A Genealogical Study
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HISTORY OF THE KOMOROWSKI FAMILY
The earliest Komorowski family group traced to date is that of Hersz Komorowski and Ruchel Laja Rudecka and their children, who lived in the city of Lodz in central Poland in the mid-19th century. Both had been married and widowed before they married each other, and each had a daughter by their first spouse. Hersz was a cobbler, who was first married to a woman named Yenta, who died in the late 1830s. Ruchel Laja's Rudecki family has been traced back to the 1780s, and her first marriage was to Mortchaj Monis Korpel, who died in 1837. Their daughter, Haja, died the following year. Hersz died in 1865 and Ruchel Laja in 1872.
Of Hersz and Ruchel Laja’s nine children, at least three died in Lodz aged eight years or younger, and two have yet to be traced beyond their birth certificates. The remaining four were two sons (Abraham Iciek and Mosiek Aron) and two daughters (Jachet and Gitl). Both sons lost their first wives towards the end of the 19th century, and both remarried. Both brothers had large families, although none has been traced to any living descendants. Mosiek Aron appears to have lost a daughter-in-law and a grandson in the Holocaust, the former in the Lodz Ghetto in 1942, and the latter deported from their to Chelmno in 1944. Further investigation is continuing into the descendants of these lines.
The many descendants of Jachet and Gitl have been traced to the present day in some detail; parts in very minute detail. Jachet was the matriarch of the Lipman family; Gitl was the matriarch of the Goldberg family.
Jachet and Moszek’s children suffered varying fates. Josif married in Lodz in 1897 but was serving in the Russian Army as a tailor and was soon posted to a town named Vladykafkas (now called Orzhonikidze) in the Caucasus, just north of the border with Georgia. Josif's wife, Malka Ruchel Szumiraj, joined him, and it was here that their first child, Reuben, was born in 1900. He would go on to be an eminent psychotherapist, based in Liverpool. Not long after Reuben's birth, Josif's posting came to an end and the couple returned with Reuben to Lodz, where they had two further children. Around 1906, they emigrated to Leeds, in north-east England, and continued to have children there. This became the large Lipman family known to the cousins today. Branches of this family moved to Liverpool and Plymouth, but most still remain in Leeds to this day. Ruchel Laia, named after her grandmother, also married and started her family in Lodz. She married Mordka Brajtbart, of the famous Brajtbart family of strongmen, who came from the outlying town of Strykow. Ruchel Laia and Mordka are believed to have emigrated from Lodz to Darmstadt in Germany c.1908, before joining the Lipmans in Leeds c.1910. This became the Brightbart family who were very close to their Goldberg cousins in London. Jack Brightbart remembers that Jachet & Moszek came to England to visit the family when he was young, but they returned to Poland, where they died.
The Brightbart/Lipman family celebrated a double simcha in 1926, when Josif’s daughter Annie and Ruchel’s son Jules married in Leeds. As well as his two legitimate children with Annie, Jules would later father an illegitimate son named David Mitchell, following an affair with employee Hazel Mitchell. Annie knew of the affair and of David’s existence, and he was accepted within the family, though turned out to be rather a loner.
Of Jachet & Moszek’s other surviving children, Elka’s is the tragic tale. She married and had her first child, Moishe, in Lodz, though rather later then her elder siblings (Moishe was born in 1919). Her husband, Victor (possibly Awigdor or Awigdor Jakob) Gornecki, was an outspoken man with politics contrary to those acceptable for the time, so his family were forced to leave Poland. Stories of what followed differ, but it is believed that, around 1920, Elka and Moishe escaped to Leeds for a year or so, before settling in Lille, in north-east France. During this time, Victor fathered two illegitimate sons by another woman, before finally escaping to Lille c.1923. At this point, his extra-marital relationship ended, with the unusual arrangement that the couple would take custody of one son each. Victor and Elka brought up Sam, who would later be killed fighting in the War, while their mother brought up Léon. Elka and Victor then had three more children in Lille. As an aside, Léon's story is a tragic one, as his mother committed suicide when he was a child, and he was brought up in orphanages.
Tragically, in September 1942, Elka & Victor, along with their teenage children Sara and Bernard, were arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Moishe and his brother Joseph fought in the Resistance movement during the War, before settling in Lille and Miami (Florida) respectively.
Gitl Komorowska’s family has an equally action-packed story to tell. Family legend states that Gitl was married twice before marrying Gerszel Goldberg in Lodz in 1872, aged still only 18! Indeed, the JRI database suggests a marriage to a Jankewe Kosiorkewicz in 1871. It is assumed that Jankewe and any other husband of Gitl’s both died before her marriage to Hersz. Even bearing in mind the tender ages at which girls married in those times, even this must have been a great deal to bear.
It is thought that the marriage to Gerszel was halachically sound, but was not recorded by civil means. This explains the term “legal wife” on their children’s birth certificates, to ensure they were not regarded as illegitimate by the state, despite being technically exactly that! However, as the marriage was secure in halacha, the children were not mamzerim. Gitl and Gerszel eventually married according to civil law in 1887.
