feel that I am not in order according to you. Now when the father writes you a letter and I have time (it is the time of Winter holidays) I write you also a few words. Blush.

blush
” I can not write you because in the last time I have no patience to write letters and I have not also a dictionary, so that is enough difficult for me. You see until to day I can not write well English without a dictionary because my knowledge is confined.
About me I can write that I am in the Vll class and on the second year I shall end the school. I have very much work because we prepare to the mature exam on the second year.
In summer I was in ???? It is an healthing place. I spent here the time very well.

health place

Now I finish the letter. I send you my lovely regards.
You Sincerly,
Dora”

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts regarding my three questions!

 

Saturday’s Mystery: Who were you Dora? Crowdsourcing Q.2

Dora is the one in the black dress.
Dora is the one in the black dress.

Note: This is part two of a new Saturday series, in which I, with crowdsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

In the first quote, Dora writes that she graduated from high-school on May 31, 1938. My question was whether it was reasonable to assume that she was 18 – was that the age that people graduated back then as well?

At the moment I do not have an answer but I would meanwhile like to thank Baiba Svenca and Beata Gulati for looking into this question.

Today’s question relates to a word I  can’t make out – something Dora received as a graduation gift. Perhaps YOU can figure it out?

In the second part of the letter to New York, dated May 31,  1938,  Dora writes (in English, using a dictionary at times, mistakes left as they were) of her bleak prospects for her educational future. Her unknown gift is mentioned at the end:

” But now I have nothing what to do with myself, till today at least I had an occupation and now what I have to do? To study in the university I have not money and also a place, because in Poland Jews are not accepted willingly at the university. Besides this it is not safe because each day I can get with a stone in the head. My studies must remain only a dream.

… How do you do? In America must already be hot. Do you bathe this year in the river? Becasue I did not take any bathes here is almost cold… I got a beautiful veticule from Bluma’s friend the day when I passed the examination. “

Here’s a screen shot of her handwriting. Perhaps it says “reticule”? It doesn’t look like an “r” and that’s a very odd word (which I just learned of now, as I write) but that would mean a type of handbag, perhaps. What do you think?

unkown word from letter

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? Crowdsource Q. 1

Dora by car
Dora by car

I usually post about books that I read on Saturdays, but for a while I would like to share & enlist your help with unusual reading material I am totally engrossed in at the moment.

Through a combination of the wonders of the Internet and sheer luck, I am now in touch with distant relatives whom I hadn’t known about. Not only is it wonderful to get to know such nice new relatives, I have now received letters and pictures related to my family from Poland (today Belarus),Israel and Argentina, dating back to the 1930’s, all the way to 1940.

One of the most mindboggling aspects of all of this, is that an apparition of a mystery girl has suddenly materialized in my life. I’ve always known that one of my grandmother’s biggest sorrows was that her half sister was not able to leave Europe with the other siblings in time. I knew her name was Dvora /Dora, and that she lived in Brest, Poland (today Belarus). That’s it. No picture or any other information.   Nothing. Now, like magic, I  have letters written by Dora, in her handwriting,  on my computer.  And suddenly I have a strong desire to find out everything I can about her and her short life.

Which is where all my friendly Internet pals come in. I’m sure you can help me.

Crowdsourcing question number one: When was Dora born? When she speaks about graduating high-school below, would she have graduated at the age of 18 or was it 17 back then?

In a letter dated May 31,  1938 Dora writes (in English, using a dictionary at times)

“At last I am free and write to you a letter, after such a long time of silence. The 19th May I passed the finally examination and I got a certificate of of completed secondary education (tistat zvetasa in Russia). But till today (even there passed nearly two weeks) I could not concentrate my thoughts and I was very tired. During two months I slept four hours during the night. The examination itself did not last a whole hour, because I answer only from language, history, mathematics and physics. From the rest I was free. In spite of this I was very nervous before the examination and I feared very to write {a letter}.”

So, do you think she graduated at the age of 18 and then was probably born in 1920? Or was the education system back then organized differently?

Mind boggling!