Friday, December 25, 2009

Great-grandmother's Politician

Groundbreaking - Left to Right : Joe Forbes

One of my great-grandmother's grandsons, Joseph Goldfarb Forbes (Joe Forbes for short) was mayor of the city of Oak Park (1967-1970) and member of Michigan State House of Represantatives (1971-1984) . He was born in Detroit, son to David and Yetta Goldfarb, the fourth of their seven children. He resided in West Bloomfield where he was known for his friendly behaviour and affection for people. He died on December 2004, at the age of 88. May his soul rest in peace!

Several years ago, I embarked on an internet genealogical quest intended mainly as a tribute to my mother's memory, in an attempt to track her father's family saga. She had been very fond of her father (Hersh Goldfarb) and she kept telling me the story about his widow mother, his three brothers and three sisters who had emmigrated to America, leaving him behind as his wife was against departing from Romania. Sort of mini tragedy. Sometimes I think that the fact that I've never visited the USA and feel no urge to do so, has its roots in this story of hers. It is as if in my subconcious I resent the place that has 'robbed' my grandfather of his initial family.

The first of my great-grandmother's descendants I contacted after finding information through the internet, were a nurse from Cincinnati and a restaurant owner from Los Angeles. These people were fourth generation like me , so they knew little (the nurse) or almost nothing (the restaurant owner) about great-grandmother (first generation), her children(second generation) and grandchildren (third generation).

And then I came upon the name of Joe Forbes. He was a public figure, so I thought I would find some biography with information on his parents and siblings which could also lead me to the others. Well, I found no such thing. In those days people were humble ,not like today when the biography gets written on the first month of their public job. I did ,however , find in local newspapers, his obituary and also an eulogy on his service and integrity as a man and legislator.

Obituaries in Genealogy are of the utmost importance. It was from the obituary that I learnt about his three daughters. One of them who lives in Aghoura Hills , California, kindly emailed me some pictures and additional information on her father and his family.

Joseph Goldfarb Forbes was considered a key leader in the Legislature of Michigan. He was elected as the Democrat majority floor leader for five consecutive terms. One of his successors said that in order to survive as a floor leader (whose job is to run the floor debate) one needs a sense of humour and "Joe Forbes possessed humour in abundance". (Im sure of that. All those on my mother's family side had terrific humour that helped them overcome hard times).

Saturday, December 19, 2009



I had in my right pocket a slip of paper with the name and address of a nice german woman from Dachau whom I had met on a tour in Greece. I thought I would perhaps go look for her after visiting the infamous concentration camp. Well, I didn't. I couldn't. I was in no mood to walk around or talk to any inhabitant of the city. I wanted to leave the place that had witnessed unimaginable horrors, as quick as possible.

[I am reminded of my visit to Dachau by the recent news regarding the theft of the iron inscription at the entrance of Auschwitz death camp: 'Arbeit macht frei' (Work sets you free or Work brings freedom).
The Dachau camp had a similar iron inscription at its entrance] .

The concentration camp was built by prisoners on the grounds of an abandoned gun powder factory outside the city in 1933. It was the first concentration camp and it served as a model for the other Nazi camps that followed. It had two main parts: barracks and a crematorium . Almost 30,000 prisoners are believed to have died in the camp and its subcamps.

No way people living in Dachau at that time didn't hear or see anything about the atrocities (slavery work, tortures, medical experiments, inhumane living conditions, extermination) that went on at the camp located east of their clean, peaceful town. More likely they ignored both the rumours and the visible facts.

Nowadays, europeans and germans in particular, claim in private conversations, that they feel they are being punished for what they 've done to the jews. Foreigners from third world countries, they say, have 'invaded' Europe, destroy its culture, traditions, landscapes - and the locals feel helpless about it.

Helpless? Well, they''ll probably come up with something (evil), they'll invent something nobody has ever thought of (like gas chambers), they'll find a (final) solution. History, I'm afraid, has the tendency of repeating itself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Memories from the Lake of Tekir

I'm following a blog of a geography teacher (Viorel Irascu at; one of his lasts posts focused on the lake of Techirghiol which is only three (3) kilometers away from the Black Sea. This post brought back to me memories of a traumatic and yet wonderful visit with my mother to the lake .

