Much of the following history was read on the occasion of Nathan and Dasha Brahinskys 60th wedding anniversary celebration in Dallas, Texas, on March 7, 1976. The first-person narrator is Hannah Brahinsky, Nathan and Dasha Brahinsky's daughter and Eric's aunt.
My father's original name was Israel Noah Brahinsky; he changed his given name to Nathan upon coming to the United States. He was born in 1887 [possibly 1885 or 1886 Eric], in Altynovka, Russia (in the Ukraine). He was the third son and fourth child of Chaim and Gertrude Rachel Brahinsky [a more accurate rendering would be "Gitte Rochel Braginsky" in Russia, "Rachel Brahinsky" in the U.S. Eric]. My dads father was one of five brothers, all of whom lived 15 miles away and were meat-market butchers by profession. My dad revered his father, calling him "the greatest man [he] ever knew. My grandmother's maiden name was Carmia [Karmia]. Her parents (my great-grandparents) came from Karelovitch (Krolovets), 18 miles from Altynovka, which was a great distance then. Gertrude Rachel [see note above regarding name] earned her livelihood by painting belts and gathering cotton balls for flour and was considered a good saleslady; she also worked in the marketplace.
As a boy of 13 or 14, my father was apprenticed as a tinner (roofs, primarily, as most roofs then were of tin). My father worked two years and received no salary whatever as he was learning this trade. After his two years of apprenticeship, he refused to work without pay, and for the third year he received $30 a month salary. At one point, my dad worked on a train (roof), but was not allowed to go into Kiev without a permit. (I never did find out if he got the permit, but I doubt it.) My father eventually came to be an accomplished craftsman. When in later years he made stainless-steel carts (used as food carriers), they asked him in amazement how he put in the bottom of the barrel. My father said, I wouldnt tell. He made at least 8 of the carts, which today sell for $3000 each.
My father registered for the Russian army as a 20-year-old, although he was 18. He served the required three-week period in the army; then, as was the custom, once the three-week period was served (after which he was no longer considered the responsibility of his father), a week was allowed at home before returning to be sworn in as a soldier in the Russian army at Konotop, 25 miles from Altynovka. However, because he was a Jew and did not desire to serve the Russian army because of the way Jews were treated, my father had a plan. (Incidentally, the alternative to service in the army was a fine of $300 cash--an enormous sum and almost impossible to get.) My father decided to run away during the one week he was allowed at home. He contacted, in Minsk, an agent to whom he paid $50, who gave him the necessary directions to get to the border. At the border a few dollars was given to some Russian soldiers who helped the runaways get over the border into Poland. My father said there were 10 other men and women at that time who were fleeing the country.
A fellow traveler needed money, and my dad lent him some. This man went on to England, and the day before my dad's boat left Germany, he received repayment from this man...just in the nick of time. My father sailed from Germany on a boat called Wittekind (white child). In England, my dad had to change boats, or there was a stayover. My father said he hid in the ladies' room, on the floor, for the entire 3 weeks of the boat trip from England, and he was so seasick some of the ladies took pity on him.
My dad arrived in the U.S. with 4 or 5 dollars in his pocket. When he came to Philadelphia, he looked up the man, Dostov, who in Russia had taught him and his brother Motel the trade of roof tinning. My father worked in the shipyards in Philadelphia during the period of time he lived in that city. Also in Philadelphia at this time were my aunt Feigas brother and sister. My father was the first of his family to leave Europe, and after he saved adequate money, he brought first his brother Motel, then all his brothers and sisters and their families, as well as his mother, to the U.S. All my father's family came to the U.S. except my grandfather, who died before they emigrated to the U.S. They came into the U.S., all because my dad had sent money and hope to them.
My mother, Doris Shapiro, better known as Dasha, was the 4th daughter and 5th of seven children (5 girls and 2 boys) of Norman (Notie or Noté) and Debbie (Dobe or Dobé) Shapiro, neé Lubinski. Across the road from them lived the Rifkin family (now living in Florida).
They had a little tea/sandwich/cookie shop as their livelihood, and Mama helped in the shop. Bobe Shapiro was a very talented, wonderful lady who could make things, bake and cook fantastically, and make do with little and provide beautifully. The oldest sibling was Ben Zion Nachman Shapiro, a very handsome (apparently) and well-liked person, who helped others.
