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DonRocks

Republic of Belarus (1994-) - Former Soviet State, Recognized as Independent in 1991

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Belarus has been recognized as an independent country since 1991, and ratified their Constitution in 1994.

Its capital and most populous city is Minsk.

It's the home of 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, Svetlana Alexievich, who gained fame for writing in a journalistic style about the Chernobyl disaster with "Voices from Chernobyl."

The most famous of all Belarusians is possibly Marc Chagall; not far behind is "The Sparrow from Minsk," Olga Korbut

Belarus is landlocked, and surrounded by five countries: The two "Ls" (Latvia and Lithuania) to the Northwest, and the big "PUR" (Poland, Ukraine, and Russia) which wraps around the rest of the country. Belarus is approximately the same size as Kansas, albeit with more than triple the population (9.5 million vs. 2.9 million).

Screenshot 2019-10-09 at 00.40.05.png

It is neither considered a "Baltic" (Baltic Sea) nor a "Balkan" (Balkan Mountains) nation.

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A little family history connected to Belarus and in particular the town of Kobryn (Kobrin).  Upon further research I've learned that my father's family came from Kobryn in Belarus as opposed to "near" Bialystok in Poland.  Research describes Kobryn as "near" Bialystok, though it is about 120 miles.  It must have been relatively close on a cultural basis though as my grandmother was a "fabled" bialy baker.

My grandparents emigrated to the US in the 1890's as kids.  They were part of large groups of relatives, all from that area who came to the US at that point in time.  They were poor and oppressed and were a part of a large number of Jews who moved to the US during those decades for similar reasons.  More relatives emigrated to the US and elsewhere in the following years.

Among the relatives who also arrived was a first cousin of my grandfather's named Elias Mandel Grossberg.  He was a fairly famous artist gaining fame in the 1920's to 1940's (passed away in 1947).  He primarily did etchings including many drawings of the famous and not-so-famous, including Mahatma Ghandi, Mussolini (in 1927), and Einstein among others.  A fairly detailed biography can be found here

My grandparents had a large number of his prints, either all or mostly signed.  There may be copies of some of the more famous pieces and/or originals.  I do know my grandfather was known for sending money back to "the old country" to help relatives relocate. He was beloved.  My grandparents might have had about 15 Grossmans.  Pretty astonishing for a family of not wealthy folks. 

Possibly around the earlier 1960's after my grandfather got ill and relocated (my grandmother had passed in the 1950's) the Grossman's were spread among my father and his two siblings.  Visit one of the homes and at the least there were some very similar pieces of art.

Even at my culturally neanderthalish perspective the prints were memorable.  They were thematically similar, all were etchings, and even I could tell they were "better" than the other pieces of art on my parents walls.  They established a theme and memory connected to the home in which I grew up.  Today I and each of my cousins has one or two Grossman's inherited from our parents and grandparents.  Visit one of those homes and you will find a familiar theme, not unlike visiting the homes of my parents, my uncle and aunt (siblings of my dad). 

Sad to say I can't report more.  My dad would give out "nuggets" of information about his past and that of his ancestors but I never questioned this and got into more detail.  Certainly wish I had that information now.

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We may be related 😳

My father was born in Brooklyn in 1910.  He had an older brother born here as well, so I'm guessing that his parents came to the U.S.in the late 1890s.  Since both of my grandparents died before I knew them (my grandfather in 1918, when my father was barely 8 years old; my grandmother in 1954, when I was only 1), I never got a chance to hear about their history directly from them.  And all of my aunts & uncles are long gone as well.  My father didn't talk much about his parents' pre-U.S. lives (not sure he really knew much) & only said that we were of Russian descent & got the hell out of Dodge when things heated up.  We never visited gravesites (although I was told that they were both in a certain cemetery in Brooklyn) nor were there relatives from that generation around us.  My mother's parents and their extended family were what I knew & they were from elsewhere.

So... about 9 years ago, I decided to search out my paternal grandparents' gravesites.  The office for a very large Jewish burial ground on McDonald Ave is amazingly well organized with a paper filing system that floored me when I showed up with names and approximate dates.  They quickly found my grandmother's site and just as quickly stated that there was no way they'd ever find my grandfather's 1918 one.  I went to the site & visited her well worn marker, which was within the small section of the Brooklyn Jewish Bialystoker Society.  My mother had mentioned this society being part of their lives when they were young, but I knew nothing else of them & never really paid any attention to it.  At any rate, apparently this (now defunct) society serviced those Jews who came from the area around Bialystok & my father's parents were of this flock.  One of these days, I'll see if the parallel Lower East Side Manhattan Bialystok Society received any of the Brooklyn info. when the society dissolved.  Or not.

In summary, I have fewer "nuggets" than you but a very similar tribal history (on my father's side).  But a very different last name, so don't worry.

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13 minutes ago, Steve R. said:

In summary, I have fewer "nuggets" than you but a very similar tribal history (on my father's side).  But a very different last name, so don't worry.

Well that last sentence is a relief.   OTOH per the "family tree"  in the early 1800's some ancestor of the same last name had 8 kids and 5 of them changed their last name.  Per what I've read they did it to "avoid" getting "enrolled" into the military.  (evidently there were no docs at the time that would claim you had bone spurs).Fremland, Grossberg and some other last names were among those they chose; Grossberg being the last name of the artist referenced above.

I'm a little saddened that I didn't pick up on this family history story at an earlier time.  Almost all of my father's first cousins, of which there were a ton have passed away.  What I have learned is that connected to our family name is someone who was both accomplished and recognized who also may also well have been a "high society" goniff and more relatives from that part of Belarus who ended up in Australia/New Zealand.

Meanwhile Bialystok is in the Eastern part of what is now Poland, and Kobryn is in the Western part of Belarus...close but now two separate nations.  Additionally I do understand the Bialystok  society has a great trove of historical information. 

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On 10/9/2019 at 12:25 AM, DonRocks said:

Belarus has been recognized as an independent country since 1991, and ratified their Constitution in 1994.

[Who knew that such a simple, whimsical post would turn into such a fascinating thread? You never know until you try.]

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You can find a good sample of  Elias Grossman's work here.   I've been late to this research and will have to check with relatives to learn more.  It is apparent that Grossman created etchings and had them copied for sale.  The various prints my grandparents had were of this sort.  Whether they purchased the prints or were given copies by Grossman I don't know.  Regardless they were prolific fans with what must have been 12-15 of them.  The one I have is copied below.

In any case I have cousins who purchased an apartment in DC, mostly to give them access to their daughter, her husband and their two kids.   While there I noticed a Grossman on the wall.  That spurred conversation....and my gut is that none or few of my age peers in siblings or cousins really don't know much about this artist, though for similar reasons we treasure the pieces.

6377114_grossmanatmyhome.jpg.a4b64679218fd29806242417834b6a42.jpg

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