My one of a kind grandmother passed away 30 days ago at the age of 101. In Judaism there are many customs, and one of them is to celebrate and honor 30 days after the passing, which we did today at our shul.
My mother wrote our Rabbi a detailed description of my Babushka Anna below.
I am grateful to continue lighting candles and inspiring other Jewish women to light candles to connect to their roots, all in honor of my grandmother.
To my favorite Rabbi Mendy Yemini for SHLOSHIM of Hannah bat Ruvim v’Beylah
Glimpses of Reminiscence by Irene Shulamit Medovoy
On September 6, 2015, our amazing Mama, Grandma and Great-Grandma Hannah bat Ruvim v’Beylah turned One Hundred years young. I do not even want to include in her titles the word “in-law” for one beautiful reason. My Mama graciously considered the spouses of her kids and grandkids as her adopted children. That is how big my Mama’s heart was! There was plenty of love in it for each new family member and even more people who worshipped her. That is why all her offspring (26) gathered in Boston to celebrate her 100th Birthday.
Our Matriarch Anna was a true Star. I can illustrate it by a perfect example. In 2003, HRCA – Boston Hebrew Center for the Aged – commemorated 100th Anniversary of their unique “Hebrew Senior Life” facility – the role model for the world!
When in 2003, we drove around that Centre St. encircling HRCA, we saw a pennant streaming in the wind on every lightpole. To our astonishment, our Mama’s portrait was on each of those streamers! Every member of Mama’s family including Yulia has a special calendar created by Mama’s firstborn Anatoly; he placed that 2003 photo on the commemorative book and 2015-16 calendar along with covers. He created them for Mama’s 100th Birthday and for all her descendants, God Bless him…
There are thousands of elderly residents in HRCA facility – the site of Harvard University studies in Gerontology and Geriatrics. There is a unit for Spanish-speaking inhabitants with Spanish-speaking staff. There is a Chinese elderly unit with Mandarin-speaking staff. There is a unit for immigrants from former Soviet Union with Russian speaking residents and staff. And of course, there are almost three thousands more of English-speaking American seniors living there.
2,400 HRCA employees chose to put our Anna’s portrait on that streamer and the Anniversary booklet as a symbol of their centennial celebration. Since 2000 when our Mama moved into that building in her eighties, she won each Senior Pageant and Fashion Show. She was a soloist in the choir. Her artistic creations coming out of her masterful hands were on each display of HRCA. She proudly wore “Adidas” brand attire when she went to exercise in the gym on the premises of that building. Whenever you asked Anna about her health, she answered, “No complaints!”
Our Anna was the best in Bingo and word games. She was always good with languages and passed this trait genetically to her descendants. Anna passed her naturalization citizenship test in English in her eighties! The staff made Anna to volunteer by pairing her with lonely American Jews who loved speaking Yiddish; our Mama was like a beam of sunshine for them. Her peers and staff showered her with presents at her birthday parties. Americans called her similar names – my darling, sweet, adorable, etc…
The Roots of Anna’s Parents
I can hardly think of anything my mother could not do. She was the seventh and the youngest child in the family of Ruvim Hlyap and Beylah Pasternak-Hlyap. All Anna’s siblings were born to Beylah in the same settlement pale of Ukraine, which was a part of Russian Empire then. The name of that birthplace (shtetele in Yiddish, Myasto in Ukrainian, Mestechko in Russian) was suburban Myastkovka in the vicinity of city Vinnitza in Ukraine.
My late grandfather Ruvim’s descendants argued if his last name Hlyap meant either “bread” – or “servant” – “холоп” in Polish. His first name is derived from Cheruvim. My Mama wrote her memoir for us in Moscow in her sixties; she described how observant and humble was her Jewish family.
