Birth of a Jew
August 12, 1901
“Frieda, Frieda,” the girl yelled across the crowd.
Frieda turned even though she did not want to. She was in conversation with Hymie Schwartz, a perspective customer, and did not want to be interrupted. Business trumps everything. But she had turned and recognized Aniela. “What the hell does she want,” she thought. She secretly hoped that no one recognized Aniela for she was employed by her cousin, Henrietta, who owned the whore house. Frieda did not want everyone to know her business and that she was being sought by a member of a house of prostitution. That was especially true to her potential customer Hymie to whom she wished to represent him in obtaining a prospective bride. Frieda was a matchmaker and in the village of Kirishi. prospects were limited.
“Excuse me Hymie, I must see what this child wants, but let’s get together later to discuss prospects for you.” Frieda said hastily to Hymie. Hymie was a butcher and lost his wife six months prior. He was a catch but with four children he had some drawbacks. Also he was not the best looking man and at fifty-three he was no stallion. He nodded and went back to shopping for some vegetables.
Frieda turned and signaled Aniela to come to her. “Let’s go over there to the park and talk.”
“But, your cousin needs you now, an emergency!” Aniela sputtered quite out of breathe.
“The park now,” Freida said firmly. She did not need prying eyes or ears to know her business. The fact that her cousin ran an upscale whore house sometimes was beneficial for her matchmaking business and sometimes not.
Once they crossed to the park, Frieda asked, “Okay, vus tzach?” (What is happening?)
“Your cousin said to come immediately and I am not to say another word.”
And with that both ladies quickly walked a half mile out of town to a two structured building on top of a hill on the outskirts of Kirishi. The building was made of wood and although old was sturdy enough. The building stood separated from other structures. Its color was a worn red. Inside the bottom floor was the parlor where the girls sat with prospective customers until they had made their choices. Once the selection process was over with the girl and the man would go upstairs to a room for the specified half hour to an hour. The décor of the parlor was made up of bright colors with splashes of red and pink. A brown sofa and a few large chairs were the decorations. In the back and behind a curtain was the kitchen. Upstairs were six rooms. Four on the left side where the most active and were the most frequented. On the right was two rooms double sized for the better customers. More space cost more. The two rooms were assigned to the two best girls who had the most requests.
Frieda was totally out of breathe by the time she got there. At sixty two she was on the zaftig (overweight) side and out of shape. Widowed now for the past ten years and having no one else she became a matchmaker to put food on her plate and a roof over her head. She wondered what her cousin wanted and she had the gut feeling it had nothing to do with matchmaking. She had a secret suspicion that it had to do with her midwifery knowledge but the girls at the house should have the ability to help if that assumption was correct.
Frieda entered the house and quickly up the stairs. At the top of the stairs one of the girls was descending with a satisfied customer. It was awkward to say the least. The customer was a client of Frieda’s a year and a half ago. Both of them shied away and did not exchange pleasantries. Freida reached the top of the steps. There in front of the back room on the right side stood Dvori, a regular at Henrietta’s whore house. She was white as a ghost and leaned against the door to hold her up. She
Signaled Frieda to go into the room but said nothing. Frieda proceeded into the room. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust for there was little light in the room. Her cousin approached her, “We did everything we could but she lost too much blood.” She moved to the side and Frieda could see that on a bed lay a young girl. Her body was covered with a sheet but the blood was seeping through. Then there was a baby cry and Frieda looked to the left and saw Anna, the other older whore, holding a just born in her arms.
Oy gevalt (oh my god), what has happened? Frieda felt nausea in her throat.
Blanka came last night. She was about to burst with child. We tried to help but the baby was breeched and would not come out. She was screaming and bleeding and … finally I had no choice there was no time to get help. I cut open her stomach to remove the baby but she bleed so much. At least the baby seems okay.
“When did she die?”
“A few hours ago before we opened after the Sabbath.” Fortunately her screams were during the time we were closed.”
Frieda knew that the whore house was closed Friday night because the elders would not permit such sacrilegious actions on the holy night. Then her mind clicked. Blanka, she remembered her.
“Didn’t Blanka use to work for you?”
“She was part of the exchange program we have with Sisel, in the town of Kirovsk. You remember you set up the transfer.”
Frieda had gotten her cousin involved in an exchange system with a counterpart in a town fifty miles down the road near St. Petersburg, in the town of Kirovsk which is on the Neva River. There was a matchmaker there who also had clients who wished a well knowledgeable women for a wife. They did not want a prostitute from their city because everyone would talk so Sisel would send them one of her girls from the whore house in Kirovsk and vice versa. The matchmakers had only had four occasions to do so but it seemed to work out. That is till now. The girl on the bed indicated something was wrong. Very wrong.
Frieda remembered back to when that deal was made. Her contact in Kirovsk needed a young girl for an older but wealthy man. He had been recently widowed and wanted a wife. Frieda did not meet him but from what Sisel had said this man was rather on the tough side. He really needed a girl who he could show off to his contacts at the high level of the government (the duma). He also wanted an extremely lose girl who would be into kinky sexual practices. He certainly did not want kids as his age. Frieda got the feeling from her contact that the girl should be willing to grant favors to this man’s higher ups. Nothing was said but in the courts of politics favors and power are swayed with the intrigues of the players. Blanca was chosen after she was given the facts. She chose to go thinking that living in luxury would be better than the whore house. Hell she was giving out anyway. Better for silks and pearls and the chance for advancement was there.
Yet a little less than a year later and here she was dead on the bed. She had been brought to the house in the middle of the night by a stable boy on the back of a cart with hay on it. The stable boy left as soon as she was brought up stairs.
Frieda could see her cousin needed direction. “First things first,” she stated.
She took Frieda out of the room and down to the kitchen where they sat down at the wood table. “We have got to get rid of the body.” she said mater of factually. “Then we have to decide what to do with the baby.”
“Blanka made me promise her before she died that I was not to kill the kid. I promised her I would not let that happen.”
Frieda nodded. She was not into killing and the thought of killing a baby was not in her. “We need to get Leon to help us,” she said after reflecting on the next step.
Leon lived in a small cottage near the whore house. He was nearly sixty but strong like a mule. He did odd chores for the girls and they in turn paid him using their wares to get him to do jobs they would otherwise have to pay for. He would keep his mouth shut. That night after the patrons had left, he wrapped the body and buried it on top of the hill. They covered up the grave and did not put a stone marker on it. Inside the pit they also put all the sheets and bedding that had been soiled with the poor girl’s blood. By this time the baby was getting hungry as it cried for nourishment. Leon came up with an idea which was strange because Leon was a little on the slow side. He killed a goat and removed its utter. He scrapped it out and put a large slit at the end of one of its tits. Then taking milk from a cow he poured it into the utter sac. By this means the kid suckled and so it was satisfied.
There was still one big problem. What to do with a baby? Frieda worked on this problem mentally.
But first the girls decided to give the child a first name. It was bad enough that they were unsure what the last name would be. It could not be the last name of Blanka’s husband for it he was known to be sterile. Frieda figured he had found his wife was pregnant and went along with it saying the baby was his. Then something must have happened. Someone beat the crap out of the girl. The girl escapes and goes back to the only sanctuary she knows. Somehow she gets the stable boy to take her back to Aniela’s home. She must have thought she and the baby would be safe. Finally after much soul searching the girls had a name in mind, Brachah, a biblical word which means blessed.