About Minnah and Sarah Krigel

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About Minnah and Sarah Krigel
from book by Anne Gozenpud
In 1931, after the flood that destroyed their house Anna write:
"Another woman would have had hysterics, but not my mother. I will never forget her calm words. "There is work to be done. The children (Ann and Matus) are in the way. They must go to my sisters." My aunts' house was on high ground, a long way from the river.

So still dressed in our dressing gowns and slippers, Mama took us to her sisters' house, an hour's walk away. "The children have no clothing," she told the aunts. "They are probably infested with G-d knows what." With that she turned away and left us standing on the doorstep. Not even a hullo or goodbye. While Aunt Sarah bathed us, Aunt Minnah searched for something we could wear. We were fed and put in Uncle Jacov's old room, where we slept in a single bed with pillows at opposite ends.
...
The house my aunts lived in was the old Krigel family home old and huge. My aunts were unmarried and used only part of it the rest was shut up. With two children living with them, they decided to open up and clean and air two extra rooms, which they did.
...
I shall now explain how Aunts Minnah and Sarah supported themselves and maintained their huge house. There was quite a lot of land around the house with stables, all of which were in a state of disrepair and neglect.
...
My grandfather Mathus Krigel had not been a poor man. (I cannot remember my grandfather. I know that my grandmother was for many years bed-ridden with cancer.) Grandfather and Grandmother had married very young, and had twelve children of which only the last four survived beyond infancy. Minnah was the eldest of those surviving children, then came Sarah, my mother Jocheved (Genia) and Jacob the youngest. Being a traditional family, the older daughters had to marry before the younger, but this is not what happened in this family. I believe this is part of the mystery of why the sisters did not talk to my mother. As far as I could piece things together my father, Victor, was the centre of the whole dispute.

For those days all four of the Krigel children were very well educated, especially the brother he was a very gifted painter (artist). Aunt Minnah was gifted in dress designing, and to kill two birds with one stone Grandfather arranged for Jacob and Minnah to go to Paris, Jacob to study paintings and Minnah, dress design. My mother was already married and Sarah stayed back to be grandfather's housekeeper.

Then comes 1914 and the First World War my mother's family is separated Germany comes between them. Instead of staying in Paris or going to England Minnah and Jacob went to Marseille and took a boat to China, hoping to get home "the other way". But there was no other way they got stuck somewhere on the way. Aunt Minnah got very sick and developed T B through sickness and changes in governments. Jacob and Minnah only managed to return to Minsk just before the Menshevik revolution in February 1917.

The years of studying in Paris and working as a fitter in a fashionable house of those days established Aunt Minnah as a leading fashion designer in Minsk during the "NEP". There are always the haves and have nots, and in the early 30s a new class of "haves" became established. Who were they? Who knows? The wives of government officials, their girl-friends... who cared? They had the materials, the furs, the food. They did not understand the difference between designer and dressmaker the name is what matters, and Minnah Krigel is "chic". Minnah also became dressmaker to a lot of "peasant" women as long as they could pay in produce food. So there was always more food than needed in my aunt's house. But when a person is not hungry one does not like to think that one's sister and her family is starving, so Aunt Minnah became the breadwinner for herself and Sarah. She employed a woman Sonia who helped with the sewing (Aunt couldn't make a straight seam, but her clothes were "chic"). Aunt Sarah kept house and helped out with hand sewing.

And considering that by winter our place was "livable" again, Minnah sent over the fur work for Papa to do in the evening (during the day he worked in the fur factory). Sewing the furs became a family entertainment we all helped. Papa was in his element. Again came the wonderful stories, the wonderful adventures in Siberia as a young man. But the biggest help was payment in food (which was still not enough for a family of five).

The nation's economy instead of getting better became worse by the day. It became so bad that people were found dead in the mornings in the passageway and some just in the street. Aunt Minnah became very sick when spring came she could not work any more. The orders which were there Sonia finished. But no more work for Papa, no more extra food.
...
Each summer, Aunt Minnah's health also improved. From the fabric left over from her dress-making days, she would again make beautiful clothes for me, never from one length of fabric or pieces from the same dye-lot, but still they were new.
...
I missed one important event. In 1935 my aunties had sold that huge family home to buy about two streets away a small place (one of a pair). This place consisted of a modern kitchen, a dining room, one large and one small bedroom, and a long and narrow sitting room. The place suited my aunties very well, because it had long walls to hang all the early paintings my uncle painted. The later ones were hanging in the State Gallery. The place also had a bathroom and indoor toilet, and a very attractive but not large back yard with fruit trees. It had the luxury of steam central heating. The boiler which provided hot water for the bath, also provided steam for the heating.

Last change
October 26, 201620:11:21
Given names Surname Sosa Birth Place Death Age Place Last change
Minnah-Alta Krigel
1881
141 Minsk, Buelorussia
0 1935
87 54 Minsk, Buelorussia
Thursday, May 7, 2020 5:50 AM
Sarah-Rivka Krigel
1882
140 Minsk, Belorussia
0 1941
81 59 Minsk, Buelorussia
Thursday, April 23, 2020 6:06 AM
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