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Memoir of Shifra (Freyd) Uspitz

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Date: [unknown] to 1931
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Freyd Uspitz
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Memoir of Shifra Uspitz from Pilvishok

I, Shifra, the daughter of Reb Itsic, the son of Aryeh Leib who is the son of Dov; and Golde (my mother), who was the daughter of Reb Moise, the son of Yisroel [Goldberg] from the city of Neustadt, and my father was from Lazdei [Lithuania] am writing this as a remembrance for those who will follow me.

My father and ancestors were very religious and were great scholars. All their lives were devoted to Torah study. My father, may his memory be blessed,[1] used to get up at midnight in winter, seat himself on the floor, and, after following the custom of reciting the prayer known as tikkun hazot, he would continue to study the Torah all night long until the dawn. My brothers also had to get up early, although a little later than he. I, too, from childhood on, at the age of eight, until I got married used to get up at dawn to read the Psalms. During the summer my father used to recite the hazot prayers in the evening and then study. He would also teach us children.

There were seven of us – three brothers and four sisters. I was the youngest. My brothers and brothers-in-law were very pious Jews as well as scholars. My oldest brother, Yisroel, died at the age of eighty-six. His life had not been an easy one. He was poor and his first wife died leaving him with three children. His second wife had many children, all of whom died young. In his old age he became blind a few years before he died in Simne. My mother also died in Simne at the age of eighty-three. My father died in Lubove, at the age of seventy-nine. They, too, had a hard life, with many troubles.

My oldest sister, born after my brother, was married in Lubove and left four children. One of her daughters died during her life time during the World War when she was accidentally shot by a soldier. Odes' husband was a very fine Jew and her children were very fine too. Her husband died in Koenigsberg after an operation,[2] and she died in Lubove at the age of ninety-one.[3]

My other sister, Dvora, may she rest in peace, died in Simne, her home town, after a long illness. She died of cancer of the throat at the age of fifty-three.

My second oldest brother, Reuben, also died in Simne, at the age of eighty-three. He was a very rich man.

My third brother, Shmaryahu, died in America at the age of seventy-one. Even in Jerusalem he would have been considered pious, not to mention in America!

My third sister[4] died at the age of eighty-four leaving behind only one son – the rest had died while she was still alive. All of her sons-in-law are still alive;[5] they are all Cohanim.

It so happened that I was the youngest. My parents loved me very much as I was very diligent in my studies. My father, himself, taught me the Tanakh and Khumesh. In those days girls were seldom allowed to learn these things. I was married when I was twenty-one years and four months old in Pilvishki into a distinguished family who were fine scholars. My husband, may he rest in peace, who was two years younger than I, was young, handsome, and very pious; he was baltsdoke[6] and a balteva.[7] He had an income from a guest house and a bath house and we were very well-off. Only we had no luck with our children. I had seven of them, three of whom died while my husband was still alive. He himself became very sick and died soon after, at the age of thirty-eight. I was left a widow with four children: a son of eighteen, a daughter of sixteen, a boy[8] of twelve, and a little girl[9] of a year and a half.

A few years later I had to live through my son’s registration for military duty so I suffered again a great deal. I married him off at twenty-four to a very fine young Fraulein from a good family.

Now I wanted to go on living. I got a chance to make a shidduch in Vilkavishki, near where my children lived. He was a fine man,[10] a lamden of high pedigree who came of a distinguished family. My little daughter who was then eight I took to live with me while I left my older daughter and my younger son with my married son. I expected my daughter to marry soon; we had money. My daughter was a somewhat sickly girl and so I sent her abroad to a spa.

But my happiness was not to be my passport for very long. My son died three years after his wedding leaving no child. And so my younger son had to give his brother’s widow a khalitse.

After that I married off my daughter to a fine young man who came from very fine parents. The bridegroom had studied at the Slobodke Yeshiveh for many years. I gave her a dowry of 4,000 rubles and a beautiful trousseau. And they were to live with us together with her brother.

But now my second son had to go to register for military duty. My second husband's son also had to register and so again I went through a lot of troubles. There was no problem of money but of other troubles there was no end. I went with the two boys to the capital of the gobernia which was then in the city of Suvalki.[11] We finally arrived there thank God. To add to all that I had another calamity. My daughter, who was abroad in her last months of pregnancy, suddenly began to bleed from her nose and throat and my son and I had to take her to Koenigsberg.[12] To go there we needed passports but it was Shabbos; so we obtained passports in Vilkavishki.[13] My daughter was in great danger. In Koenigsberg she gave birth to two little girls; only one of them lived. That, too, was a bitter pill to swallow. I had to bury the dead child. I spent five weeks at the clinic with my daughter. Then I took her and the baby home. She was very weak and the baby was weak too. My brother-in-law,[14] her uncle, came to meet us. At home they had already arranged for a wet nurse for the child. A couple of weeks later the baby began to cough and soon it died. My daughter was still weak from giving birth and she too began to cough. She kept on coughing so that in the summer I took her to a dacha for vacation. I was anxious to visit my other children and also my own house so all during this time I had to go back and forth between my daughter and my other children and my own home. My husband became very sick and I took him to Koenigsberg to find a cure for him. After a long illness he died. This was six years after we were married. I went back to live with my children. My youngest daughter was then fourteen years old. She went to Russia to continue her studies. She was a very good student and won a gold medal.

