Chaim-Efraim Blei was born in 1844 to father Shimon Dov ha-Levi Blei, in Sadagora, Austria.
Sadagora is to the north of Czernowitz, across the Prut river. When Chaim was born there in 1844, the town was part of Austria, as was Czernowitz. Sadagora was a Jewish cultural center, surrounded by over ten communities with shifting borders: Rohozna, Neu-Zuczka, Cameral-Lenkoutz, Privat-Lenkoutz, Bila, Buda, Unter-Szeroutz, Szubranetz, Zadobrowka, Waschkoutz, Czernawka, Rarancze, Toporoutz, and Dobronoutz. Sadagora had the only Jewish cemetary for these surrounding communities, and the town was a center of Zionist thought with Yeshiva and Talmud schools.
A great synagogue and weekly market were part of local life. Citizen life centered around the market, with many merchants, makers of shoes, clothing, bread, butchers, barbers and street vendors, and kutschers (coachmen, or wagon drivers, who handled passengers and goods traveling between Sadagora and the bigger city of Czernowitz across the Prut.
On 2 June 1868, Chaim married Chana Rose Stanger. Chaim was 22 and Rose was, I guess, ready for marriage. The notes in the marriage record read, “Announced according to Nr. 143 ex 1868. Legitimate”. Yay!
For the next twenty years, a ridiculous number of children are credited to Chaim and Rose:
1871: Samson Selig Blei is born 30 May 1871 (my great-grandfather). Samson goes on to marry Golde Sandberg in 1897, and has children (Sigmund, Samuel, Ettel (my grandmother), Isidor, Adolph, Mina and Regina).
1873: Leib Blei is born, on 27 April. He married Marjem Freiberg in 1897. Lieb apparently survived the Holocaust in Romania, he is listed as a claimant in the 1944 Claims Conference records, having reported for Slave Labor numerous times during the war.
1875 Ester Marjem is born. She dies the same year, on 10 July.
1877: Mordche Blei is born, 20 March. His short life ended on 15 April of the same year.
1878: Chaja Blei is born, but listed as “unehelich” (illegitimate?). She died on 23 July the same year.
According to the notes on this record, Chaim’s occupation was “Kutscher”.
In the book “History of the Jews in the Bukowina“, there is a colorful scene from the life of a coachman,
“There stood an old stone bridge over the Moszkow stream; this was also a waiting area for the wagon and carriage drivers, in other words, the hub of traffic, next to a considerable number of guest houses. One traveled from here to Czernowitz and to the Sadagura train station. On the return trip, this place was the end station.
The competition was fierce, and not uncommonly there were bloody fights among the drivers for the goodwill of the traveling public.
The fights among the coachmen originating in their business competition were often waged with wagon parts and wheel wrenches, while at the same time providing the opportunity to settle long overdue family feuds. The fact that only a few Jews comprised the traveling public, because the non-Jewish farm folk owned their own wagons, sharpened the competition.
These professional drivers (a typical Jewish profession in the small towns of the Bukowina) with their large families lived almost exclusively in this area of “Baranowka.”
Related: From the Ehpes Blog: Coach Ride in Czernowitz (photos)
..and back now to the offspring. They say that country air is stimulating, or perhaps Chaim and Rose did not have very much in common, so needed diversion. In any case, there are yet more children listed in databases as fathered by Chaim Blei during the next several years:
1879: Rebeca Blei is born
1881: Beile/Berta Blei is born (died in Buchach and buried in Radautz, Romania, Lot 3, Row 9, on 17 April 1937)
1885: Ruchel Blei is born
1887: Samuel Blei is born
1889: Josef Blei is born
1892: Brane Blei is born
In 1898, Chaim’s name shows up in the 1898 Czernowitz Business Directory, his profession now “Makler”. A Makler was a broker, or real estate agent. His business address was listed as #3 Pumnulgasse (now Arona Pumnula Street) View Arona Pumnula Street #3 on Google Maps. This part of Chernivtsi is in a residential area, with the pretty, pink stone buildings reminiscent of Vienna, so probably built during Habsburg rule, from 1775 to 1918. Nearby, in present-day there is a small grocery store “Magazin Produkty” which seems to be part of a chain patronized by men ISO cold drinks, NOW.
…back to 1906…
There is a mention of Chaim Blei in an article in the newspaper “Bukowinaer Rundschau”, dated 6 July. He is listed in an article in the “Locals” section headed “Jewish Community Association of Czernowitz recorded” along with names Anna Gruber, Johann Blazinsli, Josef Stein, Levi Honig, and others. LINK
In 1909, Chaim’s home address is listed as Jenknergasse #13 (now Khortitska Street, and appears to be a pretty rural lane with pink stucco cottages) View Khortyts’ka #13 on Google Maps
In 1921 a mention of Chaim Blei appears in the newspaper “Judische Presse” dated April 1921 under a section headed, “Spendenausweis” (Proof of Donation) for “Judengruppe” (Group of Jews). “Collected from the home of the delegates on 28 March”. The amount is $20.
Rose died in 1906. Chaim died in 1924, in Czernowitz, and is buried in the Czernowitz Jewish Cemetery, Area 109, Parcel 46b, Plot 177.