Jennie's shock at discovery

JENNIE Workman Milne's family history is cloaked in mystery. Jennie, of Inverallochy, Scotland, didn't know she was Jewish until last year.

Jennie's late mother, Elizabeth Mary Lister, discovered that her mother was Polish, born Malie Rothenberg, who had changed her name to Helena Colomerecki before marrying a military man named Stanislaw Lis.

Jennie's newly-discovered second cousin in Ohio, Sandra Guilfoyle, similarly was unaware of having Jewish roots.

Sandra suspects that her late father, Wlodzimiercz 'James' Russocki, worked as an American spy after moving from Poland to America.

It's been a lot for the cousins to digest. Last year, Jennie telephoned Sandra.

"When Jennie said, 'You're Jewish,' I started bawling. I always thought I was Jewish," said 58-year-old Sandra.

Jennie, 47, is now trying to locate any members of their lost Jewish family.

She wants to learn whether Malie's younger brother, Henryk, has descendants and whether there are descendants of any siblings of Malie's mother, Francesca Rothenberg, nee Feige Dwora Probst.

Helena and Stanislaw were married and worked during the Second World War in different parts of Britain for the Polish military-in-exile. Helena concealed her pregnancy from her husband and colleagues.

After delivering Elizabeth in South Hammersmith on November 4, 1943, she gave the baby over to a private nursery in Hope Cove, Devon.

When the home moved twice and Helena didn't collect her daughter, the home's nurse, Rose Toms, raised the child.

In 1965, at 22, Elizabeth located her natural parents, who had divorced in 1949, remarried others and remained in England.

But Stanislaw died in 1967 and Helena disappeared after meeting the adult Elizabeth just once, at a coffee shop.

Helena told Elizabeth she'd searched for her after the war.

"My abiding childhood memory is of feeling a total outsider wherever I was. I simply felt I didn't belong anywhere," Elizabeth told Jennie before dying of cancer last year.

"Looking back nearly 70 years later, I can see how that helped to shape me as a person."

Jennie read her grandmother's file at the Ministry of Defence, leading to a number of revelations, notably name changes and learning that Malie and her elder sister, Rosa, were from Stryy in present-day Ukraine; that their brother's name was Henryk; that Henryk was murdered in the Holocaust (possibly shot in the ghetto of Lvov); and that the siblings' parents were Francesca and Pawe (Pinchas), the wealthy owners of a sawmill in the Polish district of Zolochiv.

Some of Jennie's findings meshed with what her American cousin knew because Sandra's father had recorded some of his family's information.

He'd even taken Sandra and her sister, Renata to visit his Aunt Helena at the nursing home in Lincolnshire.

Jennie has also gained information through Michael Tobias, the vice-president of programming for JewishGen.

Glaswegian Michael was asked to help by British magazine Who Do You Think You Are?

He constructed a family tree of Jennie's Probst relatives, many killed in the Holocaust.

If anyone can help, email

Died at 15

JEWISH Telegraph columnist Gita Conn is leading the hunt for anyone who knew Otto Szpiro.

Otto moved to Manchester on the Kindertransport in 1940 and was subsequently sent to St John's Open Air School in Chigwell where he died in December, 1943, aged 15.

His sister, Miriam, who was only seven at the time, wants to hear from anyone who knew Otto or anything about him.

Telephone Gita on 0161-434 8767

Front page news

LAVINIA 'Vi' Savage is searching for the family she worked for in the 1950s.

Mr and Mrs AJ Cohen owned a fashion wear business on Tib Street, Manchester.

Their daughter, Marlene, above, married Lennard Joseph on June 22, 1958 at the Higher Crumpsall Synagogue.

The wedding pictured appeared on the front page of the Jewish Telegraph.

Contact David Walker on 0161-287 1496.

To make an appeal, email MIKE COHEN at
Please include your home address and contact telephone number.

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