Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

From Minsk to Manhattan

My mother-in-law's name was Sarah. I loved her very much. This is the first time I've set down my thoughts about her and it's a tribute that's way overdue.

Sarah grew up poor, like almost everbody else, in the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. I'm not entirely sure what country she was actually born in as the borders moved constantly. I believe she met (quite possibly on her wedding day) her husband Morris in what is now Poland. Shortly after they married my father-in-law had the opportunity to come to America---alone.

He left his wife not realizing she was pregnant. Jack's father Ben was born in 1913--seven months after his father's departure. The plan had been to bring Sarah to the US as soon as possible. However, WWI and the Russian Revolution intervened. Sarah and her young son were forced to flee into the Jewish Pale in Russia where they lived with her blind grandparents.

Because the revolution heightened the almost ominpresent danger of pogroms for the Jews, Sarah's family kept a Gypsy lodger in the tiny house. He didn't pay rent but he would answer the door and insist "No Jews live here."

It was not always an effective ploy. Sarah and Ben spent over 13 years escaping into the woods, hiding in the cellars and of course, starving. Sarah would jump aboard a moving train to forage for garbage in the city. Ben said he recalls as a young boy hearing his aunt being raped in the same room as he was hiding. He only spoke of his years in Russia once that I recall---and no wonder.

Finally, in 1926 my father-in-law was able to bring Sarah and their son to Cincinnati where like his fathers before him, he was a shoemaker. It was not a happy reunion and it proved to become an toxic and twisted relationship between father and son. In all probability Morris questioned Ben's paternity and in any case literally refused to speak a word to his embarassing "greenhorn" son. Ben never recovered from his devastating reception.

Being a dutiful immigrant wife Sarah cared for her husband until he died. Ben and I lived with them after he was discharged from the army after WWII. To this day I don't know how it was she never became twisted by the abuse. Despite the hideous twisting of arthritis she was unfailingly gentle, good-humored and full of simple faith. Sarah was the light in my life---a loving mother to me in a way my own mother had never been.

The early years of my marriage were happy only because of her---and then Jack. Sarah and I shared a love for Jack that bound us even closer. When she died, the light went out for me in that house. I think it did for Jack too.

I still think of and talk about Sarah almost daily. So many things remind me of how much I loved and learned from her. And that brings me to my nurturing relationship with my own precious daughter-in-law Carole and my granddaughter, the young NYC Sarah whose picture is at the top of this post. Like her namesake, young Sarah meets challenges unflinchingly and with great resolve.

What greater legacy could there be for this new Sarah---or for me?


  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger kenju said…

    How beautiful she is, Lucy. It is so nice to read of someone who has love for her mother-in-law, rather than rancor.

  • At 11:47 AM, Anonymous momma said…

    You are fortunate to have both Sarahs as a part of your life. It was wonderful to have shared this moment with you! Thank you

  • At 12:15 PM, Blogger GUYK said…

    Thank you for sharing this Miss Lucy. I have read some terrifying reports of the pogams under the Russian communists as well as throughout Europe over the ages. Sarah sounds like she was a wonderful person and must have been extremely stong in her faith of god and in her own ability to be able to survive.

  • At 12:27 PM, Blogger JunieRose said…

    A woderful story to share.

    Thank you, Lucy.


  • At 12:51 PM, Blogger Joy Des Jardins said…

    This was a beautiful and amazing story Lucy. Sarah is a lovely lady with a wonderful legacy, and you were great to share it with us.

  • At 12:59 PM, Blogger goldenlucyd said…

    Yes, I think young Sarah is a looker. But of course I/m prejudiced!

    Thanks for the sweet words. I feel so very lucky to have had "Big Sarah" in my life. It just wasn't long enough.

    You hit it. Without that strong and simple faith she would have crumbled or turned into something truly ugly. I believe that. Thanks!

    I'm so happy to hear from you but I'm having trouble linking up to you. Any suggestions? I'd really like to visit.

    You know how much family means. Thanks, as usual for your loving comments.

