I am in a bit of a stunned haze. I just confirmed that my grandfather had a twin brother which nobody knew absolutely anything about!
Well, let me elaborate.
I got my hands on some documentation that reveals a lot of information about my paternal grandfather's family. For instance, his birth date. Yes, I know it sounds strange that nobody knew when my grandfather was born, but both he and my grandmother never gave their actual date of birth. They used to say that they were born close to Passover or Hanukkah, but never an actual date. To this day I am not even certain of my grandmother's birth year, let alone an exact date.
Some more information revealed the correct spelling of my great-grandmother's maiden name as well as her full patronymic, Chaja Chaimowna Szmuelowna née Kalmaniewski, which in turn gives me the full name of my great-great-grandfather, Chaim Szmuel Kalmaniewski. There is also a lot of additional information about siblings and collateral lines that I need to dissect and analyze further.
I also found out that they were not originally from the town that we always thought they were from. The documents state that my great-grandfather, Wolf Lejb Abramowicz Beniaminowicz Kielczewski, a shoemaker from Prżytuly, gmina Kubra, was only temporarily in Radziłów. This town is just southwest of Radziłów and there are a number of towns with the name Prżytuly in the general area. For all intents and purposes Przytuly is part of Radzilow. Yes, it's officially 4 miles away and yes, it's a different town, but it's so tiny that it makes Radzilow look like a metropolis. Anyone living in Przytuly surely came to Radzilow, the "big" town, for many things, whether for goods, or the market, etc.
But let's get to the real discovery. While sifting through all this new information I stumbled onto the fact that my grandfather, Abram Beniamin Kielczewski, had the same birthday as his brother, Chaim Szmuel Kielczewski. At first I though I was mistaken, because from a page of testimony that my own grandfather filled out at Yad vashem he stated that this brother was born two years before what we knew was his birth year. Hence I always thought this brother was 2 years older.
I checked back with the family tree that started my research, my sister's roots project and there is no Chaim listed. Instead there is a Szmuel. My sister did this project about 6 years after my grandfather passed away so the information had to have come from my grandmother. Did she know about it? I don't know what to think:
But then several other pieces started falling into place. For example, they both have the same exact registration date and birth dates. They are registered one right after the other. They were both named after both their grandfathers (not necessarily evidence that they are twins, but still a nice touch).
So we went in deeper and found the word twin (двойной in Russian) in the documents!
When I first learned of the possibility that my grandfather had a twin brother, I called my dad and asked him if he had ever heard of anything like this. He said he did not and that he would talk to his younger brothers (still waiting to hear what they know, but I doubt it will be a different story). My father even called his elderly aunt on his mother's side to see if she knew anything about it, which she didn't.
We are all in kind of a shock about this new information. And I am full of questions. Why did my grandfather never mention his twin? Why did he never tell anyone his real birth date? Does anyone in the family have any vital records for my grandfather, like his ID card or death certificate? What happened to all that stuff?
Here's what I know about my grandfather's twin:
Chaim Szmuel Kielczewski was born and lived his whole life in Radzilow. Like his father, he too was a shoemaker. He married Frida Krok and they had two sons, Yitzhak and Benjamin. The entire family was burned alive in a barn with most of the Jews in Radzilow on July 7th, 1941.
My initial thoughts are that the painful memory of his twin brother and his family were too hard for my grandfather to bare. Since they had all perished before any of his own children were born, my guess is that he chose not to speak about them or mention the fact that he had a twin brother. I am not sure if it was just sadness for losing all of them or whether there were feelings of guilt for leaving everyone behind to go live a new life in Israel (back then still Palestine).
I was almost 10 when my grandfather passed away so I never really got the chance to know him very well and I was too young to ask him about his family. I have very good memories of him and of time we spent together, but I don't remember him as a happy person. I can't remember him ever laughing or even smiling. And, of course, I can't put myself in his position or even start to understand what a man goes through when he learns that everyone he knew was burned alive in a barn. But I would think that talking about them and telling stories about them would keep their memory alive. It would help future generation remember them and what happened to them.
I'm not sure why a 2 year difference means so much to me but for some reason it does. I mean, I knew about Chaim and his family before all this came to light. I knew he was my grandfather's brother. So why is it so important that they were twins? I think that perhaps knowing such an intimate fact, something that came from a completely different source, makes him and his family more real somehow. I guess that in the void of information and darkness that exists about my grandfather's past, this is like someone turned on a flood light.
My grandfather had three sons. The oldest, my father, Avshalom, who was born in 1945 was given a name that literally translates to 'Father of Peace' because he was born at the end of the war. The middle brother, my uncle Arieh, was named after their grandfather, Lejb (which means Leo or Lion).
But here's the interesting twist. We always thought that the youngest son, my uncle Chaim, was named after his maternal grandfather, but we now know he shares a name with his uncle, my grandfather's twin brother, Chaim Szmuel Kielczewski. (I just spoke to my uncle Chaim and he confirmed that he has never heard about a twin brother before and was quite shocked as well. He has all the documentation I was looking for and send it with my parents on their upcoming trip here in less than two weeks!)
In a few days, on July 7th, it will be the 68th anniversary of the atrocities that happened in Radzilow. I think that for the first time in my life, this date is going to mean something real to me (other than the fact that my favorite nephew turns five).