Below are the hand colored Family Trees by Morris. One located in Florida. One located in Canada.
Bialystok, April 9, 1906
Dear [Karl?] Kalman Light and to my devoted daughter in law, Jenny:
We are all, thank God, well. I received your letter, and truly was very happy to get it, because you used to send me a letter every month and now you have not done so for three months. So I thank you warmly and I also thank you for the things that you sent me. You saved me because I did not have anything to wear to go out into the street among people. There was a bit of a mix-up, but there is nothing to be done at this point. I didn’t need a winter jacket but rather a spring jacket, because in Europe it is not fitting for an older person to go out without a jacket, even in summer. Especially in a [illeg.] it isn’t nice, but there is nothing to be done. The jacket will also be of use to me. I thank you very sincerely.
I am also sending you a tree with [illeg.] apples and pears.
For all the grandchildren who will send me a letter, I will answer them with a letter and also a tree with apples and pears. For the little children who can’t yet write me a letter I will also answer if I get a letter from their parents. I am also sending a present for Liala [from your family?] I will soon send a tree with pears and apples for Bubele [?] because Fanny was laid up and it was too hard for her to write to me and it’s too long for Bubele to wait for the apples and pears, so I will send it with a letter to Fanny.
I have also sent the big pictures [photographs] for each person; please be so good as to give them to each one.
Thank you, my daughter- in-law for the birthday greeting which you sent me, and for remembering the paper that I asked you to send me. [Illeg.] Fanny sent me a silk handkerchief but I haven’t received it, but I assume it will be [illeg.] and well wrapped so that no one can get to it, and that it will soon come. About [illeg.] you write that you haven’t gotten the receipt, I will tell him, but it seems to me that he once told me about the [illeg.] from Kalman that she sent it, but I will tell him.
I am also writing about Fanny’s [?]. I had already had the same [?] in the [third?] letter, but nobody wrote me the name of the newborn grandchild and I needed to know it to be able to write the name on the branches of all the trees which I have sent to you and also on the trees I made for [Avrom?] and to send to Orle and to Rokhl Leah, and for my brother’s children. So I left the space on the branches empty because I don’t know the name. And in America you will be able to write in the name yourselves. So when Fanny writes me, she shouldn’t forget to tell me the name so I can fill it in on the branches.
You must write me how [Hinde?] is, because Velvel Levtske told me that she is sick. He said it under his breath and then he told Nekhe that she [Hinde] needs to have an operation so I asked him again and he denied it. So I am very worried about her. So you must write me.
[Entire line along crease illegible].
I have no more news. My devoted son Kalman and Jenny and Liala. May God grant you good luck in business.
From me, your father, father- in- law and grandfather.
Aba and Nekhe and the children send regards to all of you.
Rokhl Leah and Natan and the children send regards to all
Khenke and her husband Ben Zion Shekovitshe and their little children send greetings to all
Kalman Limenske and his wife and children send greetings to all
I send regards to Rokhl Toshman [?] and K_____ Zukerman and her husband and children
I send greetings to Maytes’ [?]children
I send greetings to my sister’s son, Morris Schwartz
I received from Borukh Borman [?] 10 [units of currency; maybe rubles] I gave 5 to [illeg.] and I owed 3 which I paid. May God help all of you and I send my best wishes.
Orly 16 February 1910
To my devoted daughter in law Jenny Light and to my son [Karl?] Kalman Light. I am, thank God, well. I thought that all my children were angry at me and had decided not to write me any letters, since even from you I haven’t gotten a letter in four months and you used to write me every month. Also, when I wrote to my children regarding Aunt Toybe, that it hadn’t yet come to getting married, that [illeg.] still deliberating about what I should do, they had already stopped writing. Then all of a sudden a letter came from [Otvostsk? – partly illeg.] to someone in Bialystok and that person wrote to me in Orle, saying that the other person had talked to my children in New York and that the children had impudently said that if I get married they won’t send me even one cent. Since I haven’t gotten any letters, that must be true. But then a couple of weeks ago I got a letter from Lazar. He writes me what that person wrote to me, that I won’t get one cent, is a lie and I shouldn’t believe it. But Kalman Limenske happened to read the letter that I had gotten and he said, What became of them in America? Did they become so corrupted in America? If they contributed 10 cents a week they would have [illeg.] to send you. In Bialystok they distribute [sentence along crease in paper illegible.] That’s how amazed Kalman Limenske was. Then ultimately I got the letter from Lazar that said it’s a lie and I shouldn’t believe it. [Illeg.] if they send it, if they don’t send it, with God’s help I won’t be abandoned, and if you can improve your situation , you should do that. That’s what was written in [your?the?] letter, but [illeg.] it must have been that other person who said that they will not send a groshen. [Russian equivalent of a cent.]
I understand that [illeg.] about the children, they won’t send it anyway. The way things are done in small towns, those people in Orle who don’t want to contribute to the Lines Hatsedek [charity in shtetl providing aid to indigent people], they talk about the Lines Hatsedek.
Let’s put this matter aside and talk about [illeg.] things. Today the 16th of February, the [4th?] day of [the Hebrew month of] Adar, is my birthday. So I am sending for all of you my biography that I have written. I ask that you write me more often. Finally, I send greetings to you and Kalman and the children. Please pass on my letter and the biography to everyone. From me, your father, father- in- law and grandfather.
