Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Chawa’s Immigration Certificate

In November 1935 my grandfather’s sister Chawa Florkiewicz applied for permission to immigrate from Poland to Palestine, then under British control. Her application was approved by the British Authorities in Palestine in April 1936. This is the Certificate of approval. It was returned to Lajzer Finkelstein, her brother, who lived in Tel Aviv and was acting on her behalf. She is instructed to take the Certificate, together with her passport, to the British Consulate in Warsaw by 5 August, and that it would only be valid for entry to Palestine until 15 August.

This implies that Lajzer needed to send it on to her in Poland fairly quickly, so that she could have time to make the necessary arrangements. However, it appears he didn’t send it, as it was amongst a collection of his papers found by his daughter Bracha just last year. Chawa did not make the journey, but not because Lajzer had not sent on the Certificate; in July she sent him a letter explaining why - please see the earlier post ‘Dear Brother’ for details.

Chawa's children
The application includes her two younger children, Szejwa, 16, and Jankel Josek, 14. The two older daughters, Marjem, 20, and Laja, 18, are not on the Certificate; they may have been studying or working, or had other reasons not to leave. We know very little about them, apart from what we can glean from documents like this. We know Laja was not married at that time; we know nothing at all about Marjem.

An age-related mystery
Also on the application is Chawa’s mother Gitla, my great-grandmother. And here we have another age-related mystery. Gitla is shown as 65 years old, which puts her year of birth as 1871. However we have a copy of her birth record: she was registered in 1861. She married in 1888, and according to her marriage record, she was 26, which also gives a birth year of 1861/2. The usual rule of thumb is to give more credence to earlier records than to later ones, and I think a dated birth record is pretty decisive. So Gitla was really 75, not 65 as shown here.

I presume Lajzer was the informant for this document for the British Immigration Office in Palestine. Why does he make his mother appear 10 years younger than she really is? Did the British authorities have an upper age limit for immigration? There are all sorts of possibilities, all sorts of reasons why people sometimes change their own details or those of other family members. Some of these 'amendments' can be identified in my own family - see for example the discussion of Laja's date of birth at the end of the post on the family's Certificate of Residence. However, my preference in this case is for ignorance - my guess is that Lajzer genuinely did not know how old his mother was, so he put something that appeared ‘old’ enough for her to have a 44 year-old daughter.

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