Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Posts Tagged ‘Hungarian

Happy New Year!

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Below is a letter to Alex that everyone in the family contributed to on New Years Eve, 1944-5. Some are written in Hungarian and Sylvia wishes for victory and the end of the war.

Here’s to a happy start to 2013, as well.

Darling, everyone’s up including Adrienne and drinking to victory in the new year. You can’t believe how much I missed you – dearest husband, let this be just a New Years wish – to have you home shortly, safe and sound, and for our brothers and friends and all the boys fighting those bastards, a decisive victory in the New Year and let them all come home safe.
I love you, dearest, with all my heart,
Come home soon in good health and Zai gezunt. [Stay well in Yiddish]
–Your mu-in law.
Dear Alex –
Happy New year and lots of love.
Your sister Serena
We are all together wishing you good health and to see you soon here
Your brother in law
Wishing you a happy new year and hoping that long before the next celebration we wll be all together in good health.
From your old friends Alicia and Adalbeil Fiace
Dear Alex:
It is the New Years Eve – in 2 hours and ½ we are in 1945! We all came here early this afternoon – and enjoyed very much dear Adrienne’s company. She is beautiful and so adorable and I am proud that she has a preference for me – Before going to bed she kissed us all – now we are waiting till the clock (radio) strike 12. Well, I send you the best wishes in the hope to see you here soon in very sound health. Your’s affectionately, Anichad(?)

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Written by Molly

January 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

A tremendous weakness for the pen

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Let’s back up a few years. Alex and Sylvia were married in late 1941. Alex was a union organizer for the New York City sanitation workers and for the Russian War Relief, a leftist anti-fascist organization. Even before he went into the Navy Alex traveled to various Hungarian communities around the United States. Alex visited these communities to raise money and support for the Russian War Relief and for the Hungarian paper he worked for (and would become Managing Editor of in the 1950s) called Magyar Szo. This translates to “Hungarian word.” This is a letter that Alex typed to Sylvia on June 2, 1942. I think it captures his humor and interesting use of the English language.

First, a look at the envelope.

This letter was sent to “Ms. Sylvia Kotin Rosner” at “East 31st Street.” Kotin was Sylvia’s maiden name. I think that his inclusion of this name on the envelope speaks to Alex’s progressive ideology and belief in equality. Maybe I’m reading too much into this envelope but in a world where people still might call me “Mrs. Husband’s-First-Name Husband’s-Last-Name” I can’t help but think that Alex included Sylvia’s maiden name deliberately. (Then, take note that the letter begins “Dear Woman” and ends with a joke that he is faithful “perhaps because no woman wants to start out with an old married man.”)

Part two of my analysis of the envelope: A number of letters and stationary contain the address E. 31st Street. As of yet, no one in the family recalls them living there or knows anything about what the living situation before Brooklyn might have been. There are a number of these kinds of “discrepancies” scattered throughout the letters. This brings me to a point that I must address; the gap between written and oral history. This subject was bound to come up, as I am a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Oral History MA Program.

So often we trust only what is written about the past. Putting pen to paper seems to give infallible authority to opinions while the spoken word gets all kinds of flack. But we need only look at examples of the name changes at Ellis Island, or the dated and prejudiced categories in the US Census, or the poorly transcribed interview to see how easily so-called objective history can be fudged, misread, and outright misleading. My whole life we celebrated my grandpa’s birthday on March 17th, the day before my own. Just today my aunt sent me his identification card and it states that his birthday is March 16th. Was the ID card right and my grandfather wrong about his own birthday?

This blog is the product of written documents and living, oral sources (aka family members). I’m not out to reconcile them or force one to fit the other. I don’t believe I can figure out a “truth.” The truth, like history, is a living and ever-changing thing. My reading of these letters changes them, changes our family myth and changes their meaning. It changes how I see someone whom I felt I knew very well, but it doesn’t make my “truth” of who Alex was defunct.

Okay, this topic will have to be revisited. Here’s the letter!

“Here is a clipping from one of the local papers, I wonder whether you will like the fact that I took the picture with the gorgeous looking dame, but what can you do when people think that only a prettygirl attracts attention.

Well it is only one day from that fateful meeting night and let us hope that the think will come off as we wish is [sic]. I know it must be hard on you to be all this time without a man, but we will make up for it shortly. Or are you? (I am kidding) …

…Incidentally we had a fine collection in Mich. and I think I made on of the finest speeches in my life, of course I prepared myself, and I was the big shot, in small town so I really had give my best. [six] …

…Yes, I am typing this letter, don’t you recognize my scatter brains? It is because there is so much to tell you and so little time for it. And I have a tremendous weakness for the pen.”

Written by Molly

May 4, 2010 at 11:56 am


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