Life in Lysyanka and Tagancha
The Bezbrozh's were middle-class merchants, dealing mostly in the produce industry. They would act as
middle-men, buying produce from farmers and selling it to markets. Noech Bezbrozh, in Lysyanka, would make
his living by approaching the owners of orchards and buying all the produce. He, probably with the help of his
sons, would live on the grounds of the orchard to protect the ripening fruit from being stolen. Then he and his
family would harvest the fruit and take it to market. Moishe Bezbrozh, in Tagancha, had a similar business to his
brother Noech. Moishe's son Meir (later called Max) worked in the fruit business with his father. They bought
orchids and stored the fruit. They dried the fruit and would sell it in the wintertime. They would sell their goods in
their town and travel to others. Click here to watch a video of Ralph Bernstein talking about his father's work.
The Bezbrozh's were not rich, but they were well-off enough to provide their children with tutors. Moishe's
daughter Feige (Fanny Bernstein) recalled that she had a tutor who taught her how to read and write in Russian
and Yiddish. The Bezbrozh's were apparently well-off enough to vote. In 1906, Tsar Nicholas II held an election
for the Russian Parliament, or Duma. In order to vote, one had to be over 24 years old, male, own property and
pay taxes. The 1906 Kiev Gubernia Duma Voters' List has the following entries:
Moshko Yankelevich Bezbrozh
These are undoubtedly Meyer, Noach and Moishe Bezbrozh. In Russian, the middle name (or patronymic)
indicates the name of the person's father. So Moshko's middle name "Yankelevich" shows that his father's name
was Yankel Bezbrozh.
Not a lot is known about the day-to-day life of the Bezbrozh's in Lysyanka and Tagancha. One story that Feige
Bezbrozh (Fannie Bernstein) used to tell her son Ralph was about the "fight for food." Fannie grew up in a family of
nine children, so when dinner was served, you had to get your food fast or someone else would already have it on
their plate. Another story that Fannie used to tell was that when she was a child, her family had a large oven in their
kitchen which they used to bake bread. On cold winter nights all the children in the family would huddle together
and sleep on the stove which would stay warm for many hours after it was used. Often family members would
share beds to keep warm and, since the families were larger, there were not usually enough beds for everyone.
Feige Bezbrozh used to share a bed with her grandmother. When she awoke one morning, she found that her
grandmother had died in her sleep. Click here to see a video of Ralph Bernstein talking about how his mother and
her siblings used to sleep on the stove.
Life was not easy for Jews in Russia. Fannie (Feige) also told a story about how many of
the young women in her village were harassed by Russian soldiers. Fanny cut her hair
short to look like a boy so the soldiers would not harass her. Even after she came to the
United States, Fanny always wore her hair short.
Fannie and her
Shmul Bezbrozh and the Russo-Japanese War
There is one more Bezbrozh from Lysyanka that we know about, and his name is Shmul Bezbrozh. We do not
know how Shmul is related to Meyer, Moishe and Noech. He might have a son, a nephew or a cousin, but he
is almost certainly related. All that we know of Shmul Bezbrozh is that he was a rifleman in the 35th Eastern
Siberian Rifle Regiment of the Russian Army during the Russo-Japanese war. Below is the Russian Army
record showing that Shmul Bezbrozh was a bachelor from Lysyanka in the district of Zvenigorodka in the
province of Kiev, and he was killed at Wafangou on June 2nd, 1905.
"2 June 1905"
Shown above: Russian military record showing the casualty of Shmul Bezbroz. English translation is in quotes.
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