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I had an address from his birth certificate, an English translation prepared in 1938 by one Bolesław Czuruk of Lwów. Professor Czuruk, like many in that city, had a complicated life: before World War II, he taught Slavic literature at the university, then served as a translator for the Polish Republic, helping hundreds of Lwów Jews to obtain false papers during the German occupation. For these efforts, he was repaid with a period of incarceration by the Soviets after the war. With his translation, Professor Czuruk told me that Leon was born at 12 Szeptyckich Street and that he was delivered into the world by the midwife Mathilde Agid.

That Leon was born in a distant place called Lemberg and moved to Vienna when he was a young boy. It was a period he would not talk about, not with me. ” That was all he said: it’s complicated, it’s the past, not important. Best not to pry, I understood, a protective instinct. Of his parents and a brother and two sisters, there reigned a complete and impenetrable silence. What else? He married Rita in 1937 in Vienna. Their daughter, Ruth, my mother, was born a year later, a few weeks after the Germans arrived in Vienna, to annex Austria and impose the Anschluss.

He married Rita in 1937 in Vienna. Their daughter, Ruth, my mother, was born a year later, a few weeks after the Germans arrived in Vienna, to annex Austria and impose the Anschluss. In 1939, he moved to Paris. After the war, he and Rita had a second child, a son they called Jean-Pierre, a French name. Rita died in 1986, when I was twenty-five. Jean-Pierre died four years later, in a car accident, with both his children, my cousins. Leon came to my wedding in New York in 1993 and died four years later, in his ninety-fourth year.

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