About Leah Jacobowitz (Kreinik)
0321 "As I Remember" -- A Memoir. Click the link for large document:
"...my person was my own..." "... very few mornings when I did not wake up with a song in my heart. I find myself humming before and after breakfast, and keep on humming and singing even after becoming conscious of what I was doing,..."
As I Remember …
Leah Kreinik Jacobowitz
June 13, 1881 1962
AS I REMEMBER
My life started at the end of an era, the beginning of a new one: electricity, the telephone, gas replacing oil, coal and wood burning stoves, stationary tin bathtubs in tenements (America), water in sinks instead of one pump on each floor for the tenants, and of course toilets instead of the “backhouses” in the yard, one “locker” to each floor.
The first five years of my life were spent in Zglobnia, Galicia-Austria (now Poland). It was a quiet, pastoral sort of village; white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, flowers in little gardens in front, sending forth their fragrance into the air. Fences were really pretty, made of willow withes woven like basket work. Very few houses had wooden floors, just packed down earth, easy to sweep never got muddy.
Beyond the one long main road, were fields of grain, vegetables, orchards and meadows for grazing cows and horses. The peasants were friendly, helped each other harvest time, including the Jewish farmers. There were perhaps fifteen Jewish families, dealing in farm produce, dairy and poultry which were sold in the big city market some distance away. There was a church, Catholic, with here and there on the road sacred images in framed nooks, which the Jewish children passed with averted eyes. The one big industry was a distillery, which gave employment to many peasants, and of course the Inn, or “Kretchma,” which did good business with the peasants and the Jews too. Drunkenness was not too frequent or troublesome.
My grandparents’ home was on the main road, on a corner with a rough road leading down to a brook where wading was very pleasant. In the spring that brook would overflow until the water touched the main road. The entrance of the cottage was a hall about 15’ long, dirt-packed floor, on the right a “kommer” or pantry which was a cooling room for milk, butter, eggs, etc.; on the left the customary stable for the cow, (I’m not sure we had a horse, though we used horses for plowing), and a millstone grinder for the family flour. A door at the head of the hall opened into the combination kitchen-dining room-living room, dirt-packed floor; on the left an arch with a step leading down to the bedroom, with an alcove; the floor of broad white pine boards that gleamed from scrubbing; beautiful tapestry covers on the three or four beds, and one window. In the main room there was a long wooden table with backless benches on either side, a window looking out on the garden in back. Three was a large plaster covered oven near the entrance, set deep into the wall, with an iron grate under which wood was burned, where all the cooking and baking was done. On the right side of the entrance, inside this main room, there was another wood-burning plaster covered oven used for heating. There was a nook at the top where we used to vie with the cat, climbing up for warmth.
There always seemed to be a maid servant, who milked the cow and helped generally. The milk was strained and poured into large metal (sink?) tubs, (maybe wooden ones?) and when the cream became firm, it was skimmed off and put in wooden churns to make butter, delicious buttermilk. The rest of the milk was clabber, “sour milk,” which went deliciously with new potatoes covered with butter (mm). Most of it was poured into cheese cloth bags and hung up to drip-dry, to make cottage cheese. A portion was dried more, made into pats that were cone shaped in the hollow of the hand, and dried hard. With plenty of pepper and salt in them, they were find tidbits. Even the whey was made into creamed soup. The garden in back yielded vegetables for the table, and flowers, always flowers.
Across the road was a large pond, bordered by willow trees, which served as a skating rink in the winter. With Tante Feige, two years my senior, we played at the edge of the pond, washing our dolls’ clothes (wooden dolls) on little boards, beating them with a small “kienka,” a smooth little board shaped like a bread board, with a handle, using then arrow edge. The same method was used by the peasants. Our folks had a large metal tub in which they boiled the clothes outdoors over a wood fire. Spinning wheels were in general use, and the beautiful sheets that were produced in hand looms were spread out, wet, on the grass to bleach. It was fascinating to watch them spin the flax, wetting their fingers constantly to thin the thread, the wheel turning by foot power on some contraption.
