Lucille W. Brown and Stephen M. Berk Oral Histories of American Jews


Lucille W. Brown and Stephen M. Berk Oral Histories of American Jews

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Lucille Brown began this project by sitting down with her own parents, Sol and Sonia Wernick, in her dining room on Highland Park Road in Schenectady, New York in 1970. She used a small cassette tape recorder and dove in with questions about the town they had left in the Ukraine in 1920, how and why they left and what life was like in their "old world". The project grew to include her brother Robert's in-laws, Fan and Jack Koenigsburg, and other members of the bungalow colony where the Koenigsburgs summered in the Catskills. The interviewees were all individuals who left Eastern Europe in the 1910s and 1920s. As her project grew in scope, LWB joined forces with Dr. Stephen Berk, a professor of Russian History at Union College where she was a librarian. Together they shaped the interview questions to get a clearer picture of life in the Pale of Settlement at the turbulent time following World War I and into the revolutionary period in Russia and Eastern Europe. Lucille Brown received funding for her project from Union College and from YIVO. She wrote several papers and gave talks on her work. Her collection of tapes and transcripts are held in the archives of both Union and YIVO. I am Lucille's daughter. During the time Mom was working on this project, I was in high school and college. I was present at the original interview with my grandparents and at many subsequent interviews. During the 70s, Lucille had me help her transcribe many of the taped interviews using her IBM Selectric typewriter. Since that time, the typed pages of the transcripts have sat in loose-leaf binders in my and my sisters' basements. The pages have started to dry out and get brittle but the stories they hold are compelling and deserve to be kept alive. It is my pleasure to revisit these interviews as I re-type them in a digital format. "Listening" to the stories, I see my grandparents and their friends and am transported to another time and place. I have taken the liberty of "cleaning up" the original transcripts - editing them for clarity and readability. I have also hyper-linked to explanatory geographical, historical, and non-English language references wherever possible and I have asked my sisters, cousins and descendants of the subjects to contribute pictures if they have them. Peggy Brown Brunswick, Maine 2019

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