Riva Starr’s Journey

Riva Starr (1904-1993), born Riva Schneider in Keidan, emigrated to the U.K. in the early 1920s. In 1991, her son, Monty Starr, recorded an interview with her in Birmingham, England. The following is a transcription of that interview.

Riva Starr

M. It’s the 26th of August, 1991, and Granny is visiting us this afternoon for tea, on a warm, sunny afternoon. I’m just going to ask you a few questions. We’ll see how good your memory is.
R. Ask me.
M. Can you tell us where you were born?
R. In Keidany1, Lithuania. Smilger Gas. Smilgovskaya ulitsa. Number 15.
M. Were you the oldest in the family?
R. I was the oldest in the family. My brother Meyer, was two years younger than me. Then I had a sister, Mirele, Anna, she was two years younger than my brother.
M. We’ll find out about the family soon. What were your parents’ names?
R. Chaim. My father was Avrom Chaim Shneider.
M. And your mother’s name?
R. Pesse Yente Schneider.
M. And her maiden name?
R. Wolken.
M. Do you remember anything about your grandparents? What do you remember?
R. Leyb, … and I forgot my grandmother’s name.
M. Do you know what they did?
R. Yes. He sold material by the yard.
M. Who was that, your mothers parents?
R. My mother’s father. And there were three sisters and two brothers. They sent the boys to America, they shouldn’t be soldiers, they shouldn’t be in the army. And there was a sister, Rochl, she went to Sweden. And there was a sister, Feyge Leah, she lived as well in Lithuania, Rogole, that’s not very far from Belz, the Lubavitch. Then there was another sister, Breina, she got married and went to Cuba. She had three children, all in Cuba. She went to America.
M. I met her in Miami. And what about your father’s family?
R. My father’s family, there was the bobe [grandma] Reyze, she was a teacher for girls. They called her ‘Reyze the rebitzin’ [teacher’s wife]. Then the grandfather I don’t remember. They say he died very young.
M. Did they live also in the same town?
R. Aye, Keidan.
M. Do you know how they got to Keidan in the first place, or were they always there?
R. I think the family was in Keidan. My grandmother was in Keidan. My father’s father …
M. Nobody ever spoke about where they came from before that?
R. Survilishik.
M. Also in Lithuania.
R. In Lithuania, not very far. When my mother got married to my father, my uncle, the feter Manne, brought them to that village, to Triskove, and they seen my mother. Then they said, ‘that’s all right for Chaim.’ They made a shiddokh [match] right away. Then they got married. And I was born in Triskove, and my brother Meyer was born in Triskove, Then they [moved] to Keidan. The bobe Reyze wanted they should be all in Keidan.
M. What was your father’s family, brothers and sisters?
R. The feter [uncle] Manne, Manne Yosse. The vunderbar mayse dertseyler.
M. The wonderful storyteller.
R. Yes. Then there was my uncle Hirshl [Bloshtein]. There were some sisters, which they went to America.
M. What about Kalmen’s father?
R. Kalmen’s? The feter Manne, I said, that’s Kalmen’s father. I said he was a wonderful storyteller. It used to come Shabbos, he used to sit down outside — come from shul, sit down outside, and all the people used to sit around him, and he used to tell them stories, and we children used to bring cold water from the spring for them to drink.
M. When you moved to Keidan were you already going to school, or were you young?
R. I was young.
M. Did you go to school in Keidan?
R. In Keidan I started school, and the war broke out.
M. Well, you were 10 when the war broke out. Did they start school so late?
R. They started school at 7, I think.
M. Yes, so you must have had some time in school.
R. I had some time in school, in the Russian school. Then my grandfather always wanted the grandchildren with him, and he came and took me to Triskove, and he sent me there to school.
M. What school was that?
R. A Russian school. Di bobe hot mir gelernt, [my grandmother taught me] and the feter [uncle] Hirshl learned me to write Yiddish. In Triskove, I went to a Russian school. And my poor grandfather used to give the teacher presents. Part of a lamb, the bottom part, the back part of a lamb, presents, for Christmas.
