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This site is created as a way to further research and publication of materials on the history of Lyakhovichi.If you have been aided in your research and wish to contribute materials and resources to further our knowledge, contact Gary Palgon and ask how you can help.

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The Photos of the Rachil Sztejn Palgon Collection

To view other pages in our Photos category, click the "Photos" button in the left hand column

A Special Friendship Collection:
Photos given to Rachil Sztejn of Lyakhovichi from her family and friends in Lyakhovichi
This article is entirely based on the original creative work of Gary Palgon

Materials in the Rachil Sztejn Palgon Collection are an extract of copyright protected material from the book "The Olcha and Sztejn Families of Lachowicze, Belarus" by Gary Palgon, copyright 2001. All reproduction of photos, layouts, and other aspects of this collection remain the property of Gary Palgon and may not be used without written permission.
Selected, arranged, and introduced, for this publication by Deborah Glassman

Rachil Sztejn  of Lyakhovichi 1929
Rachel Sztejn, age 17 in 1929
Rachil used this as a passport picture but the photographer used the same artistic matte background as in other "flashier" pictures of the youth of Lyakhovichi. See the picture of Fania Malowicki, also taken in 1929 Lyakhovichi elsewhere on this page as an example.

Rachil Sztejn was five years younger than her next oldest sibling when she was born in Lyakhovichi, Minsk Gubernia, the Russian Empire, on March 15, 1912. Her parents were Zalman and Rifka (Olcha) Sztejn. She was the baby in her family for a long time; seventh of nine children, five years younger than the next oldest, and not followed by any siblings until a set of twins were born ten years later. But that didn't make the circumstances of a childhood in the midst of WWI much easier.

In 1914, World War I came right to Lyakhovichi's door step, and the Sztejns fled to the slightly safer city of Slutsk, which was also in Minsk Gubernia but further from the front-lines. They were not alone, there were many Lechovitzers in Slutsk at that time, many are reported as "from the refugees from Lechovitz" in the Pinkas of the Slutsk Chevra Kadisha. Even the Slutsk Yizkor book, which remembers events mostly just before the Second World War, recalls the role of prominent Lyakhovichi figures in Slutsk during WWI.

Rachil was two when the family arrived in Slutsk but somewhere between the time she was six and eight, the family had to escape again, this time from the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. That conflict left Slutsk in Soviet hands and Lyakhovichi, then called Lachowicze, as part of Poland. The Sztejns returned to Lachowicze and to Polish citizenship.

Rachil's father was a shoemaker with nine children, the situation with which fairy tales traditionally used to epitomize a poor man. But his family had all the necessities and Rachil remembered that holidays were celebrated with special foods and cakes. The children of Zalman and Rifka that were still home after WWI were enrolled in public school and had an education that let them speak Polish in public, Yiddish at home, and read and write in both of those languages plus Russian, which they spoke also.

Rachil was active in the Jewish youth organization at her synagogue, Bet Yakov in Lachowicze, Poland. She was very good friends with four other girls who would get together every day to play after school. Long after emigrating to the United States, she kept in touch with two of these childhood friends, one who like her, was named Rachel, Rachel Nathanson.

As the end of the 1920s approached, the economic picture was getting shaky. Rachil's parents decided to send her away from Lachowicze in search of a better life in the United States. Due to immigration quotas in the U.S., Rachil had to go to Cuba first and live for a while before emigrating to the U.S. Her brother Matus, the one just five years older than her, was living in Cuba at that point, and Rachil could safely stay with him. Her parents took her to the nearby town of Baranowicze, Poland (now Baranovichi, Belarus), where she took a train to Danzig which was an independent state affiliated with Poland (and is now called Gdansk, Poland). Rachil was just seventeen but her father provided papers for her saying that she was eighteen so that she could travel unaccompanied to her brother.

Rachil didn't remember the travel from the small boat at Danzig, which took her to the big boat which took her to Cuba, with a great deal of fondness. She made a friend though, who was named Feiga and was also traveling to Cuba, who kept her company and helped her feel better through the massive seasickness that Rachil remembered for years following the trip. Making friends is the key to this collection. Though Rachil grew up, met a young man, and married, while in Cuba - the friends she had made as a girl in Lachowicze, Poland, were reluctant to part with her. They sent her pictures before she left, and she cherished others that she received after her move to Cuba, and after her eventual move, to the United States.

