Sunday, April 23, 2006

Old World Family History Smuggling Tips

From a 2001 Rootsweb Odessa History listserve post of cousin Jerry: "Thanks for the information on Jewish owner-Jewish worker exploitation in Odessa at the time of the Revolution of 1905. My paternal grandmother, to whom I refer as Baba Rosa, was one of the female workers at Wissotzsky that you mention. She told me that she had been a leader of a strike there and after the revolt was put down served 6 months in an Odessa jail - presumably the Arestovannyy Dom - as payment for her doings. She was escorted to the lockup on foot, across town from Slobodka, commonly called Krasnaya (red) Slobodka, by two soldiers with bayonets fixed to their rifles. As a contemporaneous map of Odessa shows, the military engineer barracks was right next door to the House of Detention. (Both are now demolished and replaced with an engineering college and dwelling units. During my trip to Odessa I stood on the former site of the jail.) She was not yet married when she did her time, and her intended, my grandfather Osip Bratslavskiy, sent her letters that were smuggled into the jail in the bellies of herrings. I saw the letters in the early 1950s. They had purplish-brown stains which Baba Rosa attributed to the herrings’ juices. She also ran across an uncle of hers who, too, was an inmate. He was what we term a trustee, doing handyman jobs. "What was he in for, Baba?", I asked. "He made money" was her reply.I went on with her about how extraordinarily difficult it must have been for Jews to survive in the Tsar's Russia if they got jailed for making a living. "No, no", she said. "He made money!" After a little while I caught on to what you no doubt have already grasped. The man had been a counterfeiter. Here's a link to the complete article

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