Seated at left is Tzivia,
The infant must be a grandchild. The man at the right
is Tzivia's second husband. Standing is a son-in-law
and one of Alter Esselin's sisters. The date is probably
in the late 1920's and the place, probably Tchernigov.
Tzi via (nee
Wilenchik) Serebrenik, my grandmother, was clearly
a formidable person. From my father's stories about
her (told elsewhere in this website in the Biographical
Memoir) she had a force of personality
unusual in a woman of her time and place. The spirit
with which she sold produce at the market place,
the zest she had when she pretended to be a gypsy
fortune teller and her other exploits all I
think are visible in the face you see in this photograph.
I cannot know how old she was at the time of the
picture, but her expression shows a determined person.
I remember a moment sometime shortly after the Hitler
invasion of Russia had begun, seeing my father holding
a letter he had just received, and weeping softly.
When I asked him what was the matter, he held out
the letter in his hand I could see it was in
Russian. He said that it was from his sister and
that she informed him "You will never
be able to see your mother again because she died
on the train trip taking our family out of Tchernigov
to be safer in Siberia." The trip must have
been an arduous one, never easy at any time, and
certainly awful in the midst of a war, and she was
of advanced years so it was not at all surprising,
but it must have been the many years of separation
from his childhood memories that engulfed that midwinter
Three of Alter's four siblings.
I can only try to guess when the picture was taken.
Judging by their ages, it would have to have been
some time in the late 1920s. I only know the names
of one of his siblings there was a brother named
Lazer. He may be the one in the picture. I know that
my father always had a deep anguish over the fact
that he could never see any member of the family he
spent the early part of his life with. In light of
what we know happened to the Jews of the Ukraine during
the time of Stalin and Hitler, the lives of my father's
siblings could not have been easy
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