The Story of Sam, Dossie, Claire, and Jack Kleiman’s escape from Boguslav

escape mapDossie and Sam, their 1 year old daughter Claire and Dossie’s younger brother Jack left Boguslav in early 1921. Dossie and Jack were the last of their immediate family to leave. In preparation for leaving, Dossie buried the family silver (Shabbos candlesticks, etc) under the large tree in the front, they gave the Wisniowecski family house to a local couple that had been servants and helpers, and gold coins and paper monies were sewn into their coats and the heels of their shoes. They left by wagon caravan through the Ukraine avoiding towns and main roads as much as possible (due to the political unrest and situation in the Ukraine at the time). Just west of Boguslav their group was joined by a group from the town of Koshovatoya. Sam’s cousins Shloime and Bluma Kleiman were part of this group.


The caravan traveled west to the forests along the Dniestr river separating the Ukraine from Moldavia (then part of Romania). While the group hid in the forest waiting to smuggle across into Romania by boat, Claire started to cry. The smugglers helping the group to get across wanted to smother the baby so that they would not be discovered by Russian authorities. Dossie and Sam took Claire and headed off into the woods on their own leaving Jack with the main group.


JackClaire1921Further down stream they managed to bluff their way across the bridge at an official crossing. They then rejoined the group in the town of Soroki. After several days in Soroki they moved south to Kishinev where they worked through HIAS and other Jewish agencies to contact Dossie’s family in the US. Once contact was made and the paper filing process was started to bring them over, they moved to Bucharest. About a year later, they left by train travelling through Hungary, Austria, and France to Cherbourg. At the stop in Paris Dossie took her first shower.


Traveling as Shmil and Gedassia West with daughter Chaika and brother Yankle, they spent about two weeks in Cherbourg. They could have left Cherbourg several days earlier but Sam did not like the ships and did not like the idea of a two week Atlantic crossing. He spent time checking things out down on the piers and arranged to wait for a newer ship. They selected the Berengaria and travelled second class. The crossing took five days. They were met at Ellis Island by Abe and Louis West on Columbus Day (Oct 12) 1922.


Sam changed the family name back to Kleiman at the time of naturalization. On their arrival they moved into an apartment in Harlem with Dossie’s mother Perl Kafton {Wisniowecski} West and Dossie’s siblings Sophie and Moe, and Sarah Kleiman.