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December 12, 2003 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ou

ow the W

MitAgit%, 4Vā€˜

A local attorney journeys to her ancestral home.

BY HARRIET R TTER

I

have just been on the most incredi-
ble journey. On Sept. 5, my hus-
band, Norman Rotter, and I flew to
Vilnius, (known in Yiddish as
Vilna), Lithuania, where my path was
my past. My mother, Dorothy .Green,
came to this country in the 1920s with
her parents and seven siblings. Their
family name of Grinker was changed to
Green by the customs authorities when
they arrived in the United States. She
brought a photograph with her that had
been taken in front of the family home
at her uncle's wedding a few years earlier..
Of the more than 60 people in the pic-
ture, I can identify my grandparents and
their two oldest children. Everyone else
in the photo perished in the Holocaust,
along with 240,000 of their Lithuanian
brethren.

12/12

2003

14G

Before the war there were 100,000
Jews in Vilnius ā€” 40 percent of the
population. The city was often referred
to as the Jerusalem of the North and was
a center for Yiddish culture. Nazi and
Soviet brutality virtually wiped out this
prominent Jewish community and today
there are just 5,000 Jews left in
Lithuania ā€” 80 percent of whom live in
Vilnius.
Never would my mother have gone
back to Lithuania: "What's there?" she
would ask. "We were happy to leave."
Nor did she imagine that I would want
to search for her birthplace. I didn't
plan to do so myself until January of this
year when I was appointed to the
Commission for the Preservation of
America's Heritage Abroad by President
George W Bush. Our charge is to pre-

serve an protect historic buildings,
monum nts and cemeteries in central
and easte'tri Europe. I chose to take the
responsibility of visiting Lithuania, with
a special personal agenda of discovering
my roots.
All I had for reference was the wed-
ding photo and a one-page document
unearthed by my brother, Jeffrey Band.
In his genealogy search, he found an
extract from the 1908 Skoudos town
dwellers' community family list. It stat-
ed that on April 26, 1914, our maternal
grandparents, Khaya and Bentsel
Grinker (later called Ida and Ben
Green), were residents of Darbenai
(known in Yiddish as Darbian). Upon
further searching I learned that my
grandfather had been born in Skuodas
(known in Yiddish as Shkud), that his

family lived in the village of S. Ipiltis
(known in Yiddish as Inpility), and
finally, that my great-grandfather was
from a tiny shtetl called Derkinciai, in
the village of Mosedis.
I gave the document to our wonderful
and knowledgeable English-speaking
guide, Chaim Bargman who lives in
Kounas (known in Yiddish as Kovno).
He cautioned us Darbenai was near the
Baltic coast, at least a four-hour drive
from Vilnius. He assured us he could
find all of these villages, which were in a
15-mile radius of each other, but the trip
would likely take a While, as some of the
roads were not paved. We were, howev-
er, determined to see it all. Forget the
Autobahn ā€” we saw horses and wagons
en route.
(continued on page 16)

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