Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Litvak family.

Lithuanian Jews or 'Litvaks,'are  Jews born in Lithuanian, Belarus, Latvia, two north eastern regions of Poland, and some border areas of Russia and Ukraine .  Today, very few remain.  Those who escaped in 1941, mostly fled to Russia.  My great grandfather Harry Rubin immigrated to Canada around 1910.

Thanks to the DNA test, I'm  here to discover my Litvak ancestry, in the landscape , in the collective memory, and in my soul. My mountaineer friend Ken immediately called my journey to Lithuanina a  Pilgrimage. And that's what it's  been, all six weeks, and not a single blister.

The pilgrimage started in Gdansk in July, drifted over the Polish border to a monastery near Kaunas , and meandered down to the south west of Lithuania to my great grandfathers village, Seirijai.

This village was the original goal of my 'pilgrimage.'

I believed my fathers family had escaped from Seirijai on foot to Poland (then immigrated to the US), but it turned out in 1906, having had some money, they took a  train to Hamburg .
From there they boarded a boat for the 3 week journey to Montreal, not NY. Some of the family made their way to Scotland. My pilgrimage was full of surprises.

Lithuania is a flat densely forested country. It is a land of apple trees, blueberries , mushrooms, no mountains .
They've only had their independence from Soviet domination since 1990.

After many adventures and much research in Vilnius, previously known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania , I arrived here in Druskininkai.

That 130km journey is a book in itself! More later about meeting the new Jewish community in a
forest, with a feast, singing, dancing, and being invited to tell my story.

Then  yesterday, August 13th, with a Lithuania guide, I visited  Kapciamiestis where my great
great-grandparents Wolf and Gritl Rubin lived in 1870.

It was beautiful, so charming , so almost fairytale otherworldly, I immediately, finally knew where I've come from. My roots come from this soil.
More about this in a while

Thanks to a DNA test two years ago, I finally discovered where my  never met, never known birth father came from -
Info from 2nd and3rd cousins  (thanks to the  DAA test ), gave me the names of my great grandparents, the name of two villages, and a calling to find out more.

It feels that my pilgrimage to this beautiful country is complete.

I've found what I didn't know I was searching for . I've found in my innermost heart a sense of familiarity that is unquestionable. The village of Kapciamiestis was almost destroyed during World War 11, but essence cannot be destroyed...and the dreams and hopes of my beloved ancestors who lived here are in my genes, and mysteriously , I feel I've just crosssed a threshold.

I'm certain John O'Donohue and David Whyte have poems which express this feeling exquisitely.

Until I can understand and say more about this homecoming, here are some pics.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Lithuania Calling.

Dear loyal multinational followers,

Thank you for keeping on visiting while I've been silent for so many weeks.

How does anybody manage a daily blog??

I couldn't. At the moment I've got kittens and chickens and a blind cockerel  to feed, as well as drawings to draw, adventures to live, and so much more.

Since starting the blog,  thousands of you  in the US have visited (so love these statistics), and more than five thousand Russians and Ukrainians have looked at my paintings here.

Why so many visitors from Russia?  I'm thinking you must be 'resonating' with something in my art , but I doubt many of you are  reading the posts. Of course I could be wrong.

I've just discovered my Jewish father's ancestors came from your countries -  Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and also Poland. What a surprise. Oh bliss and double joy to know this at last!
All my life I'd  had a suspicion about Poland.  Maybe it was just  poetic wishful thinking and a need to pin my dad somewhere on the world map?  I'd always imagined he'd escaped from a Polish concentration camp. Maybe Auschwitz?
Because I was adopted as a baby - and have always had an overactive imagination.

Every day I wake now with a wild quiet curiosity.  At last I know where I've 'come from.'  But it's not quite that simple.

These super brave ancestors fled to the US between 1850 and 1919.

Exuberant Drum roll...

on the 14th of July I'm leaving Spain for a 6 week solo 'pilgrimage' to walk on the land of my Jewish ancestors.

 My journey starts in Gdansk, Poland, then moves to Vilnius in Lithuania, then down to the south east corner of Lithuania to the village of Seirijai.   Then where ? I don't know.  Poland,  Belarus ,  Lativa , Siberia?

So far,  I have just one Lithuanian village,  just one man - a possible great grandfather or great uncle - and just one route to explore  - my ancestors  escape route to freedom..

This minimal info has inspired these drawings.

But...what if I only last one week in Gdansk and have to come straight  back to Malaga?

 No, I will not get sick or have an accident, or ... anything like that.  I'm determined to heal the new medical problem before I go. Si señor !