I use brackets to indicate when something is illegible or uncertain. If entirely illeg.ible: [illeg.]. If I’m unsure I put a question mark after the word/s in question, and all in brackets.
Brackets are also used to provide definitions or explanatory material.
If a word is in italics, it means that it is an English word that the writer wrote in the Yiddish alphabet, e.g. cent.
The list of greetings/regards [the Yiddish word is grus, pl.grisn; verb grisn – to greet or to send regards] at the end of the 1906 letter is very common in Yiddish letters. It was a way for people to keep in touch.
Although Morris addresses the letters to both Kalman and Jenny (I think her Yiddish or Russian name may have been Dzhenie) he often uses the singular “du” for you, instead of the plural ”ir” and I can’t tell if that has any significance. Sometimes it sounds like Jenny was the intended recipient, sometimes both Jenny and Kalman. It may be that she was the main correspondent because she could read and write Yiddish
Orla in the Early 1900s
My mother’s family lived in a tiny village in eastern Poland called Orla. At that time it belonged to Russia. It is about 20-25 miles from a fair-sized town called Bielsk. I would guess that Orla is about 50 miles west of the present Russian border. My aunt Bella says that the village had two streets. I only remember one. It was a cobblestone highway that ran through the village. The village had a square in the center, sort of a market place with small stores all around it. Once a week the peasants from the neighboring farms would come to the market place, bring their produce to sell and buy what they needed in these small stores.
The village had a stream. There was a mill on the stream which ground the rye grain used for making the black Russian sourdough bread the people ate. Our miller also had a side line. With his horse and wagon he transported people and goods to and from the villages in this area. There was no other means of transportation.
There was also a beautiful forest near the stream. The whole area was densely forested. In warm weather, on the Sabbath, when no work was done at all, people, especially young people, would walk in the forest.
There was no doctor in the village. There was a pharmacist who compounded medicines himself. My grandmother, Hashe, made tallow candles by dipping them and I have a faint memory of a barn-like structure in the back of the house and seeing candles hanging from the rafters. She had a little store in the village square where she sold these candles and other things as well. What I remember about that store are the big barrels of herring that took up all the space and you could hardly go inside.
There was a house of study, a small room which was part of the synagogue. Right across our house, on the other side of the road, was a very large, grandiose church situated on a large piece of land. Around it was a low stone wall, maybe three or four feet high and on top of the stone wall was an iron fence.
There was, of course, no running water. Water had to be brought in from a well. There was no bathroom. You had to go outside for that. There was no bathtub. I remember being bathed in a large metal container. There was a village bathhouse which was used at certain times.
I remember when the First World War reached our area and the cannon started shooting. I remember that we hid in the cemetery behind the gravestones. The next morning we fled to a town where we stayed a few days and then went back to our village. When we got back to Orla, we found that our house had been completely destroyed, burned to the ground.
The winter, spring and summer after we returned from running away were very hard. There wasn’t enough food. The Germans controlled the supply. The peasants hid as much of their grain and vegetables as they could and then sold it to the people of the villages who would go there at night and smuggle it in without the Germans’ knowledge.
When the whole population was practically starving, my mother and her very close friend who was a trained nurse went to the German commandant and asked him for food to set up a soup kitchen for the village. Strange as it may seem, he agreed to their request and supplied food to them. They set up a soup kitchen for the village and saved a lot of people from starving.
We moved into another house at the other end of the village. This house I remember. You entered from the street into a very large room. To the right was a very large table with chairs and to the left, some sort of cupboard for keeping clothes. Right opposite the entrance was a tremendous oven built from the floor to the ceiling. This is what heated the whole house during the winter. It was a two-story oven. The wood was placed in the lower part of the oven. When the fire died down, the upstairs could be slept in and it was used for that purpose. The winters were very cold so this was beneficial. There was a narrow wooden bench in front of the oven. I don’t remember going outside in the winter. We didn’t have shoes.
To the left of the oven was the entrance to a small room which was used as a bedroom. There were bedrooms on the other side of the oven. There was also a very large kitchen which was shared by another family living on the other side. They were two homes connected by a common kitchen.
The one thing I remember fondly about the kitchen is when bread was baked. This was the Russian black sourdough bread. About 40 lbs. of rye flour was placed in a large wooden container, ingredients added and allowed to stand until it fermented. Then the big oven in the kitchen was fired up and when the wood had turned to coals, the dough was made up into large, round loaves and put into a clearing in the oven with a long paddle.
Spring was a wonderful time after being confined to the house all winter. I remember going barefoot through the meadows and it was wonderful to feel the grass underneath. There was a red clover growing in the meadows and we used to pluck out the petals of the flowers. The tips of the petals were white and quite sweet and we used to eat them.
1906 Liatski Family Tree by Morris Lait
The tree contains the following family groups:
Dov ben Baruch Zev z”l
+ Miriam Mindel Shechiyah?
Miriam Mindelsh Chaya?
+ Chaya Bailah
Lazar Joel Lait
Moshe Leib Lait
Baruch Zev Liatski
N? K? ?
Avraham Yakov Lich
Baruch Yoel Lich
Moshe Shmuel Sh”ub Lich
Ben Zion Shaikovitch