Monday, April 13, 2009

Meeting Cousins for the First Time

Earlier this month, I had the chance to meet my cousin Ella and her boyfriend Boris for the first time. They live in Israel but were in the US for their vacation and stopped to visit me for a few days before going on to Chicago to see Boris's family. I was a little nervous about the language issue and the age difference. It turns out I was worried for no reason. Their English was much better than I had expected. As for the age difference, Ella is my 3rd cousin but is 20 years younger than I am. I had warned them ahead of time that I had no idea where any kind of nightlife exists here.

Ella's great-grandmother is Sara Belinki Avrutzki, the younger sister of my great-grandmother Lena Belinki Lutzki. Until about 2 years ago, I had no idea that Sara existed, let alone that her descendants were alive and well in Israel. Sara and his daughter Riva were living in Odessa, Ukraine, when WWII began. In 1941 they were evacuated east from Odessa ahead of the Nazi invasion. Then ended up in Tashkent & Chust, Uzbekistan. Riva was only 10 years old at the time. According to Riva, life was hard but Sara was a seamstress so they were able to get a little money and food. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Sara died of starvation in 1942. Riva's older half-brother came to get her and took care of her for several years until Riva was cast out as a teenager to make her own way. She is a strong person and survived on her own. Riva (now Rita), her husband, and their children & grandchildren left Ukraine as part of the mid-1990s exodus from the former Soviet regions.

About 2 years ago, thanks to JewishGen Family Finder, I came into contact with Shari, my 2nd cousin once removed. She had a lot of Belinki information from her mother. With that information, we found the Page of Testimony that Rita submitted to Yad Vashem for Sara. Thanks to some help from a fellow resarcher in Israel, I came into contact with Rita and Ella. It's been very exciting and wonderful getting to know them.

Almost immediately after Ella and Boris left here, I began searching for good airfares to Israel for me to go visit and meet the rest of the family. Hopefully I will be able to make the trip this year. I feel a lot more comfortable about going now that I have met Ella and Boris. I know it will be fun to meet the rest of the family and they are already talking about all of the places I have to visit.

This year in Jerusalem...hopefully!

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