Los Angeles, CA
My father died in 1958. I was eight years old. My sisters were six and three years old. We Rubenstein sisters began spending several months a year with my Baba, our father’s mother. Baba and her sister, Aunt Janet, told us stories of the Frankel family in Przerośl. I didn’t know the name of the town until decades later. I knew that the Bramson, Margolis, and Frankel cousins grew up in a tight-knit community, so much so that my great-grandmother, Hattie (Bodana) Bramson Frankel never adjusted to life in America. As the oldest child of the oldest child of the oldest child, I was the keeper of the family lore.
In 2012 after some years of researching my Baba’s family, I visited Lithuania and Poland. As part of that trip, I did a 3-day Roots tour to ancestral cemeteries. I arrived in Przerośl expecting to find the gravestones of my great-great-grandfather, Josel Frankel, and of the parents of my great-great grandmother, Chava Margolis. Instead, I found an impassable jungle encircled by the remains of a beautiful stone wall. I resolved at that moment to return and to clear the jungle. I had no idea how to do so but I was determined. Along the way, in the intervening years, I learned so much and was moved by the many descendants and volunteers who journeyed with me to clear and clean the cemetery, including my sister, her daughter, and my son. Our Baba would be proud of us.