Sephardic origin of the Last Name Pasternak
The maiden last name of Beylah (the oldest child of Benem) Pasternak means “parsnip root” in translation. According to the book of Jewish names, Sephardic Jews by the last name Pasternak could count their ancestral generations back to the House of King David. I read online about very famous Pasternak family ancestor, Sephardic sage Don Isaac ben Judah Abarbanel (Abravanel 1437- 1508) who lived and worked for the kings in Portugal and Spain.
Later, after expulsion of Jews from Spain, Abarbanel became a Wandering Jew; he lived in Naples, Sicily, Corfu, and Venice where he was highly honored; Abravanel has buried in Padua. His Yiddish-speaking descendants Pasternak (through maternal branch of their family tree) kept their last name when they settled in Eastern Europe. Congratulations to all Anna’s descendants! There is a royal blue blood of the legendary King David of Israel in Mama’s and your veins!
All Ruvim’s children worshipped their mother Beylah; relatives and neighbors highly praised her wisdom. She passed her genes to many of her offspring along with her Asian eyes. My 12 y. o. Mama witnessed in 1927 how all the descendants of Beylah’s aging father Benem Pasternak gathered for a huge family photo before his departure for Israel (called Palestine then.) He and his children founded a Moshav over there, which is still prospering and there is monument erected in Benem Pasternak’s honor; he passed away at 106, God Bless his memory.
Sadly, the life of Benem’ s descendants in Soviet Union was full of losses and tragedies. When Mama as a child moved with family to Odessa they suffered from pogrom and returned to their shtetele. Before Beylah died in 1936, she and Ruvim blessed all their children to leave Ukraine. 14 y. o. Mama joined her siblings in a crowded Moscow efficiency. At 17, she answered the call for young people to build Moscow Subway. Everyone loved my Mama there for her optimism and energy. My 25 y. o. Papa Meir Hirsh Tzvi Krichevsky was in charge of building a tunnel; he fell in love with hard-working Mama and married her when she was 18.
When WWII began, Papa with family had sent to build the underground headquarters for Stalin in Stalingrad. Stalin never came to that battle. In 1942, Nazi Feldmarshal Paulus stayed there instead and eventually surrendered. My Mama with my two older brothers was in a meadow when the bombs began falling on the doomed city; she covered her little boys (6 and 4) with her body and tried to run between attacks to reunite with Papa. He was a true hero; while his bosses drove away with their belongings and alcohol, my Papa stopped the panic, led coworkers with families to the river Volga, they managed to cross it while everything was burning around; after many struggles they reached Moscow.
At the WWII, Mama’s oldest sister Sonya with two sons died in Ukrainian city Harkiv massacre; Nazis made Jews to dig a huge grave and started to push people into that pit alive. Sonya screamed that her husband should return with the Red Army to kill them all. Sonya and her sons died from the bullets and did not suffer as long as everyone who was buried alive. Sonya’s poor husband, Rabbi Reuven Stanislavsky survived the war but never overcame his grief…
In 1930ies, Next sister Ethel married a young Rabbi and they prepared to follow their grandfather to Israel. Their infant twin-boys were slashed by Kossacks to death. Ethel parted with her husband, joined Communist movement and changed her name to Shoshana. Her only son from second marriage fought and died in 1942 at the WWII at 19. Grieving Shoshana found courage to write a letter to Stalin about persecution and murder of honest Jewish Communists (I found that letter online.) She was sent to Gulag and then to the worst political prison in Moscow. After Stalin’s death in 1953, she was freed. Since then, Shoshana suffered from Schizophrenia until the end of her life. My parents took care of her. Next Mama’s sister Tabele was also persecuted by Stalin regime.
Three Mama’s brothers Nacman, Yitzhak and Ayzik fought at the WWII; Yitzhak was captured and survived in the Nazi concentration camp because he looked like circumcised Muslim with Asian facial features. The oldest brother Nachman entered his Ukrainian shtetele on the tank and freed widowed father Ruvim from the Ghetto.
