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 Quantas 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 ...
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
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
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
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
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 Email: ing 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.
Shirley and I planned our trip - first
to Denmark, then on to
Lithuania, Sweden, Russia and to end
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.
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
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'
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!
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
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.
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
Maiden name "Chernyahovscaya" and she
went to Odessa from Talnoye to get come
job and profession because as you
understand in "mestechko" (village)
there wasn't nor 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
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...
father with his siblings and my mother
with her siblings grow up without
Imagine the years after revolution and
civil War. I don't know the name of 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."
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