M. The hindquarters.
R. The hindquarters, that’s right. And they used to pay a ruble or something. I don’t know.
M. So when the war broke out in 1914…
R. When the war broke out in 1914, I was back to Keidan. Then my grandfather went with us to Keidan, we should all be together. In 1915 they started throwing out the Jewish people. We had to get out. We were supposed to be German spies. Then they tried, the family should be together. My mume [aunt], Feyge Leah, came from Ragole, where she lived. She came with the family, and they all tried to make the way to Vilna. It was Shevuos, the first day of Shevuos.
M. Was Vilna then still Lithuania?
R. Yes, that was the fight between Poland and Lithuania. Poland said Vilna should be Polish, and Lithuania said Vilna belongs to the Lithuanians. That was the fight between Poand and Lithuania. Then the communists started.
M. Right. So you say the war broke out, and they thought you were all German spies. So your grandfather, was it, decided you ought to go to Vilna? Who decided?
R. They drove us out. We had to go somewhere. A lot of people went to Russia. They were put on trains. Papy was in Russia. You see, they were put on trains, those who didn’t have their own transport. We had our own transport. We took two horses and a big cart. My mother was very ill at that time. She had typhoid fever or something. They made a bed and put my mother on the cart and three children and we traveled like that to Vilna. We stopped in little places, where there was yiddishe people, and they received us all. Don’t forget it was Shavuos, it was warm weather, and they put out tables on the market. With bread and butter or cheese and tea.
M. Why weren’t those Jewish people running away?
R. Afterwards. From Lithuania they had to go.
M. When I look at the map, it’s a long way from Keidan to Vilna. Because Keidan was north of Kovno. You had to go down through Kovno, did you, or around it?
R. I can’t remember. We used to go through Kovno I think.
M. It’s a long way. How long would it take with a horse and cart?
R. A day and a night, over a day. Sometimes at night as well. We used to come home, it was at night, then we made a stop in the places, We thought, we were waiting for the Germans to come in, then we should be able to go home. We used to stop in the places, Survint, I’ve forgotten the name of the places. Survint, other places where there were Jewish communities, they waited and they received us. See, they gave us to drink, to eat, and like that. The Germans were coming nearer, we heard the bombing, then they had to start making the way to Vilna. We came in Vilna, the people were lying in the streets.
M. Didn’t you tell me once that your father let somebody else take you to Vilna, a Russian or someone, who took you on your own to Vilna?
R. Oh, a lord. My father knew a lot of lords. He was running away, the lord as well. As soon as they sent the yidn out, and they knew the Germans will come in, they’d be the first ones the kapore, [victims] so the lords used to run. And that lord stopped with a big droshke, a carriage, and he wanted to take me and my brother. And my father wouldn’t let my brother go. He was too young, he must have been three. Then they took me. They let me go with them, and when my grandmother and grandfather and all the family joined up together, they were on to my parents, why did they let me go? God knows where he could take me away, he could sell me, he could do anything. But I had sense. How young I was, I thought I’d stop in Survint. I knew they got to come to Survint. I’d stop and I’d wait for the parents, for them to come. I didn’t know where the lord was going. And I waited there, I was sitting on the market. It was hot weather, and I was nokh [yet] ashamed to have a bit of bread or a cup of tea. One of our neighbors noticed me, then he came up, he said “hostu gehat vos tsu esn, tsu trinkn?” [have you had anything to eat or drink?] I told him no, I was ashamed to go, how can I go and have charity? There I waited, he took me up to the table, an old man, and I had a cup of tea, I had bread or something to eat and I didn’t move. I waited till my parents came.
M. How long was that?
R. They came in the evening. From Keidan.
M. It was still the same day that you left?

The Starr family
The Schneider family of Keidan. Front row from left: Uncle Manne, grandmother Reizel, father Chaim, cousin Kalman. Second row, left; Riva, Bella and Moshe Strashunsky, parents and sister of Monty Starr.