It was a happy childhood, in my memory; playing house, climbing trees for cherries and pears, with Feige. We liked best to accompany the men to the fields harvest time. We sat on the floor planks of a large horse drawn hay wagon, our legs hanging out from between the upright poles. We were given the easy job of digging up new potatoes, while the men cut the grain with a scythe, tieing (sic) it up in bundles which were piled onto the wagon. On the way home we were hoisted up on top of the heap and held on for dear live. The bundles were taken into the barn across the little road alongside the house, laid on the floor and beaten with a flail; the straw removed and the grain sifted through a large strainer, like those I have seen used by gold miners, in pictures. Tools were primitive and hand powered, except the horse drawn plows.
At the end of the harvest there was a holiday; wild blueberries, such as we know not of in modern times, were picked and Grandma would bake a huge pie in a deep dish, with a cake topping, and all hands shared, family and peasant helpers alike.
Passover was a memorable time. We shared the big oven with a few families who brought their dough. Long tables were set up on “horses,” past of dough were rolled out and placed on a large wooden spatula and eased into the oven, about six at a time. It was a gay, chattering group, both men and women working. I had the delightful job of running the stippler over the finished cakes, criss-crossing to keep them from bulging.
Of course we were all orthodox, and holidays were joyous occasions. Every home had a succah. I remember ours was alongside the main room, a board affair with an open roof covered with branches, fruit, flowers. The entrance was from the outside, but there was an opening into the main room window, through which food was passed by the women who stayed indoors to serve. The New Year holy days ended with a gay Simchas Torah, the elders dancing in a ring with the little ones in the middle, singing, chanting, clapping hands, and of course feasting. We had meat only on the Sabbath and holidays. Chanukah was the usual holiday, with lights and special dishes. Purim had a background of giving to the poorer families without offence, the children carrying “shelachmonos” and usually bringing back a return gift.
The village had one “Zhandahr” (as near as I can spell the sound), who was all the law rolled into one person. He wore city clothes, was a kindly gentleman, and a frequent visitor at our house. Grandpa seemed to be the unofficial head of the Jewish community; people were always dropping in to seek advice, complain, gossip. There was very little anti-Semitism, only a vague rumor occasionally of some drunken peasant cursing the “shit” (Jew as the peasant expressed it). The Priest seemed to be liked and respected by all the population.
I particularly remember the peasant weddings, to which we were invariable invited. The prospective bride, as was the custom, would come in with her mother, k eel in front of grandma, putting her arms around her knees and say “prose pane,” which meant please madam, implying an invitation. Grandma always had a bolt of cotton material to give the bride. Once I was allowed to attend a wedding nearby, but was warned not to eat anything except a “shishka,” a round fancy edged sort of cookie without shortening and slightly sweetened, with egg polish on top. Fiddlers made the gayest music, the dancing was fast and furious, the groom chasing the bride up the ladder leading to the loft, his hands, I must admit, reaching up her skirts to tickle her. As of today, I see it as natural, clean sex, regarded as open fun, nothing dirty about it
Memoir: As I Remember: Big PDF file,
Leah K Jacobowitz's Timeline
June 13, 1881
Zglobnia, Galicia, Poland
Leah's marriage certificate says she was born in "Austria," which usually means the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Zglobnia/ (Zgłobnia Zgłobień) is in Poland now.
Zgłobień, Zgłobień, Poland
[father Josef]" ... took himself off to London, as Mother told us. He didn’t find his fortune there, came back to the village, and eventually emigrated to America. Meanwhile, a baby brother was born when I was about two, who did not survive." LKJ As I Remember, 1962, p.5
- September, 1886
New York, NY, USA
"It must have been two years after that [stillborn baby boy in 1883], when Mother was carrying Anna, that Papa went to America. A few months later, when Anna was about a month old, he sent us tickets for our passage by boat, steerage, taking not less than three weeks to cross over."
Cracow, Poland, Lesser Poland, Poland
"A year or so later Irving was born, and Mother’s health broke down. She not only helped in the shop, but always had boarders, “landsleit” who came to America and made our home their first stop until they found a place of their own. Papa decided to send us back home to our grandparents where Mother could get rest and fresh air. Irving was six months old then [April 1888], and not very strong either. Before long Mother rented a cottage, with Marinka, or Marishka as we affectionately called her, acting as our housekeeper. She had been Mother’s wet nurse, Grandma having been unable to nurse her – no bottles those days; was a sweet, cheerful, motherly person who adored Mother and us. She was like another Grandmother to us." As I Remember.
