Remembrances of Dora Bloom (nee Dobe Ponemonsky)
Dobe Ponemonsky was born in 1859 in Grodno, Poland to Israel Ponemonsky and Dvorah Chertok, one of eight children. She married Moses Treszczanski in January of 1884, and eventually had twelve children. In 1891 - eight months pregnant with Esther, her fifth child - she emigrated to the United States along with her four other children, to meet her husband who had arrived several months earlier.
These remembrances were dictated to Esther in 1936, when Dora was 77 years old. Dora died on October 27, 1949 at age 90.
I lived by somebody, a Mrs., a landlady, and I don’t like to live by somebody. The rent in Europe is very cheap; fifty dollars a whole year. They don’t pay taxes and when they pay, taxes cost five dollars a year only. And then I think over myself better I save the fifty dollars and I speak with, no, I think myself I look for a piece of land was is gut for mine business.
Mine business what I want starting to do is off this land what I look. I think it is good for my business what I like to do. Then I look for builder, when I get it the land. I have for me the land, and then I look for builder. Und I speak with the builder what kind price you want for this piece of land to put a house. And he ask me: “How big you want the house?” I tell him to put the house along on a lot and a half and then the other place I have a couple of lots. Of the rest, the second floor was seven rooms, three bedrooms it was, a big kitchen, a front room, a dining room. And on the top it was seven rooms again.
Und I ask after the builder how much can cost the house. For one time I cannot pay. And I think over myself, one thousand dollars I’ll give you as a deposit and the rest I can pay you every month twenty five dollars. The builder said to me he’s satisfied. And then I speak with him and tell him I must have a big barn for the people who bring me the grain and then I must have a place to put the grain. Then I speak with him about the yard. I tell him who can make the trees in the yard. He said I can take a man who can fix it for you. I say to him I’m very satisfied. How is mit this arrangement I make with you zu you be satisfied. He said: “Yes, I’m very satisfied, nor one thing, you must go alone with the man and make the price for the brick.” I ask him how much brick I need it. He tell me “How much brick you need it for the house?” He tells me maybe ten thousand or fifteen thousand, I don’t know, I can’t tell you the right, is getting short you get it a little more. In snow, in vind, in bad weather, I go myself. Because it was a little short and zu vas my pleasure, I don’t look for the weather zu it was good or not. Now I finish up all the business with the builders and I starting with business.
I move in, und I starting after the getrade. We starting the business and zu was a little too hard. We take a partner to the business and the business is going very good. When the business is starting to get good, I was satisfied and the partner was satisfied too. Why it was so good. Wait, I’ll tell you. Now I remember.
One room was very big for the people who bring me the getrade. I make a room vee for the best people in the world because I make a living from the people. I put a clean white tablecloth on the table what they never see in the small houses in the farms. Then I put plates, how many people I count it before so much plates I put. Then I put by every plate a napkin, a knife, a fork and a small spoon for tea and what I put on the plate I know they like herring salty and black bread. Oh, glasses, I put, too, for water. Und I put bottles beer, too. They like beer, too, and sometimes I put two ducks broiled, and sometimes I put a goose. One week this and the other week a goose, and the other week a turkey.
I change the things. The servant makes this day in Europe five dollars. Because everybody give her something to make five dollars this evening. They think they be in a king’s house und they have everything clean, the floors and the table and the chairs, everything. They look, I see myself, they look and they feel happy. Then I put a clean samovar mit tea, mit clean glasses where they shall put the tea, and I put cake on the table. They have such a convenience that they don’t like to go in some other place.
They is starting my business and it was very good. Nobody was to help except I and the servant girl is going with me in the barn to take from the people the getrade. The Russian Kiaser don’t let to do business because he want his writing before. Papa don’t want to stay more. We make arrangements you go with your brother in America then I starting to cry and I feel very lonely. I can’t do the same business because they don’t let me and it’s too hard for me alone. Then I think myself what shall I do? I started to take in a store a barrel of oil. Und I sell to mills and to stores und I make a fine living from then because they give me profit. Now, zas it’s over, I make a living and I feel lonely because I am alone with four children and a servant in fourteen rooms.
