Lost… and found again

In the early 1900’s two brothers in Russia decided to leave for a better and safer land. Yirmiyahu Kravetzky lived in the village of Zhetl in the province of Grodno. His brother, my grandfather, Moshe Zvi lived in the nearby village of Dereczyn.

In those days in Czarist Russia it was required for one son in every family to serve 20 years in the Russian army. For Jews it was particularly painful. Children were inscripted at the age of 10, shipped off to far regions including Siberia, never to see their parents again, never to know their Jewish religion. For Jewish families it was the greatest of tragedies. Some paid money to Russian officers not to take their young children away.

Others found different means to avoid the long Russian military service. My grandfather was one of them. He went to the Jewish cemetery and found the name of someone who was buried. He took that name and changed from his family name, Kravetzky, to the name of the deceased Jew, Winer. And with that deception he avoided being conscripted into the Czar’s army.

Now both brothers made their plans. Yirmiyahu Kravetzky made his way to Ottoman Turkish Palestine and Moshe Tzvi Kravetzky-Winer made his way to America with his wife Sarah and six children.

Somehow the two brothers lost contact. No one knew where the other one was living. In 1915 the Turks expelled Russian Jews from Palestine and Yirmiyahu, who was living in Jaffa, was exiled with his family to Alexandria, Egypt where they remained until the British occupied Palestine in 1918.

Having an address for a cousin who lived in America for several years, Yirmiyahu wrote a postal card to inform his brother that they were alive and well. But since there was no return address, it was impossible for Moshe Tzvi to locate him.

Fifty years passed without a word from anyone in either family. No one knew who was alive and who had died. No one knew where the others were living. The Kravetzky-Winer family was lost for 50 years.

Until 1958. I was living in Rishon Lezion and heard broadcasts one day on Kol Yisrael a service to search for families lost in the war. I sent a letter to the P.O. Box of the radio station indicating that I was searching for the family of Yirmiyahu Kravetzky and included all the information that I had.

Two days later, a father and son appeared at the home in Rishon looking for me. They said that they were the son and grandson of Yirmiyahu Kravetzky.

I was not at home but when I returned and heard the wonderful news I fled quickly back to Yad Eliyahu in Tel-Aviv to the address they had left for me on rehov Lochamai HaGettaot.

I climbed the stairs and knocked on a door. A man opened it, looked at me, and hugged me and kissed me while both of us were wet from the tears which fell from our eyes. Bringing me into his apartment, Mordechai Kravetzky and his lovely wife Sarah offered me food, and Mordechai went into a room and came out with a box containing many photos.

In it, I saw pictures of my beloved grandfather as a young man in Russia and one picture, a copy of which my family had, showed the entire family while still in Russia in 1911. There I saw my father as a 10 year old boy together with his brother, sisters and parents. I wept tears of joy and Mordechai held me in his arms.

Lost for 50 years and now found again.

A few days later he took me to meet his sisters, Tovah and Zelda, Yirmiyahu’s daughters and my new-found cousins.

Mordechai had two children, Binyamin and Chaya. Binyamin and I were exactly the same age and we became close to one another with the warm love of the Kravetzky family.

I went to America shortly after, and returned to Israel in 1960 to marry the girl of my dreams in a wedding in Tel-Aviv. All the Kravetzky family were there and Mordechai led me to the chuppah while his wife Sarah led my bride Rahel to the chuppah. It was a very joyous family reunion.

I had been offered a position as professor of Hebrew and Biblical Studies at Boston University and Rahel and I settled in the Boston area.

Over the years, contact dwindled between me and Binyamin. It pained me very much that I did not hear from him.

One day last year a letter arrived. I was shocked to see that it was from my cousin Binyamin in Ramat-Hasharon. He was anxious to resume our contact. One month later I returned to Rishon and called him to invite him and his beautiful wife Shula to our apartment.

We hugged and kissed one another just as the older Kravetzky family had done and we talked and talked about our family, our children and grandchildren and we rejoiced that we had found one another again.

We keep in contact by telephone and by e-mail. The once-lost Kravetzky family has been found again. A new generation. But one still devoted in love to the memories of our parents and grandparents.

Yirmiyahu Kravetzky and Moshe Tzvi Kravetzky-Winer would smile from their graves in happiness. Just as Binyamin and I now smile with love for one another.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.