Mitch Journey's from Sevastopol

Taking you through their exodus from Russia to their back-breaking work in the bakery, this is the story of how Mitch and Susie built a life and family in the heart of Brooklyn’s immigrant community.

Mitch was falsely imprisoned

  • He grew up in the city of Feodosia on the Crimean Peninsula. His father was a baker, and he had a brother and a sister. He went to high school there and, at one point, I actually saw a note indicating he had graduated from high school. He wanted to be an engineer. He was going to try and go to a technical college when disaster struck, and he was thrown in jail. He was falsely imprisoned. The story is that there was someone who the communists were after and was maybe fifty or fifty-five years old. He must have been a White Russian and the Bolsheviks at the time were trying to kill all the White Russians, and my father had the same name as him so they sent out “Imprison this guy” because he’s a fifty-five-year-old Bolshevik. Now, all the people in the town knew that it wasn’t my father, but they had to do it because they were told to. That’s why he was able to escape. The people who ran the jail were willing to let him loose if he could find someplace to go where they wouldn’t get in trouble.

  • He managed to get an American captain who was just doing trading who had come to Theodosia to unload his stuff and get some other stuff. He convinced that captain to take him and his best friend Matt (Abidon) to Istanbul because that’s where the captain was going. He had to get out of Russia because the communists were after him, mistakenly, but they were after him. And then they had to stay in Istanbul a while to get enough money for passage to New York City.

  • As far as I know, he didn’t know anybody in Istanbul. When he came to America he went to meet some relatives. These relatives had immigrated to the United States some time ago and they came from Odessa. They were Jewish also. There were a lot of Jews that had to get out of Russia because there were pogroms and the communists did not like them. But there were a bunch of people in Odessa and they had immigrated to New York way before World War I. That’s where he met his wife.

  • When Mitch came to the US, he couldn’t speak English very well. He had something saying he graduated from high school in Russia that didn’t cut much ice. Jews were not treated all that well even in this country. He lived in a Jewish area so people were fine there but there was a lot more anti-Semitism then. There is always a minority that is being dumped on. Jews not so much anymore although we still have a lot of people who dislike Jews.


Records from Ellis Island show that Mitch stated Boerum St. as his final destination

Mitch meets Izzy and Rose Marpet

  • He met Rose and Izzy Marpet in New York and married Susan. Eventually he was able to get enough money to buy a bakery. He had to do something. He couldn’t go to college or anything because he arrived with sort of zero dollars. I think he worked in bakeries because that’s what he knew because his father had done that. And this is a part of his life that I don’t know much about because I hadn’t been born yet but, apparently, he worked very hard and was able, maybe with some backing from Rose’s parents or the Odessa people, he was able to buy a bakery.

  • Izzy’s name was Marpet. Rose was Constancoiovich (or Konstontinofskia) from Odessa. When they married, they had four boys and a girl. The girl was your great grandma Susie. Mitch came to stay with this family and he courted and married Susie. There also was my uncle Abie, my uncle Howard, my uncle Bernie and my uncle Louis and only one of them went to college. Uncle Louie went to college and became a school teacher and, in fact, he was teaching the Japanese who were interned in Arizona in the second world war. They gathered up all the Japanese-Americans and put them in camps. They were afraid they would be disloyal which they weren't.

  • Rose had gone there because there were other Jewish families that she knew. She also immigrated to the US separately. She had a lot of spirit. She and some girlfriend just took off for America because they thought that life would be better there than in Russia. And I'm not sure who were the relatives that she stayed with I’ve seen very old pictures of these orthodox Jews with long beards and black hats and they were part of the family that had emigrated from Odessa significantly before the first world war.

Rose and Itzak (Izzy) with Uncle Bernie’s daughter, Cynthia

Establishing a bakery

  • The part that I’m very unsure about is where we lived before we moved to Howard Avenue. I think that he had a bakery in Williamsburg at some point which is not like Williamsburg is today of course. Everything was different then. But eventually he got – it was the Clymar bakery. C L Y M A R - for Kleiman and Marpet. And he always kept the Clymar bakeries whenever he moved.

