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Yogan's Children, circa 1910. Photographer: G. S. Zeilikovich, Tiraspol, Russian Empire.

Yogan’s Children, circa 1910. Photographer: G. S. Zeilikovich, Tiraspol, Russian Empire.

My 2nd cousin Margie Goodman, who was born in 1917, sent me this photo when I first started my genealogy research. We were talking on the phone when she mentioned that she had family photographs that dated back many years – so many that she kept them in black garbage bags [shudder!]. She said she had a handful that had Russian on them. I speak and translate Russian, so I sweet-talked her into sending those to me, promising to translate the writing, and to get them copied by a professional photographer, after which I would return the originals to her. Our local genealogy society brought in a photographer to copy old family pictures, and I got negatives and prints of these gems. I was packing up the originals to send them back to Chicago when my mother notified me that Margie had died. So the originals remain in my possession, duly-digitized at high resolution, and carefully stored in archival quality sleeves.

This picture was taken by G. S. Zeilikovich of Tiraspol, a town that was then in the Russian Empire, but is now in Transnistria, the breakaway Republic surrounded by the country of Moldova. My paternal great-grandmother was a Zeilikovich, so I suspect the photographer was related to her. He may even be the uncle that my grandfather, Jacob Kishinevsky, apprenticed with before he immigrated to Chicago and became a professional photographer.

Neither Margie nor I know who these young people are. The girl has a cloud of dark hair, like I did in my youth – so it resonates with me. She is wearing what is probably a school uniform – the dress perhaps brown, the apron perhaps black, as my grandmother on the other side of the family described the school uniform she wore in the early 1900s in another part of the Russian Empire.

The young man is wearing what is either a school uniform or a military uniform – I vote for school because it lacks any military insignia. He is turned 1/4 away from the camera, and his right leg is propped on an invisible support, hidden behind the girl’s skirts. He has the same deep-set eyes, forehead height, and deep indentation below the mouth as the girl – perhaps they are brother and sister. And, indeed, on the reverse side of the original photograph is written “Yogan’s children.” I have no idea who Yogan was. But I like to think that Yogan is also related to me, and that is why they ended up in the possession of a distant cousin in a distant land.

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