This Thank-you note (strange as it may seem.) is long overdue. On behalf of my children, my grandchildren, great grandchildren and those yet to be born I, the last of the second generation (born in America) in my line of descent, owe a special thank you. To those long-dead Cossacks who pillaged my grandparents’ stetl (village), thank you. They terrorized in the name of the Russian Tsar as well as for their own bigotry and greed, sending my grandparents, (Max and Fanny Lopatin) in flight, to the United Stated at the turn of the 20th century. And so—here we are from sea to shining sea!


The Cossacks Are Coming!


I never heard those dreaded, shouted words of warning having been born and raised in the United States.  As of this writing I have five children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren and then there is their tomorrow in America. It is with a fervent hope and belief that there will be no “Cossacks” (foreign or domestic)in their lives.





Having reached the age of 91 I decided it could be now or never to tell a story that has and will have an affect on the lives of my descendants, born and yet to be born. Many will be people who will have never heard of me and yet, unbeknownst to them we will be connected to that stetl in Russia and the Cossacks who were responsible for us being in America.





The first to pay (in June, 1914) was Nathan Lopatin (the youngest of the Lopatin brothers), his wife and two children. They were killed by a Pennsylvania Railroad train crushing their car as they attempted to cross the tracks. The second (in 1933) was Max Lopatin, my mother’s father and my grandfather (I was often in the car with him), killed by a New York Central train. Details can be found under...Two Killer Trains


Their father, Joseph (my great grandfather for whom I was named after), rushed to bring Nathan to America when it was discovered by the Russians that Nathan was training to use a rifle to protect his family against raiding Cossacks. Discovery would have meant prison or death.






The travails of leaving the stetl to arriving in America are, very often, glossed over primarily due to not knowing the particulars. While I have no details of my grandparents (Max and Fanny Lopatin) journey to the USA I do have a letter describing another Lopatin family’s journey. This was Ida Lopatin (my grandparents’sister-in-law) and her five children.


Was their harrowing escape from Gomel, Belarus (Russia at that time) typical? I have no way of knowing. Certainly, the prodding of the Cossacks was a common denominator.


To read of the drama of Ida’s and her children’s escape go to: IDA





Bob Flicker

1, 2000

 © robert 2014