Four giant 747s all landed from various points in the globe, within minutes of each other on April 19, 2001 at the Los Angeles International Airlines Terminal. Out of the 1500 plus passengers that departed from the planes, one of the passengers from Qantas Airlines was greeted by five local television station cameras and reporters along with about a dozen International and Los Angeles Red Cross workers ... and me ... Ted Margulis!
The small statured man, and his wife were immediately recognized as the two pictured above -- Semion (Simon and Lana) (Svetlana) Margoulis. They were arriving, after a long flight from Melbourne, Australia. They had left Melbourne at 11:00 am on Friday, April 19th, 2001 and arrived in Los Angeles on Friday, April 19th at exactly the same time! They had crossed the International Date Line ... and they had crossed through 30 plus years of family genealogy researching.
My father, Samuel Margulis was born in Talnoye, Ukraine and married, at a rather young age, to Hadassah Rosen also of Talnoye. They had three children -- two boys and one girl. Shortly after the birth of their third child in 1912, Sam left Talnoye in 1916 to make a new home for his family in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where his younger brother had already established a home several years before. Sam said goodbye to his father, mother, sisters and his wife and children and promised to bring them 'over to the "Goldenah land" as soon as he could make enough money to pay for the ship's passage.
Off he went, along with a few of his boyhood friends, who also felt they could do better for themselves and their families in 'Amerika'!
Sam went to work immediately, first as a railroad hand and later as an upholster. Then WW I came along and there was no way he could bring his family over, so he patiently waited the war out and found himself being drafted into the Army just before the Armistices.
When he was able to again communicate with his family in Ukraine, he learned that his wife Hadassah had passed away and that his three children had been sent to live with relatives - and later to an orphanage. He was able to obtain permission to bring his daughter Manya (Marion) to the U.S., but the two boys could not be brought over as they were diagnosed with Glaucoma - a common eye disease at that time.
Manya came to the U.S. at the age of fourteen and lived with our father and my mother, who my father had met, in the meantime, and married -- my mother Bessie Soloski of Virginia, Minnesota.
My mom knew of the previous marriage and was instrumental in helping Marion become adjusted to life in the U.S. My mother was born in Superior, Wisconsin and had gone to a business college in Duluth Minnesota - a rarity in those days for a woman, let alone a Jewess. Once she met Sam, they became husband and wife and began raising a family of three girls and two boys. I'm the oldest son from their marriage.
Since the two boys, from the first marriage, could not be brought to the U.S. in the foreseeable future, nothing more was discussed although their names and circumstances were brought to my family's attention over the years ... but my siblings (three sisters and one brother) and I just knew that there were some close relatives still living in Ukraine - and that was it! No more -- no less.
And then the bug hit me!
We have to fast-forward. I grew up on the Northside of Minneapolis, knowing my half-sister Marion, and knowing just a bit about two half-brothers living in Ukraine, but my life was focused on finding the right girl for myself and than on making a living for my family and finally moving to Los Angeles in 1957.
In 1964, my wife and I returned to Minneapolis for my mother's family (Soloski) reunion in the 1970s ... the first ever for the Soloski family. Of course, I also saw my Margolis side of the family, including my favorite aunt Rose and my uncle Abe, my father's younger brother.
Interestingly, my uncle Abe had first spelled his name MARGULIS but later changed it to Margolis which his side of the family is known by in the Twin Cities. My father, on the other hand, originally spelled it MARGOLIS and later changed it to MARGULIS. This information was obtained by researching early Minneapolis phone directories.
At the Soloski family reunion, I learned about, and met, over 100 of my mother's relatives and saw a family tree that one of the newly found cousins had created by hand on a piece of paper. I was hooked on genealogy! Plain and simple. Now I wanted to know more ... and of course ... about my father's family, as well.
After spending several years learning about the Soloski extended family, and finding over 1500 members, I turned my attention to the Margulis (Margolis) family history. I turned up the fact that I had two half-brothers believed to be still living in Ukraine.
My dad had died before my interest in genealogy began, and my mother didn't know much more than I did. My uncle and aunt also had passed away and my Margolis cousins knew very little about our family history.
I had my half-brother's names (Moshe and Aaron and my half sister Manya [Marion]) ... and that they probably had been born in Talnoye, which is located in Southeastern part of the country. That's all I had to work with at the time.
