Category Archives: Locations

Warsaw, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 6

I didn’t mean to take this long to finish blogging about my summer trip, but at least it’s still during the same year. My trip ended back in Warsaw. I stayed in a hotel near the Old Town.

I went out to the Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa street, passing Umschlagplatz on the way. This cemetery was in better condition than Łodz, and was also actively being cleaned up and worked on.

In 2012, the POLIN Museum was still under construction and surrounded by fences, so I couldn’t see all the memorials that were immediately around it. This time, I got to see those and the museum. I spent four hours in the museum, but I rushed some of it because I was hungry for hours. Clearly I needed to prepare more time as there was so much to see and learn. I found two things in that museum that directly affected my own genealogy research.

There were crowds at the Jewish Ghetto Memorial outside of the POLIN Museum. On the way in, there was a row of people holding Israeli flags and a shofar blowing. On the way out, a group sang Hatikvah.

I wanted to go to the Jewish Historical Institute for some Belarus research, but the RtR site implied they had records that the JHI site did not have. instead, since I’d already seen the building, I headed to the Old Town and, on the last day of my visit, I joined the walking tour. I had seen almost everything on the tour already, but I got to hear some great stories about the Ikea castle and the bell, among others. The Warsaw Museum was free that day, so I spent some time in there too.

I ate in the Old Market Square, the tourist trap restaurants, but they were good. And then finally, I had to leave.

As a bonus on the flight back to the US, we flew over Greenland.

Lodz, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 5

My next visit was completely unplanned. To get to Kalisz, I had to change trains in Łódź, so I thought I might just make it a longer stop on the way back. Otherwise, I would have just gone back to Warsaw.

In JRI-Poland, I found a marriage record that was possibly my great aunt Reizel Halpert, and the couple were buried in the Łódź cemetery. I was able to get the image from JRI without going to the archive, saving me the archive visit.

My hotel was just off of Piotrkowska street, which is a bit of a tourist attraction. I walked up and down it a few times. The street is sprinkled with statues and a Walk of Fame for Polish cinema, along with a few impressive murals (and some I saw on other streets). I went out to Manufaktura; currently a mall, a cinema, a museum; but once the site of Izrael Poznański’s textile manufacturing complex.

And then I caught an Uber out to the Jewish cemetery. I was looking for four people but didn’t find any of them. My biggest problem was that JRI would not work on my phone, so while I was at the section, I couldn’t look up the stones I was looking at to figure out the location of my people in relation. Most of my people were on the right side out in the forest area. One was probably covered in ivy. Another just looked like an overgrown forest with no signs of stones, and two were in sections I never actually found. Still, I wandered around the cemetery for a few hours. Then I headed a little north to the ghetto area and Radegast railway station. The museum was closed for renovations and fenced off.

Checking online just before I left for anything else to do, I noticed that I had already taken a picture of the archive without even knowing it. One Uber driver knew English and suggested that Łódź was boring and I should visit Wrocław. I guess I’ll have to try that my next visit to Poland since I only had a few days left before my flight home.

Kalisz, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 4

After a few days of walking around Warsaw, I bought a train ticket and headed off to Kalisz. My previous trip to Poland included a visit to the Konin archive for records and I didn’t make it to Kalisz, so it was a priority. My grandmother was born in Kalisz and most of my research on her side of the family has been in Kalisz  records, with some in nearby Konin.

I found a picture online of a sign at the Jewish cemetery stating that it was open on Tuesdays. I walked over and found it wasn’t open. A call to the caretaker, Hila, and I had a plan to revisit on Wednesday, August 15th, which was two major holidays in Poland on the same day while everything else was closed. She pulled up on a bike and I headed in with my camera in hand. There was also a museum in the building, which finished off my visit. After my first glance through the gates from the day before, I was surprised to find so many more gravestones on the property than I expected, although many were piled and stacked up so the writing wasn’t visible, while others were hidden behind tall weeds. Hila barely knew any English but I think she was trying to tell me that many of the stones were recovered from the nearby streets and apartment buildings.

I didn’t go out to where the old cemetery had been because I read that it was just apartment buildings, there were no markers about its existence, and that the boundaries were not even known anymore. It was a little out of the way of everywhere else I went in the city, and the day I sort of headed to it, it started to rain and I didn’t have my umbrella.

I wanted to visit the archive, just for the sake of visiting, but didn’t have much to do there, with only one year of records not yet digitized, and it was quite a distance from the city center. Instead, I went to the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, the civil registration office. The building had quite a crowd. Ignoring the signs telling me to take a number, I went upstairs to where the office was, pleasantly finding no crowd at all. A couple of people started asking me questions, but the Poles talk very quickly and are difficult for me to understand. Soon someone came along who knew English, so the conversation progressed much easier for me. My problem was that my grandmother was probably born in 1914, but the archive skipped over that year and I hoped the USC still had it. Additionally, I’d found the death of her sister in 1915, one year old. Was she a twin? I really needed 1914.