One was 6 and a half and the other one was 5 and a half. Frank was 5 and a half und Rose was 4 years, and Sarah, two years. I had a job, a good one. I expect a baby with a month later, and I was in this condition eight months, und I feel strong enough to go to America. Und then, I want to take the servant to help me with the children. She said her mother feel very lonely; I can’t go. Then I take the children and I cry about the house vass I leave over. Und I make my mind I must go to America to came together with my husband und then it was the way so hard because I forget to take a passport und I have a lot of trouble. The man was take me over the border, he said you must leave the two small children in Prosky; Rose and Sarah, two and four years. Then I give the children to the prosky and I tell him where you take my children. I wait three days. The children were there in Prosky und over the three days is coming on a Friday. I starting to cry und I say to the man, “Please take me to the children”. I can’t stay off this place because I feel very lonely. He said, ven I starting to cry, “It’s too early for you to go”. I said to him “When you don’t take me today, I go in the street and I take a policeman and I speak to him whether it’s right.” Then he have a partner, and he speak with him und he said to him “With this woman you can’t make fun. You must speak with her like a person, like a man, don’t speak with her like a plain person. Don’t make fun from her.”
He speak with the man and the man said you must take the woman with the two children to the other children to Protsky. She can make us very bad. Take her. She can make trouble in the business. I promised him twenty-five dollars. Ziss not worth but I think over my children are dearer from the money. I give him the twenty-five dollars because I was afraid he might fool me. I don’t care; I give him before the money. Then I take an automobile und I take me with the two children and we go to protsky where the children is. The children see me. They fall off my neck and they take me with the two hands like a small baby what the mother don’t see for a long, long time, and they starting to cry and laugh. They laugh when they see the mother. They cry when the mother leave over the two small ones.
Und then I take with me the children und I take another man who shall take me to the trains. I came from woods and from lakes in the woods und he go with me by lakes. I think I fall in the lake. Wen iss is over all the lakes and all the hills, in the woods you what this is, wait, this is not ready – then he bring to me a very small house, not far from the woods, about seven o’clock in the evening. I step in and he said with the four children. He said “Sit down a little.” I was tired from the way und I said to the expressman “You want to wait, too? You take me to the trains tomorrow?” Und I shivering; I don’t know where I be und he said: “Mrs., you going to sleep here?” And I said: “No, only for the children”. He said “Mrs., you be tired from the way I can give you a nice place to sleep.” I say: “I’m satisfied that the children sleep there”. Und I sit down the whole night off a chair. Und it was about four o’clock in the night. I put mine head down so [illustrating] for a few minutes. I couldn’t sleep long because I was afraid of the children. Then the man take me zu the train and he go way.
Ven I go all over the way with the children, it was very hard for me. I found an old man und I ask him: “Mr., can’t you help me a little with the children to go on the train a little?” He said: “Yes, I help you”. I said to him: “Don’t worry about the meals. Maybe you want something to eat; I can give you now”. He said: “No, now I don’t vant”. I stay on the train and I see he is going. I am alone again.
I go on the street is coming to rich mens, und ask me: “Mrs., you need money, maybe?” I was going on the train with the four small children. I say: “No, I don’t need money; all I need somebody shall help me to put the children on the train.” Then they take the children. One man take two children; the other man take two children and put them on the train, and then I go with them. Then from this train, from Berlin, I cam straight to Germany.
In Germany, I stay three days. I said to the people where I stay in the boarding house: “Can I get something to eat for me and the children?” He said “Yes, why not, what do you like?” I ask him what he had for me. He said: “I have everything that you like”. Because for the children I want fresh things. He said: “Have a little soup”. Then I said: “What have you got?” He said: “I have rice, a piece of meat and a little soup and a piece of bread.” “What kind of bread you have?” He said: “Only white bread.” Well, I took it, and I ask him for a bottle beer. I give a little to the children and zu was then a very small piece of meat and very dear. The meat was very good in taste. Und I was satisfied the children have a good meal. Then I stay three days with the same thing. Then I starting to go to the ship three days later.
When I starting to go to the ship, I look on the water. I never see the water so big, I think myself, well, what can I do, I die one time, what can I do, I think myself, and I don’t tell nobody. What can I do? I must go. One woman, a stranger, what I don’t know the woman, she don’t want to go on the ship. The people try to ask her: “You go to your husband? Why you be ‘fraid? Go. Ziss going a lot of people.” But she said: “As this woman is going with the small children, I go too.” She was very ‘fraid. Then I started to go on the ship. Is coming an inspector, und ask me, and then is coming a doctor, and said: “Mine dear woman, when you have money and be in this condition (pregnant), when you have money enough to be on the ship in this condition, because always we have trouble from some one, we must pay for somebody. We don’t do on the ship such a business.” I say to him: “I have $500. Is enough?” He said: “Plenty”.
