07.02.2024 | Redaktor

I am also a Galicianer – searching my roots in Galicia, Poland

By Dina Feldman

My father’s side – the starting point of falling in love with Poland

More than a decade ago I have started to search my roots in Poland. Then I focused mainly on my family from Piotrków Trybunalski, the birthplace of my father Abraham. My father used to tell us a lot about his childhood there and had photos and letters, so, it was easy to relate. During the years I visited many times in Piotrków. I know the city very well and I have many good friends with whom I organized various Polish – Jewish activities and projects. I feel in Piotrków at home. I have done a huge research about Piotrków  Jewry in many archives, wrote articles and books, gave lectures, and am helping people to find their roots as well as administrating a very active Facebook group named: Jewish Piotrków Trybunalski. I also have learnt about other cities of origin of my father side as: Bełchatów, Łódź, Włoszczowa, and Stryków, am quite familiar with them and active in the preservation of its Jewry, although not as much as of Piotrków. I believe that the fact that two of my ancestors of that side of the family are quite well-known in the Hassidic world also helped, as I feel proud to be their descendant, can study about them and their characters also through Hassidic tales, and for sure it opens me some unexpected important doors.

Dina Feldman in the Brzesko regional museum, 2021. Photo by Anna Brzyska

My mother’s side – discovering the unknown

From my mother’s side Pnina (Paula) I heard a lot about Vienna where she was born, and only towards her 90th anniversary when I prepared an Album about her and her family, I realized that Vienna is only a gate to a whole unknow world that leads to branched roots in Bukovina (from her mother side) and Galicia (from her father side). I am deeply involved in my grandma’s birthplace in Bukovina (Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania) but I would like to describe my way to my roots in Galicia, mainly Brzesko and Tarnow, which in the last years became also very dear to me.

Well, my grandfather Zvi Hirsh Gast was a real Galicianer. He was born and lived in Tarnów until WW1 when he left for Vienna, like many Jews of the Austro – Hungarian empire. There he married my Bukoviner grandma Malvina (who came to Vienna more or less at the same time) and they had 2 daughters: my mother Paula – Pnina and her sister Lucy. Only my mother escaped the Holocaust with no photos of her father and his family.

The only story I heard from my mother about Tarnów was that her father used to travel from Vienna to Tarnów for eating his favorite cheesecake that his mother Chawa used to prepare…

When I traveled to Poland for the first time, about 15 years ago, with my 2 daughters, we went also to Tarnów to find the cheesecake, namely the taste of grandpa and great grandma… In  Tarnów archive we  discovered  that my grandma Chawa Lea Drobner actually was born in a little shtetl named Brzesko, approximately 25 kilometers west of Tarnów. So, we went there but were not so excited as in our visit in Piotrków where we knew names, addresses, gravestones, etc and were welcomed by locals that related and took us around. Tarnów and Brzesko were tabula rasa and we did not know anybody that will take us around.

But probably everything has its right time under the sun. I met in Tarnów  Adam and Magda Bartosz and Natalia Gancarz and in Lublin – Anna Brzyska that gave a lecture about her work in Brzesko  (I about Piotrków ..). There was a clique.

 These activists could give me a new, exciting perspectives about the places’ Jewry and willingly I visited there again, personally (to light Hanukah candles) and with a group, to see, relate and listen.

Dina Feldman and Anna Brzyska during Hanukah celebration in brzesko in 2021. Photo by Krzysztof Wasyłek

To my great joy super energetic Anna adopted the idea to organize an excellent Shabbaton in Brzesko  in 2023 in which tens of Brzesko-born and descendants of Brzesko Jews attended for the weekend, together with many locals. Very meaningful for me were the wonderful people  I met and that my friend from childhood Yona came with her son Uri. Her ma, like my grandma, was born in Brzesko and had a huge family there. We found out that common ground, incidentally, about a year ago. Incidentally?..

Dina Feldman and Yona Cohen by the gate of the Brzesko Jewish cemetery, February 2023. Photo by Anna Brzyska

Previous to the Shabbaton Anna found the gravestone of my great – great grand pa – the father of Chawa – Mordechai Gimpel Drobner at the  Brzesko Jewish cemetery. I never heard of him!! My brother Moshe and me asked to renovate it and of course Anna and her team did a great job. From the beautiful gravestone I learnt that my grandpa was a religious person and that he was involved in the redemption of captives. I don’t know, yet, what does it means but I like it, and will try to figure it out.