  • I can tell you a little bit about the bakery. I remember the address and you should google it. 464 Howard Avenue in Brooklyn New York. My father’s bakery was over here about three houses in from this street. On the corner of this street was a shoe store. The shoe store was owned by uncle Irwin's father. So, this is where Irwin is and this is where Chickie was. They were basically childhood sweethearts. All I remember is they were together. I was the bratty kid brother that they would try and get out so they could be alone.

  • There were some interesting stories of him facing down union representatives. My father, because he was chased out of Russia by the communists, he hated communists, unions and the ultra-liberal Jews in NYC. So, when the unions came around, it was basically a family bakery. He had 2 non-family members working in it and when they came around and wanted to unionize the spot. Irwin told them “I fought my way across Europe, f-you, get out or I’ll kill you”. So, he raced out. He was leaning against Irwin’s car and Irwin came out and said, “You lean against my car and I’ll kill you. Get out of here.” So, the guy took off. There was a lot of back and forth and finally the union decided that they would give up on trying to unionize his shop. They were probably more interested in large bakeries and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble they would run into if they tried.

  • We lived in the building of the bakery. We moved because my father was selling the bakery because the neighborhood was going downhill. It was basically Bedford Stuyvesant on the way down. A lot of the businesses were moving out. I tried to look up our address on Howard Ave and it was a nice house. It was no longer anything like what we had there. That whole neighborhood must have been razed.

  • Here were the ovens. These were where all of the bedrooms were and here was sort of a wooden porch outside so that in the summer when it got very hot people would come out and sleep on the porch because there was no air conditioning then. I remember we had an ice box and a guy would come around and give us blocks of ice to put in the ice box. A guy would come with a case of sodas - a case of seltzer. You buy a dozen bottles of seltzer in the squirt bottles and that's how you'd make egg creams and people drank seltzer a lot. That was the luxury drink if you will. And same the milk man would come and leave 12 bottles of milk or something and pick them up. This was the porch and there was nothing on top of the ovens. There was a ladder that you could go down from here to here and we used to do that so we could play on the top of the porch. This was the end of our house territory and this was the neighbor’s back yard over here. He had a fig tree I remember and he grew figs and we would climb down the ladder and steal figs from him. So that’s what life was like at Brooklyn at that time

  • That's where the first Milky (the cat) was. They had a white cat named Milky who lived in the basement, and her job was to kill all the mice which she did very nicely. And by the way the current Milky, at your Uncle Dan’s is killing all the mice there. So Milkys have a large tradition. They are part of the Kleiman family.

Bess & Marion (cousins) in front of the Howard Ave bakery

Remembering Mitch and Susie

  • He led a good life but he was very busy. I mean his children knew that he loved them. The only time he ever hit me was when I ran out into the street into Howard Avenue which was a pretty busy street and almost got hit. That was the only time he ever strapped me. He was very, very outgoing. Everybody loved him.

  • I’m not sure he ever took a vacation. We knew the Schlesingers. That was another family. In fact, it was the two Schlesinger girls that would come and live with us, and their parents owned some cottages in the Catskills. The vacation was my mother and grandmother and grandfather would go up to these cottages for two weeks in August, and my father would drive up on the weekends because he had to keep the business running. They never took a real vacation until their children were settled. Looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a hard life. I mean my father was a big man and husky, but he was tossing around hundred pound sacks of flour and doing this and doing that. I remember he had sciatica for a while which is very painful. I remember him writhing naked on the bed because the sciatica hurt so much, but he still got up at two o’clock because he had to make the rolls. It’s the reason I feel about my family the way I do.

  • My father died when he was 75 or so. Diabetes runs in our family. He had to have a leg amputated because he was diabetic. I think he died within a year after that. He was a tremendously strong man and tremendously good humored. I never spent much time with him, because when I was growing up, they were working 15 hours a day in the bakery.

  • My mother was very quiet. I know she loved me. We sometimes went to see a doctor somewhere in Manhattan and she would always take me to the Museum of Natural History when we went there. I loved that place. They had the dioramas of the cave man and the grizzly bear and all of that. I probably went there a half a dozen times. I love museums like that now. I like the museum we have here. She almost got killed. We were walking together and some unlicensed driver hit us and my mother grabbed me and threw me out of the way so that I wasn’t hurt but she was beat up and was in bed for maybe a month or so. You know - it’s what parents do.

Mitch and Susie in Florida

Additional Gallery