Our fathers’ rescue of 118 people from Russia
Eight years after he immigrated to the United States in 1913, and
serving in the U.S. Navy, our father, Sam Sheinbach, returned to Europe
intending to bring his parents and immediate family members to America.
When he arrived at the family home in Bar, Ukraine, desperate neighbors
and even strangers begged him to allow them to accompany him, although
most had no funds for the journey.
By the time Sam crossed the
Ukrainian border he was leading 116 people, and added two teenage
cousins in Moldavia. Many had no papers and had to be smuggled across
the border. False identities were created by taking names from
gravestones of local cemeteries and bribing officials to prepare papers.
group traveled for months across Europe while visas and various
clearances were obtained. Eventually everyone reached ports of
embarkation and ships to America.
Our father never spoke to us
about his heroic exploit. By accident we found a Yiddish newspaper
clipping in our home and he translated it for us in 1946, after World
War II, when we were 14 and 15 years old. At the time we were living
very modestly in a 3rd floor walk-up apartment on the Lower East Side of
New York, and it was obvious our father had expended considerable sums
of his own money to transport all these people.
We questioned whether these people had paid him back and he replied "Some did, most did not".
As teenagers we were angry but our Dad was very calm. "Aren't you angry, Dad?" we asked.
replied "If not for what I did for those hundreds of people, and their
subsequent offspring, most would probably be dead today. Why be angry
over those people who promised to repay me and did not, when I can put
my head down on the pillow every night and sleep soundly knowing I did
the right thing."
Our Dad died in 1956. We, his sons, have tried to emulate his philosophy ever since we learned of his heroic action.
In 1983 we located the teenage cousin our Dad picked up in Moldova. She
was living in New York and she was in her 80's. For hours she spoke of
the "adventure," including traveling from city to city on many "cattle
cars" that had been decked out by the group with blankets and picnic
baskets, delays when our Father would not continue on because of a sick
person, the near tragedy when our Father was pick-pocketed in the
Hamburg train station attempting to have everyone board the train, and
the recovery of the funds by a very large and strong member of the
group, the loss of which would have left the entire group stranded with
no funds. She was active in the art world and her husband had his
paintings hung in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Other than
close family members we had no further contact with other members of the