Here then is where the internet came into play and here is where I met my Ukrainian friend, Sasha Litveniko, a retired Professor of English at the Kharkov University of Kharkov, Ukraine through the internet. Sasha and I had been Emailing each other about our different life styles and our wants and thoughts over a few years, as I was active on the AOL Jewish Genealogy site. Although not Jewish, he too had an interest in genealogy. From an email from Sasha, I learned that he was planning a visit to the US and so I invited him to visit my wife and I in Los Angeles.
Sasha was a retired English Professor. He had been associated with the University of Kharkov and so I felt that this was not a peasant type, but rather an intelligent man. My instincts proved to be true although my wife almost had a heart attack when I first told her about extending an invitation to a man from Kharkov to visit our home -- and that I had never met him personally. My instincts proved to be o.k. and we became as close as brothers but from different worlds ... but brothers under the skin ... and in the mind.
We met Sasha at the airport and we spent four days with him showing him the sites of 'Hollywood'. He was impressed and we truly enjoyed his company and solidified our friendship. We later entertained his daughter at our home when she too came to the US to study.
I told him about my desire to learn about my two half brothers and he promised he would help me find them when he returned to Ukraine. And he was a man of his word!
Sasha ran ads in various Ukrainian newspapers and interviewed quite a number of people who thought they might be related to my father's family. Out of the sixty or so replies he received, one lady seemed the most promising and he sent his nephew, Valentine, to interview her. Her name was Bronislava Margulis and she lived in Berdichev. Berdichev is just north and a bit west of Kiev and about a three to four hour rail trip for Valentine, but he went there at the request of Sasha.
Upon arriving in Berdichev, Valentine went straight to Bronislava's apartment and knocked on her door. Now you must understand that the Russian people, in particular the Jews of Russia, after 70 years of being under communist rule, are very suspicious of any stranger. Valentine, though a charming young man who I met later in Kharkov, tried to be his charming self. Bronislava didn't like the idea of his being there and told him to leave in no uncertain terms. She went so far as to tell him that if he didn't go away, she would call the police.
Valentine is also a stubborn young man and wouldn't leave her door until she spoke with him about possible American relatives of her husband inquiring about Moshe Margulis, my half brother. Through the door Valentine learned that he had passed away just four years before and that she really feared having this young man at her door, so she did call the police who promptly hauled Valentine to the city jail where he stayed overnight.
The next morning the police Chief interviewed Valentine, learned about why he had tried to get Bronislava's attention, but though he stated he was sympathetic to the situation, he thought that Valentine must leave her alone. The Chief offered him a ride to the train station, but Valentine asked, instead, if he could get a ride back to Bronislava's apartment house.
The police Chief recognized Valentine's 'chutzpah' and complied. There, Valentine again got Bronislava's attention and this time she listened and all of a sudden when she learned that an American relative of her "husband" (they had never been married as it turns out) wanted to help them, she became 'all ears'. This was all reported by Valentine to Sasha who in turn, passed it on to me. Right then and there, we knew that we had to meet her ourselves.
So Shirley and I planned our trip - first to Denmark, then on to Lithuania, Sweden, Russia and to end in Ukraine.
Shirley and I traveled to Berdichev (which is another story in itself) and met Bronislava, but she claimed she had no idea where my half-brother's sons from his first marriage were now living. She had no contact with them, since my half-brother Moshe had left their mother for her, many years ago, when they (the two sons) were young boys and really had no further contact with the family.
My brother's tombstone, we found on our visit to this town, in the Berdichev cemetery. The day we were there, it was pouring rain, but Valentine, our guide, insisted that he would find the tombstone, and he did! We were all soaked ... but who cared! There was the tombstone and the date of birth and death and his picture engraved in the tombstone.
My brother Moishe was born on the same date as my daughter and died on the same date as one of my sons. To add even more to this, my father died on my brother's birth date and my mother, on birth date.
Now we had to find our missing Margulis Ukrainian family - Moshe's two sons, so I turned to the International Red Cross and filled out the forms to the best of my knowledge. It took six years to make the date of April 19, 2001 happen, but there was Semion stepping out of customs and into the arms of his American uncle and five TV and newspaper reporter's ... all asking questions about our reunion. I can't describe the feeling!
How do you describe the feeling of finding a person ... your nephew ... from out of over 200 million people?
One person from the masses! Only because of the perseverance of some wonderful people at the International Red Cross did they find Simon who was now living in Melbourne, Australia for the past eight years. His brother Yuri had passed away in Israel a few years before, and sadly, Bronislava has also passed away recently since we had met her in Berdichev. We also found out that Moshe's brother, Aaron, along with his wife and daughter Ida, were murdered by the Nazis in Kerch.