The pictures that are included below are not all of the pictures that Rachil brought from Poland, nor all that she received from there, and certainly not all of those she found important. The mails flew back and forth between Rachil and her parents and her siblings. She kept the little candid shots taken on her brother-in-law's camera of him and her sister, and the neices and nephews she never got to know in person before they were murdered in the Holocaust. She kept pictures of the friends she made in Cuba and those with whom she became close in the US. She had lots of pictures of her children and grandchildren. But this collection is of that special group of cards sent by her friends, with an address, and a small message of remembrance, on each. All of these pictures are copyright to Gary Palgon and may not be used without his permission!

On each of these pictures, click on the picture itself, to go to a larger image with an English translation.

Dendzak of Lyakhovichi 1925
friend Mordechai DENDZAK, writing in Yiddish, Oct 1925

Vladimir of Lyakhovichi, in Yiddish, 1926
friend Vladimir Last name unknown, writing in Yiddish January 1926.
Can you help us find his last name?

Bobin of Lyakhovichi 1926
friend Ephraim BOBIN writing in Yiddish December 1926

Noah Rabinovich of Lyakhovichi
friend Noah RABINOVICH writing in Yiddish
May 1927

Sbornik of Lyakhovichi 1927
friend SBORNIK writing in Polish 1927

N. Beda  of Lyakhovichi
friend N.BEDA writing in Polish August 1928

Barnak of Lyakhovichi 1929
friend P. BARNAK writing in Russian January 1929

I. Bielus, dance instructor in Lyakhovichi
friend N. BIELUS writing in Polish June 1929

Miss Zmudziak and Mr. Malowicki of Lyakhovichi 1929
friends Miss Zmudziak and Mr. Malowicki writing in Polish from Lyakhovichi to Cuba, July 1929

V. Seyfer of Lyakhovichi 1929
friend V.SEYFER writing in Russian from Lyakhovichi to Cuba,July 1929

Valabkinski of Lyakhovichi 1929
friend Shlema VALABKINSKY writing in Yiddish in AUgust 1929

Feiga Shuster, Rachel Zamuzhinsky, and Babeh Schachnovich, of Lyakhovichi 1929
friends Feiga SHUSTER, Rachel ZAMUZHINSKY, and Babeh SCHACHNOVITCH of Lyakhovichi, sent this to their friend Rachil in Cuba, Sept 1929. Is Rachil in the picture too?

Important Notes about This Page

All names on this page were included in Surname Index Nov 2009

Find any name on this page by hitting "control F" on your keyboard and typing in the name.

Find any name anywhere on this website by going to the Google Search bar and typing the name immediately before this phrase

from the word "site" to the slash after lyakhovichi (just cut and paste it into your browser)

Rachil Sztejn Palgon Rachil Sztejn Palgon

Rachel grew from being the cherished young daughter in Lachowicze Poland, to an adored wife in Cuba, to the center of her children and grandchildren's lives in the US. This is Rachil as a much beloved and much missed grandmother.

Picture Postcards and Friendship Cards -
Lyakhovichi Remembrances of the 1920s
from "Learning your Lyakhovichi history from family pictures" by Deborah Glassman, copyright 2005

Introduction to this Page
Rachil Sztejn Palgon sounds like a remarkable woman to me. Her grandson Gary Palgon has written a book on her family history, no doubt first motivated by the great love this woman and her children and grandchildren had for each other, and the love of family she so clearly embodied. This page is not the reminisce or biography, that she deserves. But rather, I used Mrs. Palgon's warm nature and the friendships that she easily engendered, to introduce a type of photograph not well understood but which is very important to understanding a Lyakhovichi young person of the 1920s. And, as I said on the first page of this material published on Images of Lyakhovichi this is a research report, created in the effort to learn more about resources that would be valuable to Lyakhovichi researchers. I looked at materials from the time period advertised by the photographers of the time and place, and catalogs and advertising material directed at those photographers. I used my personal experience looking at large numbers of photographs taken in this time period, though a much smaller percentage was actually from Lyakhovichi. Again, the author is not a photographer nor any kind of expert on photographic techniques, simply a researcher who hopes you can profit from her studies. - DGG, 2007

As we find more resources for Lyakhovichi history, we notice that the materials each have their own strengths and weaknesses for use as a method of understanding our family's history. Many times, we end up with a box of pictures addressed to a family member that give us no clues as to who they might be. Other times, the clues are there but the context is gone. As the Twentieth Century started, studio photographs were still an occasion to be taken seriously, no smiling allowed. Pictures, to be given to one's children, accompanied by serious warnings about the dangers of neglecting the small details of religious observance, were suitably serious. Pictures that one's mother would put on her best shelf, were also a matter of import. But a casualness started creeping into pictures that were to be given to one's friends, one's betrothed, one's cousin away from home studying in a university. Even as early as 1901, poses and clothing are becoming more casual - you see bathing suits on the pictures taken in the new lands, you see jaunty canes and cigars, in the images taken in Russia.

