David Giora: Rachel the dressmaker

My mother had a cousin named Mordechai. Mordechai was the son of Abraham, my grandfather’s brother Samuel Ibkobitz. Mordechai was married to a woman named Rachel, known in the city as Rachel the dressmaker (in Yiddish – Rachel di Snadarka). Rachel and Mordechai had two sons. The oldest one named Jacob and the other – David (as I was named after the grandfather David Leib).

Rachel and her sons lived in the inner courtyard on our street No. 62, near Borochovsky’s Aksfditzia. Her apartment included a small kitchenette where also stood the sewing machine, out of which Rachel made her living. For many years she raised her two sons without a husband.

Where then did her husband Mordechai disappear to? It is not known exactly, but she knew, she knew that he was somewhere in the Soviet Union. I’ve already mentioned the Red Army’s invasion in 1920, but it is better that I tell again about Mordechai (whom I did not know, of course, ever, and what I tell here I heard from others) joining the thousands of Jewish boys who fled with the retreating Red Army from the attacking Polish Army. What could be the consequences of this escape no one could have foreseen.

Mordechai did not return from this escape, leaving his wife Rachel with the two boys, living orphans. All her life she sadly carried her fate.

In 1939, war broke out and the two boys left their mother even more lonely and wanted to look for the lost father. Over the years, since the disappearance of Mordecai, the boys have learned their father might be in the city of Gomel in the Byelorussian Republic.

Ironically, when the boys arrived in the city of Gomel, asked about such and such and found the house where their father was supposed to live, they found a woman and children whose surname was Ibkobitz, but the father could not be found.

At this point it was clear that Mordechai was a bigamist, but what could they say to a woman and children that are left without a husband and father? After presenting themselves they were received with open nice face and they explained what happened to Mordecai who, like many others in the Soviet Union, came to find the Garden of Eden. According to the woman, Mordecai was arrested two years earlier, when Stalin ran the big purges in which he also focused on the Communists who came from Poland, and deported them far, far away to Siberia.

The end of the story is that the boys found their father in his place of exile in Siberia, they hardly knew him, but he recognized them. There Mordechai Ibkobitz’s life ended, who did not live to see his wives.

David immigrated to the United States after the war where he started a family which I met during a visit in 1976. Jacob stayed in Uzbekistan after getting married to a Gentile and I haven’t met him at a later stage.

Written by David Giora.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano