My father’s mother, Chava, came from the doomed Belarusian (then Polish) town of Truvovich. More of a hamlet than a town, from what Eli told me. As far as I can tell it was on an elbow of the Pina River just southeast of Pinsk, a short ferry ride from that Polish city. My uncle always said the family was from Pinsk. My father’s cousin Gene told me that Truvovich was on one tine of a three tined fork in the river, on the other two tines were Vuvich and another muddy hamlet with a similar name.
There is no trace of any of the three hamlets anywhere now. My numerous searches, and the searches of a friend in Poland and my cousin in Israel, who spent a day with the researcher from Yad Vashem, have all come up empty. There is one further source, a large format world atlas my friend’s uncle had, printed circa 1935. The town should be in there, now that I know where to look.
I have seen two pictures of my paternal grandfather, whose place of origin in Eastern Europe is unknown to me. I’ve seen perhaps a half dozen photos of my grandmother, born and raised in Truvovich. I was surprised when my uncle told me to make sure to take the two framed portrait photos of his grandparents when we were emptying his house for sale. He was in assisted living at the time, needing the assistance because he lost the use of his legs after his stroke.
His mother had, apparently, lugged the two almost life sized head shots, in their heavy wood and glass frames, across Poland to the port and then across the ocean and from Ellis Island to her brother’s home, then to a couple of slum dwellings on Manhattan’s lower east side, then to the house on Howard Street in Peekskill where she lived out the rest of her life.
My uncle was a meticulous man, and though he hadn’t seen the photos in a long time (and I’d been unaware of their existence until then) he told me they were in one of three places. I was intrigued by the existence of these portraits of my great-grandparents. My search of the attic, basement and other likely storage place, like my search for Truvovich, turned up zip.
As we were leaving the house for the last time something told me to look in the sunroom. For some reason, probably related to her encroaching dementia, my aunt had locked the sunroom. We unlocked it and went into the airless chamber. Looking around there was really no reason to look behind the white wicker couch against one wall of the pretty much empty room. Yet that’s where the two portraits stood, against the wall behind the couch. I studied their ghostly images (probably captured in a photographer’s studio in Pinsk early in the twentieth century) and tried to imagine their life in that vanished little town.
Leah and Azriel Gleiberman, my father’s maternal grandparents.