By the 1920s, life had moved into high speed in both America and Europe, and the young people of, now Polish, Lyakhovichi moved with it. The pictures of individuals in Lyakhovichi in the 1920s and 1930s, look very comparable to what you would see in American pictures of the time. Young people had their pictures taken looking like "movie stars." Young men of an age to graduate high school, try to look as if they are ready to sweep you off your feet. Young women, who are still years from twenty, try to manage a combination of "Hollywood vamp" and "Hollywood ingenue" in the pictures that they give to their best friends, other girls who, in turn, gave them similar cards covered in warm endearments. A simpler style that looks similar to late twentieth century individual graduation pictures were taken too and treated the same way. Many of these pictures were designed just to give to friends who were leaving home as they turned eighteen and other adult ages. Young men and women gave them to each other while writing simple remembrances, autographs, and doggerel. We find that many in this group have a pre-printed postcard design on the back for easier mailing to friends and family far away.

Because these photos were designed to be given to friends, some outgoing people ended up with whole collections. By the generosity of Gary Palgon, we can view dozens that were given to Rachil Sztejn Palgon, before and after she departed Lyakhovichi for Cuba in the 1929 as well as a second grouping received by Rachil's brother Matus Sztejn, also shared on these pages. We would like to learn more about each of the senders so if you recognize anyone, please let us know! This is a great opportunity to see if we can match the box of pictures that your uncle had, to others held by other Lechovichers, if you have a group of autographed photos from Lyakhovichi, scan them to us and let us help!

Matus Sztejn
Rachil Sztejn Palgon went from Lyakhovichi to Cuba, staying with her brother Matus Sztejn in Havana, while everybody awaited American visas. The history of the Sztejn and Palgon families are detailed in "The Olcha and Sztejn Families of Lachowicze, Belarus" by Gary Palgon, copyright 2001. Some of the relatives and friends who sent friendship cards to Rachil, sent similar ones to her older brother (Matus was five years older), which I post here with the permission of Gary Palgon as part of the Rachil Sztejn Palgon Collection. (this notice is posted elsewhere on this page but please note: Materials in the Rachil Sztejn Palgon Collection are an extract of copyright protected material from the book "The Olcha and Sztejn Families of Lachowicze, Belarus" by Gary Palgon, copyright 2001. All reproduction of photos, layouts, and other aspects of this collection remain the property of Gary Palgon and may not be used without written permission.

Matus also had a collection of family photos that ranged widely, with a heavy emphasis on the activities and accomplishments of his children. The pictures below are simply those that were shared by friends in the 1920s, all are of the friendship card/ postcard type of photo.The first photo is the only one out-of category: it is a picture of Matus Stein in the time period of his departure from Lyakhovichi, from the collection of his family.

Matus Stein before emigration to Cuba

from friend FEDER, 1923

from friend Nechama LITAWSKY writing in Yiddish 1927

friend, Piotr ARONCHIK of Lyakhovichi writing in Russian in 1923

We have room to add more! But this page is special. We would like to add more pictures or collections connected to the friends and family of Rachil Sztejn Palgon, perhaps one of the friends named in a card already on the page. Perhaps someone who has a picture with a group shot of Rachil, or who has found a picture of Rachil or Matus or their classmates in a box of saved photos. Who might have had such photos? Someone who made aliyah in the 1920s or 1930s? Someone who settled in a Russian city before the chaos of war? Someone owning a class picture? A friend in the Cuban community? Think outside the box, folks! And if you have Lyakhovichi pictures that don't fit here, we will put them somewhere else!

Fania Malowitsky
Fania Malowitsky's photo was taken in Baranovichi in 1929, the same year as Rachil's. This picture left Poland and ended up in New Zealand! (shared thanks to Joe Beder!) Do you have other such finds?