  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    What a wonderful rich story this is Lucy. Inspiring and terrible, all at the same time. Such a life of hardship in so many ways...How she remained so "light" is a miracle, isn't it? Your dear mother-in-law's story could be a movie...And the young Sarah is such a great must be very proud of her. What does she do in The Big Apple?

  • At 1:24 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said…

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring story. Sarah is lucky to be named after such a brave lady. Those pogroms were the same reason my parents ended up in the USA. To think they were the lucky ones!

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Chantel said…

    This is absolutely the best way to continue honoring her by honoring another. So often the tale is switched and you find the abused becoming the abuser.

    Lucy you are priceless.

  • At 2:39 PM, Blogger Bev Sykes said…

    What an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing her story. 13 YEARS. Amazing! She was obviously not only a beautiful woman outside, but inside as well.

  • At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Claude said…

    Such an interesting story, that of your mother-in-law. Thanks for sharing it with us, Lucy.

  • At 5:12 PM, Blogger bunnygirl said…

    What an amazing story. I hope young Sarah has all of the strengths and none of the hardships of her namesake.

    Thanks for sharing this story about your family!

  • At 11:41 PM, Blogger Sky said…

    Such a powerful and inspiring story, Lucy. I am always left feeling so terribly sad about the Jewish struggles and the horrible massacre, the pain and torment - such unnecessary violence.

    Your Sarah was such a blessing to your life. :) I am glad there is a new one - and isn't she just lovely, indeed? You have a beautiful family, Lucy! Thanks for sharing this very evocative post.

  • At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Terri said…

    Thank you so much for sharing this story, Lucy. I enjoyed it tremendously. Your Sarah is stunning! What a beautiful girl. She may have the other Sarah's name, but I see you in her genes. What an impressive legacy of three generations of women. Amazing how those genes are passed on.
    And your love and admiration for your mother-in-law was strongly reflected in your words. What a special relationship you had. Thanks again for sharing it with us.

  • At 7:02 AM, Blogger Mike ( ex scientia, veritas ) said…

    Thanx I needed that! It's so good to look back on the wonderful, selfless character of that generation. You made my day. I will put a link up on my blog to this post.

  • At 8:21 AM, Blogger Tamar said…

    What a story of tragedy and inspiration. I felt quite privileged to read it. I can't get over how Sarah's namesake is so bright and clear and ... yes ... beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • At 9:08 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    She is so pretty! Your MIL was a saint. It is so sad that your FIL harbored so much ugly stuff that he only poured more misery on his wife and child. After all they had endured, that seems unforgivable, and yet, she somehow managed to rise above it all.
    What a wonderful tribute to a very deserving person.
    I'm sure that thinking of her makes you both happy and sad.

  • At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Janice said…

    We live on in the memories of those who love us...what a special tribute to one who in spite of such a difficult life still found life beautiful and could give and receive love. Women prove time and again the strength that comes from loving others. Your young Sarah is beautiful -- so vibrant! I'm sure your MIL was as well.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • At 6:51 PM, Blogger Rain said…

    Beautiful story and how wonderful that her name goes on in the family. So many put down mother-in-laws. It's nice to hear how much you loved yours and kept her story alive.

  • At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Maria said…

    I read about your mother-in-law Sarah yesterday. I was awe-struck by all that she went through, all that she survived and equally awe-struck with her ability to remain a loving person.

    There is a wonderful story waiting to be written. Reading your post would make a writer want to start the outline for a novel.

    And the young Sarah, what a legacy was given to her in her beautiful name.

  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Simply Coll said…

    What an amazing story of such a brave woman. It is unimaginable, some of the horrors these people lived through during the war. Such courage!

  • At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Lucy said…

    Wow -- i'm so behind on reading your blog. I love this post. What a beautiful tribute to your MIL - Lucy. And I agree -- with Maria, this story would be a great novel. She was so brave..

  • At 6:28 PM, Blogger Mortart said…

    I belatedly came upon this posting, lured by "Minsk" (my mother's birthplace) in the headline. It's a beautiful story. And so is your granddaughter Sarah.If my eldest grandson was a bit older (he turns 17 next month), I'd try to play "shadchen."

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