Monday, 1 February 2010

A potted history

The photograph above is of my grandfather and his daughter, my mum, taken circa 1970 when my grandpa would have been 52. They are on holiday somewhere, maybe Elba or the South of France where they would go on family trips every year.

My grandpa is an endlessly fascinating man. An Oxford educated, Russian Jew whose parents fled Russia for London in the early 1900's and divorced soon after. As is traditional in Jewish families my grandpa and his brother Lenny stayed with his father, Seoul, and his sister Leia moved to France with his mother, Clara.

I sit for hours when I visit my grandpa, as I did yesterday, listening to his stories of the fascinating lives of my ancestors. The part they played in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the persecution they endured, stories of escapes and rescues that sound too much to be true.

Doubtless the powerful nature of my Jewish lineage has had an impact on who I am (despite the fact that my granny wasn't Jewish, so according to Orthodox Jews I am not Jewish at all - see here). Take, for example, the endless references to my mothers Jewish guilt and propensity to worry about everything, lullabies replaced by odd Yiddish rhymes, a lifelong need to fight for the underdog and my very real awareness that life will not always be easy that has been present since I could think.

I make endless notes tracing his family history, and that of my beloved granny, wanting to find out everything I can about these ancestors of mine and the vastly different world they inhabited. I have never been to Russia, or Pinsk in Belarus where my grandpa's family can be traced to. I have never been to Canada, where he studied, or most of America and particularly California where my great grandfather, Seoul, moved to after his divorce.

I would love to travel to these places, and find out more about these people, and in fact one promise to myself is that this year I will try and travel to Russia and do and take an in depth look at my family tree.

My granny and grandpa were married for around 70 years. He cries every time he talks about her now, and speaks with heartbreaking adoration of granny and her family. It was, like many other relationships, hard and testing and yet a happy and loving union which produced 3 children and 7 grandchildren. They travelled all over the world, enjoyed some of the most wonderful food and, for the most part, a very good life.

I am hugely proud of my family history on both my mother and fathers side. It makes me feel oddly exotic that I am 1/8th Russian with a pinch of French thrown in. It also makes me feel a need to live up to the interesting history that has gone before me, and have a life that fascinates my great grand children a century from now. I'm just not quite sure where to begin....


  1. I find the stories of peoples' family lineages so interesting :-) Thanks for sharing!

  2. thank you both, I could write for hours about them all!


Related Posts with Thumbnails