Who Were You, Dora? Tiny Glimpses into Life before the Holocaust through Ads

There was a time when the only one wearing yellow who was free was a butterfly…
Naomi’s Photos

” 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”.  (Written by Dora Volovelsky, Brest, March 1939, Perished in Ghetto Brest).

Note: For information regarding the “Who Were You, Dora?” series of posts, click here.

We know for a fact that Dora’s life, so tragically,  did not get better at all and ended very badly indeed. That fact is always there when we look back into the past.

Since there were no “better days” in her future, I am drawn to learning about what “better days” were like in earlier times, when Dora was a child. She was born in 1920. The Jewish communities in Pre-War Poland were very literate and had many newspapers. Three years of issues of the local newspaper for the community in Brest,  (where Dora grew up)    Brisker Wochenblat  בריסקער וואכענבלאט   are available online on the Historical Jewish Press Website. Issues from 1928 -1930.

The ads are what attracts one’s eye immediately, especially as they are far easier to understand (I can’t read the articles in Yiddish). There were a variety of ads,  such as advertisements for banks (there was more than one), doctors, clothing and shops that sold shoes. There were ads for plays and performances.  However, a few random ones caught my eye in particular while  virtually flipping through the advertisements in these newspapers. Here are some examples

Driving lessons, easy and quick
June 29, 1928

I wonder who was able to afford such lessons in 1928 and who even had a car.

Carmel Wines, Kosher for Passover, imported from Eretz Yisrael, wine and cognac. They claim it’s tasty! Make sure to get only the original brand with the two “scouts” with the grapes!
March 23, 1928

I suppose it makes sense when you think about it but frankly, I admit that it had never occurred to me that wine was being imported in that direction in the 1920s…

Feb 3 1928

This one is in Polish but the names of the dances are quite clear.  I had to check what “Black-Bottom” dancing was, I had never heard of it. Once again I wonder who attended and who may have studied the ad with interest but would never be permitted to set foot in such a gathering for religious reasons.

Music Lessons – Learn to play an instrument
July 20, 1928

This must have been more common. Not only do we have “The Fiddler on the Roof” image, my own grandmother immigrated from Brest with a fiddle.

Herba soap will give your skin a great color!
July 13 1928

According to family lore, beauty cream was really concoctions of several vegetables but perhaps a nice soap was something more readily available.

Entrance exams to the Jewish Tarbut School

June 7 1929

Dora may have studied here but I’m not sure. In any case, seeing that they had entrance exams to the Jewish school makes me wonder where those who didn’t pass the entrance exams studied. Or perhaps they didn’t study at all? This seems to be high school, not elementary. Many didn’t go to high school in those days.

The bus to Warsaw
Bus to Warsaw

This ad particularly interested me for two reasons. First of all, it may  have been the route to Warsaw that some or all of Dora’s half siblings took when they left home to immigrate.  In addition, the ad says the bus passes through Siedlce. That is where the lovely Beata Gulati resides, the one who helped turn my journey to Belarus into a reality and the point of departure for our trip. Perhaps I retraced a bit of my grandmother’s journey without knowing it?



In memory of Dora and Nochim Volovelsky, who perished in Ghetto Brest.



2 thoughts on “Who Were You, Dora? Tiny Glimpses into Life before the Holocaust through Ads”

  1. Thanks for sharing these. As my new adopted country, it’s interesting for me to find out more about the history too.
    Here’s the translation for the Polish advert (ish!):

    Are you going to Warsaw?
    You have to dance the Charleston!
    Take the chance/opportunity!
    Only 4 weeks
    S. Iwanowski
    will be visiting from Warsaw and delivering lessons.
    You’ll be able to sign up (I think!) at the Polish Club every day from 6-8.
    A guarantee for the least talented

    1. Wow, thank you, Sandy! It is really interesting to learn about a period from what was being advertised at the time – it adds another dimension. Especially when you are interested in imagining daily life.
      Thanks for the translation!!!

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