Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Temporary Hiatus

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It has occurred to me to write on this blog that I am taking a temporary hiatus from updating while I study for my PhD exams, which I am taking in August. I do plan to continue telling the story of Sylvia, Alex and Cookie in the fall. (This is not the most exciting 100th post but I will make up for it later!)

In the meantime, here are some short pieces I’ve written for other sites that relate more directly to my doctoral studies. Thank you all for your patience and I can’t wait to get back to writing in September!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/molly-rosner/the-violence-of-abortion-_b_5453410.html

http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2014/06/03/mercurial-mars-veronicas-liminal-identity

Written by Molly

June 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

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50 Iconic WWII Documents

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ImageA new book, Politics, War, and Personality: 50 Iconic World War II Documents, uses objects to approach WWII history, which I appreciate. A significant number of the featured documents are letters from historical figures. While I believe letters from people who aren’t presidents and leaders merit collection and investigation as well, I wanted to share this.

 

 

http://newyorkhistoryblog.org/2014/03/01/poltics-war-and-personality-50-iconic-world-war-ii-documents/

 

Written by Molly

March 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

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The Value of War Letters

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Andrew Carroll understands the material and historical (in addition to the sentimental) value of war letters and has been collecting them for years.

NPR describes his efforts to preserve these documents:

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=274075440&m=274075441

Written by Molly

February 13, 2014 at 9:19 am

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I love you still, dammit!

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Long ago I posted a “Letter Full of Bawling Out.” You may want to revisit this letter, in which Alex takes his frustrations out on Sylvia. This letter is not the same one full of “bawling out” that Sylvia refers to in the letter below but it provides another side and example of fighting via mail. Her voice is stern and hurt but not vicious – and still loving. She writes that it is difficult for her to respond and you can feel the painful emotional choices she has to make in this letter. She does not want to say anything she might regret, or anything that doesn’t tell Alex that he means a lot to her but she is injured by his words and does not accept them without recourse. She finds her defense is to continue living her life as if she were not waiting for him. She goes to movies without him but still tells him she is proud of the work he did in Chicago before the war.

I wasn’t able to find information about the movies or books that Sylvia mentions in this post but I will continue to look. For now, the emotional reasons that she mentions seeing movies feels more prevalent.

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Friday, January 5, 1945

Dear Alex,

It’s difficult for me to start this letter – I’m at a loss to know what tone to adopt – since the letter I received from you yesterday. Shall I pretend I never received it? ( that was your bawling out letter – and also where you tell me we might not see each other throughout Winter, Spring, and possibly summer… Remember? ) well, no mail from you today, so I guess you’ve started your reciprocal trade (and letters) agreement. I might joke about it, but it’s going to be a stiff punishment not to hear from you – about your safety anyway – so don’t keep it up!! Even my handwriting looks restrained.

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I brought Adrienne over to my mother’s this morning and I went to see the movie “Seventh Brass”. (It’s only recently, since yesterday, that I decided not to wait for your return to see good movies and shows. The “Seventh Brass” is the first attempt so far). The film was good – but it seemed to say that the German underground did nothing – this was in 1936 – about the fight against the Nazis. This was a little difficult to understand. However, the film was absorbing, they used a good technique in the story development.  It would have been nice to see it with you, though. I’d also like to see “The Rainbow” – a sweet movie taken from the novel written by Wanda Wassilewslia (Polish government in exile). But will not wait any longer to see it. If, when you return, you’d like to see it, I’ll gladly go again, as from all reports it’s an exceptionally fine film. But you wrote me that you’ve been out two shows, dances, etc. almost every night lately. I’m glad to read this as it must be a good form of release and recreation for you.
Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 2.15.36 PMI realize that you don’t have many opportunities to do so, and am happy just to for your sake – although I was slightly worried about you and the woman question. Your telling me about your buddy was very reassuring on that scare. Will it be all grown in when you come home? I hope so – as the neighbors are all on the lookout for a very tall and handsome sailor. By the way I’m reading “Citizens” by Meyerlevin which deals with the Chicago memorial day massacre and riots talking about the south side of Chicago and mentions things both you and Jimmy B told me about regarding Chicago. It makes me feel proud of you and your life in Chicago. Good night, Alex, and write me a kinder letter soon. Or just let me know you’re alright. I love you still, dammit!
Sylvia

Written by Molly

February 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm

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Sketches

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These beautiful images come from the Slate’s history blog – The Vault. The sketches of women working during WWII are really contemplative and lovely:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/02/06/gladys_reed_sketches_of_life_as_a_wren_during_wwii.html

Written by Molly

February 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

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Common Sense Has To Prevail

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This is a sweet note from Alex aboard the S.S. Pennsylvania. He wrote it in January of 1945 but it was not postmarked until February 5th.

