Saturday, December 5, 2009

Great-Grandma Manya

Great-grandma Manya, Benny's wife.

She stayed behind in their Russian village for several years, while Benny made his way in the new world. When he was settled, he sent for her (and how I wish I had a copy of that letter!), and Manya sailed to Ellis Island, her children in tow. She took little else from the old country save the gleaming brass samovar, carefully wrapped in woolens, destined to join a little army of its brethren all over Brooklyn; the ubiquitous bequest found even today in the modern houses of many families of Russian Jewish descent. At this very moment it sits, gleaming still, in the hallway outside my bedroom, though the black tea leaves have long since evanesced.

My mom remembers her Grandma as a lovely, lovey woman. And when I asked my mother's cousin, she said, succinctly, "there is a memory of a bosom."

I think of Manya squeezing her grandchildren close, pressing them into the flowered decolletee, the powdery scent enveloping.

take a look at some other Sepia Saturday posts HERE!


Megan said...

I sometimes wonder if I'd have had the courage to get on the boat. I'd like to think I would.

Brava, Manya!

Anonymous said...

I agree wuth Megan- that takes a lot of courage. She looks very homely- and theatrical, the way she is holding the curtains!

How wonderful to have the samovar still.

Do you realise you have posted this 3 times?

Ronda Laveen said...

Such a lovely, nostalgic photo for Sepia Saturday. I love Manya's dress. Oh, and your description of her pressing her grandchildren to her flowered decolletee. Calls forth such grandma-ish mammaries, I mean, memories.

nick said...

So many people are left behind like that, while a loved one starts a new life somewhere. They must be constantly worrying how the other is getting on, wondering if they're doing well or getting in a mess. Good that it all worked out and she joined him.

"There is memory of a bosom". I love it!

kylie said...

i love the dress in the older picture

and the older manya looks as if she has strength as well as softness, how we all should be :)

Pat said...

I used to do Samaritans with a girl named Manya and we went on holiday together.
How great to have the samovar. BTW I have often done posts in triplicate and found that if you go to Edit Posts on Dash board you can safely delete from there. But I'm sure you already know that.

Auntie, aka Coco's Mom said...

ooooo, Sepia Saturday.
I always wondered how women cleaned their skirt hems...
And it must have been SO MUCH WORK to do laundry & ironing...

Martin H. said...


I've just arrived at your blog via 'News From Nowhere'. What a great find on this Saturday morning.

Tina said...

You write with such great feeling and capture atmosphere with a simple snapshot of words. I love your blog.

Alan Burnett said...

A joyous post : it is amazing that a simple picture and a few words can evoke such I powerful knowledge of a person and a time. A classic Sepia Saturday post.
(I have added a link from my post)

Poetikat said...

You have brought the tears to my eyes with this one, Leah.

Such a poetic way with words you have too!

"though the black tea leaves have long since evanesced"


Leah said...

Megan: I often wonder that about myself. Judging by the fact that I still live a block away from where I grew up...well...

Cinnamon: yes, it is theatrical! I wondered whether they told her to pose that way, or whether she invented it for herself! And yes, for some reason blogger posted my three re-writes that I'd seems to have a mind of its own lately...

Ronda: after reading your comment, I've got stuck in my head the old joke "thanks for the mammaries!" I'm so borscht belt.

nick: I thought of her all alone in Russia, with little kids to take care of, and then I realized that her whole family including parents must have been living nearby. It was in America that she might have been lonely!

Kylie: strength and softness. Yes, that is something to aspire to.

Pat: thanks for the heads up, and I've done it! Why is blogger being so pesky to me? Is it just me?

funny, I've never personally known anyone named Manya. I really like it though.

Auntie: I have ALWAYS been horrified by the thought of those skirt hems, dragging in the dirty streets--and just think, there were so many horses about in those days! Ew.

Martin: very nice to meet you, and do drop in any time!

Tina: thank you so much for that lovely compliment!

Alan: I was actually excited when I woke up this morning and realized it was Sepia Saturday. I'm in love with the whole idea--it's reawoken an interest in learning more about my family. Again, thank you for your original joke that became something delightful!

Kat: Sepia Saturday is both sweet and poignant, isn't it? Even reading stories of others' ancestors makes me a little bit wistful...

Brian Miller said...

what wonderful memories of those that played a role in our histry...i wonder too about having the courage...beautiful imagery...powdery scent enveloping

Hunter said...

I'm really enjoying these posts. It's making me realize how little I know of my own history. If I were a betting man, my money would be on some distant relative escaping from some sordid crime in the old country to hide out in the US.

Seriously, that would explain a lot.

Betsy said...

Oh, don't most of us have a memory of being hugged into a sweet smelling bosom-y grandma! ha..that is sweet. She is lovely...that dress is amazing. Wonderful, Leah! I love this Saturday thing we are doing!