Dina Feldman by the grave of her great-grandfather Gimpel Drobner at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery, September 2023. Photo by Anna Brzyska

Here is buried

People will bitterly mourn the death of a wise and prudent man,

Who will be able to count his many activities?

(He) was devout in his manners and deeds

All his life he walked in an innocent path

Peace will come and they will rest in peace

At the age of 86 he returned to his divine father

An innocent and honest man, old and wise

He has kept the laws of God all his days

His way was righteous

He walked in a straight path until the time of his departure

From his youth he struggled to redeem captives

and did not leave the law of God until his departure

Mr. Mordechai Gimpel, son of Avraham Drobner

Deceased 24 of Tevet  5660 [December 26, 1899]. May his soul be bound in the bundle of life

Deciphering the Hebrew inscription and its translation into English by Dina Feldman

Death record of Gimpel Drobner, son of Abraham and Hinda Drobner, who died in Brzesko on December 25, 1899 at the age of 82. Photo from szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl website

Later, Magda Bartosz found, at the Tarnów Jewish cemetery, the gravestone of Rivka Rachel Gast, the grandmother of my grandpa Hirsh (the mother of his father Szymon/Bejrish Gast) which is also planned to be renovated.

Matzeva of Rivka Rachel Gast at the Tarnów Jewish cemetery. Photo by Dina Feldman

Well, on Sunday, a day after The International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27, 2024), I was ready to search, intensively, in the online archives. I was overwhelmed by the huge roots that I have found, and I thank Anna Brzyska for giving her important input to the list. I feel must “give them a name” even if I still don’t know much about them and how. Here we are.

My Drobner and Gast families from Brzesko and Tarnów

I am the daughter of Paula – Pnina, the daughter of Hirsch Zvi – the son of Chawa Lea Drobner (born in Brzesko) and Szymon /Bejrisch Gast (born in Tarnów). This is the information I found so far about both families 4 generations back. Most of the information was taken from the Polish state archives which sometimes represent only the dates of the civilian register and not the actual dates of the events that took place under the authorities of the Jewish communities and the Jewish law, most of the time earlier. The information about Vienna origin was taken from its Jewish community, and about the Holocaust from Yad Vashem.

Any additional information/reflection will be welcomed (fel.dina@gmail.com).

Gimpel Mordechai Drobner (Brzesko, 1817 -1899), the son of Avraham and Hinda from Brzesko, married Scheindel Malter, the daughter of Hersch and Wittel from Biskupice. They had 5 sons and 4 daughters:

1. Wittel (born and died in Brzesko, 1853-1887), married  in Brzesko in 1879 Isser Borgenicht, son of Leibush and Dobe. They had  3 sons and 2 daughters. Wittel died right after the birth of Szyja. 1. Itzig (1880);2. Pesel (1881); 3. Abraham (1882);4.Chaja (1883); 5.Szyja (1887). After several years widower Isser Borgenicht married younger sister of Wittel, Frymeta (born 1867) and the next 6 children were born in this second marriage:

2. Hinda,  married Osias Schyja Segal, lived in Lesko, had  children: Lea (1877), Ester (1879) and Wolf (1881). Probably there were more children born in later years, but those birth records are not available.

3. Salomon (born in Brzesko in 1859) – lived in Kraków, married in 1883 Zlata Lemberger, the daughter of Abraham Hirsz and Gitel. They had 6 kids: 1. Rachel, married Esriel Rakower in 1913, lived in Kraków. 2. Naftali, born in Kraków on April 25, 1885, married Anna Infeld in Kraków in 1920:3. Regina,  married Herman Silberstein in Krakow in 1921. 4. Jakob, born in Kraków  on September 4, 1888, in 1922 married Amalia Marya Luftig. 5. Chaja, born in Kraków  on January 25, 1884,married Mendel Reblum in Kraków in 1907. 6. Józef, born in Kraków on September 16, 1886

