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Kayman Letter 08: By Israel Bergsztejn

Written to Eliezer and family in Australia

August 23, 1938

Letter with no envelope

Dear Eliezer and family,

We wish you happiness and good health in your new homeland. We received your two letters and card from Paris. We have not answered you in all this time because things are never the way you want them to be. I reproached myself when receiving your last letter and am glad to write now with some good news to tell you.

Some time ago our Eliezer wrote that he would like to marry a local girl. The youngest daughter of our auntie Roshke Finkelstein in Lomza is a young and good-looking girl. We decided that it would be a good match. They have exchanged photos and three months ago he sent her papers and a shipping ticket. Today is their wedding day and we offer our Mazal-Tov to you and regret that we are unable to participate in the festivities, which according to our information will take place in nice surroundings. [Their wedding took place in Africa, presumably South Africa. Eliezer had migrated to Africa but wanted to marry a girl from the Szczuczyn area.]

We are happy for you that you have settled down and are content. You are probably unable to appreciate your good fortune without experiencing the daily worries and restrictions we are facing. Life is intolerable. We are now facing a new edict by the local authorities to renovate the old homes and freshen their facades. As you know the earnings in Szczuczyn are insufficient for such outlays. If one is unable to comply, the council demolishes them. You can well imagine our heartbreak.

We have decided that it is useless to stay here. We wrote to Africa and asked for immigration papers, assuring them that we can pay for the voyage ourselves, but regrettably they refused our request. Eliezer writes that my trade is useless there and other work is hard to obtain. To maintain two people costs a lot. He himself is not settled yet and can't undertake new burdens. You need luck for everything. Those who can help, like my brothers-in-law, can't be bothered. We are very despondent about their attitude. Some people even further removed respond positively and in my case, brothers refuse to help, even if we assure them that we will pay our way to get there.

Last week Hershl Rosen and his family left for America. He could not support himself and his family, so he let his house for a few years to a Christian tenant to augment his travel expenses. Also, Shimen Kayman went to America on his own, leaving his family here. Everybody who is able to runs away from here. You are asking about Gabriel's [Farberowicz] voyage. He requested a
prolongation of the terms of the visa to coincide with Moshe's discharge from the army. There's no point writing about my earnings. Had I worked anywhere in the world as hard as I do on Povelkes [the name of the street on which they lived - a street just outside town] I would certainly have known a better life. But here, one rots away the best years of your life.

As for Tevche, he was seriously ill. This is the first time in six months that he has been well enough to travel to Warsaw and purchase goods. He lost his permit to sell tobacco and he hasn't any "green" [probably American currency]. They [the tobacco merchants] were ordered not to take any more [money] from the Jews.

Let us be healthy and God will not forsake us. Certainly, there is no reason to miss the distorted faces of Szczuczyn. Be well. We wish you a Happy New Year.

Your devoted friend,

Israel Bergsztejn

Your parents and brother send their regards. I see them often. They are weak in health and in the pocket. Sholem and Malcha also send regards. They run their leather business and are making a living. Write often and I will not delay my answers.

Letters contributed by Selina Kayman.

Translation from Yiddish to English by Israel Kipen.
Edited by: Selina Kayman and Jose Gutstein.
Editor's notes are entered in [brackets].

Copyright 2004 by Jewish Holocaust Museum & Research Centre in Australia, Selina Kayman and Jose Gutstein.
All rights reserved to the original letter and the translation.

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