Friday, March 22, 2013

What Happened to Velvil Gerstein?

I am making a little change in this blog--the recipe will appear on Wednesdays.

One of the families I research is my husband's family, the Gerstein Family. 
My husband's grandfather, Morris Gerstein immigrated to the United States around the turn of the century from Russia.  He was born in a town just west of Odessa, which was known them as Bessarabia and is now known as the country of Moldova. He married Sarah Schwartz in Chicago, and had three children, David Gerstein (my father-in-law), Rose Gerstein, who married Maurice Endliss and Philip Gerstein, who married Ruth Ginsberg.
Morris's  parents were Falik Gerstein and Rivka(maiden name unknown).

Falik and Rivka had six children. Although they remained in Russia, all their children immigrated to the Americas--five to the United States and one to Argentina.
The children were Miriam, who married Abe Lozowick and lived in Chicago, Brona, who married Hyman Rothstein, and lived in Chicago, Herschel, married to Fannie Fleisher, also lived in Chicago, Sara married Sam Yanes and lived in Chicago as well.  That leaves Velvil, who went to Argentina, and the whereabouts of his family remains a mystery.

Morris and Sarah Gerstein
Why did all of Falik and Rivka's children leave Russia at the turn of the century?  A little historical background is necessary here.  Odessa was founded by Catherine II (The Great) of Russia in 1794, after the land was taken in the Russo-Turkish Wars.  The people who lived there, the Tartars, were expelled in the 1770's and 1780's.  People in the Russian Empire were encouraged to move to this sparsely inhabited area in the 1800's to replace the Tartars.  Among the people that were moved were a large number of Jews from other areas of Russia. Sarah Schwartz's family, originally from Berdichev in Ukraine, family,was one of these families. However in the late 1800's, a policy of Russification was introduced in the lands conquered by Russia, and a result of this policy was government encouraged anti-Semitism.  There were many pogroms in what is now Moldova and in the city of Odessa, one occurring in 1903, which was about the time the Gerstein family left the area. 

Most of the Russian Jews immigrated to the United States, but why did Velvil go to Argentina?
Velvil and a little girl--possibly his daughter.
Since living conditions for Jews in Russia were never good, the policy of Russification made them worse.  There were many groups who were trying to find a new homeland for Russian Jews either in Palestine or in some other hospitable place.  One of these places was Argentina, which had a lot of unsettled land and low population. The first group that emigrated found that the negotiated deal had fallen through.  Later, they purchased land in another area in Argentina and Moises Ville was established.  A group Jews from Bessarabia (the area west of Odessa) immigrated there is 1903.
Very little is known of Velvil Gerstein once he moved to Argentina.  There is a picture and a message on the back of the picture. 
Is there anybody who can translate the Yiddish message and give more information about Velvil?  
Back of the picture of Velvil Gerstein above--written in Yiddish.  Date unknown.