Bubby’s Long Lost Cousins

My grandmother was from Warsaw, Poland, and so were her parents. My mother had written down the names of her grandparents and their siblings, and only their mothers.  Even with this limited info, until several years ago, I couldn’t find any ancestors or descendants in various databases, including JRI Poland.

Leah Kuperfisz and ?
1              Shmuel Kuperfisz.
2              Velvel Kuperfisz
3              Ita (Yetta) Kuperfisz – Married a Devine and immigrated to Canada. Later brought over my grandmother and her sister.
4              Yitzchak Mayer Kuperfisz – My grandmother’s father

When Yad Vashem came out with its victims’ names database a few years ago, I looked up the surnames and locations of my family. Besides finding my father’s mother’s Wasserman family members from Dubienka, Poland, I also stumbled across several testimonials for my grandmother’s maternal Kuperfisz family from Warsaw (a very uncommon name).

Among the dozen or so Kuperfisz records from Warsaw, only one stood out for me: a testimonial for the wife of one of my grandmother’s maternal uncles. I didn’t have her name in my mother’s records, but her husband’s name matched: Velvel Kuperfisz, born circa 1875.

Considering that most of these testimonials were made in the 1950s when Yad Vashem first opened, most witnesses who made testimonies are no longer alive. But Nomi Feyga Pukh’s testimonial about her grandmother was made in 2010, which gave me hope.

Because Nomi provided her full address in her testimonial, I managed to find her phone number in Tel-Aviv after a few false leads. I even found her on Skype and added her to my contact list. I wrote to her in Hebrew, but she did not respond to me until a year or so later, and then we spoke on the phone.

I gave Nomi all the names of my grandmother’s siblings and their mother, but she could not confirm any relations on the phone and seemed a bit confused and doubtful. She was 87 years old at the time and I decided that a trip to Israel was in order to meet her and sort things out.

As luck would have it, in February 2016, I was invited to my cousin’s wedding in Israel in May that year. I realized this might be my only opportunity to meet Nomi. I was only in the country for 12 days and I managed to meet up with her and her daughter within the first week. And we also managed to confirm our relationship.

Nomi Pukh was born Feyga Kuperfisz in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1929. Her father Abraham Kuperfisz was born in 1905 in Warsaw to Wolf-Chil (Velvel) Kuperfisz and his wife Rifka Brucha Zhulti and immigrated to Argentina in 1920. Turns out that her father had been named for his grandfather, Abraham Kuperfisz. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place. Plus, I had found my grandmother’s maternal uncle Shmuel Kuperfisz’s and his wife Ruchla’s tombstones in Warsaw’s Okopowe Jewish cemetery, under the Germanized spelling, Kuperfisch.

My grandmother passed away in 2005 at the age 97 with her mind fully intact. It is highly likely that my grandmother was unaware that she had distant family in Argentina and Israel on her mother’s side, despite the fact that I used to constantly probe her about it. Nomi’s father Abraham Kuperfisz and my grandmother would have been 1st cousins, which means Nomi would have been her 2nd cousin, my mother’s 3rd cousin and my 4th cousin. Her daughter Chen is my fifth cousin.

I’ll never forget one of the first things Nomi Feyga and Chen Pukh said to me when I walked into their apartment in Tel-Aviv: “You have the Kuperfisz face shape!” I learned this was a rounded apple-shaped face, kind of cute turtle-like. I didn’t quite agree, but this couldn’t be more obvious in my grandmother’s and her sister’s appearance and that of one of their first cousins who also immigrated to South America. In any case, it’s always nice to meet familiar face.

See the resemblance?  Sisters Celia and Dora Grosbard, and Cyrla Kuperfisz.bubby-czeszia-cyrla

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