New light has been shed upon the anti-Jewish pogroms in Kishinev in 1903, which shocked world sensibilities, in a story told for the first time by Mrs. Sarah Borenstein, born Anastasia Krushevan, half-sister of the notorious anti-Semite, Peter Krushevan, prime mover and organizer in that tragedy in the history of the Jews in Czarist Russia.
Mrs. Borenstein, a convert to Judaism, who has been living in the United States for thirty years, told her grim story to H. Ackerman, a staff member of the Jewish Daily Forward, which features the account in this Sunday’s issue.
According to the Forward story, Mrs. Borenstein now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and is a pious Jewish woman. She was born in Kishinev in 1882, the daughter of a wealthy Christian by his second wife. Peter Krushevan, her half-brother, was twenty years old at the time. The flickers of anti-Semitism, which by the time Anastasia was seventeen, had already begun to show in Peter’s writing published in his daily paper, Bessarabetz, were fanned into flame when a Jewish actress to whom he had taken a liking “stood him up”.
WAS BEATEN BY BROTHER
At the same time, Krushevan learned that his sister had become infatuated with Chaim Borenstein, son of a Jewish shochet, in a neighboring town. A jealous friend of Anastasia’s told Krushevan of the affair and he, like his parents, beat her and threatened to drive her from their home.
The two lovers eloped, Borenstein finding work in a Bessarabian saw-mill. Krushevan, in his paper, published daily attacks upon the couple and accused the Jews of Kishinev of hiding Anastasia, whose whereabouts he was unable to discover. Finally Krushevan offered a reward of five hundred rubles to anyone who would find his sister dead or alive.
Rumors of the reward reached the young couple and they changed their hiding place. Then Krushevan threatened Borenstein’s parents. When they heard of the threats, Chaim and Anastasia decided to leave Russia and emigrate to the United States.
Due to illness their plans were delayed and they were still in Bessarabia when Borenstein’s parents and a brother were killed in the first pogrom in Vishkan, near Kishinev. Only a sister was saved, but not before the hooligans had cut off one of her arms.
AN OFFICIAL CONVERT
Three days later the Kishinev pogroms began, on the first day of Passover, 1903.
Anastasia became officially converted to Judaism and assumed the name Sarah. She and Borenstein were married by a rabbi. Later they managed to steal across the Russian border and sailed for the United States, arriving here in September, 1903.
To help his wife acquire Jewish tradition, speech and characteristics, Borenstein became a sexton in a synagogue. However, the suspicion that Sarah was a convert began to gain ground and the Borensteins moved to a locality where they were unknown, Mrs. Borenstein told the Forward.
They settled in a mixed neighborhood in Baltimore. Mr. Borenstein’s sister, Lea, whom Krushevan’s murdering bands maimed, lives with them. Sarah Borenstein told the Forward reporter that she believes it must have been pre-ordained that a living reminder of her brother’s bloody deeds be ever before her eyes, in her home. Lea is a spinster and a mute.
The Borenstein’s have no children.