A Postcard from Berta Tubisman

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Yiddish postcard from Berta Tubisman addressed to Brout [G. Brout, anarchist from Odessa] at 14 Passage Gustave Lepeu, Paris. Sent from Orel, June 1934.

Unknown friend with your (good?) name [**?], may I ask you to kindly find my sister and pass on my postcard.

Dear Sister [**?] Leah

I wish you well, and your husband and children too. I’m writing to you, my dear sister, as I’m puzzled that I’ve written you several letters already and haven’t received any reply at all from you my dear sister, to whom I turn for help as, once again, I have to go away with my daughter for treatment.

And he is very bad. He drives me away. You do understand that he won’t give me money. He drives the children away too. But they are working and bring money in for food themselves: But I am ill and can’t earn a living. I beg you please [also **?] to send a little money out to me as soon as possible so that I can help my child and myself. You do understand that he’s the boss. If he wants, he will let me have the letter. And, if he wants, he won’t let me have the letter. (So) I’m writing to you, my dear sister, to ask you to write (back) and make sure I receive an answer from you as soon as possible.

Keep well.

From me, your sister, Beyle


Berta Izrailevna Tubisman (Betya, surname sometimes given as Tubasman) was an anarchist-communist born in Vinnitsa who lived in Odessa. She worked in a sweet factory. She was one of the veteran anarchists who was arrested after the 1929 Odessa anarchist conference disguised as a New Year party (see Anatoly Dubovik’s The Anarchist underground in the Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s. Outlines of history http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/b2rcr2 )

In a letter in the Fleshin collection, Leah Feldman asks (in December 1931) if the Relief Fund have news of Tubisman as “I have not had any letters from her for a long time.” http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/djhc33

Arrested on January 27, 1934, on May 14, 1934 she was sentenced to a three-year term of exile (to the Northern region ie Arkhangelsk).

The stream-of-consciousness flow of words, the writer’s concern to cram as much as possible into the space available, the way the lines are more and more closely packed together as the writing proceeds and, above all, the actual content – all tend to convey a strong sense of distress and desperation. On the face of it, the message is highly personal, a plea to a sister for help and understanding.

However, a whole list of questions arise:

Why does the writer apparently not know her own sister’s whereabouts and have to rely on a third party to ensure her message gets through? Does ‘sister’ here just mean ‘comrade’? Or could it mean both? Presumably the ‘he’ who is treating her badly (given the date of the letter) means the secret police.

This is the only letter in Yiddish from Tubisman in the Fleshin archive. The other four letters to Brout are in Russian. Why does she now switch to Yiddish?

Why does she refer first to her children in the plural and then to ‘my child’ as if he or she is the only one? Why doesn’t the writer refer to this child by name in this message seemingly written to the child’s own aunt?

We can see some connections here without fully understanding them. So there is still work to be done! Thanks to Murray Glickman for translating from Yiddish. The biographical details about Tubisman draw on Anatoly Dubovik’s work for the Memorial website. A fuller version with the Yiddish text is on our website: http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/d7wnbx.

From Folder 75 of the Flechine Archive at the IISG in Amsterdam: http://search.socialhistory.org/Record/ARCH00414/Description. See also https://senyafleshinpapers.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/flechine-folder-75/

From: Folder 75 of the Flechine Archive at the IISG in Amsterdam: http://search.socialhistory.org/Record/ARCH00414/Description.. Translated by: Murray Glickman.