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Coming to America by Gene Baumwoll

Each of us knows a bit of the oral history of coming to America...I want to share a bit of my own story as I heard it as a child from my mom. January 31, 1922 on the ship, The Carmania http://www.greatships.net/carmania.html

Life in Tiraspol was interrupted by frequent attacks by Cossacks who would break into Jewish homes and impale Jewish children with their swords.. Grandma's husband Josef was an itinerant peddler with a cart and he would go into Romania to sell and buy- one day he didn't come home and nothing further was learned.

Gene’s grandmother's family: Fishel Moskowitz and Esther Chia Star-Beker and their children, year unknown Tiraspol,Moldova
From Baumwoll Family Album

My mom told me Christian neighbors would hide the kids in the root cellars beneath the houses when the Cossacks rode in. One day my grandmother decided to bring her 3 kids with the family and escape.

The River was guarded but the border guards could be bribed and on the night that the Vascovitz family was to cross the river in a boat that was arranged on the river bank Grandma had a premonition and she didn't go, and another family went in their place. That night the guards were alerted and shot the family in the boat... They went the next night and were taken in by a baker in Romania who allowed the family to sleep in the shop. My mother, a little girl of about 10, remembers the warm hearth and the smell of fresh baked bread.

They made their way to South Hampton, England and arrived at Ellis Island NY.

The Carmania
From the passenger manifest Source: Ellis Island

On Line 17 is Great Grandmother Esther Moskovici (Moskowitz)
18 Sendel
19 Riva (Aunt Rae)
20 Meer (Little Mike)
21 Leia Vascovitz/Moskowitz my Grandmother
22 Meer (Mike)
23 Mensa Manya or Marie my Mom
24 Avram (Al)

I want to mention the fear my mother (Manya Josifovna) described at Ellis Island.. Of the dreaded eye examination. She didn't understand and was terrified at hearing that doctors used either their bare fingers or simple metal buttonhooks to peel back the arrivals' eyelids (and inspect for the tell-tail signs of trachoma) and she could be responsible for everyone being sent back. She didn't know what they were examining for- and if she would pass- This was baffling to a 10 year old Yiddish Russian speaking girl. We know now it was evidence of the trichina worm. She tells how relieved the whole family was for passing. The photo 1930, about 8 years later.. thoroughly Americanized, my mom (Now Marie Joan Vascovitz)and her Grandmother Esther Chia Moskowitz and a little cousin.

Manya Iosifovna Moskovitz and Esther Chia Moskowitz
From Baumwoll Family Album

That pretty much is as far as the oral history went.

Except I was told that the family said they were Romanians because the quota of immigrants from Russia was filled- they said all their birth records were destroyed in fires and wars...

I grew up to the smell of my mother’s baking and inherited her fears of the Cossacks.

Leah Moskowitz Vascovitz and her husband Josef Vascovitz Tiraspol, Moldova date uncertain
From Baumwoll Family Album

Gene’s mother and her brother Meer (Mike) on Coney Island around age 18
From Baumwoll Family Album

Manya Josifovina Moskowitz, Gene and Joel Baumwoll. Tibbits Brook Park in the Bronx
From Baumwoll Family Album

“I always thought she looked so Russian- when we were little we never really knew the difference between Russia and Ukraine, I don't think we ever heard of Bessarabia,” Gene Baumwoll.

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