Louis S. Goldman

Louis Goldman was born Israel Labe Guntmacher in 1894 in Ladyzhin, Podolsky, Ukraine. The Ukraine is about the size of Texas and Ladyzhin was a small village then with about 800 Jewish families. My father-in-law said it looked just like village, Anatevka, in Fiddler on the Roof. They spoke Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish. In the 1400s, this was part of the Polish empire and Jews, who had been expelled by other European countries, were welcomed by the Polish empire since they could read and write. But in the 1600s, the Polish empire began to lose power and the fortunes of the Jews also declined. When Louis was born, it was ruled by the Russian Czars, and there were restrictions and pogroms against the Jews. Tobacco and wheat were the main crops of Ladyzhin with production controlled by the government. Jews could not own property. The houses were one-story with dirt floors and no running water and water was taken from the river, where people bathed and sent their waste. Lou’s father was a tailor and better off than most of his neighbors, as he had a little work all year long making a few coats, pants and shirts. Many in the village felt lucky to work a few months a year.

In 1905, when Lou was 11, his older brother, Yosell, age 22, was shot by Russian soldiers. He was a University student who joined the Bund, a Jewish socialist revolutionary group aligned with the Bolsheviks. His father blamed too much education for giving Yosell ideas that got him killed. He pulled Louis out of school in the 4th grade and set him to work in the tobacco fields for 20 cents a day.

The Guntmachers and Tabachnicks were very good friends and neighbors. The Tabachnicks were a large family with four boys and two girls, and the youngest girl was born in America. Their going to America left Louis very sad, because the boys were his very best friends. Dave, the oldest and his best friend, promised to find a way to get him to America. In 1910, a letter came from the Tabachnicks saying he could live with them and Dave was sending him a ticket. He couldn’t get a passport because he was only 17, but the letter was accepted by immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.

All across Europe, people worked as agents to sneak those without papers across borders. His father arranged for Lou to meet agents in Russia, Austria and Germany. The agents would gather a group together in farmhouse barns until they had about 20-30 while they searched out safe places to cross. They had to cross a river into Germany holding on tightly to overhead ropes so the current wouldn’t carry them away. In Hamburg, Louis found a ticket agent and got his steerage ticket. It took two weeks to cross, then another week in Baltimore with thousands of other immigrants and then by train to St. Louis. Going through the immigration process was when his name was changed to Louis S. Goldman.

Louis wanted to be an American. He learned to speak and read and write English as quickly as possible. He went to work in the clothing industry. In 1914, at 19 years old, he got terribly homesick and decided to go home for the Passover holiday.

It was dangerous times; war seemed imminent, but he couldn’t be persuaded to stay. He had no passport, but he figured he could bribe his way. All went well until he crossed into Russia where he was arrested. By giving the warden all the rest of the money he had, he was released and even put on a train, but it stopped short of getting him to his home town. Luckily, a wagon master knew him and took him home, where he got paid by the parents. Lou told his parents the whole story and that he would need money to return to America. They sent him to his uncle who gave him a royal dressing down for being so foolish to travel at this time, but the uncle gave him $200. Lou decided to return immediately because of the war clouds. Again, no passport and he had to go through Poland and Austria to Hamburg, Germany. His father would wire him money for the boat ticket. He stayed at a farm house and they loaded 15-20 people in the center of the wagon carrying bales of hay. At the border, soldiers bayonnnetted the hay, but fortunately, no one was hurt. They crossed a river with overhead ropes to Austria. There, while they were waiting, someone ratted them out. They pooled their money to bribe the police and gave a royal beating to the snitch. In Hamburg, Louis went to the ticket agent to get money from his dad. The agent asked him to do a favor. He had an 11-year-old boy traveling alone to St. Louis to meet his sister. The boy’s name was Elie Chadorosky (Al Price). They boarded the Pres. Lincoln and Dad brought him to St. Louis.

He and his friend, Leo Tabachnick, served in the Army during WWI overseas in France and he got his naturalization papers.

In 1922, Lou decided to get his family out of Russia. He had parents, two sisters and a young brother, all almost starved from the different armies commissioned near their town: Red, White Russians, Germans, and Austrians. He made arrangements with agents to get them over the border. In the woods on a Sabbath eve, not far from the border, his mother, a very observant Jew, insisted on lighting the candles and saying the blessing. She put two sticks in the ground, said the prayer and lit the candles. Then she blew them out because of the great danger. With bribes and luck, they did get out of Russia. They got to Belgium and booked passage on the Lapland, but his father had a hernia and had to be left behind for the operation at a Catholic hospital. He left money with the Nuns for his care and to see that he got on the ship to America when he recovered. Lou told his dad the food was Kosher or he wouldn’t have eaten.

He married Cecelia Tabachnick, sister of best friend in 1924. They had four children. The first child died in infancy, then a son in 1927 and twins, a boy and girl in 1935. The youngest son died in 2000 and the oldest in 2002. They were/are a loving family, hardworking, honest and all good citizens. Like most Jewish immigrants, Dad loved America: it’s a wonderful land of opportunity, citizenship, to earn a good living, educate your children and freedom, especially religious freedom. This made America the golden country!

This story was submitted by Lillian Goldman with information that came from her father and research done by her nephew, Mark Goldman.

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