They didn’t have it. But the woman took a look in what she had and found the 1916 index, where Alta Galpert was listed, and it also noted that she was born in 1915.

This was good news! The archive had the 1916 books, but they hadn’t been digitized yet. It meant that I didn’t miss her birth in the missing 1914 book, just her sister’s. I decided to wait until they are digitized rather than heading out there for the one record. Maybe I can encourage them by email to scan the books sooner than they had planned.

I walked around the Old Town area a few times while I was in town, which was just over the bridge from my hotel. The town hall building had an observation deck, but it was under renovation at the time.

Warsaw, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 3

When the IAJGS conference concluded, my roommate’s daughter showed up, so I headed out to another hotel for a few nights, where the price was lower.

This is where my plans ended. I had a couple of rough ideas of what I’d do and gave myself almost two weeks in Europe before my return flight, but I was even less prepared this trip than the previous one. I was actually hoping that some people would want some research done, so I somehwat expected to not have time to do my own. But alas, for all the interest after my previous trip to Europe, I was here just for myself.

And then, the walking started. I thought I’d go on the Old Town walking tour, but I went out for a walk on my own first. Once I took a good look at the map, I could finally orient myself from my previous visit six years earlier. That time, I came in to Warsaw through the train station, which was just a few blocks from my hotel. And ulica Sienna was in between the two, the last remnant of the ghetto wall. There were lots of memorials to the ghetto wall in Warsaw with engravings on the ground showing where the wall was, including one right next to my hotel, but I believe that one is the last original piece.

Six years earlier, I had marked a bunch of things to see on a map and I didn’t spend much time in Warsaw to do them. This time, I opened up that map and went looking for it all. The old map was not of great quality in my phone, but I managed to find everything on it and more. Philip had shared a Google map to the conference, and he put a couple new things on it. As I did six years ago in Krakow, I accidentally walked farther than I meant to and made it all the way to Old Town in Warsaw. So I skipped the tour that I was thinking of doing the next day.

I headed to the Warsaw Uprising Museum on Sunday, when it was free. After standing in line for longer than I should have, I gave up and went walking again, all the way back to Old Town and then across to The Palm from my 2012 map.

Paris, France

The long stay in Uzhhorod was unexpected, but the end excitement to see the record books was worth it. I only wish I had more time because my next intended visit was Moldova. Instead, I conveniently found a well priced flight from L’viv to Paris via Warsaw.

I took a few walks outside of the hotel during the conference, sometimes for a meal with friends, other times just to take a walk. I escaped the conference one day for a little local sightseeing, then I had one day after the conference to see Paris.

Many Parisians spoke English, but even when they didn’t, my public school French, along with a recent vocabulary refresher, made the language feel much less foreign.

A lovely surprise awaited me at the Eiffel Tower, my first stop, when my cousin was standing in line at just the right moment. I easily convinced him to give up on the multi-hour wait and we toured the city together. I had marked out the places I most wanted to see and it was much more fun to have the company.

My photos here begin at the Ukraine airport, because I didn’t think to put them into an earlier post. This was the final part of my European trip. The next related blog posts will be sorting through all of the records I acquired.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Mukachevo, Ukraine

On another outing from Uzhhorod, I visited Mukachevo. This is my Rosenthal and Schwimmer ancestral city. They all lived in or nearby to the large city. I had nothing specific to look for, so we just visited the usual places.

We began at the synagogue. My driver’s uncle worked there and we waited until someone let us into the building. Then we headed for the two Jewish cemeteries. Again, my driver stopped to ask directions instead of knowing where he was going. It made the trip a little more interesting. We visited the main downtown square where the synagogue used to be, and saw at a distance a renovated synagogue building. Apparently, there are now two synagogues in Mukachevo, though everyone refers to “the” synagogue as if there’s only one. And finally, we stopped at Palanok Castle. My driver stayed with the car to stave off the gypsy kids, so I walked through myself. There was no information in English, so I didn’t learn any of the history or stories behind things.

I did have a moment at the castle. Two people were talking to each other in English, mentioning they wanted to ask me to take a photo of them. Then they asked me, probably in Ukrainian.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Kopinovtsi, Ukraine

This entry is for my Rosenthal family. Kopinovtsi is a small village northwest of Mukachevo. It is our Rosenthal ancestral village.