Liza said...

Great post! Like I said on a previous post of yours, I love the name Manya.
That pose is quite striking, and my immediate thought when seeing it was,
As above, so below.
I love the detail on her dress as well.
It takes some serious guts to travel by boat.
Thanks for sharing.

JeffScape said...

I'm always intrigued by old photographs of relatives. My parents have a ton of them and I'm almost ashamed to admit that I have little idea of who anybody in the photos are.

Baino said...

Never underestimate the power of a snuggly bosom. My grandma had one too. The last photo is just charming, she looks so happy and kind, rather unusual in old photos they tend to be very austere. Lovely that you know even a little about your great grandparents, my memories are only of my grandparents.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Precious and priceless memories hen, and so beautifully written.

Leah said...

Brian: when you mentioned their role in our history--it got me thinking about the role those ancestors played, not just in our personal histories, but in the larger movements of the history of our country. Really amazing, when you think about it.

Hunter! I think Sarge actually has a story like that from his ancestors! I must investigate further and maybe I'll be able to post about it. And anyway, black sheep only make their progeny seem that much cooler...would you really want all your ancestors to be dull upstanding citizens? Where's the excellent story in that?

Betsy: you're right, I do have a memory of sweet-smelling bosomy grandma hugs (I love the way you put that). Wouldn't our memories be so much colder without that image? : )

Liza: I've spent some long minutes staring at that dress, and I noticed too a pocket-watch (I think) suspended from a chain. I wonder whatever happened to it, and even the dress? I would love to own that dress, even just to see what color it was.

Jeff: one of the nice things is that my grandpa, always an archivist at heart, wrote the names of many of the relatives along the margins of the photos. When I was younger, I thought it was sort of defacing. Now I'm just grateful. It's inspired me to write on the backs of my own photos!

Baino: I am coming to realize that knowing even a tiny bit about that generation is pretty cool! I'm on a search to find out more.

Jimmy: thank you sweetie pie.

Anonymous said...

Nothing changed you know.

Leah said...

mago, you mean from the old world to the new? But I believe they were confronted with the very real worry of the pogroms, and in that way, yes things were very different in Brooklyn.

If you mean nothing else was changed,


you're right.

Karen ^..^ said...

Oh, I love your darling Manya. So beautiful, brave and strong.

I'm so glad you have the samovar... I'd love to see a photo of that.

otin said...

It must have been scary to get on a boat and not really know what you would be doing or how your life would end up. My family came to Ellis Island from Italy.

Anonymous said...

Women and men built families and sometimes they have to move. To the better place. From Russia, from Africa ...
In the eastern postsocialistic societies an antisemitic streak is to be found. In Hungary for example a "Guard" marches around. They want to clean the world from Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. Sounds familiar, eh? There is a "youth-organization" in Russia that fatally reminds one on the good old HJ.
Nothing changed. BUt I am simply too tired and worn now. Need some days sleep. Oh and I am sure that she told Ben what to do and he did.

lettuce said...

lovely writing, you use words so well

there is a whole story encapsulated in this

mapstew said...

Beautiful, the picture, and the post.


Candie Bracci said...

Beautiful post and beautiful woman.

The Girl from Lokhandwala said...

Wonderful! I love this section a lot. It's a little time-travel into the past.

e said...

A lovely post, Leah, for a beautiful woman. Strong yet soft is a wonderful combination of traits.

Jen Chandler said...

Such beautiful memories. I love to read of those who left their homes, their lives, their families and came here to start new. Such bravery and passion. I would love to have memories passed down of my immigrant ancestors as you do. Love photos!

Thank you very much for following my blog :) I really do appreciate it!

Happy Monday,

Mr. Shife said...

I am really enjoying learning about your family's history. Very fascination and very cool that you have these great memories. I am also reminded of how courageous your relatives and others like them must have been to leave behind everything and start a new life in a strange new world. Thanks so much for sharing.

Leah said...

Karen: I will definitely post a pic of the samovar sometime. I have to get the right light. It's really quite beautiful of its sort.

otin: that's neat about your family too. Do you know, I've never been to Ellis Island? I am planning to take Hedgie there in the spring, finally after all these years. I mean, it's just a few minutes from where I live!

mago: oh yes, I see what you mean.

lettuce: thank you! I'm developing an obsession for these old family pictures. We have a lot of them, too.

map: thanks! xo

Candie: she was indeed; I wish I'd known her.

Girl from L: I have really been enjoying the time-travel by way of family photo-magic carpet!

e: strong yet soft, it's something to aspire to for sure.

Jen: your blogs are lovely! And I am glad I have the information I do, but I'd love to have access to even more, just the little details.

Mr. Shife: their bravery was so matter-of-fact to them, I think--but to us, it's almost unbelievable amounts of bravery!