He writes of the news they get on the ship – but warns Sylvia not to believe everything that she hears and to have faith that he will come home soon. Oddly, he mentions that he is somewhat relieved to hear that the government is drafting 26 to 36 year old men because it lets him know that the country is still involved in the war – not forgetting the men still serving in the military. When a gentle communist man who hated serving in the war shows happiness at the drafting of other young men, we can clearly see how being at war can change your ideas and political instincts.

Finally, when Alex writes that his spirits are buoyed by the idea that Sylvia is “cheerfully” waiting for him, we see the pressure everyone was under to be optimistic. Awaiting a homecoming itself was not enough, it was as important to be cheerful about it. This is a personal application of the government propaganda for women to “Keep it short, keep it cheerful.”

feb 5 1945 copy

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At Sea. January 20 -45

Dearest sweetheart,

We had a rough weather for a while. Now the sea is comparatively calm though there is a strong wind and snow. I am off my watch ready to take a nap for a couple of hours, but I want to write to you, so that you may hear from me, so as to bridge the distance that separates us.

Our thoughts Are full of calm and of our dear ones. Wondering when will it be all over. The news are not so bad, if only this push the Russians are making would really brake [sic] through and put an end to this war at least on this side of the Ocean. I guess the next few weeks will tell the story in full.

            Of what else can I write you about? There is a lot of talk about going home. The radio had it on and that started it. It was said that the ruling is as far as the army is concerned, duration and six months. Navy and Marines there is no such ruling, and I guess they can keep us as long as they feel the need for us. I am quite sure that when the war is over, there will be rulings made for us too, there would be to [sic] much resentment at home, particularly with men who have families and have a good record of service overseas. So no matter what the politicians may say, don’t let them disturb you, I know  that common sense has to prevail, particularly when so many people’s future is involved.

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We also heard that their [sic] beginning to draft men 26 to 36 again. I am glad in one way, because from here it sounds to much like as if the war was over for the people in the states.

            Darling, keep on writing those wonderful letters. And never tire to tell me of how much I mean to you. You are to me the dearest person in this world. The only thing that makes all this nocking [sic] around bearable is to know that you love me and are waiting for my homecoming cheerfully. That you have faith in me as I have in you. That you are taking care of our darling baby and all is well at home.

            To know all this, and to hear it as often as possible is the only thing that keeps me from thinking that we are all madly insane. Because there are— that there is a good reason why we serve.

With all my love and millions of kisses to my two dearest women.

Alex

Written by Molly

February 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

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Heart to Heart

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Hello and thank you for your patience! It has been some months since I last posted, but the reason for that actually relates to this blog. I began writing about my grandmother’s letters when I first moved to Brooklyn about 4 years ago and discovered parallels between my life and hers–even though I never met Sylvia and know little about her. I have moved and changed careers many times since then, but I am now back in Brooklyn and have continued to find ways that my life follows and re-frames the life of my grandmother.

My silence over the last few months has been in part because I found out over the summer that I would need open heart surgery. It was surprising news to get at the age of 27, and from the moment I found out, it loomed over everything. I’m happy to say that I’m almost at the four week mark post-surgery and everything went smoothly and successfully. How, you ask, does this relate to Sylvia?

This building has been converted into an apartment complex.

The old Brooklyn Jewish Hospital today has been converted into an apartment complex.

Well, Sylvia passed away only a few years after the letters you have been reading were written. She was only 34 years old, my aunt (her daughter, Cookie) was 8 and my dad was 4. She died just a few blocks from the first apartment I lived in in Brooklyn – at what was the Jewish Hospital in Prospect Heights. The family always thought she died from a heart complication that started with an infection she got at the dentist. However, with the discovery of my recently-repaired congenital heart defect, it seems increasingly likely that she suffered from the same condition, but lived at a time when it couldn’t be fixed. I feel incredibly lucky to have received the care I did, which didn’t exist in the not-so-distant past.

As I, and my family, process all of this I wanted to share two postcards that Sylvia wrote to her children from a sanatorium in Suffern, NY in 1951.

Suffern

Postcard to Children

 Postcard to David Adrienne Postcard

Written by Molly

November 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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