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Bessie Horwitz Laibovitz Remembers

Oral Family History - Audio Clips

by Dave Howard

Bessie, Issac, Sylvia,
     AliceMy great-aunt Bessie Horwitz Laibovitz was born in Rezekne in September of 1896 she came to America with her twin sister Florence Horwitz Dorin about 1906. She never saw her father again after she left. Her mother had died in 1904 and her father married one more time before his own death in 1909.

The photo at the left is when Bessie was a young mother living in Chicago with her husband Isaac Laibovitz. Her first child passed away at age 11 months. The next two children were Sylvia and Alice shown here in this photo. She went on to have two more daughters, Lillian, and Sophie.

I interviewed Aunt Bessie in April of 1979 when she was 83 years old. She was bright and alert and her memory was working very well. The following month, May of 1979 she passed away, in her sleep. I had my tape recorder with me and I asked her if she could remember what it was like in Rezekne. I have recordings of some of her stories included here.

Story of Florence falling in the River Bessie and Florence

This story is well known in the Horwitz family. It took place in Rezekne when Bessie and her twin sister, Florence, had gone down to the river to watch the women do the laundry. There was a crowd around and Florence was knocked into the river. Bessie called for help and Florence was saved. But they made Bessie take her dry clothing off for Florence. Bessie was cold and naked. They were both about 10 years old. The year would have been about 1906, one year before they came to America.

The photo at left was taken when Bessie on the left and Florence on the right were very young girls. They were about 10 when they left Rezekne. They were twins but were not identical. Their personalities were quite different.

Click to play clip.

Nottie Comes Home

Nottie Returns Home Unexpectedly

My grandfather Abe, had a twin brother, Nottie, who served in the Russian Army. He was sent off to fight in the Russo-Japanese War, August, 1904- September, 1905. Bessie tells us a story of how her father would look at the sky and see red. He would cry because he said it was Nottie's blood and he was sure Nottie would never return alive.

Bessie, Issac, Sylvia,
     AliceIn this clip Bessie talks about the winter of 1905 when she was about 9 years old. Her mother had asked her twin sister Florence to go out and get some wood for the fireplace. Florence refused so she asked Bessie. Bessie went and when she was outside a sled pulled up and out jumped Nottie. She called out and asked, "Is that you Abe?" and the reply was, "No, it's me Nottie."

Bessie was so excited she passed out in the snow. She was quickly gathered up and not only was her family thrilled to see Nottie again but she says the whole town stayed up all night celebrating his safe return.e obeyed and went out back. Nottie was just arriving on a sleigh. She thought he was Abe. Click to play clip.

The photo at left was taken in Rezkene at one of the last times Bessie ever saw her brother Nathan alive. In the group Bessie's older brother Morris is standing next is Florence, another sister Ida and then Bessie. Nottie is sitting in the chair. His twin brother, my grandfather, Abe may have already gone to Chicago. Nottie stayed in Latvia and became a successful pharmacist in Riga. He and his family tried to escape in 1941 but could not get out of the country. They were murdered in the Holocaust.

Bessie Remembers Her Older sister Sara

The area where the Horwitz family lived the homes had Saunas (Schvitz Bath) in the back by the "barn" and outhouse. Sara may have married a man with the surname Rubin and they may have lived in Ludza. She was 23 years older than Bessie. Sara, her husband and five children apparently stayed in Europe. As far as we know they all perished in the Holocaust. Click to play clip.

Aunt Bessie Remembers Her Father

I asked her what she remembered about her father. She said he was a really old man and that he came from Moscow. At first I thought she meant Moscow, Russia. Then when I visited Riga it all became clear.

Along a bank of the Daugava River as it passes through Riga on its way to the Baltic Sea there is an area called Moscow where many Jews lived. Her father and his brothers were in the lumber business. They would cut the trees and float them down the Daugava River and when they reached Riga the timber would gathered and shipped mostly to England or France. Click to listen.