Mother told me at one time her father and mother wanted to move to another settlement (shtetl) or community, so after going there, they did not find what they wanted and decided to return to Altynovka; however, they were not allowed to come into Altynovka, and had to wait. Finally they were admitted into the city limits. The lady (landlady) of their house said to them they could return, but that when she (landlady) had tried to clean the house, she could not get rid of the "Jewish smell" and had to burn a lot of incense. My grandfather, at this point, said, "No matter how much incense you burn, you will never get rid of the Jewish smell...."
My father and mother and their families knew one another, of course, in this small community. When my father left Russia, my mother was 14 or 15. My father and his brothers all were chums with Mother's brothers and family. When my dad was in Philadelphia, he wrote to my mothers brother Ben Zion, who sent some money ($35) at a time when my dad really needed it.... After my father had sent money for all his family to leave Russia, he sent money for my mother.
My mother was glad to go: there was little opportunity of any kind there. She left Russia in 1911, at age 19[?]. She always said she had no fear and looked forward to coming...but many years later, she said there was great sadness in leaving her family.
Mother said she spent two days in Germany coming to the U.S. Her trip was five weeks duration. At this time, the New York harbor and Ellis Island were overpopulated--there was a quota. She arrived in Philadelphia, but that port too was overburdened, and the new immigrants were diverted to Galveston, which the U.S. Government had recently designated as another port of entry. That is why during this period of time that Mom came to the U.S., most of the boats came through Galveston....and added to the length of time she was on the boat.
So it was through Galveston my mother arrived in the U.S., where she was met by the Jewish Federation. My mother said she wore a large hat with a feather in it when she stepped ashore, and also had long pigtails (we have a picture of her in pigtails).
My mother immediately went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where her cousin Elke Chernicoff had settled. Mother looked forward to seeing Elke. After Mom was here, she sent after Auntie Anna & Sophie. They all lived for a while with Mrs. Chernicoff, until Auntie and Sophie found other quarters or an apartment. For some time, Auntie Anna was not happy here, but after a while she got used to it. Mom stayed on with Mrs. Chernicoff, who, though particular and exacting, was good to the girls, and Mom had a lot of respect for her. Mom said Elke treated her and her sisters with love and care.
After this, my father and his brother Motel came to St. Joseph. One reason my father settled in St. Joseph is that his (and Motels) tinner teacher from Russia, who also lived in Philadelphia at the same time they did, recommended St. Joseph. Also, Mrs. Chernicoffs brother recommended St. Joseph: he had told my uncle Motel it was a city in which one could do well.
In February, 1916 my parents were married in Kansas City, Missouri.
Later, my dad and his older brother Motel were in business many years together in Concordia, Kansas, and other places. My father and uncles also farmed in Kansas when the entire family lived together.
My mother worked in a candy factory. (Years later she said the strong sweet smell of the candy had almost made her ill, and in later life she didnt care much for candy.) She also ironed shirts for a living.
My mothers sister Rose and mothers two brothers, Ben Zion Nachman (our Ben from Denver is named after Ben Zion) and MayerMayer being the younger brotherdid not come to the United States. Ben Zion married and had a nice family (2 children) in Russia. Rose and Mayer never married, and there were times they could have come and times when they could not (financial, etc.); they always said "do not forget us," and my mother was always faithful in writing. There were times terribly hard economically and many people in that area did not even have shoes.
Regarding my mothers two sisters who came to the United States: Anna married Harry Cohen and Sophie married Will Finke. Sophie died years later in a terrible accident in Kansas City.
Maurice Rifkin, who had been my moms neighbor in Russia, had a travel agency in Philadelphia for many years. We were so disappointed that because of his wifes illness he was unable to attend my parents 60th wedding anniversary celebration in Dallas. Mr. Rifkin was able to tell Mom (bad) news about her family, as he went back to Russia many times. The brother Mayer, sister Rose, and others were killed during Hitler. Moms mother was killed during the Revolution. Before my dear mom died, she sat on the edge of the bed and cried about her own mother. (I will never forget it.)