Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kaunas, Lithuania

We took the train from Vilnius to Kaunas, home of the family of our great-great grandmother Lena Laser Blumenfeld.
The Kaunas synagogue - still functioning!

War memorial at the synagogue (Torah)

Vegetable hawker

One of the beggar-woman army

Vegetable hawker


The flood meter

Dulcimer buskette and a layabout

Train station outbuilding

A military presence

Street scenes, Tukums, Latvia

Tukums was our primary stop, home of our great-great-grandparents' families, the poor Blumenfelds and the wealthy Klatsovs.
On the square, kitty-corner to the bank which was once the Klatsov store

We met Aleksandrs, a Hobbitish fellow with a great Russian accent, who proceeded to lead us around the central square area, which is pretty much still as David B described it...grey pavings...shops new and old, wood and stone... The prominently located site of David’s maternal grandfather has been replaced by a bank.  It was still functioning as a store and owned by his uncle David Klatsov as late as 1937...however it was torn down as a derelict in 1946 because the owner – David K – had disappeared in 1941. This, Fred deduced via the Yadvashem website of Holocaust victims,  was because David and his son were killed in June ’41 soon after the Nazi occupation.  

We had a long meeting with the director of several Tukums museums, who also showed us around the otherwise closed-on-Mondays history museum.  She was fascinated by our story as there is little written record by inhabitants of the time, let alone Jews, of whom there are virtually zero remaining 1880 57% of the town was Jewish. The old synagogue now functions as a sports court.

Interestingly, the Klatsov property is visible not only in a good many of the historic photos of Tukums but in the main museum display, a lazy-susan depicting the square at three times in history.  We’ver developed a whole new spin where this is not only poor David Blumenfeld’s story but that of his mother, and her wealthy family who opted to stay in Latvia and relish their success only to perish as David found success, free in America. 

Anyway we also found out to our disappointment that David’s father’s house was not actually the original building but built in 1924.  It just looked 150 years old!  

This may have been my great-great-grandmother Leah Klatsov's house

The old synagogue, now a gymnasium

Site of my great-great-grandfather BenZion Blumenfeld's house

In case you get lost in town...

Storage shed

The old Jewish cemetery

Harmony Street

Shed Door Series, Tukums, Latvia

Runapils, Latvia

Spent a couple hours at this exquisite (a term I do not use frivolously) restored country palace. Originally built by the Russian Empress Anna for her lover the Duke, it was converted by the Russians to a school and a warehouse! Only in the 1970s was an effort begun to return it to its glory.
The main gate

A humble boudoir; those are tiled stoves - heaters - at the side

The master bath

Entrance to the parade ground

Marcienas Muiza, Latvia

Spent one night at this idyllic country "palace" by a millpond, surrounded by farmland and birch forest. The storks commute between here and Africa.
The birch forest

Stork and dragons

Ordnung putt-putt

The Mill: Jurmala, Latvia

As we traveled through the Jurmala (seaside) region of northern Latvia, we happened upon this restored 18th-century flour mill. It was probably much like the mill that our great-great grandfather BenZion ran in the Ukraine in the 1870s.

This farm was across the road from the mill. Notice in front of the barn an antique sleigh...

Jaunmokupils, Latvia

For completeness, I include some touristy shots from the grounds of the Jaunmokupils hunting lodge, converted with the Soviet takeover to a school and hospital, now a hotel. We stayed here two nights on the outskirts of Tukums, which was our main destination.