The Road from Kaminsk to Brooklyn
by Victor Breitburg
The modest biography that I will attempt to write are the
stories as my mother and other European relatives told it to me.
VIGDOR WAJNMAN (1857-1915)
Died in KAMIENSK, POLAND
Died in BROOKLYN, NY, buried in BETH DAVID CEMETERY
ELMONT QUEENS U.S.
Shlomo Vigdor Wajnman was probably born in Kamiensk, Poland, in
1857. He came from a very grand Jewish Orthodox family.
I don't know anything about his childhood, but I know that he went to a yeshiva
for higher learning. He served in the Russian army during the Russo-Japanese
War. He was capable of writing and reading several languages: Polish, Russian,
German, Yiddish and Hebrew.
In town, he was known as the man who writes letter in several languages, in turn
many Jews and Poles used his skills. He was an exemplary Jew, Melamed (teacher),
husband, and conscientious father, a man not only in height but also in stature.
At the age of twenty-three, the family of the Wajnmans and the Magnus's met for
the purpose of a betrothal between Shlomo Vigdor and Sura Kaila. A formal
engagement was announced and within one year Shlomo Vigdor and Sura Kaila were
married. At the time of their marriage, Sura Kaila was the age of fourteen and
at the age of fifteen, their first baby girl was born and they named her Nacha
Subsequently, eight children followed, with being continuously
pregnant. Times were very tough, even though he was making a good living, eight
children to dress and feed, help was needed.
Grandmother at this point decided to help out by opening stores in the local
markets, selling wares. The shtetls were not too far in distance and each one
had its own market on a different day of the week. She was a petite woman, 4'
11" and most probable weight about 100 lb. While she was out the
responsibility of the older children were to help out with the younger ones, and
that's how it was life in the shtetl. Life was not anyone, particularly if you
There was plenty of affection in the family, and the rule of the Torah was the
commandment. It was also everyone's responsibility to help out not only to the
members of the family, but also anyone in need. Some time in early 1915 Shlomo
Vigdor passed away to the great sorrow of his family and everyone in town.
Two of the children, Nacha Yita and Hilda, settled in the United
States, and 1927, Shlomo Vigdor (not the first one) was born to the youngest
daughter Chava, and that point Sura Kaila decided to join her two daughters in
the United States. With a box of cake from my own Bris, and with that she
arrived on the shores of the United States.
Settled in Brooklyn and in 1937, she remarried, to a Jewish
Orthodox gentleman and her new name was changes to Sura Kaila Latowitz, lived a
very blissful life. She worked with Nacha Yita at a chicken place, earning some
money. There was not one holiday that she didn't send some money to her children
in Europe. For $2.00 dollars you were able to make a Shabbat for six people none
of us realized she had to work and save the few dollars to send overseas.
April 2, 1939, Erev Passover, we received a telegram that Sura Kaila passed
On May 17, 1939 was born and was named Sura Kaila so her name
would not be forgotten. But the Holocaust took its toll. For the family of the
Wajnmans' children, grandchildren and in-laws, only two survived, one is Reasel
(Shoshana, the daughter of Eizel) and myself out of 54 people.
In 1994 I finally found the grave of Sura Kaila, because the change of her name,
and the older generation died many years ago, no one knew her burial place. I
brought Shoshana's children and my wife to the gravesite. It is very hard to put
the feeling I had standing at her grave. One can cry without a tear showing, one
can speak without a word to be spoken, that how I felt when I was at her grave.
I apologized over and over how sorry that I was not being able to save anyone
from her family. I realize it was beyond my capacity to do anything, but the
guilt is there. Looking at her grave I felt that she was listening to me, and at
that point I said Kaddish.
How lucky she was to die in 1939, and not to see the tragedy of the Holocaust.
Out of the eight children, only two survived, and those were the two who lived
in the United States, Nacha Yita and Hilda.
At this time Shoshana (Reizel) is mortal incapacitated, her memory is gone, and
with my death the epic of the European Wajnmans will come to an end.
- April 17, 2001
- Victor Breitburg