My aunt Sarah was the only child of my grandfather’s first marriage. It was an arranged marriage, and my grandfather later claimed that he was not told his wife had epilepsy. He divorced her and she went back to her family, in a village elsewhere. Sarah was raised by my grandfather’s family, the Zylberkants. Who in the family raised her? This I don’t know. According to my father and his other sister, Sarah and their mother were not close; they did not have a mother-daughter relationship. But I know she was close to the Zylberkants, refusing to leave Poland when my grandfather sent for her and his wife, and choosing to stay with them instead. She did come to America several years later, and then – remarkably – went back to Poland to visit in 1931. Clearly, she missed these people, and they were important to her.
Her birth mother was always an empty space in the family stories. She seemed to have just disappeared. No one knew her name, no one seemed to have kept in touch with her. My father remembers Sarah telling him that she met her mother only once. On the way to America, she stopped at her mother’s village. (Where was it?) She described the meeting as unemotional. As my father re-tells it, he told her, it was like “oh, so you’re the mother” and “oh, so you’re the daughter.” And that was that.
As my father started sorting through papers recently, he found a copy of Sarah’s application for a social security number. The form asks for her mother’s name. The beginnings of a word are written and crossed out. I think it says “Gussie” (Gittel’s name in America). Next to that is written, “Chana Wodinski”.
On a whim, I type “Wodinski” into Jewishgen. I have had little luck finding other members of the family, but this name is so new to me that I decide it’s worth a try. There are very few records (only 24), compared to other family names I have searched for. Of these, several are names that are not even close (Bodanski). But there are 14 records from Siedlce Gubernia, the area of Poland that I now know many people in our family came from.
And there she is.
Chana Rojza Wodynska. Born 1885. Siedlce Gubernia, Warszawa Province.
I got goosebumps when I saw this. It is the first time I have found a record of a specific person in our family. One empty space, however peripheral, may have been filled.
My father says the name is a Russian form of the name, so this must have been when the area was in Russian control. Male names ended in “ski” and female names in “ska”.
I will add this to the list of records to order from Poland.