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.

Descendants of 




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 Yita.

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 were Jewish.

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 away.

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
Levittown, New York
E-mail: victorsb@aol.com


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