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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk Families Stories and Pictures


The Gasilovsky-Cramer-Blinick Families

This information comes from the book Imagine My Joy, which was written by LF.

Surnames in the family: Gasilovsky, Cramer, Panizovsky, Jackson, Gold, Buhakoff, Hoffman, Blinick, Lozinski, Isserman, Ressler and Shalitt.

Yitzhak Cramer was born in Vitebsk. He attended a Yeshiva. He lived with Shlomo Yosef Gasilovsky, and his family for about three years. There were three children in this family: Mordechai (Max/Alter), Gita Pearl and Sarah. Yitzhak married Gita and worked as a melamed (teacher of young children). He adopted the name Panizovsky for there was a big factory by this name and therefore it was a well-known name. Names were changed because of the conscription to the Czar’s army. Some boys were given the family name of a childless family or a family without sons, for this was a way for them not to be conscripted. There is a possibility of the former also being a reason for his change of surname. Yitzhak lived his entire life in Vitebsk with his wife. They had eight children: Annie, Rose, Zissel, Leah, Abraham/Avremka, Moishe, Rache and Sam. Their home was built of stone, and the floor was earthen. It was located in the Pestkovatik district. The family was poor.

Sam would cross a bridge every day on his way to cheder. He would meet a friend who would give him candy. This was Marc Chagall. He would pick up stuff from the Dvina River, which his Father would barter. The cheder teacher (Rabbi Penn) was paid seven rubles a month. Sam carried drinking water for him as part of the tuition. He would also take charcoal from a church to his house. These children told their children about a happy childhood with religious celebrations, friends, and playing/swimming near the river.

Leah’s parents-in-law, Shimon and Dobeh Blinick, also lived in Vitebsk. They married when she was 15 years old. Shimon was a barber–surgeon and the Dobeh a baker. Shimon died when her children were quite young. Dobeh took on Shimon’s profession. She gave vaccinations, did “blood-letting” with leeches, enemas, etc. She acquired a “licensed practice.” She married again, but this did not improve the economic condition of the family. She wanted her son Joseph to continue studying after his bar mitzvah. He knew that things were hard at home and decided to go to work. He was apprenticed to a carpentry shop. She paid 20 rubles a week; Joseph was to also sleep and eat there and go home for Shabbat. Avreml, the boss, treated him badly. After a year he quit. The boss wanted to collect 200 rubles from his family. They went to court and in the end the judge dismissed the case. Joseph found another job in a large shop that supplied furniture. He became acquainted with other carpenters, with intellectuals and the union. The union, of which he was treasurer, had meetings in the woods so that they wouldn’t be caught.

His cousin Sima Blinick studied to become a pharmacist in the University of St. Petersburg She was arrested for passing out anti-government literature, and sent to Siberia. She called the Czar “Nicholas the Last.” Her father, a doctor, went to treat one of his daughters for a life threatening disease. She was cured, but he died of the disease .Her mother died of starvation, probably during a famine.

Annie, a daughter of Yitzhak and Gita Pearl Cramer, was married in Vitebsk and had a child at the age of 17. The child died and then she divorced her husband, who she never really liked. She went to England, and met and married Abraham Hoffman.

Rose Cramer, another daughter, left for England. She married Chaim Lozinski. Annie came back for a visit with her two young sons. When she left, she took her sister Leah with her, and Joseph also went along. He had to escape from army conscription. He managed to smuggle himself across the Russian border. They reached Hamburg and didn’t have enough money f or Joseph’s passage. A short while later, he received help from a Polish family on their way to Africa and then he sailed for England.

Abraham Cramer left Vitebsk for England, where he took the name of a famous doctor (Jackson). He served for eight months in the Russian Labor Corps, a special battalion for Russian Jews.

Much of the family left London for Canada. The book tells about the entire family through the mid-twentieth century. The reasons for the writing of the book and the contributions of older family members are summarized in the postscript. It is easy and enjoyable reading.