Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Neverless, she persisted (Don't Mess with Chava Lefand, Part 3)

My 5th great grandmother, Chava Lefand, did not take no for an answer.  Her petitions to dismiss her sons from being conscripted into the Russian army went to the highest of levels--Saint Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire.  I got the first batch of documents from Saint Petersburg (but am waiting on her Supreme Court-equivalent case).  And in here is a petition written by Chava that lays out the situation of each member of the extended Lefand family.  And why Chava thinks some of them should have been recruited instead of her son (and my 4th great grandfather) Berko/Ber.

Below is her incredible testimony.  Following this is a series of investigations and findings into her situation, covering November 12, 1854 through December 7, 1859 that I'll cover in a future post.

These pages center around Chava's main petition.  Rather than summarizing, I'll let her tell her incredible tale (and a genealogist's dream) in her own (translated) words, along with some of my own comments.

A page of Chava Lefand's Petition

October 18, 1854. 
To His Excellency the Minister of Internal Affairs, General Bibikov 
From the resident of the town Nizhyn, Jewish woman Chava Volkova Lefant 
I ask Your noble and gracious attention and patronage to kindly consider my petition and make a decision on the return of my son Berko Lefant from military service due to the following circumstances:
During the 8th revision, my husband, resident of Nizhyn, Meyer Afroimov Lefant, was recorded in the revision list together with his two brothers Abram Lefant and the already deceased Leib Lefant. In 1836, my son Shmerko was recruited from my family. In the next recruitment of 1850, my second son Israel was taken from my family as a recruit, but at my asking  to the official Drenyakin, who came to Chernihiv to monitor the recruitment, my son Israel was returned from the recruits as incorrectly called up for military service.
My son Israel was then in the Chernihiv almshouse, and in 1853 he adopted the Christian faith.
I lost my two sons, Shmerko and Israel. My other sons, Itsek and Leib, are over 40 years old and cannot be conscripted, they are married, Itsek has five children, and Leib has three children. My youngest son Berko is 24 years old, he is already married and has two young children.  (Lara's note: One of those two young children was my 3rd great grandfather.)
In 1853, my husband, Meyer Lefant, rented land from a landowner in the village of Drozdovka, Nizhyn uyezd, and on November 15, 1853, he filed a petition for the registration of him and his family as farmers. In connection with the new recruitment and illegal actions of the head of the Nizhyn Jewish Society, my husband's application was not approved. With the assistance of the headman of the Nizhyn Jewish Society the sons of my husband's brothers Berko Abramov(son of Abram), unmarried, and Berko Leibov(son of Leib), who married, but not have the children, were able to hide from recruitment in other provinces. 
The Nezhin Jewish community decided to bankrupt /ruin/ our family and give my youngest son Berko to the recruits for the 11th recruitment. 
I sent petitions to the Chernihiv treasury  chamber with a asking to return my son from military service, as he was taken as a recruit illegally, and instead of my son to call one of the sons of my husband's brothers as a recruit. I also explained in my petition about the petitions of Berko Leibov's mother, who called herself a widow, and his grandfather, Afroim Lefant, which I consider false. Afroim Lefant wrote a petition on his own behalf asking not to recruit his grandson Berko Leibov, explaining that Berko Leibov supports him, his grandfather, and pays taxes for him, and also supports his mother after the death of his father Leib. (Lara's note: I hope that Afoim/Efrayim's petition is in the batch I'm expecting; he's my 6th great grandfather and I'd love to see this!  But it seems like my branch of the family wasn't his favorite....)
These petitions are unfair,because since 1850 Berko Leibov has been hiding from conscription for the fourth year in the Mogilev province, he does not support his grandfather Afroim and his mother, they are not on a his dependents, he is merchant. Berko's father, Leib Lefant, died in August of this year (Lara's note: Leib died in 1840. Afroim died that September, so perhaps that is who she meant--but regardless, he didn't need supporting), and Leib's wife Gita, is not a widow, she married a second time to a resident of the Vitebsk province and lives with him in the Poltava province, has a young son by this second husband. (Lara's note: Pick a guberniya/province the Lefand/Levants have it covered--with more below!)
Berko, son of Abram Lefant, is hiding from recruitment in the Kyiv province. 
At my petition to the Chernihiv Recruiting commission of April 30, 1854, from the Chernihiv treasury chamber, resolution # 8587 was sent to the city Duma of Nizhyn to immediately find Berko Abramov and Berko Leibov and escort them under escort to the Chernihiv recruitment commission  presence for conscription instead of my son Berko Lefant. 
Both of my husband's nephews are also 24 years old. 
According to the Definition of the Chernihiv provincial government, Berko Leibov Lefant was found in Mogilev province and delivered to Chernihiv. Only one decision of the Chernihiv provincial government was be enough to return my son Berko, who had been taken into military service illegally, to me, and instead of him to recruit Berko Leibov Lefant, but this was not done. 
Instead, the Chernihiv treasury chamber sent definition # 8636 of September 13, 1854, which stated that during the 10th recruitment in 1853, all three Berko Lefant, including my son, were hiding from conscription, so our family was put on the queue for the 11th recruitment. In this definition, it is also written that it is additionally taken into account that Berko Leibov Lefant is the only one who supports Afroim Lefant and pays taxes for himself and for his grandfather, so the commission decided to leave Berko Leibov, and take my son Berko Meyerov Lefant into military service. My previous petition to the Treasury Chamber was rejected. 
My son Berko never hid from the conscription, lived with me, worked on rented land in the village of Drozdovka. I believe that it is an extremely unfair decision to take my son and leave his wife and two children in my care while we do not have the means to live. 
According to Article 103 of the Charter on conscription, my husband's nephews had to be recruited before my son, since they have no children. 
Your Excellency, I humbly ask your assistance in my petition and to give an order to the Nizhyn city Duma, and with tears I beg you to pay attention to my sad situation and to the unfortunate children of Berko Lefant, from whom their father was taken away. 
I ask you to return my son Berko Lefant from military service and take in his place one of my husband's nephews who are hiding from the conscription. 
The wife of a Nizhyn resident who joined the farmers, Chava Volkova Lefant.
October 18, 1854.
So yeah.  Chava laid it all out--where the nephews were hiding, lies that had been told, and more.  She also confirmed that the two children of Berko I knew would have been born at this point were all that had been born; there are some gaps in birth records in the 1850s, so I was never sure.

Stay tuned for more about the response to this petition--and more when I hopefully get another file shortly!  Chava's the type of ancestor we all dream of--one who generated a ton of informative paperwork!

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  1. "The type of ancestor we all dream of," also because of her spunk.

  2. Color me green with envy! Thank you for sharing and for your wonderful work.

  3. Wow, the strength or should I say chutzpah of your 5g great grandmother! And on top of that she must have been educated to send these petitions!

    1. Oddly she says she is illiterate. So perhaps someone in the family helped?

  4. Wow! It is amazing that you were able to retrieve these documents! What a story they contain.