War and Peace


Both my father's ancestors and my mother's ancestors came to the United States around 1905. My mother's family was from Belarus, Russia and Odessa, Ukraine. When they came to the United States, they couldn’t bring anything other than the clothes on their back. So the first things they purchased in the U.S. were really important. These items were reminders of home and served as guides to being successful in America. Since my great grandparents valued knowledge and education so much, one of the first things they purchased was the book War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This book was mainly about Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Since it has to do so much with Russia, it reminded my great grandfather of home.  He read it over and over again.  My great grandparents lived in the Bronx in a housing cooperative called the COOPs that was founded as an idealistic housing collective made up of immigrants, mostly from Russia.  My great grandfather Isaac was a tailor in a sweatshop. Of course, adapting to life in the United States was not always easy, but the reminders of home helped my family work hard every day. They left Russia to not only escape persecution, but also for the promise of a freer, safe, and overall better life. He found that being a Jewish immigrant in the United States was challenging, but simple reminders of home like War and Peace allowed him to survive the hardships of being an immigrant and still provide for his family. 

Place(s): New York and Russia
Year: 1905

– Sophie Kelleher

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more