Finding Chana and Fievel Boyarsky
by Ellie Roden
This is a story of how we should never give up searching for lost relatives and how the miracle of the Internet can help.
My father, and two of his sisters, came to the USA from Michalishek in the early part of the 20th century. Remaining in Michalishek was their youngest sister, Chana. I only knew that Chana was married to a Fievel Boyarsky. They lived in Lida and had a son and a daughter. The Boyarsky family perished in the Holocaust. That was all I knew. I didn't know where, when or how they died. I didn't even know my cousins' names. Sadly, my father and his two sisters passed away some years ago leaving so many unanswered questions about this aunt and cousins that I never knew.
In recent years it became a bit of an obsession for me to find out more about the Boyarskys. I wrote to Yad Vashem, the International Tracing Bureau, The US Holocaust Museum, a Lida society in Israel and many, many other agencies and organizations. Several Chana Boyarskys were listed on Holocaust victims lists, but without father's names, birth places, birth years, etc. there was no way to know if any were MY Chana. As a last ditch effort I posted some photos of Chana and her family some months ago on the Lida page of Jewishgen - the Internet Jewish genealogy site. Well, G-d bless the internet! On April 9th I checked my email at 6:00 am and found an Email message from Doris Cultraro stating that she had seen the photos on the Lida page. Doris wrote that her mother's uncle, Fievel Boyarsky, was married to a Chana and that Chana had a sister in Wallingford, CT and another in Brooklyn. My heart was pounding. This was definitely MY Chana, for one of my father's sisters had lived in Brooklyn and the other in Wallingford. I couldn't wait for that day at work to pass so I could get home and call Doris's mother, Bella Wagner. I suspect Bella was just as anxiously awaiting my call.
I learned from Bella that her family and the Boyarskys all lived in the same house in Lida. This is a far closer connection than I had ever dreamed of! I also learned for the first time that afternoon that my cousins' names were Zelig and Rachel. I immediately guessed that Zelig was named for our grandfather and Rachel was named for Chana's older sister who died at a young age in Michalishek of influenza. As Bella continued to tell me about Fievel, Chana, Zelig and Rachel, these relatives were becoming real people to me, not just nameless faces on an old photograph. I had always known that the Boyarskys perished in the Holocaust, but now, learning that they were murdered in the mass execution on May 8, 1942 it became a deeper and more personal loss.
I have spoken to Bella a few times since April 9th and sent her the few photographs I have of the Boyarskys. I know that this must be stirring up bittersweet memories for her too. I plan to go to New York on May 18, 2003 to attend the Annual Lida Memorial Meeting with my cousin, Ellie Kelman, (also Chana's niece) to meet Bella and her family. We will say Kaddish for our Aunt Chana, Fievel, Zelig and Rachel - the family we are just getting to know.