R. Yes it was the same day. He got me half way, that lord, and there we met up, the families met up, and then we waited a few days, [we] thought maybe Germans would come in, but they didn’t come, and we made the way to Vilna. We came into Vilna, and there were so many people. They put us in a factory, Kreyndl’s heyz [house], this I remember, where they made glass, I think. I can’t remember what, they put all the refugees in that heyz, with the bundles, with everything there. My father had to let the horses go, and the cart. He didn’t have any food to give them, and he was looking for work. He found work to do on the station, to load the trucks. My brother, he was three, or four, went with him together. And my mother used to make a dinner and take dinner to them. She just one time took the dinner, when a bomb dropped and killed a lot of people. The Germans was already … they didn’t have a lot of bombs, but they were bombing. And that’s the way my father saved himself. She took him out to give him dinner. Then it started breaking out. The Germans already were bombing. That was Yom Kippur night, I remember. They were in that hall under a glass roof, where they sheltered. That was Yom Kippur night, and the Germans marched in. Yom Kippur morning, we went out too, we were waiting to see the way they marched in, and they were handing out chocolate to all the children, the Germans, and they give me a piece of chocolate, like they gave all the children. And I promised myself I will fast this Yom Kippur, it would be the first Yom Kippur I’ll fast. And then I had a bite of the chocolate. I couldn’t forgive myself. I broke my fast. And from there it started a lot of trouble. There was no houses where to live. There was no food. Any man they could catch hold of, the Russians from one side and the Germans from the other side, they’d bring the men with them. They caught hold of my father and they sent him to dig trenches, to make trenches, the Germans I think it was. Or the Russians. Yes the Germans, to dig trenches, and they had to knock poles with trees, like a support … a piece of wood, and two people or three had to knock … they were in the trenches … Some people, some young people, they took a hatchet, they chopped their feet off, they shouldn’t have to go to the war, but my mother went somewhere, she got my father out from the trenches, they shouldn’t send him away. That was I think under the Russians. No, under the Germans … The Russians took the sugar and the petrol, and everything they threw it out for the Germans not to confiscate. And there was nothing to get, any food, only starvation. But as soon as they settled down a little bit, my mother went to get a permit to go back home, Then they had to get another horse, and we made our way home. But in the meantime, two little sisters of mine got ill, and they had to be taken away to the hospital, and we never seen them again. With the third little sister, and my two brothers, we made the way home. One little sister died as we came home, they had a doctor but it did nothing, it was the cholera. And my father went to Vilna to see what happened to the third one, and she was dead already. I can see the three sisters, and an auntie, Pessa’s mother, they died in the same week.
M. Did you know anyone in Vilna? Did you have any family there?
R. No, no we didn’t have no family, nothing.
M. You didn’t know anybody at all?
R. Nobody at all. That’s right. Before the Germans came in, when the Russians were running away, the yiddishe people were trying to set up committees, to try to set up schools for the children, but there was no time for anything. I remember they took us to see the Vilna Gaon, in the cemetery, where he was buried, that grew a tree, a tree in the shape of a man.
M. Continuing on the 12th of September: Where we finished off was you’d returned from Vilna. Was it after the war, or was the war still going on?
R. The revolution was going on. And we didn’t have where to live. They had a farm, but the neighbors came to tell us that we shouldn’t go to the farm, [because] the man who my father left in charge of the farm, said, if he comes, he’s got the hatchet ready, he’ll chop his head off. Then we didn’t go to the farm. But as well a goyisher [gentile] neighbor lent some money to my father. It was going on at that time the auction for the orchard, for Stolypin’s orchard.
M. For a lease on it?
R. We used to put a number, to put in the highest bidder.
M. For a piece of the orchard?
R. For the orchard.
M. For one year? He did it each year?
R. Every other year. It wasn’t each year.
M. And that was when Stolypin was prime minister of Russia?
R. Yes. The revolution was going on. One year he was prime minister. And the second year they got the orchard from the finance minister, Pokroffsky. And that’s the way my father tried to make a living.
M. He got the lease that year, did he?
R. For the year.
M. What year was that? 1917? When the revolution started?
R. We came back from Vilna, it was 1917 or 1918, something like that. We got the lease on the orchard. And we started dealing the fruit. We used to send it out to Germany, the fruit.
