Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Grandpa Sam

I never met my grandpa Sam since he passed away a year before I was born.  

Throughout my childhood I heard stories about his life. As an adult I started to put together a timeline of what I knew about him, trying to understand who he was as a person.

Sam was born in Kishinev, Russia in 1898.  

My grandfather was only five years old during the infamous pogrom which occurred in his hometown on April 19, 1903.

According to an account in the New York Times, the program began when:

“The mob was led by priests, and the general cry, "Kill the Jews," was taken- up all over the city. The Jews were taken wholly unaware and were slaughtered like sheep. The dead number 120 and the injured about 500. The scenes of horror attending this massacre are beyond description. Babes were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob. The local police made no attempt to check the reign of terror. At sunset the streets were piled with corpses and wounded. Those who could make their escape fled in terror, and the city is now practically deserted of Jews.”

According to a letter written by one of my grandfather’s older sister, a Christian neighbor hid my five year old grandfather and the rest of my family in a pig pen — one of the last places they thought the mob would think of looking for a Jewish family.

I don’t remember exactly what year his family immigrated to the United States, yet I do know it was before 1912. A Jewish agency sponsored them, and relocated them to a small farm in Covert, MI.  

I don’t remember what year my grandfather left Covert, yet I do know he and his siblings moved to Chicago as young adults — while their parents remained in Covert for many years. 

As an adult my grandpa Sam became a druggist and owned his own drugstore, up until the laws changed, and was forced to switch careers since he was unable to read and write well enough in English to take the test to become a registered pharmacist. 

From various accounts regarding his life, I’m sure my grandfather had PTSD from his experiences in Kishinev.