Tales from the Past
My grandmother, 1869 – 1941, from a sketch by my father
She was my grandmother but I never knew her. Born in Russia, she spoke no Russian, only Yiddish. In those days Jews were second-class citizens in Russia, forbidden to speak the national language. She and her family were persecuted and despised, for no reason except that they were Jewish.
My grandmother was forced to marry my grandfather, who had fled Russia with his first wife during the Pogroms, a time when Jews were robbed of their property, tortured and killed. My grandfather settled in the East End of London in England. When hisa first wife died in childbirth, he sent for her younger sister. The young girl who became my grandmother was duly dispatched from Russia to England, where she married my grandfather, and raised her dead sister’s four children. Such was the tradition amongst orthodox Jews at the time.
My grandmother bore nine children with my grandfather, who died just before my father’s Bar Mitzvah, leaving my grandmother with thirteen children to bring up alone. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been for my poor grandmother, a stranger in a strange land, far away from her family. She died in an even stranger land, Australia, still keeping the language and traditions of the stetl, the Russian village where her life began.
© Dina Davis 2020