Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wolves are Underappreciated

Wolves are a crucial part of the wilderness life-cycle and in this amazing You Tube video, you can see what impact removing and then re-instating wolves had in Yellowstone Park.

My childhood picture of wolves was Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, and in some of the Russian fairy tales I heard when I was little--wolves were frightening creatures who carried away and ate little children and disappeared into dark woods.

I hope that you can access this video to see what happens when there is a balance in nature and what happens when that balance is disrupted.

How Wolves Change Rivers

Thank you to "Sustainable Man" and others who made this video.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Moroccan Jews

These two days are the celebration of Rosh Hoshana and in commemoration of this Jewish New Year, I thought this little known story about Eleanor Roosevelt would be appropriate.

Here in the United States, we have had the interesting television documentary: Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts"  about Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and their families.  Mr. Burns put together a compelling story about the most influential contemporary families in 20th c. American history.  They were the most admired and hated public figures in America.

Eleanor did so much in her life to help others both before and after her husband died.  Her enemies said it was all political, but I don't think so.  Her question of many she met, either in hospitals or other countries where she could see a need, was:  "What can I do to help?"  Because she was married to Franklin Roosevelt, she had many contacts, but many of these contacts were through her own efforts.

In 1956, Judge Justine Wise Polier came to her with the plight of 10,000 Jews who had reached Casablanca in order to go to Israel but were prevented from leaving.  They were living in camps in very poor conditions.  The World Jewish Congress, who sponsored the exodus, thought the Sultan of Morocco supported this effort, but he did not cooperate and halted the exodus.

Mrs. Roosevelt had just received the ambassador from the newly independent Morocco. He had come to Hyde Park to lay a wreath on FDR's grave and had come as a representative of the Sultan's to convey his deep gratitude for FDR's advice on North Africa in 1943 which counseled him to protect Morocco's underground waters from oil exploration after the war (WW II).  The Sultan's emissary said because of FDR's kindness and concern, the Sultan would continue to allow US air bases in Morocco.

This was perfect timing for Mrs. Roosevelt and she wrote the Sultan the following letter, July 31, 1956:

"Your Majesty:
I wish to acknowledge your kind message transmitted to me through your representative."  She goes on to say that FDR had often told her of his hopes that some day, much of the dessert land in Morocco would be reclaimed through use of water, but not to give away his oil rights as he would need the income this would bring to reclaim Moroccan land.  

She continued by saying how much FDR was interested in improving the lot of poor people all over the world, etc.  And then after elaborating on this, which is really her philosophy, she asked if he would consider releasing those 10, 000 to be able to live in Israel where they could have a better way of life, that Morocco could serve as an example to show the world they have an interest in helping unfortunate people improve themselves and relieve Morocco of the burden of caring for them.

Within a few days of receiving the letter, those Jews of Morocco were released to go to Israel.

I do understand all of the unsaid implications and that FDR did not do all that he could during WW II to help the Jews.  But for Eleanor, it was results that mattered and here it was, her direct intervention that did help.

From: Eleanor, the Years Alone by Joseph P. Lash. Appendix B:  Mrs. Rooselvelt and the Sultan of Morocco.  pp. 338-339.  W.W, Norton and Company. 1972.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Estonian Grandmother--found!

Through the wonders of the Internet and my sister's research through a genealogy service called Geni, we found my grandmother, my father's mother and more information about my family.

My grandmother's name is: Emielie Natalie Kullerkupp, born in Estonia, as was her husband Anton P. Kullerkupp.  My father's name was Albert Allan Kullerkupp and he was born in Moscow in 1902.  There are many, many, Kullerkupps in Estonia and we are finding many relatives through my grandmother's siblings.
Notice how much was not correct, father not Austrian, but Estonian. Names were close, but not accurate, and more.
  This was written on December 7, 2013

Christmas, more than other holidays, brings on so much nostalgia, especially memories of our parents.  My sister and I lost our parents when we were 19, and 26 respectively.  They died within a year and a half of each other.  Although we knew quite a bit about our mother's background, we knew very little about my father's.

I noticed I have a few Estonian readers of this blog and I thought I would write what little I know about my Estonian grandmother.  

When emigres came to the United States, especially in the late 20's, early 30's, many of them wanted to keep their past secret for many reasons: to avoid reprisals, wanting to start fresh, and with new names, after cutting off all ties with regimes that were at the very least, not friendly.

I think my grandmother's name was Mildred or Marina and her last name I heard was Neurman, but I believe she marred again, so this was not my father's last name.  Her last name could have been Kueller.

She was born in Estonia in 1886 and married an Austrian.  They were divorced when my father was five and I think my father went to live with his father who lived in Moscow.  And perhaps he lived part of the time with my grandmother as well.  But I do know he went to school in Moscow, a gymnasium, they were called.  My grandfather had something to do with the Trans-Siberian railway; we have few real facts.  My father changed his name before I was born to Allan French, but his first name was Alexander.

Later, much later, after the Russian Revolution, and a few intervening years spent in Paris, my father came to the United States.  His mother followed later; the 1930 US census, lists her as living in New York with my mother and father.  I do remember that we were told she died of cancer in New York City. It was interesting as he changed my grandmother's name to Millie French.

I know this photograph was taken in Parnu, Estonia, and from the dress, perhaps in 1918 or when dresses were still long, but shoes and hose showed.

I have no photos of my grandfather as his picture was cut out of the few family photos we have.

So, the mystery remains and will probably remain.  I send her picture out in cyberspace in memory of a grandmother my sister and I never knew.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Art of the Epigraph

Ah, the art of the epigraph, that tantalizing bit of writing that is used by many authors to introduce their story, not always fiction.  What is interesting about these epigraphs, is that you are left with a puzzle, why did the authors choose those specific words?  And, as you read their words the authors' intentions are not always clear.

Any bit of writing is used--from the Bible, songs, poetry, politics, opera, Shakespeare and sometimes it is made up by the author to appear to be some well-known writing, but the epigraph is fiction as well, as F. Scott Fitzgerald's introduction to The Great Gatsby written by "Thomas Park D'Invilliers, who was not a poet, as Fitzgerald implied, but a character from another of his novels.

One of my favorites, and there are many, is from Ernest Hemingway in his novel, The Snows of Kilimanjaro,
Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Nghe Nghe”, the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude. (Hemingway, Kilimanjaro, 

A line from Pablo Neruda's poetry, the famous, XX, would be a terrific epigraph to a story about unrequited love, passion, or even something dark.

"Tonight I write the saddest lines, I loved her and sometimes she loved me too."  

What is your favorite?