4.Chawa Lea (1863, Brzesko – 1934, Tarnów)– got married probably in 1890 – 1891 to Szymon /Bejrisch Gast, son of Abraham Joseph and Riwka Ruchel from Tarnów (marriage registered in 1916). They had 8 sons and 2 daughters: 1. Abraham Joseph (1891) – got married in 1918 to Celina the daughter of Naftali Majer Dumler and Chana Brendel Brandwa; 2. Leib (1892); 3. Izak Jakob (1893) – in 1930 in Tarnów married Dora, daughter of Chaskel Fenichel and Szeindl Kohl; murdered in Tarnów; 4. Zwi Hirsz (12.12.1895 – 17.7.1940 Buchenwald) – in 1919 in Vienna married Malvina (1897 – 1944 Auschwitz), daughter of Berl Marian and Perl Lelinger . They had 2 daughters: Paula – Pnina (my mother!) (1.12.1919 – 18.6.2016) and Luci (6.3.1922 – 1944 Auschwitz); 5. Witta (1897 – 1897); 6. Taube (1898) –married Joel Kupfer, son of Mojsze Fischel and Mindel Retting from Przemysl. Studied at Julius Slowacki high school in Tarnów; 7. Gimpel (1900– 1902); 8 -9. Twins Mosze and Aron (1903). Aron married Elizibeta, daughter of Ziso Haber and Gitl Kampf in Tarnów in 1929. Aron and his wife perished in the  Tarnów ghetto.

Death record of Chawa Gast nee Drobner who died in Tarnów on October 21, 1934 at the age of 69. Photo from szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl website

5. Hirsch (born in Brzesko in 1865) – married  Feigel Landau (1866) – the daughter of Jakob and Gitel from Kraków, murdered in Auschwitz.

6. Frymeta (born in Brzesko in 1867). Married widower Iser Borgenicht (marriage registered on February 20, 1905). Their children: 1. Brandel (1890); 2. Riwka(1894); 3. Taube (1897): 4. Majer (1898); 5. Ester (1901)+ a male twin who died before being given a name

7. Majer (born in Brzesko in 1868)– Got married in 1894 to Sara Konigsdorf – the daughter of Josef and Rachel Schor from Tarnów. Their children, all born in Tarnów: 1. Anna (1896), 2. Maurycy  (1897) 3. Abraham (1898-1898) 4. Gimpel (1902), married in 1927 Salomea Sterin, daughter of Josef Kopel and Ethel Gutel Schmukler 5. Ernestyna (1902), twin of Gimpel; in 1934 married Moses Juda Leder in Tarnów 6. Herman (1904-1904) 7. Aron (1905-1906) 8. Marjem (1907-1908) 9. Jakob (1910-1912).Their son Gimpel got.

8. Abraham (1873) – in 1903 in Podgórze (Kraków)  married Gitel Seidenfrau (1878) from Wieliczka. They had a daughter Ester (1906). During the war they were in Kraków ghetto, all 3 were murdered

Abraham, Gitel and Ester Drobner. Photos from the database of the Central Jewish Library, https://cbj.jhi.pl/

9. Berl (1875), in 1900  married Chana Wasserberger (1868), the daughter of Solomon Alter and Perla. They had two sons:1. Gimpel (1902) – lived in Bochnia, married in 1929  in Kraków  Lea Kalter from Sanok. 2.Jakob lived in Bochnia, married  Regina Butterfahs, daughter of Monkos and Feige Orenstejn from Tarnów.

10. Mindel (1877) married Berl Siegman in Brzesko on October 29, 1904.

11. Taube –married Aron Goldman. They had a daughter Mindel (1907) who lived in Glogow.

Conclusion

I would like to end my article with a poem of an Israeli poetess named Zelda (Schneurson Mishkowsky). It called “Each of Us Has a Name” (translated from Hebrew by T. Carmi, https://www.yekum.org/2023/12/%D7%9C%D7%9B%D7%9C-%D7%90%D7%99%D7%A9-%D7%99%D7%A9-%D7%A9%D7%9D-%D7%94%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%A8- With a melody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tj0tSlU2Xg )

Each of us has a name,
given to us by God,
and given to us by our father
and mother.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by our stature
and our way of smiling,
and given to us by our clothes.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by the mountains,
and given to us by our walls.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by the planets,
and given to us by our neighbors.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by our sins,
and given to us by our longing.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by our enemies,
and given to us by our love.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by our fast days,
and given to us by our craft.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by the seasons of the year,
and given to us by our blindness.
Each of us has a name,
given to us by the sea,
and given to us by our death.

****I would like to add a row:

“Each of us will have a name, if given to us by our kids.”

To be continued.

© Dina Feldman, 2024