Simon did not know that he had an uncle Ted until the Australian Red Cross told him about my inquiry. He did know about his Aunt Manya (my half sister) and knew she lived somewhere in the US, but that was all he had ever learned. And he did not know how to even start the process of finding his 'lost' relatives.
Fortunately, I did and with a big, (no, make that a huge hug), some tears and a few loving words we both uttered to each other, we embraced each other, thankful to be once again reunited as a family. The American and the Ukrainian Jewish families now once again together as a family!
Former Army Major Semion Margoulis (that's how they spell the name in Ukraine) retired about 10 years ago and waited several more years before applying for a passport to leave Ukraine. He became a citizen of Australia two years later and has lived a quiet life with his wife Lana and one son and a sister-in-law and her family until we met. Now he (as I) have found each other, as has my children and my wife. Not only is Simon and Lana now part of our family, but he has turned out to be a wonderfully delightfully, knowledgeable and charming person ... one that I can easily call a 'mensch' and a friend besides proudly stating that he is my nephew!
He had mentioned in our first telephone conversation, that as a Major in the Soviet Army, he had the responsibility to fire missiles at the US if commanded to do so. He said "...but you were my enemy!" when he first answered my phone call to Australia. How happy we both were that we were no longer "enemies" now.
He told me that Frank Sinatra was his singing idol while we were driving him around Los Angeles and believe it or not, while we had our first lunch together at Nate and Al's deli in Beverly Hills that Friday that we had first met, who should be sitting in the booth next to us, but Frank Sinatra, Jr. Simon was besides himself. This was America - the land of his dreams, he exclaimed! We had to hold him back as he wanted so desperately to meet his idol's son.
Once we found each other that Friday morning, we spent the next ten days driving around Los Angeles, Palm Desert and San Diego to the delight of both of our wives and for Simon ... and for the benefit of learning about each other's past lives. While touring Universal Studios, several people came up to us and asked if we were the ones who were shown on the TV news the previous day. That tickled Simon and Lana as they felt they were now "stars in Hollywood" - at least for the day.
Mine is a fairly common entrepreneurial life style that most Americans enjoy, but try to imagine his when he lived with 16 others in one room in Siberia. Where the toilet was an outhouse 300 meters from his one room home. Imagine not having the pleasure and the warm feeling of being Jewish if you wanted to be Jewish and imagine having the word Jew used as a derogatory term on your passport.
You can't imagine it, I'm sure, as I can't either! All I can do is listen and thank God that we were now able to meet each other and all of the horrors are now in his past. And as we left each other, ten days later, we both said "next year in Australia!' Alivah!
We correspond almost every month and speak via Skype whenever we feel the need to see or hear each other's voice. Simon and Lana are now part of our family (and we of theirs) and all of my sons and daughter, as well as some nieces and nephews also keep in touch with our Australian "Mates".
I sincerely hope that my success story inspires you to continue with your research and that you too "find" your lost family.
Palm Desert, CA
Postscript: I asked Simon for information of the Talnoye Margulis family and he responded with an email which I am quoting exactly as he sent it to me below.
"Dear Uncle Ted!
First of all our anniversary on 16 April 2013 if we are will alive. Look we are happy with every day of our life and it is still miracle that we achieved our age after what we went through from the beginning of our childhood and later on ...
My mom's Maiden name "Chernyahovscaya" and she went to Odessa from Talnoye to get some job and profession because as you understand in "mestechko" (village) there wasn't no job not profession to get it. But in eight month techicum were she start to study was closed and she in 1934 came to Kerch where lived already her Aunt Aster with his husband and two children. At that time about 2-3 years lived already Aaron, fathers older Brother. So in 1934 my mother and Father got married and in 20 December (I) was born. Mom's Aunt Aster and her husband Fishel and Aaron's wife Frida and even her relatives all of them from Talnoye. It was a way for Jewish from mestechko, who escaped first from miserable life are trying to help the other one
Uncle so sad that I never asked mom about our family. It was very simple ... very poor life, very strong restrictions for Jewish people, and the best way the less you know about your family the saver life... As I guess it's mom's Aunt help to come to Kerch for Aaron and My father and my mother, because in 1924 suddenly died my grandfather and for children left to survive and only god knows how they survived...
So my father with his siblings and my mother with her siblings grow up without fathers
Imagine the years after revolution and civil War. I don't know the name of my grandmother from father's side. May I wrong but as I remember Mom used to say me that the Name of my bother Udik was given in honour of our grandmother because her name was Udasya. But I'm not sore one hundred percent."
Love you both,
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