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


Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Przemysl Fourm is moving

As promised, we are moving the Przemysl Forum to a GoogleGroups platform that provides improved functionality and ease-of-use.This blog is NOT moving!

Design of New Forum Platform:

• A Google account but not a Google address will be necessary to obtain access.
• When signing up, a person can opt for several different options for email notification when there is a new post.
• In order to post a message, a person must first apply to the Moderator to be accepted into the group.
• Documents can be posted (e.g. mini Family Finder) on GoogleDocs and linked to the forum by contacting the Moderator.

Transition from Old to New Platform:

• In order to continue to be part of the Przemysl Forum, each person will need to (re-)register on the new platform (instructions below).
• Messages from the old forum will not automatically be transferred to the new one. Access to the old platform will continue and people are encouraged to re-post important messages to the new platform.


Getting into the Forum

1. Go to the Forum:

2. If you are not signed into Google, or if you have not been invited/accepted to the group, you will only see the Jewish Przemysl Forum header, not any of the comment threads.

3. To sign in, click “Sign in” in the upper right corner.

4. If you already have a Google account, use your email and password to sign in, then skip to number 6, below. Otherwise, click “Create an Account” on the right side of the page.

5. You can use any valid email address to create a Google account. Fill in all the information and press “Accept” at the bottom of the page. Google will send you an email - you MUST click on the link in the email to activate your account. You will then be re-directed back to the Forum.

6. Next, click Apply for group membership on the right side of the page. You will be asked for a nickname that will identify you to other forum members, and for preference on communications with the Forum - how often you should get updates. This option can be changed anytime after you are in the group.

7. You will get an email once the Forum’s administrator approves your request to join the group. From then on, you can simply go to the Forum and sign in.

Using the Forum

1. Posts are organized as “Discussions” or topics. Your personal settings for notifications can be changed by clicking “Edit my Membership” on the right side of the page.

2. You may post to the site in two ways. From the web, simply hit “New Post” and type. You can also post by sending an email to Note: you must send this email from the same address that you joined the group from.

3. One of the first posts is called “Forum Files.” Clicking on this will bring up a post that has a link to the Forum’s collection of files. You can view and download them at will. Files can be almost anything - spreadsheets, documents, photos, etc.

4. For the time being, the admin will post all files. If you have something you’d like posted, email it to