M. What sort of fruit was it?
R. Apples, pears. Mainly apples, for making marmelade. The Germans used to make marmelade, from the apples, from everything. They used to gather, sometimes, if the orchard didn’t show a lot of fruit, my father used to get it from Graf Totleben, that was in our town. Graf, that’s Lord Totleben. The orchard. My father was very well known to these people.
M. So what were you doing at the time? Working in the orchard?
R. I was only a little girl.
M. Well no, you were about 14-15 then.
R. In the summer, we used to work in the orchard. Collecting the fruit, helping. Minding the baskets, and collecting the fruit, climbing in the trees. And then in the winter, we had feter Manne, and my father, they used to sew, they had men, from sheepskins, coats, they’d sell it to the peasants.
M. At that time did you know Papy? Did you know Papy then, yet?
R. I knew Papy — all my life, I knew Papy. When Papy used to go to cheder, and I was in the cradle, my mother used to call him in to rock me in the cradle. We were neighbors, I knew him all my life, and his family.
M. You wouldn’t remember his father though., because he died when he was 12, so you’d only be one year old.
R. I remember his father.
M. No, he was 11 years older than you, and he told me his father died when he was 12, so you’d only have been 1 year old when he died.
R. I remember he died, it must have been his grandfather. He was a very sick man.
M. But when you got back to Keidan he wasn’t there then, he was in the army.
R. When we came back to Keidan, I told you we traveled by road, when they sent us out, to Vilna. But others, for instance the feter Manne and other people, they didn’t have transport, they provided trains for them. They sent them out like cattle in trains, and some of them went very far to Russia. And they were lucky. They had an education. The Russians see that they should be educated. But we didn’t have an education. In Vilna they tried to make Jewish schools for the children, but it didn’t last long. There was fighting going on.
M. But when you were in Keidan he must have been in the army then, when you came back, in the revolution? Papy.
R. We were in Keidan, he was in Russia. A few years after, he and my uncle, when the revolution started, and it got a bit quieter, then the people who went away to Russia started coming home, slowly. But for about October, they were coming home. We came back from Vilna before, well of course we were occupied by the Germans during the war. When the war finished, yes, when the war finished, they made a German school. And I had a bit of education at that German school. Then life started going on normally, people tried to make their business going back … And that’s the way life began again.
M. So how did you come to get married?
R. Oh, how did I come to get married? Well, Papy was after me, my uncle was after me, more boys were after me. But Papy, he had a cheek. He went to my father and all through the family, straightaway, he made himself as a relative. He started calling my uncle “uncle” and “auntie”. And that’s the way. Shmerel said, “They should get married.” I could see Papy was after me. Shmerel made the arrangements for the wedding. I didn’t want to get married.
M. But Shmerel wasn’t there, was he?
R. Shmerel was there.
M. I thought he told me he never went back after the war. He said he went straight from the prisoner of war camp in Hungary to Paris.
R. No.
M. That’s what he told me.
R No, Shmerel had a beautiful workshop. He was a very good tailor.
M. Well he told me he was the tailor in the Hungarian prisoner-of-war camp, and he said when the war was over he didn’t want to go back home. He went to Paris. That wasn’t how it happened? He came back from Hungary?
R. But I know he came, and he got married to a girl from Keidan, Basse Lipka.
M. You knew her?
R. Of course I knew her. I don’t know, he must have khapped [taken] all the photographs. I had all the photographs. He got married, and all of a sudden people started to emigrate. They seen the business with the revolution, every day it’s changes, someone gets killed. And they started emigrating, and they started to talk of Israel. And what did Shmerel do? Oh yes, he went to Paris. A lot of them went to Paris, and they couldn’t find there the work, and they came back. But Shmerel found work. He was a good tailor, and he was very smart. He was handsome, that man, and he got work.
M. So he decided that you would get married.
R. He was the one. He carried me out to get married, to go to Yanova. We didn’t get married in the same town, why my mother was expecting twins.
