Family History

My paternal grandfather, Julius Dobrusin came from the city of D’vinsk, now Daugavpils, in Latvia. We don’t know his whole story.  We know that he was a member of the Workmen’s Circle, anti-religious, socialist and, according to a book our family has, he was an “Agitator”. He also, was, to say the least, not an ideal father or husband. In addition, at some point, something he did or didn’t do seemed to have caused a rift in the extended family. He died when my father was a teenager and now that all of his three sons have died, he remains to us a mystery.

My brother, some of my cousins and I are fascinated by his story and we have been trying desperately over the years to find some more about the family history. One day a couple of months ago, I did a google search on the Daugavpils Jewish Community looking for nothing in particular when I found, amazingly enough, that a good friend had been involved with that community since his ancestors also were from there. I contacted my friend and, through him, found the Latvian State Archives. A few emails and a wire transfer for a nominal fee and they have set out to find what they can about our family.

Today, I received an email back from the researcher in Latvia who told me that they were sending material by mail to me on the family, all the “available records”. I don’t know whether we will find anything new that we didn’t know before or that there will be any insight at all into the man or the family but I can’t wait to find out.

As I wait, I think back to one aspect of the story which needs to be told. As I mentioned, there was a rift in the family and the grandchildren of Julius Dobrusin and the grandchildren of his sister Annie, never knew each other. A few years back, I received an  call from a woman I knew at Brandeis when I was a student there in the 1970’s. I couldn’t imagine why she was calling although it was good to hear from her. It turns out that when looking through some of her husband’s old family photos, she had seen the name Annie Dobrusin on the back of a picture of his grandmother. She wanted to know if I was related to her.  The only thing I knew about my great was that her name was Annie and after a moment or two, we realized that this was her and that my friend’s husband was, in fact, my 2nd cousin.

In an email exchange a bit later, I found out that another 2nd cousin lived in Israel and when I was in Jerusalem in 2007, we arranged to meet for dinner. My son and I walked into the restaurant at the planned time and a woman came towards us saying she would have spotted me as a Dobrusin anywhere. We had a wonderful time and 2 years later, when I was back in Israel, my visit coincided with a visit from my friend’s husband and his brother and we met and talked over old times that we only knew a bit about. Perhaps, some news from Latvia will tell us more of our story. But, whether it does or doesn’t, at least the rift has been ended- we, the grandchildren of Julius and Annie have found each other- and, eaten a meal together in peace- in Jerusalem no less.

I’ll keep you posted.

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