Meanwhile, my Papa’s bosses placed him with family in the suburb of Moscow where my (pregnant with me) Mama grew potatoes (sent by Americans) to feed my working father and my brothers, 8 and 6. I was born on May 27, 1944.
My parents continued to struggle after the war was over because it was hard for qualified Jews like my Papa to find any job. My Mama helped my Papa to rebuild the place where they lived, to grow fruit trees, bushes with berries and plant vegetables. My Mama was milking a cow, growing chickens and doing all the house chores; there was no plumbing, gas or sewage in that place for a long time. That hard work caused my Mama to give birth to my very ill baby-sister who died at two. Our parents mourned that loss guarding us from suffering.
Still, my parents believed in a bright future for three of us, their living children. Mama and Papa were proud that despite of obstacles created for students of Jewish ethnicity we pursued good education. My oldest brother Anatoly graduated Moscow University as a journalist, middle brother Alex became a PhD in Electronics working for the spaceships to the Moon and submarines in the North Pole; his inventions are patented in USA as well (like the special shoes for the astronauts to prevent atrophy of the legs caused by zero gravity.) I graduated Moscow Conservatory as a choir director and a music teacher.
My Mama was very talented and artistic. When I was 10, she joined the workforce beginning as a school secretary and then a teacher. My Mama was making amazing embroidery pieces, which in frames look like paintings. She was sewing, crocheting, knitting; name it all. She was a true gourmet cook and the Moscow Academicians, Nobel Prize winners Semynov and Kapitza invited her to prepare dinners for their foreign colleagues.
Mama made a remarkable career in the libraries of the Academy of Sciences, typing translations of the latest foreign articles to deliver them as quick as possible to the Soviet Scientists’ desks. For her outstanding work, Soviet Academicians promoted Mama to become a coordinator for the chain of Moscow scientific libraries. She was responsible to make everyone’s work as efficient as her own and provide the librarians with anything they needed. Upon retirement, Mama’s bosses made a huge farewell party and gave her a plaque.
My Mama was glad to retire because I got married. My Jewish husband arrived from city Grozny in militant Muslim Chechnya, moved in with us into our tiny Moscow apartment, where we gave birth to Yulia Yehudit and Arkady Abraham Medovoy and my parents helped to raise them.
Knowing about my involvement with Soviet Jewish refusenicks (dissidents) and passion for Judaism, my Mama blessed me with my husband Peretz and children to apply for leaving Soviet Union. During our 18 stressful months of waiting for permission to leave, we lost our healthy and strong 69 y. o. Papa to the labor accident at the Moscow subway construction. Mama abruptly became a widow at 64. Still, she insisted that our Medovoy family had to leave because we revealed ourselves to the Soviet regime and there would be no future there for us and our children. Mama strongly believed that eventually she and my brothers would reunite with us in America.
Mourning her husband of 45 years took a toll on her health; Mama eventually moved in with my middle brother Alex’s family. His wife had an Uncle Naum Sigalovsky who mourned his wife #4. They were grieving together, fell in love in their seventies and got married. As the result, all the Krichevsky and Sigalovsky families completed their Exodus reuniting with us in America 10 years after us.
In 2000, due to their declining health, Mama and Naum moved into Hebrew Rehab Center for the Aged in Boston and had three glorious years together there until Naum died in his ripe age. Widowed again, Mama refused to leave her place in Boston and our family alternated visiting her there throughout her 17 years of living there. The entire family cherishes our family reunions, which Mama’s adoring adult grandchildren arranged every five years for all four generations. We gathered there for the 90th, 95th and 100th Mama’s birthday celebration…
Mama’s four mature grandsons and Yulia took upon themselves all the preparations for the Boston funeral to ease her three aging (81,79 and 72 then) children’s grief. God Bless the memory of my Mama Hannah bat Ruvim v’Beylah, who passed away on May 13, 2017 at 101 years 7 months and 7 days. Mama’s name is heard in prayers of so many people including amazing congregation of Chabad Israel in LA, California, God Bless you all…