(Pronounced: eye’-duh)

Who will remember Ida Lopatin and her miracle?  (LO-PAH-TIN in Russia/Belarus – LO-PAY-TIN in the U.S.A.). Aunt Ida to me. (She was really my great aunt.) Aunt Ida was an exceptional woman of heroic proportions, although she hardly looked or acted like a heroine and a miracle worker except for those eleven months that I know about, between October 10, 1919 and September 20, 1920.


            I remember!  All those that knew and loved her and were old enough to know her are gone except for my younger brother and me. The purpose of this writing is to keep her memory alive for a little longer.


            My memories of Aunt Ida (memories that are still, very much, with me) begin from the age of four (I am now 84).They impact three of my senses to this very day: seeing, smelling and hearing. If I want to stretch it, I might add tasting. … I am getting ahead of myself.


            Aunt Ida’s husband, my great uncle Sam, arrived in Freehold, New Jersey (USA) from Gomel, Belarus in May 1913. Plans were for Ida to follow with their five children in August 1914. Those plans were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in August 1914.


            Ida and her five children struggled to survive in Gomel for the entire war period as the events of history swirled around them including the first Russian revolution in March 1917 and the German occupation from approximately September 1917 through September 1918. Ida struggled to protect her family, against all odds, through the second Russian revolution when the Bolsheviks, led by Nicolai Lenin and Leon Trotsky overthrew the provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky and established the Communist dictatorship.


            It was with great difficulty that Ida was able to escape from Gomel* (see map) on October 10, 1919, with her five children (Rose age 16, Sol age 12, Gussie age 10, William age 9 and Jenny age 7).  Aunt Ida once told me that Rose (probably because she was older than her brothers and sisters) missed her father the most  and spoke, constantly, of coming to America. That without Rose's tireless help and support they might not have made good their get-away from Gomel. Their destination was Brest-Litovsk where she hoped to contact the American consul. (See accompanying map.  Brest-Litovsk is listed as Brest.)


            The following are quotes from a letter I received from Sol (Ida’s son) in the mid 1970’s, describing  (in part) his family’s harrowing experiences after leaving Gomel: “We traveled a short distance by train and ran into a war between the Bolsheviks and the Polish army troops. Then, we traveled by horse and sleigh, crossed a river by rowboat, crossed the marshland of Pinsk* (see map) by wagon, pulled by two oxen and then took a train from Pinsk to Brest-Litovsk.”


            “My sister Rose developed double pneumonia and died during our stay in Brest-Litovsk. She was buried there.”


         William (Bill) told me the following: “My feet had been frozen and a doctor in Brest-Litovsk wanted to amputate them. My mother refused to let him do it saying, ‘If you take off his feet we will not get into America! Better he should die then that should happen!’ ”

        Bill kept his feet and in World War II was a radioman-gunner on a B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine bomber, flying more than 50 missions in the European theatre. (Sol entered the army and was a Russian translator.)


        Sol’s letter continued: “My mother contacted my father in America through the Joint Distribution Office in Brest-Litovsk and finally came to Freehold by way of Warsaw, Poland. We sailed on the ship Susquehanna from Danzig, Germany to Castle Garden, a port of immigration before Ellis Island. We arrived in Freehold, eleven months later,on September 20, 1920.”  (Miracle accomplished!)


        Now, back to my memories of Aunt Ida and the lasting impact on my senses: Upon entering Aunt Ida’s and uncle Sam’s house on Henry Street I would be greeted by a short, round woman with a smiling face and a voice that was soft and embracing. The welcoming part would always include freshly baked cookies and/or cake. The house was filled with the aroma of her baking and her love.


        Margret Thatcher may have been known as the “Iron Lady” but Aunt Ida was the Lady of Steel with a velvet exterior.  She will be missed and remembered for a few more years.


Bob Flicker


*Map notes are mine.

Back to HOME!

 © robert 2014