Gerszel, himself, was an interesting character. He is known to have had something physically wrong with his legs or feet that may have left him wheelchair-bound. The fact that his daughter, Szprynca, was also lame suggests it was a hereditary condition, though there is no proof for any of this. Gerszel’s occupation is given as “servant” on his civil marriage certificate and his children’s birth certificates, but as “rabbi” on Gitl’s death certificate.
Although Gerszel and Gitl married in 1872, their first child was not born until 1881. They named him Chaim Szyia, meaning “life” and “hymn” which suggests either a difficult birth or simply a successful pregnancy carried to the full term, in contrast to what may have occurred in the preceding years.
The Goldberg family began its gradual emigration c.1905, when Izrael and his wife and baby son emigrated to London and Chaim Szyia, his wife and two daughters joined them in 1907. Two pointers to the year of Izrael and Chana Ita's emigration being 1905 are the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War (so men would be tempted to avoid the compulsory seven years military service at that time) and a pogrom in Lodz that year. Whatever the reasons, the brothers settled in London and continued to have children there. Around 1908, their sister, Szajndl, married in Lodz, and started her own family. Around three years later, their two unmarried sisters, Szprynca and Gudes, joined their brothers in London, leaving their parents and Szajndl and her family in Lodz. Gerszel died in the first few days of 1915, and Gitl moved to London at some point afterwards.
Szajndl was the last of the family to leave Lodz. Her husband, Szlama Parzenczewski, met his brother in Belgium in 1919 and they set themselves up in Paris. Szajndl and their surviving children joined them there in the spring of 1920. It had always been Szajndl’s intention to join her family in London but, by the time Szlama attempted to enter the country in the late 1920s, the immigration laws had changed and he was forced to return to France without disembarking from the boat – an event which would have tragic consequences.
Meanwhile, it had always been Chaim Szyia’s intention to go to America so, in September 1922, he and his family set sail for New York, staying for a short time with cousins in Paterson, New Jersey, before setting up home in Brooklyn.
Izrael and Szajndl were very close as siblings, despite the distance between them, and they wrote to each other regularly. As their children grew up, the families visited each other in London and Paris. When, in 1937, Izrael’s youngest daughter, Bertha, fell pregnant while 22 and still single, he refused to allow the baby into the family, so she went to her cousins in Paris to have it. She intended to abandon the child in Paris after giving birth, and return to London, with the whole affair swept under the carpet. However, the doctor told her that the birth would be a difficult one, and this was the only child she would ever have. She bore a son, whom she named Jerry, after her grandmother, Gitl, who had died in June that same year. The boy came to be known as Jojo. The doctor suggested she reconsider abandoning the child, but Bertha was insistent, and returned to London as planned. Szajndl’s eldest daughter, Sara, was present at the time, and she decided to take the child in and foster him. When Bertha found out later, she was furious! However, Sara was married with two children already, so bringing up a third was rather less of a burden than might be first thought.
Read Ester Malka Rycine's memoirs, covering the history of her family from 1919-1945
Read Rachel Oger's memoirs of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a young girl
The circumstances surrounding Jojo’s birth were not the only highlight of his life. In 1941, his foster father, Sara’s husband Mordka Najman, was arrested in a raid on foreign Jews in Paris, and deported first to the Drancy and Pithiviers detention camps, then to Auschwitz in 1942. His brother was also deported at the same time and he vowed to Mordka that, should he survive and Mordka did not, he would help bring up Mordka’s children. In September that year (1942), Sara and her father, Szlama, were arrested by Nazis at his house in the Romainville district of Paris, in front of Sara’s son, Emile. Father and daughter suffered the same fate as Mordka, both being deported to Auschwitz.
The family scattered into hiding all over the city, taking the children with them, including Jojo. Mordka died in Auschwitz, but his brother survived and, true to his word, he returned for Mordka’s children after the War. However, for some reason, he did not take Jojo in as well, so he spent the remainder of his childhood in various orphanages. He remained in frequent contact with the family, and was invited to Madeleine’s wedding in 1948, aged 10. This was a big event and, of course, Izrael and his family, including Bertha, were invited from London. To this day, that has been the only time mother and son have met. There was no love lost between them; someone pointed Jojo out to Bertha and she remarked that he was an ugly child, though clearly this was not the case. It was clear that no relationship would form between them and they went their separate ways.
As with many large families, not all of the branches of the Goldberg family were able to stay in touch. In the 1940s, Chaim Szyia and his family gradually moved to Florida and contact was lost with the rest of the Goldberg family. Despite the efforts of Szajndl, Bella Linder, Manis Goldberg and Anthea Goldberg, no connection could be made, until a team of Internet researchers led by Saul Marks made the vital breakthrough in March 2003, and the lost American Goldbergs were found at last.
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