Not being able to speak the language is a real 'what if' that needs taming.

Yes, I have heard about the new translator app, but...

Chill Meg.  When intuition becomes the  inner compass, as it has already,  anything can happen.

 Think positive Margarita and  don't depend in electronic gadgets, depend on faith. Si senor.

I promise  I'll  share the highlights of this adventure.

Another drum roll... I just discovered : in about 1840 in Seirijai there lived a certain  Rabbi Rabinson and a man called David Robinzon.  Gasp.  Relations?

Lithuania has the fastest Internet connection in the world, and the highest suicide rate in Europe among young men. Two facts which may or may not be useful.  Weird what comes up when you start researching anything.

Meanwhile, I'm loving drawing my way into this mysterious story.

Lithuania.  Big sigh. I feel compelled to walk on the land of my ancestors, and I hope to find, if at all possible, the real name of  my never known, never met, Jewish farther.

All I have are his initials, L.R.

How  do I know this?  Well... that's a long story I'm not quite ready to share yet, except to say...

 my father changed his name on arriving in Ireland in 1944.  L.R became Leslie  Robinson.

 Apparently, most Jewish refugees changed their names but kept their initials when they arrived  in  a new land.

Because of his mysterious identity, and because my Irish mother wasn't ' allowed' to keep me, I was an orphan before I was born.

My life didn't start off brilliantly, but there have been many, many brilliant episodes ever since, and they're ongoing.

I don't know if my birth mother's life was so blessed. When I found her 30 years ago, she didn't have anything kind to say about my dad.
Hers was a terrible but  common story  of an  Irish girl not allowed to keep her baby.

If  I can find a name for my dad, I'll be ecstatic.
It's the missing piece of this  beautiful  multicolored  jigsaw.

And if I can't, life will still be beautiful.

Thank you Ancestry.com for bringing Lithuania, Russia and  Poland - and  3 brand new cousins-  quietly into my life.

How amazing.   All I had to do was spit into a tiny test tube two years ago -
to get this Jewish, DNA information.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Holy moments.

"For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light."

— Kent Nerburn - Small Graces.

I've  seriously neglected my blog for  over 3 months.  I honestly don' t know why.  

Shelling walnuts this morning in the sunshine.

We do not need to be religious to have holy moments.

Take a little time to look around?  Like close up around. Not long distance.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say while some fields will blossom and others lay brown beneath the August sun.

Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made. And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess.

To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than how is shared, and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.”

― Kent Nerburn

 “Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day.”

― Kent Nerburn

Small-Graces-Quiet-Gifts-Everyday by Kent Nerburn .  Amazon.com.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Holidaze amigos.

I think we are all capable of inspiring each other. I think this is the message I was born to share.

                      I've quoted Mary Oliver many times, I love her 'Instructions for living a life.'


 'Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it .'

The world needs great storytellers.

 Katherine Arden is one of this new breed.  I'm reading her  magical  book  The Bear and The Nightingale,  right now. 

2017 has been the year of discovering my Russian ancestry.

It seems my never met, never known Jewish father's great  grandfather was a body guard/ groomsman to Czar Nicholas. Thank you ancestry. com for this info. Oh for some photos of them all, the absent men in my life!

Since discovering the Russian connection, drawings of the Czar's four fascinating  daughters and his fragile son have flowed. The theme continues.

So, my  Christmas gift to you today is a wordless fairy tale of drawings, with a Russian tinge...

Learning to see every challenging situation  through my kindest eyes has definitely  been  this year’s  biggest lesson.  Thank you Rene August in South Africa.

May we  be blessed to see the gift in every difficult situation.

Happy Holidaze  queridos amig@s.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Don Jose Maria did a good job.

At the hospital the charming elderly surgeon , Don Jose Maria, asked me if I needed help getting onto the operating table.
It's  a mark of respect to call a doctor in  Spain 'Don - whateverhisfirstname -is. 

'Ha,' I said.   'No thanks, with my 2 new hips I can do this easily now.'

We’d exchanged a few pleasantries before this question.

'Did you get the new hips here or in England,' he asked seriously. 

 'Here,' I said.
 'Aha. ' he replied.  'Well then, when Brexit happens, we might have to ask for them back.' 

I’m Irish I said.  'Can I keep them?'

It was so great to be in the hands of a  gentle doctor with humour. This won’t take long he reassured me.  The 6 hour wait was immediately forgotten. 

The first two waiting hours were spent in the tiny hospital chapel.  

 It’ll be quiet there I said to my friend.  It was,  and we both did some meditation.  I’d already done my 20 minutes at home by real candle light.

