Alter's Family Album

Seated at left is Tzivia, Alter's mother.
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 morning.


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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