So, in the previous two postings, I told most of the story. Of course, we should have looked at the Yad Vashem Archives of Holocaust victims. We would have found Shael’s name there had we known he had moved to Preili. We would have found Haim’s name there (he apparently moved back to Daugavpils) but we didn’t know his name. So, we might not have located the information. But, now with more specific names and places, we found the family members listed on the Yad Vashem site.
One of those records belongs to my second cousin, Sora, with her married name. But her entry in the database was different from many others because it included the “testimony statement” submitted to document her death. It was filled out in Hebrew by a man who said he was a “ben-ir”, a person from the same town. It documented the date of her death and was signed and dated April 18, 2010 (that would have been my father’s 89th birthday). The form listed the name and address of the man in Israel.
I went to the Internet and found that Israel telephone information had a record of a man by that name living in his city but at a different address. Still, there was a phone number and after a few days of hesitation, I decided to call. I hoped for an answering machine. I didn’t trust my Hebrew in an emotional conversation but a man answered and I asked: “Was he the one who submitted the form for Sora?’ He said, yes, he lived in Preili and knew her. He asked me why I wanted to know. I said, using the Russian pronunciation, that my name was Dobrusin. He said; That was her name before she was married. I told him that her father was my grandfather’s brother. I asked him if knew him and he said words I will never forget.
He said; “Shael Dobrusin was the Gabbai (the assistant to the Rabbi) in the old synagogue in Preili”. I literally felt my knees shaking. It wasn’t so much that he said he was the Gabbai. It was that he said his name. Here was a man in Israel telling me he knew my great uncle and called him by his name. I was stunned, at the same time so happy that his name was known, so sad at all that we had learned.
And the mystery continues… my grandfather had listed his place of birth on his naturalization papers as Sumach, Russia. We can’t find any record of that place but the Latvian records said that my great grandfather was born in a place called Shumyachi quite a distance away from Latvia, near the Ukraine. One website I consulted says that one of the alternate spellings for Shumyachi is Sumcahi. Could this be what Julius was referring to? If so, it is not clear why he would have misrepresented his birthplace (the records say he was born in D’vinsk) but that made me wonder. So, I went back to the records of Yad Vashem and saw that there are many Dobrusins listed as having been killed in the holocaust, many from Shumyachi.
There are many Dobrusins in this country that I have met or been in contact with over email and none are related to us closely. Most of them claim they are from the Ukraine. And so, I wonder, and will continue to investigate, if they came from near Shumyachi, they might be family members Itzik left behind when he came to D’vinsk. More distant cousins. More of the family.
This has been a fascinating 2 weeks as we have been piecing together material about my father’s family (and my mother’s as well, see previous posting). It was fortuitous that I was given the name of the woman in Latvia to help. But, I have to clearly say that my cousins (both 1st and 2nd) and my uncle and my father had laid the foundation for all of this information. They worked tirelessly on this investigation for years. I’m glad we are able to come up with some answers.
May their memory be for a blessing.