A Little Shred of her Existence: My Aunt’s Corset Salon in Bialystok
I spent a lot of time over the past years looking for any hint of my aunt Branche (Bronislawa) Jelin, and for the other six siblings of my mother who all perished in the Shoah. My mother Rachell Jelin told me that her sister Branche was a corsetier, who started a business in Brest-Litovsk called “Bronislawa” that was quite successful. Orthopedic girdles were her specialty. She taught one of her older sisters, Hasia, the trade and then, after a few years, let her run the Brest corset salon and moved to Bialystok to start another branch of “Bronislawa.” It was in Bialystok that she met Isaac Notes, whose father ran a printing business in Bialystok, whom she married. At the start of the war they had two little girls. My mother’s father was sick with cancer and had not been a success in business, so the “Bronislawa” salons were a major source of income for the Jelin family in the years before the war.
After my father Chaim Pytkowsky asked Rachell Jelin to be his wife in 1940, she traveled to Bialystok from Brest to be with Branche and her family to consider the offer. Chaim called her on the telephone there and was very persuasive. Good thing.
Over the past years I have searched everywhere for some sign of Branche and “Bronislawa.” I paged through two thick volumes of the Polish Business Directory (in Polish, which I do not speak or read) and through registers of business taxpayers. Nothing. Then, recently, I found something. I became aware that some Yiddish newspapers published in Poland had been scanned and were online. So I clicked on one from Bialystok, chose 1937 since it seemed like a good year to start, and decided to start with the January 3rd edition and move on from there. In that edition there was an ad for “Bronislawa.” First newspaper that I looked at. The ad is found in many subsequent editions of the newspaper as well.
So here it is. Just having this little shred of her existence is very meaningful to me. Finally, I have some documentary evidence of “Bronislawa,” the business run by my mother’s sister Branche that sustained the Jelin’s during the years before the war. My search for evidence of the life and death of Jelin and Pytkowsky families before and during the Shoah has been slow and difficult but my perseverance has paid off.
Mark Pitt (born Pytkowsky)
Zichron Yaakov, Israel