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Saturday, April 05, 2014

The story of my paternal grandparents

I continue trying to put together pieces of family history.  On my father's side, I try to understand his parents, how they met, and something of the history.  I have three years of letters written between my grandparents, written mostly in French.  I have been trying to learn what I can from these letters.

My father's mother Dorothy was born in 1907 in New York.  Her father was the journalist, diplomat, and Jewish activist Herman Bernstein who imigrated to America around 1895, originally from current day Lithuania.  In 1929, Dorothy and her sister Violette took a trip abroad to France to study French  at the Institut de Touraine in Tours.  There, Dorothy met a Hungarian medical student, Akos Nasch.  They started a relationship, but several months later, Dorothy and Violette moved to Grenoble to continue studying French, and Akos remained in Tours.

Dorothy and Akos continued to write letters to each other even after Dorothy returned to the US- to New York and to Sheffield, Massechussetts.  Later, in 1930, Dorothy returned to Europe again, and met Akos in Oradea and they were married in September.  A second wedding was performed a month later in Tirana, Albania, where Herman was the US embassador under King Zog.

Akos had some trouble with medical school in France, and continued on in Geneva.  Dorothy lived with him sometimes in Geneva, and sometimes with her parents in Tirana.  In 1933, Akos finished his medical school (his thesis title was "Ostéomyélite des Adolescents: Considérations à propos de deux cas d'ostéomyélite du radius", and a Google book reference is here.)  After completing the thesis, Akos moved to New York to meet Dorothy who was already living there.  He worked at the Beth Israel hospital, Dorothy's father having helped get him the post.

My father was born in Astoria in 1938.  There are certainly many more details to tell, but some of it is still murky to me.  I would like to understand more about Akos' Hungarian family.  It is complicated by the fact that where they lived switched between Hungarian to Romanian territory following the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. I understand that Akos' father was a prisoner of war by the Russians during WWI.  Surviving this experience, he vowed to become a devout Jew.  I still have relatives today in Oradea.  Akos and Dorothy were able to help many of Akos' relatives imigrate to the US before WWII, but still many were sent to die in the concentration camps.


Naelwae said...

That's an amazing family story. Somewhat you're on the steps of Dorothy, living in France. Did you got the chance to go and discover Tours ? It is a beautiful lively city.

Boaz said...

I appreciate the comment Naelwae. What brought you to my blog?

Yes, its been fun connecting my experience in France to this history of my grandparents. Living in Grenoble, its interesting to know that my grandmother was here also (even if just for a few months).

No, I didn't visit Tours yet. I hope to sometime.

Its a fun way to enter into history and understanding of the world to have a family story to research!