My driver didn’t like using the GPS that he had in his car, opting instead to stop and ask for directions every few people we saw. We were doing fine until we ran out of people. By the time we saw another, we had already driven past the village and off of the paved road. Kopinovtsi sits on a kind of side street to the main road, and we drove past both entrances. Neither had a sign with the village name, as every other village seemed to have.

After a quick stop, and asking more directions, we stopped at the Village Council building. Several people were soon on their cell phones to help. A cousin told me that our house was somewhat recently half post office, so I didn’t think it would be too hard to find. They knew that a Jewish family had once lived in the house directly across the street, but were able to verify it was my family. Down the street, a woman remembered Hershie and his family, while another spoke on the phone to a relative of her husband’s who knew them also.

The house turns out to be one third post office, one third library, and one third in ruins. The people in the village even offered to sell it to me. The post office was locked up, but I walked through the other sections. The back yard was pretty big with a mikveh at the back. It had its own private bridge over a picturesque stream; the water used to be suitable for drinking.

In all my excitement, I didn’t take any pictures of the village, just looking down the street, to get a feel for the area. Maybe on a future visit to the country, I’ll swing by there again.

This was the most personal part of my trip, where I visited the house my grandfather was born and raised in.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Uzhhorod, Ukraine

I had trouble when I got to Ukraine. I had put a lot of work into building a working knowledge of Polish, but I hadn’t tackled Russian. I started learning and intended to do more, but I really didn’t. I tried to hire a genealogist to help me when I got there, but that didn’t work out. I felt more lost than ever. As time passed, I started getting used to it. I still don’t know if I got used to all the Cyrillic or if I just got used to not understanding.

In my time of need, I was glad to be Jewish. I’ve read stories of how Jews always help each other, but I’ve never really used such kind of help. I contacted Hesed Shpira, a Jewish Welfare Center. At the time, I didn’t know what they did, but they were in Uzhhorod and some of them spoke English. They were a huge help, connecting me with guides and translators that made my stay in Ukraine interesting and fruitful.

My driver took me out of the city to Mukachevo and Kopinovtsi on different days. His English wasn’t terrific, especially when people in my ancestral village were recalling stories about my family and he had trouble translating, but it was enough.

My other helper came with me to the Uzhhorod Archive and spoke to the director for me. We sat to fill out the record request forms while the director went out, so we had some time to chat about genealogy and how research works, and why those forms were of little use. We waited a week for him to get back to us. We finally called him on my last day in the country. I wish we’d called sooner, because we went back to the archive and were able to look through all of the books of birth records for Mukachevo, but didn’t have time for marriages and deaths. I need to go back and finish.

While waiting for that call, I spent quite a few unexpected days in Uzhhorod. Without any planning, I ended up in a hotel in the city center. I slowly learned this, as well as how many things were in walking distance. The coolest find was when I was just wandering around and spotted a building around the corner and off in the distance, and I recognized it from pictures as the former synagogue. I also visited the Uzhhorod Castle, the botanical garden, and the Zakarpattia Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. Many days I just wandered around the city center.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Poland to Ukraine

Crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine was an adventure in itself. The train I boarded in Kraków was about ten cars long, but only three went all the way through to L’viv. I had to buy a ticket on a sleeper car, though I had no intention to sleep before arrival. One cabin mate spoke a little English, the other did not.

The map didn’t make the trip out to be as long as it was scheduled for, but I soon learned that there were two stops along the way, at Przemyśl to leave Poland, and just over the border to enter Ukraine. Each stop was about two hours long. In Poland, we were pushed around a bit as they switched engines and adjusted the wheels beneath us, then we were pushed backwards into the station for customs. An agent came through the train and stamped our passports.

We then slowly headed for the border. In Ukraine, they took away our passports while we waited, still not leaving the train. And they even brought dogs through each cabin. Eventually, we headed off to L’viv, arriving after midnight, where I had to quickly buy another train ticket for Uzhgorod.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Auschwitz, Poland

On my last day in Kraków, I finally made it out to Auschwitz. I went out with a small, late tour in slightly rainy weather, which just made the trip seem more depressing. I thought it was appropriate. As we arrived, crowds of people were leaving, making the camps very desolate during our tours.

Our guide didn’t even want to walk us around the second camp for a fear of lightning. In the end, some of us insisted so she walked us out, and the rain eventually stopped. However, I thought that one of our goals was to see the big memorial at the end of the camp, and we still missed it.

I’ve heard some people complain about their tours of the camps, where the guides try to change the story and make the Poles seem more like victims. Our guide was not like that. She was unapologetic and simply told us what she knew. Some of the story that stuck with me was their restoration efforts. We saw evidence of this at both camps, scaffolding and tape that we weren’t supposed to cross. Not only were costs prohibitive, but they couldn’t be sure what condition to restore the buildings to, since some had been altered after the war.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.