Monday, April 25, 2011

Love letters from Przemysl

From over time and overseas comes a remarkable time capsule to my in box. In it is the story of a doomed love between a man in Soviet occupied Przemysl and a women who had been deported to a work camp deep in Russia. Ominously, the letters end in June, 1941 - coinciding with the date that the Nazis crossed the San and took control of Przemysl.
I have been living with and caring for my late-grandmother’s sister - Ada Halpern (formerly Ada Rottenberg born 1922 in Przemysl) while she suffered from dementia. She has since passes away, and I’ve discovered 132 love letters / telegrams sent from a man in Przemysl named Janek to my Grandmother Janina (Janka) Rottenberg during the beginning of WW2.

The love letters are dated from May 10th 1940 to June 18th 1941, and are addressed in Russian to Siberia where Janka and Ada worked in a labor camp and were able to survive the war. Neither of them mentioned these letters to my father, and Janka married my grandfather - Henryk Kornfeld (another survivor) after the war. Unfortunately my grandmother passes away just before I was born, so no one knows the story.

Attached are scans of a couple of the letters and photos I've found. A friend is helping translate the Polish, but I’d love to get them professionally done. If you know a good service, please let me know. I would love to find out if anyone knew of my family, and what happened to Janek – the man who wrote these incredibly tender letters, that give some insight into what it was like in Przemysl during that period. There are other names mentioned briefly in the letters of others living there during that time that may help connect people. (Above) is a photo dated 1939 with the name Janek in the same hand writing from the letters. I think it might be him and my Grandmother?

I do know a little about Henryk Kornfeld (my Grandfather). He was not from Przemysl, but he had been studying in Italy when he came back to Poland to visit his mother. He ended up being sent to three different concentration camps before buying his way onto Schindler's List with a diamond his mother gave him. He worked in Schindler's munition factory until the end of the war, and would smoke Schindler's cigaret butts that he dropped on the factory floor. He told my father that Schindler was a very good business man.

Henryk only ever spoke of his experience the one time just before he died. After the war he moved to the Phillipines and eventually Australia (where I grew up), and became a very successful business man himself. It's quite an extraordinary story that I'd like to write about and find more information on as well.


One of the letters:

Addressed to Siberia



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