I was interrupted by a piercing thought. Better charge my phone.   Another friend’s coming to collect me, and she’s not sure where to come. 

There were two sockets in the chapel.  With  the phone successfully plugged, oh dear, the box of electric candles immediately  went out.

We couldn’t stop laughing.  Not loudly. Honestly.

I then showed my friend the wonderful large new cookery book called Kaucasis that I’d packed in my ‘going to hospital’ little ethnic backpack.  It matched my new sweater nicely. I felt unusually stylish.

Fab brill photos and amazing seasonal recipes delighted us on every single page.  I was not expecting to show her the book in a chapel.

 We sat side by side and revelled in the deliciousness of the  shared  excitement of the probability  of trying new recipes.  Then Marie Carmen arrived.  She  slid quietly into the chapel and  dropped her 20 cents into the 'candle box.'    The candles didn’t light up.   


I nipped over, yes I can nip now, and apologised for the disappointment.
My son says if you put in 50c , all the candles light up she said.  I immediately gave her 50 cents.  Two  candles lit up.
‘Oh’ we all said deeply disappointed.  Then followed one of those profoundly poignant and brief and beautiful encounters.  

 Marie Carmen’s  husband has been in intensive care for 10 days. She comes every morning to see him, and ligh a candle in the chaple. She’s afraid he’s going to  die.  And he may. I tell her I’m here to have the little implant in my chest removed, it was where the chemo was put into my body I explain.

She smiles and I feel such tenderness for her. Then  sliding out into the corridor, she heads for the bedside of the man who has given her children.

I think we then looked at a few more recipes before going to the day ward for people needing small operations.
I didn’t look at the cookery book anymore because it was  now 16 ours since I’d had anything to drink or eat.

My friend leaves to collect her young son from school. I'm completly fine about this.

I’m sitting enjoying observing life in the day ward, but also remembering what it was like being hooked up to chemo 29 months ago, when all of a sudden a terrible cold came over my body.  Panic.

Jezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh NO, how could this have happened?

I  don't remember blowing out the candles after  doing my ‘Jane Meditation’ this morning  in my rented farmhouse - here in Spain. The house could already have burned to the ground.Then what would I do?

 It’s very windy.  Any of the windows could have blown open and at this very moment my little  house could be smoldering in rubble. 

Ohjesusmarymitheroofgod! I don’t swear these days, so this is my strongest expletive.

This was not a nice feeling. 

The young male nurse had taken my blood pressure just five mins before. Menos mal as we say  here. That translates as...just as well.  Now it was probably sky high.
 I was a mess inside.  Brain  freeze and dollops of how cold I have been so incredibly careless surged.

I believed ( when I had this though) that  I was about to be called into the operating theatre. Oh how quickly the body chemistry can change from peace and calm and even a touch of joy, to CRAZY/HORRIBLE/FREAKY/panic.

Little did I know there was another 3 hour wait to come.  

 I called my policeman landlord, but forget to tell him where the spare set of keys are hidden.

Don’t worry he said super calm and lovley as ever.  I’ll go now, and if necessary I’ll take the screws off the back door and get in that way.
Look through the widow first I said, you'll see if the candles are still alight.

By 2.30 I know the house hasn’t burnt down and all is well, but  the day hospital is completely empty. I’m the only remaining patient, and I’m still sitting hooked up to my drip and I’m very cold. 

 I now have three blankets wrapped around my body.  It’s an extremely  odd feeling being alone in an empty ward !!  

Slightly sulky Tamara a nurse from Almeria arrives and says she’s now on duty. Then she disappears for  ten minutes, well may it was just three.
The day ward closes at 2 .30 when the surgeon go off to eat, so I’ll probably be done at about 4 she says.
I could never ever grudge a surgeon a siesta, but I got that  wrong. 

 Other  surgeons start their day at 3pm. So why did Tamara tell me they would come back and  do me after  lunch?? Malentendido ( misunderstanding) on my part.

I’m done at last. It doesn’t hurt much.  Don Jose Maria  does a good job.

 It's not as easy as he thought it would be. Remember that children's story of pulling the turnip out of the ground?   Bit like that.  The little metal implant seemed to have grown roots.

Tamara and I bond. 
My friend gets lost but eventually finds  the empty ward where I’m waiting, miraculously I'm not hungry. 

Adios I say to Tamara, and suerte ( good luck), which means I really hope you find work nearer home and a job that  you love.  She is destined for greater things  than little operations. 

 Her parting smile was unforgettable.

First 3 drawings are mine,  the photos are all thanks to Pinterest, except the last one, which is my little house that could have burnt down, if that had been my destiny!.