History is a story. It is woven from an infinite number of facts, fictions and pieces of stories, fervently believed and often in dispute. Dramatic details tend to become recorded in history, though they are just as easily deleted completely, which may shock you, at first, if you participate, with two hundred thousand others, in a historical moment that is never recorded in the New York Times.
“The New York Times is the first draft of history, Elie,” said the skeleton, who read the paper cover to cover every day of his adult life. “It also serves the masters it serves, as you know very well.”
It struck me the other day that the Grey “Lady” is a reasonable voice for reasonable people who are reasonably comfortable. If that’s your world, they are speaking to you, and for you, and making the objective-looking, well-written record future historians will pick from.
“Fair enough, but I thought you came here to correct the historical record, somehow,” said the skeleton.
I did. Following up with Azi, who has done a lot of research on family history, I learned that your mother came to the United States, with Gene’s mother Dinsche, on the Grosse Kurfurst, a steamship that embarked from Bremen. Your brother found this out on Ellis Island, where he presumably saw a passenger manifest that had them leaving Europe on November 8, 1913 with 1,481 others.
According to Gene, who got the information from his mother, she and Chava left Europe on the last ship out before World War I was declared. That ship, the Grosse Kurfurst, left Bremen again on July 11, 1914, two and a half weeks before World War I began. The voyage was twelve days, according to Gene, so they and 357 other passengers arrived at Ellis Island (Dinsche, Chava and the other steerage passengers did, anyway) mere days before the war kicked off in Europe. The Grosse Kurfurst, as Gene had said, spent the remainder in the war in America, as shown by ship schedules which do not record any voyages until after November 1918.
“Which story do you like better?” asked the skeleton.
That’s a no-brainer, dad. Then there’s the fantastical theory that Aren, Fishl and Fleishman dashed across Asia, crossed the Pacific, found their way to San Francisco and on to New York City, in 1904. Wyatt Earp was Deputy U.S. Marshal in Tonopah, Nevada at that time. How did these three Russian/Polish Jews hightail it 3,000 miles across the prairies and the Rocky Mountains to the slums of Lower Manhattan? Why would they?
“You would have recalled this detail if Eli had mentioned it to you. You know you would,” said the skeleton.
Azi debunked this for us. Nehama had told him that Aren came to America on the Hamburg-Amerika line’s Patricia. He arrived in New York (records show this ship sailed between Hamburg and New York in those years), according to Nehama, on December 25, 1904. All she knew about his desertion from the Imperial Russian Army on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War was that “the train with the troops went in one direction, we took the train in the other direction.” The train with troops would have been heading east, toward Japan. Aren and his fellow deserters went west, to Hamburg.
“Interesting,” said the skeleton.
As for Truvovich, Vuvich and Misititch, this is the best clue I’ve found so far, a map of Pinsk from around 1925. If you follow the main N-S street down to the Pina River at the bottom of this selection you will see, just on the other side, a short ferry-ride away, a spot in the marshes marked with a Jewish star and a capital T.
“Star marks the spot of that muddy hell-hole, you say?” said the skeleton.