Techirghiol has its name in a legend: A crippled man of turkish origin, Tekir, and his donkey, arrived at the shore of the lake ( 'ghiol' in turkish) by mistake. Trying to get his stubborn animal out of the mud within the lake, Tekir noticed with astonishment that his own legs felt stronger , he could walk normally, and that the wounds on the back of his donkey got miraculously
healed. Since then, the lake became famous for its healing properties. Tekir and his donkey are featured in a statue located in the center of the town.

I was a schoolgirl ( elementary school) on summer vacation. My mother who had been recommended mud treatment at Techirghiol, decided to take me with her. It was a very long trip from our hometown in the north-east extremity of Romania to the lake area in the south-east extremity of the country. We had to change trains, and it so happened that we lost a small suitcase that contained all my belongings. I arrived at the resort with nothing but what was on me. Big trauma .

Despite the traumatic beginning, the trip was a wonderful experience for me.
Like Tekir and his donkey, I was mad for the mud and liked to be smeared with it all over face and body. At the pension where we were staying, we met a young couple, freshly married. This couple became fond of me at first sight, and asked my mother's permission to allow them to take care of me with the mud and the dipping in the lake while she was having treatment at the spa-complex.

The young couple also took me to the Black Sea beach and to the various attractions in the region. They bought me things, taught me things, and opened a new horizon for the small provincial girl. Looking back, I think they were 'practising' on me parenthood as well as their professions: teaching (she was a teacher) and welfare work (he was a social worker).

In the evenings, I noticed my Mom
being engaged in long talks with the young woman. On approaching them, they became silent. It was only when we were back home that Mom revealed the secret; the young woman was born in our hometown, fruit of an extra marital relationship. At a certain stage, she and her mother had to leave town and go as far away as possible from "the scene of the crime". Small World.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sports and Women in Strawberry Land

1. 'Sharapova is in town' - reported the local media on February last year. The russian born , blonde tennis player Maria Sharapova (currently living in USA), number 5 in the world classament , made her glamorous appearance at the tennis stadium of my hometown as leader of Russia's Fed Cup Team against Israel. The stadium which hosts international and national tennis tournaments was built in 1975 on a patch of strawberry land. (Strawberries are the icon/visit card of the town which was in its beginning a rural place with vast strawberry fields. Click on the above Wikipedia picture to get an idea of the stadium).

There was a lot of emotion involved. The first match out of two, was to be held on Saturday and that made the religious circles very angry. These circles protested and also prophesized that profanation of the holy day of Sabbath will assure defeat of the israeli team. Well, defeat it was.

The stadium was packed with thousands of male tennis fans who were quite rude towards the diva. They shouted at her sexist remarks , and imitated her screaming everytime she hit the ball. When interviewed , she said that this kind of crowd behavior drives her to play better, and leads her to victory.

On Sunday, at the end of the decisive match, when the two finalists shook hands, people overheard Sharapova telling the defeated israeli player, Shachar Peer: 'You deserved it' . Apparently she said that in revenge for something that had happened on a previos match . Not very nice and not very sporting, coming from someone at the top of the tennis world like Sharapova.

2. My home town has a successful women basketball team with a woman coach that is an interesting and tough 'strawberry' herself . The initial name of the team was Lachen , the next Anda, and the present name Electra. There is a story behind the change of names and it's called Sponsorship.

A certain millionaire whose young wife , Anda, had died of cancer wanted to immortalize her fighting against the disease. He thought that the fighting spirit of the Lachen women basketball team would do nicely, so he offered sponsorship on the condition that the team bears the name of his beloved wife .
A few years later, the millionaire remarried , the sponsorship ended, and the team adopted a new name, that of the new sponsor Electra, consummer goods company.

I know very little about sports or sponsorship, but I felt something was wrong here.
Life goes on, the husband gets a new wife, the team gets a new sponsor, but what about the memory of the deceased woman whose name has been removed from the team? There's probably some answer , I just don't know what it is.