My Family Story from Kyiv in 1907 to Philadelphia
By Lynn Pechniski
Freedom is the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without any hindrance or restraint.
My grandmom Marky, my father’s mother, was called Manya in Ukraine, and Mary in the United States. Her ancestral home of the Zolotnitsky/Solotnitsky family is Priluki on the Uday River east of Kyiv, Russia; it is now located in Chernigov Oblast, Ukraine. Her youngest son was my father, Leonard Markowitz.
Leonard Markowitz, of beloved memory, self-published “Four Jewish Families in Philadelphia” in 2000. As they were celebrating their 50th anniversary my parents, Sonya and Leonard, held a family gathering of close friends and family. The “book,” as we called it, was finally published, and each of the families received a copy.
Everything we wanted to know could be found in the book. Leonard’s research, spanning more than eight years, brought him and Sonya over to Europe to research birth and death records, as well as rubbings of the engraved headstones. He became a student of genealogy and was the president of the Jewish Genealogical Society in Philadelphia from 2010-2012.
“This book is dedicated as a memorial to the millions of Jews who perished in the pogroms and the Holocaust,” he stated, “and to our ancestors who are a link between us and the beginning.”
Here’s an excerpt from the book “The Jewish Pale of Settlement”:
“The governments of Czars Alexander II and Nicholas I decreed that all Jews must reside in a Pale, which was a territory comprising what is now portions of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. This area was about 386,000 square miles from the Baltic to the Black Sea. By about 1897, approximately five million Jews lived there.”
In our family, when we celebrate a tradition, the saying is L’dor V’dor, which is Hebrew for “from generation to generation.” Our family’s traditions help build our character and our values to be passed on to our children and families. The traditions passed from generation to generation are a way of life of the faith.
Holocaust Remembrance Day aims to invoke a sense of responsibility in the new generation and encourage them to learn from the lessons of the past. Never Again! We must make sure these crimes never happen again. Seventy-seven years ago, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. We must ensure the painful memories of the survivors shall never be forgotten. Never Again!
Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany. He emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is perhaps best remembered for his postwar words:
“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
My family emigrated from Ukraine to the United States because of the Russian pogroms. Jewish people were being massacred. Being Jewish caused the people to suffer despicable acts against humanity. My family came to the United States of America to have freedom.
Yes, I stand for Ukraine. After 115 years, I did not believe it would be possible for history to repeat the same atrocities that brought my family to America. If people all over the world do not stand for Ukraine, this vile behavior will continue to take root everywhere.
When we live in a country that seeks to ban books, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country that does not protect its citizens from practicing their religion without violence, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country with an unjust “justice system” that does not treat everyone equally, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country that does not offer the same economic advantage to all people, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country that does not offer all people the same opportunity for learning, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country and see people who have lost their family, home and business to violence, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country where media outlets and platforms propagate information that is not true or verifiable to advance their agendas, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country where elected officials put their self-interest and paid special interests in front of the interests of the people that elected them, we are not protecting freedom.
When we pass laws to restrict people from voting in a free and fair election, we are not protecting freedom.
When we live in a country where discrimination and acts of hate based on race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation are tolerated, we are not protecting freedom.
I love our country and want to support all people’s efforts to live here, and around the world, in freedom.
My definition of freedom (what it means to me):
Be kind, courteous, and respectful to all people — even if they have a different opinion than your own.
Give outspoken support of democracy in the United States and all over the world.
Be an ardent defender of the truth; do not give credit to lies.
Champion efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to give women equal rights and protection under the law.
Support efforts to end invasion, oppression and discrimination.
Support no laws that restrict people because of their race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation.
Support no laws that restrict Americans’ right to vote.
Practice “The Golden Rule” — Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”
Lynn Pechinski of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, is the president of 1st Straw Marketing and Promotions.