M. Your aunt told me you got married from her house. When I went to see your aunt in Miami.
R. In their house, they had a reception, shabbos a kiddush. Everyone came in for shabbos. That was in their house. Everything was done, the cooks, everything.
M. That was Breina?
R. Breina. Why my mother was expecting twins.
M. Yeah, because when I said “Why did my mother have to get married from your house?” she said, “Let her tell you herself.”
R. My mother expected twins. We went to get married in Yanova.
M. How far away was that? Could you walk?
R. No, you can’t walk. You traveled by train, or with transport. We went on a Thursday, a Thursday night and had the khupe there.
M. Weren’t your parents at the wedding?
R. Only my father, and the feter Manne. My mother couldn’t go, she was expecting. And we came back on the Friday morning. And they engaged two cooks. Beforehand.
M. But I don’t understand why you couldn’t get married in your own town.
R. It was so quick. My uncle [Hirsh Bloshtein] was living in Yanova, the writer. Their friends, and that’s the way they all wanted you should get married with the friends, not with anybody else. And the feter Manne, and Shmerel, they took me, and my poor father olev hasholem [may he rest in peace], they came to Yanova for me to get married, and I got married there, and that was Thursday night, and Friday morning they came home. And all the town was coming in for kiddush [snacks and drinks]. So her house was very very big. She had a very nice place, and it was all from there. And Shmerel went away to Paris. And Papy got a job for teacher in Survilishik.
M. Siauliai they call it now. There’s an atomic power station there now I think.
R. Then we went there, but we didn’t stay there long. I didn’t like it.
M. Was that the place you were next door to the bakery? Where the rat got in your hair?
R. Yes, the rats in my hair and they bit me, in my hand. Then what happened from there….
M. Shmerel went off to Paris and left his wife? What, he promised to send for her?
R. He sent for her. He did send for her. Then she went there. She still was [there] when Papy went to Paris. Then I said, I’m not going to stay in Lithuania. I’ve got to emigrate. On that arrangement I married him. Otherwise I wouldn’t have married him. I wanted to go to Israel, but I couldn’t. You had to have land, to go to Israel. Then we somehow, between my father and sold some furniture, made some expenses for Papy to go to Paris. Bella was already born. Things weren’t so quick. He went to Paris, and Basse Lipke was still there, but he was already, he took in already that French woman. She was supposed to help him to sew, in the meantime, he parted from Base Lipke, I don’t know what happened, he parted from Basse Lipke, and his marriage was finished. It finished his marriage. Then he got together with Malke. Oh yes, he said he wanted children. Then he got together with Malke. Malke started having children, every twelve months a child. Then it was bad. You could never please Shmerel.
M. I remember once I said to Malke “my father always told me he met you when he was in Paris.” She said “No, it wasn’t me, he never met me.” And I didn’t understand at the time, Obviously he knew the other one, the first one.
M. He met the first one, … I suppose she was all right as well. She was very nice to Papy, But nevertheless, I don’t know what happened. …er hot tsunoyfgedreyt. [he got twisted together].
M. Well Malke was a very pretty woman.
R. She was very pretty, she had children. She sent us beautiful photographs. We were already in England when that happened. And Papy was annoyed with him, when he divorced her, he had already four or five children. He said for her to take the children and go to Israel . . .
M. You’re going on too fast. Let’s go back. So in the meantime, Papy’s left to go to Paris, and you’ve stayed behind with Bella. What did you do, live with your mother?
R. No, I took a little house, and somehow, my father helped, I paid the rent, and in the meantime, Papy managed to get a job in Aberdare [South Wales, U.K.]
M. How long in Paris? A year or 18 months.
R. A year I think, or two years. Two years, a year, I don’t remember. … and the congregation helped him. From the Home Office, they allowed him to bring me. They gave him permission to stay in England.
M. He did that with the local MP, didn’t he. Was it George Hall?
R. George Hall. Poor Mr. Cohen went to George. He was an MP as well; No, he was a councillor, and he went with the MP to London, Saturday night, and got the permission, Papy could stay, and he could bring me over. It took very long.
