When President Roosevelt recognized the U.S.S.R. travel to Russia was permitted for the first time in many years.[1]


In 1935, Tante Manya, lame, with a cane, decided she will go back to Schedrin.  Her intinerary was Philadelphia, to New York City, to Southampton, England to Hamburg, Germany, and by train to the nearest rail head to Schedrin.


Only God knows how she managed the rest.


I think the ship form the Port of New York was the Franconia.


She arrived at our house on Newport St. Brownsville, Brooklyn about two weeks before her embarkation.  With all her clothing, and a steamer trunk the size of a U-Haul.  She was bringing to Schedrin what she thought would need most.  The trunk contained  carpenters tools, nails, a dozen Mickey Mouse watches, knives and forks, shoes (strong shoes), she guessed at sizes - favoring larger sizes, woolen scarves, and woolen hats, and more that I can not remember.


Then she posted a notice in the Forverts[2] that Manya of Schedrin is going home- and any one who wants a message delivered should contact her at our house[3].  Mail, between our countries, was prohibited, before this date.


Two days later, a line formed from our door down the block, with natives of Schedrin, seeking some news of parents, sisters, brothers, and so forth.


They came holding  tzetalech - slips of papers with the names, some with pictures; and others came with messages by voice only. They couldn't write. Manya sat like a reigning queen and very patiently recorded all requests.  Every night for 3 days the line formed.


We saw her off...on the steam ship!!


A very determined, courageous lady, unafraid.


About two months later, she returned to our house.  The pictures you have[4] were what she brought back with her.


She had in the trunk - a huge samovar[5]- silver coated, massive charcoal burning tea maker.  Native cheeses shaped like big hockey pucks and harder.  And a native luchshen[6] farfel[7] trough like a small canoe.  The women sat by this canoe and rubbed and rolled pasta into farfel. 


And she had all the replies she could gather for the supplicants.


She told us she had a shvitz - a Turkish bath house- built for the community.


She posted a notice in the Forverts  announcing her return.


And the line returned.


Only this time it was a celebration.


My father got charcoal, the samovar was boiling tea , schnapps[8] was freely offered, the cheeses had been thawed out, the folks were breaking their teeth and Manya and Shima were at the canoe, with babushkas[9] rolling farfel and singing old songs.


Some folks wept with joy finding out who was alive - and others wept with the news of death.


 What a party!!


When she left for Philadelphia we were all crying.


This has been imprinted in my head for all these years.


Uncle Fred [Sorkin]

adapted from Fred Sorkin's email to Karen Zale 8 Aug 2005 by Andrew I. Sverdlove, 03-Dec-2005]



[1] In 1932, Roosevelt won the presidential election in a landslide, carrying 42 states. In his inaugural speech he told Americans, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  His first 100 days in office are famous for the amount of legislation he proposed -- and Congress approved -- to alleviate suffering from the Depression. In international politics, his administration recognized the Soviet Union in November 1933, exchanging diplomatic representatives for the first time since the Russian Revolution of 1917.

[2] The Forward was the venerable Yiddish language socialist newspaper serving New York and, by mail, other cities.  It is still published, now on the web and in English as well as Yiddish online.  Yiddish. An amalgam of medieval German dialects, Yiddish was first used in the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe.  By the 20th century over 11 million people spoke Yiddish.  In 2005 it was spoken by at least 5 million Jews worldwide.

[3] The author, Fred Sorkin, is Manya's 17-years-old nephew

[4] Fred Sorkin is writing to his niece and nephew, Paul and Karen Zale .

[5] >"The samovar is a traditional thing in Russia. It isn't important to everyone now, but it is an interesting thing. A hundred years ago, the samovar was a very popular and necessary thing in a Russian home.  Every Sunday, people went to the bania; this is like a sauna.  After the bania, all the family sat around the table to talk and to drink tea. The samovar stood in the middle of the table." Victoria Filippova, from Russia.  Quotes from the web site "Topics" An Online Magazine for Learners of English.

[6] Luchshen is Yiddish for noodle

[7] farfel  [FAHR-fuhl] 1. An egg-noodle dough that is grated or minced and used in soups. 2. In Jewish cookery, farfel refers to food-such as dried noodles-broken into small pieces.

[8] Schnapps, a German word, "is the generic term for all white (clear) brandies distilled from fermented fruits. True Schnapps has no sugar added and is definitely an aquired taste, particularly for nationalities not used to raw distillates." So schnappses are different from liqueurs on two major fronts, they being both fermented and distilled, where liqueurs are simply fruits steeped in an alcohol which has already been fermented and distilled. [Quoated from Gunther Anderson web site]

[9]  Russian, meaning ‘grandmother’;, diminutive of baba old woman.  It also meant their head scarfs.