Later on, she wanted to go to study in Switzerland. In the meantime I managed to arrange a rich match for my only remaining son. But again real misfortune came to me. His wife, who after eleven months, had given birth to a child, died during childbirth and the child died a week later. I gave back to her parents all the money and the things which she had brought to her marriage.

And now after a year I made another shidduch for my son with a beautiful and accomplished girl of a good family.[15] And, thank God, they now have eight children, six sons and two daughters, all of them fine and educated persons. My older daughter, Malke, had four children, three daughters and one son, also well educated.

My younger daughter, Rosa, who was in Switzerland, met a young man there and wrote me a letter that I should come to her wedding as she wants me to be there when she gets married. And so I went to Switzerland. Naturally I took along enough money and made a beautiful wedding for her. I stayed there for four weeks and then went home together with my daughter while her husband remained to finish his studies. A few weeks later he wrote to her saying come back, he can not live without her. And so she returned to Switzerland. They stayed there for three years and came back home after finishing their studies. I stayed with them for twelve weeks. His parents also came to us and there was great joy. Later they went to stay with his parents in Libau but they could not find any employment there. Then they went to St. Petersburg. He got a job in Charbin(?) working in a glass factory. She stayed with me and she was pregnant; it was two years after their wedding.

Then I went with her to Koenigsberg where she gave birth to a son. The bris took place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I stayed with her for ten weeks. After that she and the baby came to stay at my house. She had trouble in nursing her baby. Her husband came to us before Purim to pick up her and his son. I went with them and stayed with them for twelve weeks until after the holiday of Shvuos. My darling daughter, Richela, she was still deeply in love.

But then came the question of the accursed Russian visas – for the right to live in St. Petersburg.[16] Anyway, they could not get this straightened out and so they came back to stay with me because the government official would not let them stay there any longer.

After a few weeks the World War broke out. Therefore my daughter with her husband and child went to live near Vilne in Trok[17] along with and my older daughter and her children and also my daughter-in-law and her 5 children. They also took along a maid and a nurse for the baby.

But I and my oldest daughter’s husband and my son stayed on in the middle of the fire of the war. Russian soldiers kept on running past our house, on horses and on foot; never in my life did I see so many of them. In a few weeks the Germans came and chased out the Russians and then began to take from us whatever they wanted. And then the Russians came back in and chased out the Germans.

We then wrote to the children and they came back. My younger son-in-law went back to work in the glass factory, for the decree that did not permit Jews to live in St. Petersburg and other parts of the country was abolished by then. But still I did not see my daughter and her child since they also left for St. Petersburg before Shvuos.

During the War our entire city was burned down, while we and all of the city's people barely escaped with our lives. We left everything behind; we were running. For four weeks they would not let us go back to see the ruins. Then, little by little, people began to return to the town. We began to trade like poor people with our little wares laid out on small tables selling whatever we could.

At that time no letters could come to us from Russia. I learned from my daughter's girl friend that my daughter had given birth to a second son. What a great joy! But, at that same time, my darling little daughter had died. I did not learn about it for two years until people who had been driven away by the War returned and they told me.

It is now fifteen years since my beloved daughter has died and thirty-five years since my oldest son died. Now I am old in my eighty-fourth year; I have no strength to walk and speak in a weak voice. My last sister, Hannah, may she rest in peace, died this year at eighty-seven. She too had been through a lot in her life. I did not write here a hundredth part of what I have gone through in my life.

Finished and concluded the words of Tshifra Hinde, daughter of Reb Itsac Menahem Freyd. I hope that you will forgive my bad writing and errors because I am old and weak.


  1. Shifra uses this phrase throughout her memoir whenever speaking of her father but I have chosen to leave them out of the balance of this revised copy of her memoir. -HL
  2. Prostate surgery, per Lana Leavitt Rosenfeld
  3. in 1920, per Lana Leavitt Rosenfeld
  4. Hannah (Frejd) Sharkansky (b. circa 1844, d.1931)
  5. as of 1931 when this was written
  6. very charitable, philanthropic
  7. one who would go out of his way to help others
  8. Arye Leib
  9. Rosa
  10. Moses Haskel (b.?, d.1899)
  11. From Wyłkowyszki to Suwałki was 38 miles. -KB
  12. The capital of East Prussia.
  13. From Wyłkowyszki to Königsberg was 101 miles. -KB
  14. Judel Uspitz (b.1860, d.1930)
  15. Tsilla Aaronson, mother of Pnina Uspitz Tory
  16. No Jew was permitted to live where the Tsar lived unless he obtained this permission for which few Jews could qualify.
  17. From Troki to Vilna was 16 miles. -KB


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