M. How long did letters used to take then, to reach you?
R. About a week.
(end of side)
M. What do you mean could never be an end?
R. There’s so much to say.
M. So, he used to write you regularly from Paris? And tell you what work he was doing there?
R. He was trying to look for teaching. He was even a presser.
M. He told me he worked in a laundry. Either a laundry or a dry cleaner.
R. Maybe a dry cleaner.
M. And he wrote for a newspaper? He wrote some articles for a French newspaper there?
R. He used to write articles. He should be able to send me something. For the Paris newspaper, the Jewish newspaper.
M. Did he send you those articles?
R. Yes, I got them.
M. Yes, well, I’ve got them now.
R. That’s a lot to be sorted out.
M. And I know Shmerel used to take him to the races.
R. This I don’t know. Shmerel was everywhere.
M. So anyway he went to visit his aunt in Swansea, and ended up in Aberdare.
R. As soon as he’d written a letter. He remembered the aunt’s address by heart. And he’d written to her, and she’d sent him an invitation to come to Aberdare, to England.. To Swansea. And of course he went straightaway. And from there he came, and on Shabbos, and Sunday they came from all over the place, right round, from the valleys, to engage him as a shochet [kosher slaughterer]. And that’s the way he remained in Aberdare. By the councillor, he promised he’ll help him, and he did. He went to George Hall – this is Cohen, of course –
M. And they sent you money, did they, to come over? Or you had to get money from somewhere else?
R. Aberdare sent five pounds. But the person who was supposed to send the money, the check or whatever it was, he never put it in. There was no money. So who lent the money was the chazan [cantor], Feinberg, lent the money, took it to the auntie the money, ten pounds or something. Send it quick he said, he should be able to come over. But quick. And he came over.
M. Oh that was for him to come, from Paris. But I’m talking about for you to come from Lithuania.
R. No, from Lithuania, I had to find money. I sold some of my furniture. And my father helped me. They all helped, feter Manne.
M. Didn’t Shmerel help?
R. Oy, Shmerel, I’m telling you it’s never to end. Shmerel was then gone to Cuba. He was already with his French woman … he went to Cuba, and he couldn’t settle in Cuba, she didn’t like Cuba or something, and they went back to Paris.
M. So how did you set off. You got money together. And then you had to book tickets, or what?
R. I had made a passport. And my father took me so far as Kovno, and in Kovno I booked a ticket straight to north of Denmark.
M. Hamburg? Germany? I think you told me once.
R. Hamburg, Germany? To come to England, I had to go over the channel.
M. Did you get a boat from Hamburg?
R. No I went by train.
M. To the Hook of Holland?
R. The Hook of Holland, that’s it.
M. How long did that take then?
R. One night.
M. From Kovno, one night? For the whole journey?
R. A day and a night.
M. What, carrying what? What were you carrying? What was your luggage?
R. What was my luggage? They made the tins of plums, dry bread, I should have bread and jam to eat, in case I couldn’t get any food.
M. But did you have any luggage?
R. I had my luggage.
M. What did you have?
R. My pillows, my sheets, all what my …
M. But how did you carry that?
R. It was sent by train.
M. On the same train that you went on?
R. On the same train that I went.
M. So how did they change the trains?
R. On the train on Hamburg, in Hook of Holland, I was looking for the luggage, and they told me it was lost. I left Bella stand there, I said, “Don’t move.” And I went to see the stationmaster. And they went to look for the luggage. And they found it, it was still in the luggage compartment. And they said they’ll send it on straight. I stayed over Shabbos in London, when I came, and then I came in Aberdare, on Sunday.the luggage was there.
M. How was the luggage wrapped, in suitcases?
R. It was packed. In a package, sewed together with material. A bundle. In boxes, I can’t remember exactly. The first thing what I saw when I came into Mrs. Andrews’ was my copper saucepans. I said, “I got sauce pans like that.” She said, “It is yours.” I said, “How come you have it so quick?” She says “It came.” And I was looking for the luggage, the luggage was already in Aberdare.
