Kirshenblatt, Mayer (1916-2009)
Portrait of Jadwiga, November 1992
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 in.
"Jadwiga was my mother's wet nurse. Jadwiga always managed to have a child at the same time as my grandmother did; this was how she was able to nurse six of Grandmother's children for her (...) she was from area of Klimontów, about fifteen miles away. Since she couldn't go home for Christmas or Easter because she was nursing, my mother's family would help her to prepare the dratsn getrakhtn, the thirteen courses required for the celebration of Boże Narodzenie, which means the birth of God. The Polish Catholic Christmas Eve was celebrated with a special meal, usually meatless (...) Jadwiga ate her Christmas meal alone at corner table in Grandmother's kitchen, as she also did for Easter (...)
After the last child was weaned, Jadwiga stayed in my grandmother's house to work as a maid. She even learned a little Yiddish. After about twenty years with my grandmother, Jadwiga went to Belgium, where her brother was working for the coal mines near Liege (...) She stayed there for about fifteen years, until he died. After that, she came back to our town and looked up my grandmother who sent her to my mother. I was about twelve years old, and Jadwiga must have been well into her fifties by then.
Jadwiga came to my
mother and said, 'Rivke, I would like to work for
you.' Mother took her in. (...) She became our
Hear Mayer talk about how laundry was done by Jadwiga in his family's home. Listen to it.