Friday, March 8, 2024

Maybe Someone Will Find Me

In 1941, the Germans came to Skalat and nineteen year old Taube Pikholz got on a train going east and had no further contact with her family and community. All four of Taube's parents were named Pikholz.

Eventually, Taube married a local Moslem man named Boris Minolin. They had two daughters who died and afterwards two daughters Leonora and Naila, born in 1957 and 1959. Taube kept her name, with the Russian spelling Pikgolts. She said "Maybe someone will find me."

Leonora married a Jewish man named Mark Sokalski who lived in Uzbekistan. The Sokalskis were from Uman but had bought into the idea of the Jewish republic of Birobijan. When that didn't work out, they left and ended up in Uzbekistan. Mark and Leonora had a son and a daughter and Taube, now widowed, joined them in Uzbekistan.

In the meantime, Naila had two sons by two different non-Jewish men to whom she was not married. Naila too remained Pikgolts. "Maybe someone will find me."

Taube daughter of Leisor
In the early 1990s, the Sokalski clan made aliyah to Israel and lived in Netanya. Taube went with them. As far as the Sokalskis were concerned, Leonora and Taube were alone in the world, like foundlings.

About five years later, Naila and her sons joined them and soon after, Taube died. "Maybe someone will find me."

It took another eight years, but your humble blogger found them and arranged to meet Leonora. I knew who she was, several generations back.I had documents from the Polish archives.

Leonora was amazed. Among her reactions were:
"You can prove that my children are Jewish" and "Now the Sokalskis will know that I am SOMEBODY."

I told her about the annual Skalat memorial meeting at the cemetery in Holon and she came, with her son Boris and Naila. I had gotten a lot of background about the family in Skalat from an older man named Shammai Segal and when we met in the cemetery I asked him "Shammai, who is Taube Pikholz? You told me about her parents and brother and sister, but you never mentioned Taube."

Shammai replied in a far away voice and heavily-accented English, "Taube Pikholz. She went away. far away. Nobody knows where she went." I introduced him to Leonora and Naila and he called to his wife "Nehama, you remember Leisor Pikholz who lived across the street from you in Skalat? These are his granddaughters." And one said to the other "We have to go the cemetery and tell Mama." We remained in touch for quite a few years after this.

Some years later, Leonora phoned me. She was at the office of the Netanya Rabbinate, helping her daughter register for her forthcoming marriage and needed me to tell them that I could vouch for her Jewishness. And they asked me if anyone could vouch for them from Skalat. I gave them Shammai's phone number.

I enjoyed a bit of celebrity at the wedding.

And what about Taube's older cousin Sarah? She was born in 1905, so no one expected to find her in 2003. But in fact, Sarah had died at age ninety-five, in 2000. I knew who she was from the old records. She had indeed lived in Newark New Jersey and was buried next to her husband BenZion Aptowitzer in Elizabeth. A few days before writing these words, I attended the wedding of Sarah's great-grandson, not far from Jerusalem.

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