M. So when you came to the Hook of Holland, you had to get on a boat.
R. Yes, overnight.
M. So did somebody show you how to get to the boat, or what?
R. I was speaking German there.
M. Well how old were you, 19? 20? What year was that? Can’t remember now. Bella says she was 2. No, you were 21 already.
R. She was 2. I got on the boat, and I came to London, from Hook of Holland. And Papy was supposed to meet me in the Joint. There was a Joint, called, used to receive.
M. First of all you must have come to a port in England. Lowestaff or someplace like that. Or Felixstowe on the east coast, you’d have probably come in, and then you’d have to get a train to London.
R. Something like that. Anyhow, I looked for Papy, Papy was supposed to meet me, but he wasn’t there. I looked for him. Then a little girl heard me speaking Yiddish to Bella. I kept on telling her she should wait, she shouldn’t move herself, and I got to try and telephone, and do something about it. Then she came up and asked me if she could help me. I told her I’m looking for the Joint. It must be I said a telephone number in the telephone book, to look. The kid looked, and she found it. And we rang up there, and there was Papy sitting and waiting for me to get in touch with him. Instead of he should look for me, I found him. And it didn’t take very long, and he came and he met us, and he took us to London, in Whitechapel, with Jack Margeetts, the mume’s [aunt’s] son, and I stayed there over Shabbos, and we came from there straight to the train, and went to Swansea, and from Swansea the following day to Aberdare, where they were waiting for him. And that’s the way it started.
M. Was that the time you said the old Mrs. Chinn came down to meet you?
R. That was later on. Old Mrs. Chinn, they had to find out first, they all came to greet me to speak to me, to see who I am. They all thought, goodness, have I got horns or something. Till the old Mrs. Chinn said, ‘Where did he got her from?’ They’d never seen anybody like it. And they all made me very welcome. It was a poor life, but it was a happy life. And that’s the way it started, slowly, slowly. And then you were born.
M. But then Bella had to learn a new language, because she only spoke Yiddish I suppose, did she?
R. She spoke Yiddish. She got a little friend, a goyishke, in Aberdare, and the little friend used to speak English to her, and she used to speak Yiddish, and they understood each other. And then she went to the Welsh school.
M. Well that wouldn’t be till she was four. So two years.
R. No, we were still with Mrs. Andrews. And they said she could start school anytime. She went to the school. And straightaway she learned, “bwir da [good morning] Miss Jones”, Speaking Welsh. She spoke Welsh before she spoke English. And I lived in Mrs. Andrews’, for about two years, I think, and afterwards I lived in the shul [on the ground floor of a building with a shul upstairs – MS] for awhile, till I started bothering Papy. See I had to find out that you got to apply for a job, you could better yourself. I didn’t know anything. Then he started applying for a job. Then he got a job in Bryn Mawr And instead of getting 30 shilling a week, in Bryn Mawr, how much did he got in Bryn Mawr?
M. Three pounds I think to start with. Four, eventually, but he didn’t start on four. I think it was three. Or three pound five.
R. No, four pound.
M. I remember him on four pound when he went for a raise and got four pound 10. No he started on less than four pounds, he told me.
R. Maybe less. I went to Aberdare – not to Aberdare, to Bryn Mawr, they didn’t want us to go from Aberdare. First of all we were in Swansea, Swansea engaged him straightaway. Before Aberdare. But they only gave 2 pound 10 a week.
M. No it must have been before Bryn Mawr you mean. He went straight to Aberdare before you came over. So you went to Swansea after Aberdare.
R. That’s right. Schwartz gave … was it Schwartz? No, it was a tailor, he came for Papy, he was a macher [mover and shaker] in Yiddish matters. They wouldn’t give me 4 pounds a week, they only give 3 pounds 10. And Aberdare, Bryn Mawr gave 4 pounds. And I said we could get a house, a pound a week a house had to cost. And I took Bryn Mawr. And we stayed 15 yeears in Bryn Mawr. And that’s it. The rest you know.

Granny died on the 3rd of January 1993 in the Joy Silverstone Home in Birmingham, the Fast [10th] of Tevet.

–Monty Starr


  1. Keidan as it is normally rendered in German and Russian transliteration.

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