Duz was before I go on the ship. Duz was on the small ship. Und then he said: “I all the troubles over”. Den I go by the first, not the second and not by the top, by the first floor. Then I was sick. The sailors must take me on the bed, so sick, and they take me on the top later to ketch a little air. Then they bring me soup to eat. I mix with the spoon and it’s piece of ham, and I can’t eat it. I say to the sailor: “Yes, ask the chef what he can give me for dinner.” Duz is from the first class” he said. “They cook there the best meals”. I say to him: “How much cost for me a dinner?” he said: “One dollar”. He bring me the dinner. I eat with the children. It was first class. I was happy; I don’t care for the money. Then Anna take care of the mother and the three children. Then one time they bring me tea; it was the tea so fat, and I say to the sailor: “Why it was the tea so fat?” He said by mistake he spill a little soup in the tea, Anna bring me, and I said: “My child, I can’t drink the tea.”
Seven days is going a quick ship; German ship, very quick, and when the ship stopped, I feel again healthy, a new person. I stand up and speak with the children. I was seven days on the bed. Then a man came and he said: “Mrs., where you want to go with the children? I take you.” I tell him I wait for my husband; I can’t go way from this place. I must stay and wait. He said: “How long you can wait?” “I can wait bis two o’clock in the night and I must wait for him.” Zu was about four o’clock when papa came and he take me with the children, und he ask me “somebody came to take you in some place?” And I say: “Yes, a man is coming and he want take me.” He said:” It be good for you that you did not go with this people. This people is fakirs, and when you have something, they take away from you – money, anything. Then he said: “Alright, very good, you don’t go mit them, you be very lucky”, papa said. This is finished.
I came home. Where it was the home? Shall I tell you where. In Delancy Street. Then I cam home and I found three small rooms, very small. Zu vas two weeks before Pesach. Then I look in the rooms, Es iss too small for nine people. Three boarders iss was in the house. One was a cousin (Hannah) and one vas Bennett, the brother, and one it was Baron. I say to papa: “How can I live with three boarders and us family in these three small rooms?” Then I say myself. I have a little money; the first thing I give to the girl ten dollars she shall look for a room, and for the men they can see alone. They look alone for the rooms, the brother and the other friend. I look in the icebox. Zu was a small piece of ice and a small icebox. She put a pot mit chicken fat for Pesach in the icebox, a friend, then I buy matzohs and everything, and made holidays like in Europe.
I made mineself happy because I can’t help it. I was before very rich when I was in Europe: then I came in a land vass I am green. I must be satisfied with everything. Then I stay a couple weeks in the rooms and I see I try something it shall came a little money. I go to my aunt. She have a big dry goods store und I ask her what can I do something to make a living? I like to do about sewing something. She said I would give you a couple of waists, plain calico waists. I make the waists very nice and good, a dozen waists I try. I ask her: “How much can you give me for the waists?” She said: “Twenty four cents”. I say: “I can’t make a living with twenty four cents. Two days is taking the time.” She said: “I can’t help it. Make the waists second time like basting, hurry up, then you can make a living.” I say to her: “When I shall make a living and fool people, they lose the waists, basting” and she said: “Don’t care”.
I say to her: Can’t you give me something else I shall can make something from them?” She said: “I have wool jackets. You shall make in the sides sewing together a few pieces the front and the back, and put three buttons, done.” She give me buttons, everything. Then I see for me alone to sewing is too hard a little. And with small children, I must do something in the house and make supper for the children, it was for me too hard. Then I put a man for five dollars a week, and he’s sewing for me, and when I see the sewer man, vass he knows business to do. I ask him what you can do and what you want a week; he said he wants sixteen dollars a week. I think over mineself a good working man make the money for me and for him. I ask him: “Can’t you make a little cheaper?” He said: “No, that’s my price; it’s cheap enough. I would take more.” Then he starting to do, and I see I’m lucky. He tell me in a quiet way; “I was sorry to send away the man, the other one, for five dollars” and he said it is no use you lose money when you keep it. I say to him: “What shall I do?” He was a little friend to me, the sixteen dollars. He sewing and he rip it, it take time, too much. I tell him I would take two; I can’t afford to take two. Well, when the business is coming a little better, I take two. When this man, what he can do good, he make for him and for me; it was enough for me, twenty dollars, and for him.
Dictated by mama, directly to the typewriter, during the fall of 1936.