19 September 2006

Family detectives: connections after 60 years of searching

Finding information to connect families or resolve questions frequently involves experts from several countries. This cooperation often leads to surprising connections, even after decades of searching.

Renee Stern Steinig (Dix Hills, NY) shares the story of another International Conference on Jewish Genealogy attendee who found much more than she expected.

Conference flyer in hand, 84-year-old Annette S. from Brooklyn, arrived at the registration desk on the first day. The paper indicated that attendees could connect with others with interests in the same towns.

“Is anyone at the conference from Vishnevets?” she asked Steinig.

Born in Vishnevets (in present-day Ukraine) in 1921, Annette last saw her parents and three younger siblings in 1938, when she was sent to stay with relatives in St. Louis, Missouri while she attended school. The family had hoped to join her, but that never happened. Annette knew that her family and everyone else from the town had likely perished, but she wanted to know what had happened.

In the conference's Resource Room, Annette found what she had sought for more than 60 years: Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem were discovered for Chatzkel, Brukha, Yakov, Rakhel and Sonya Livshitz, submitted in Cyrillic by a gentile neighbor.

The volunteer translator wept as she read the pages to Annette.

Steinig shared the translation, offered by a Russian man living in Israel: “Germans gathered Jews in Vishnevets Ghetto. The house of the Livshitz family was burned. One day, the Germans killed the doctor, rabbi and few other respectable Jews and rumors reached us that all Jews will be killed. Our mother took me and my brothers away from town for two or three weeks, so as not to see their extermination.”

The neighbor, Mariya, was friends with the Livshitz daughters and remembered that their older sister Hanna (Annette) had immigrated to America before the war.

A researcher in Israel was able to phone the neighbor, who lives in Rovno, Ukraine, and Annette is planning to call her as well. She also plans to connect with other Vishnevets survivors through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org in Washington, DC.

In addition to specific information on her family’s fate, Annette also received a 23-page Jewish history of Vishnevets from another conference attendee.

Unfortunately, Annette broke her shoulder immediately following the conference and her phone call to Rovno will have to wait until she returns home. Steinig plans to visit her after the holidays, as Annette is anxious to see her and give Steinig a gift for helping her.

The only gift Steinig wants is for Annette to call Mariya!

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