Edited excerpts from Hedwig Brenner's email message to Czernowitz-L
describing her book:
Received on 2005-12-10 20:18:52
<>I wrote my family saga for my grand-children. Suddenly somebody, who read the manuscript gave the diskettes to an editor, after asking my permission. That editor in Switzerland agreed to publish it, without asking for money. He put this family saga in two volumes, with pictures. The first volume appeared a month ago.
Go to: http://amazon.de then search on "Hedwig Brenner" or "Leas Fluch" (It was a curse in my family) the second volume named "My 20.th Century" will be published in a month.
Both books will be presented at the Literaturhaus, Vienna, after Pessach, proably 26/27 April .
Mimi Taylor's translation from the German of a chapter from
Czernowitz, My Dream.
- ein Zeitdokument
1840 - 2003
Published in September 2005
Munda - Verlag,
5200 Brugg, Switzerland.
This is a translation of pages 99 - 103.
The book is written as if told in first person by three different women.
This chapter is told by Rosi Gruber-Feuerstein, the grandmother of Hedwig.
Czernowitz was a beautiful Austrian city, situated at the easternmost
of the Royal and Imperial Monarchy.
It was a city in ascend, also a city at the point of departure,
changing, a city of culture, music and magnificent buildings. The
of the archbishop, the colorful glistening roofs of which, mirrored the
was one of the worthy sights of Austria. The well designed park, named
Volksgarten, in which on Sunday girls from the suburbs and Ulans (
of a particular regiment) would exchange hidden kisses, was always full
strollers. There the Pretzel-man offered his fresh ware, there one
two Heller (Austrian coins) obtain an apple fished out of a wooden can.
These apples were sweet sour and had a very special aroma.
The hill on which Czernowitz had been built, descended in the north
down towards the valley of the Pruth, in the south it spread over a
The inhabitant of the city belonged to various nations and discernible
social layers, these, like concentric circles almost never overlapped
only rarely touched. One had to be born, like me in a "Haubchen" or
(a little bonnet, by which is meant the amniotic sack, which was
a sign of great good luck), in order to reach a higher social class
one, one was borne in.
On the plateau, meaning in the vicinity of the Volksgarten there was
called villa section of town. There lived, in streets with noble names,
as "Printz-Eugenstrasse" or "Erzherzog-Karl-Gasse", those favoured by
rich owners of estates and of factories, in short the Hautevolee (upper
crust). Those favoured by luck - but were they really favoured by luck?
often asked myself whether riches were synonymous with luck?
In the central section of town there was the commercial quarter, some
like the "Schwarze Adler" with a very elegant restaurant, which still
today, the hotel "Paris" and the "Drei-Kronen-Haus". The "Herrengasse"
the promenade, where at any time of day or evening, young ladies and
students paraded. Did they ever work? In the streets adjoining the
Ringplatz, there lived intellectuals, artists, physicians, lawyers,
newspaper-people and office workers.
The stand of the Fiaker (carriage) was on the Ringplatz. Here you could
carriages drawn by one or two horses. A tramway line connected the
"Volksgarten" with the "Pruthbrucke". In the summer we bathed a few
the eddies of the Pruth, in the vicinity of the bridge the current was
strong. We bathed in our underwear, obviously in a different spot from
men, because the linen underwear stuck to our bodies as if we were
The religious Chassidim lived in great numbers on the lower
the hill, the streets on the lower slope. Small, meandering streets and
alleys, which started at the Springbrunnenplatz and which were commonly
called "Ham". The Synagogengasse, the Uhrmachergasse and others formed
Jewish quarter, and that area looked like a Galitzian "Shtetl". Here The
Jewish craftsmen had their workshops and all guilds were represented.
musicians who played at the circus, also lived in this part of town.
In this memorable year, 1877, we were supposed to travel to Leipzig,
immediately after Purim, the Jewish festival of joy. We were going to
wedding of the brother of my father, Max Gruber. At happy celebrations
weddings and birthdays, but also at funerals, the whole clan met in
On this Purim-eve my parents went to a private celebration and I was
to join them. It was a masked ball, mother dressed as a nun, father as a
clown and I as snow-white. After a voluminous meal we were served
"Humentaschen, sweet dough triangles, filled with Powidla (prune jam)
nuts, which tasted delicious.
Mother ate a lot, and next day her abdomen hurt. A physician who was
summoned, recommended that she be hospitalized. Father took mother to
Jewish hospital in a Fiaker, and the hospital director Dr. Moritz
treated her. The test results showed that she had become sick with
dysentery, which at that time was common in Czernowitz and which
After a consultation, the physicians said: "Hopefully her constitution
withstand the disease". We prayed to God that he would let her live, my
beautiful precious "Mammi"! We sent a telegram to my brother in
so he would come. After five tortuous days of fighting with death,
victorious. We carried mother to the Jewish cemetery behind the
Czernowitz and laid her to rest.
Why did God have to do this to me? How had I aroused his anger? Often I
denied his existence and did not believe in his might.
During the long conversations which we had, father maintained that every
person carries his own fate since birth and that the astrologers could
calculate it all. The Kabbala too, this Jewish mystic work, which is
by religious Jews, who by means of assigning numbers to every sentence
the bible, attempt to divine and guess it's hidden meaning, is
with the inquiry of what the heavens and world were like before the
During the "Shiv'a" we interrupted our performances. We sat in our
brother Max had come together with the gentleman at who's house he
Bucharest. Even though he was only a boy of twelve, father took him
and evening to the "Shul", to say "Kaddish" the prayer for the dead.
Many people who had seen mother and had admired her came to offer us
I took over the show numbers and programs in which my mother had
and had to practice a lot more, but this helped me to fight my pain.
My brother had left for Bucharest and we too took down our tents. Our
were coupled to the train which went to Lvov and it was the great
the century, which was slowly coming to an end, that we now could
train and no longer by a cart pulled by horses.
This way some years passed with travels through Austria and Poland and
we visited France. Everywhere we were celebrated and our circus reached
heights of esteem and fame.