Cracow, Lesser Poland, Poland
I remember that trip because it was the occasion also of Uncle Aaron’s wedding to Tante Gittel in Krakow. Papa was in America, as I have already written, and Mama, Anna, Irving and I were back in Europe for Mother’s health.
About Uncle Max Krantz: "While we were back in Europe, he (Uncle Max) and I took took a long walk to my other grandparents' home, about two miles away, on a very cold day in the winter. My hands froze, I was crying in distress and he picked me up and carried me on his back all the rest of the way. I was eight, he was twelve." p. 68
Zgłobień, rzeszowski, Podkarpackie Voivodeship, Poland
From Leah Kreinik Jacobowitz's As I Remember: "Uncle Max, now eighty-five, boards with her. [85 in 1962 implies Max Krantz was born in 1877]. A remarkable person, who deserves at least a few lines. He is the last of my Mother's family, is in constant pain due to a bone disease, spends most of his time in a wheel chair, though he uses his crutches painfully. He is the most cheerful invalid you can imagine; ready for a story or a joke, can still make minor repairs in the house. Mae is very particular about the right kind of food and so he tries to forget his pain. While we were back in Europe, he and I took took a long walk to my other grandparents' home, about two miles away, on a very cold day in the winter. My hands froze, I was crying in distress and he picked me up and carried me on his back all the rest of the way. I was eight, he was twelve."
"We moved to Buffalo about 1893, where Uncle Aaron had established himself with his family. He was afflicted with wanderlust too, for in later years he moved to the South. The struggle for existence never let up. Father opened a tailoring shop, Mother and I helped as usual. I attended school for half a term, then Papa needed me to run errands, and do some of the sewing. His work was beautiful, being a perfectionist."
Rotterdam, South Holland, The Netherlands
Krakow reminds me of another incident which occurred when we were on our way back to America after two years in Europe. The train stopped for an hour, and little Anna, three years old, decided she’d go for a walk and disappeared. When the train was ready to start, no Anna. The alarm went out, all of us went looking for her. The trainmen were extraordinarily kind, agreeing to hold the train for fifteen minutes, but no longer. At last a policemen came along with her, just in the nick of time. But we missed the boat at Rotterdam, Holland. The station was closed, it was late at night, and we had no place to stay. We had plenty of food along, however. Mama, with her usual initiative, started our small group walking and we came to a large estate, a big mansion, with outbuildings. We knocked, the gatekeeper went for “Herr,” who proved to be a kindly gentleman. He heard Mama’s story, and told her he had only one place where we could spend the night: the big stable where all the domestic animals were housed; but it was warm, and there were some empty stalls with clean straw. The one we occupied was next to a calf’s, which kept poking its head over the partition, scaring us kids. Mama reassured us, and finally we slept. In the morning this kindly gentleman brought us coffee and rolls.
Denver, CO, USA
As I Remember, Pages 23-24
My father was scared, as he always was when one of the children became sick enough to need a doctor. My persistent couge worried him, as well as Mother, and he thought of the possibility of TB. Remembering the famous Hospital in Denver, Colo., he told me to ask my doctor whether it wouldn't be advisable for me to go there. And that, dear children, was the break I was subconsciously waiting for; a chance, perhaps, to get away. After examination, the doctor said I was very much improved, and as for going to Denver, a little vacation of two or three weeks in the mountains would be fine, and I'd be all right. (Dick, the doctor prescribed Peptomangin as a tonic.) But it would be good for me, I persisted, to go to Denver? and he replied, oh yes, if I wanted to go away that far. All the years of silent conflict with Papa, his strict ways, his mistrust and ridicule of my friends, and withal my admiration and respect for him, had reduced me to conforming, to dreading scenes which made a nervous wreck of me. And so I compromised with my conscience and told him half the truth, that Denver would be good for me. I was tired of my feriends twit me because I was afraid of coming home a minute late, of getting scolded even slapped. I realized in time of cours, years later, that he was scared, we lived in a poor neighborhood, and I might have been in danger."
June 5, 1900
New York, New York, NY, USA
55 Avenue D, Manhattan